PEX tubing has become one of the most used materials for running water lines to homes and industrial buildings. If you're considering using PEX to replace your copper pipes, you may wonder if it's susceptible to damage from pests, rodents particularly. We've researched to answer this question for you.
Yes, rodents chewing through PEX is a common nuisance for many homeowners. Though PEX is extremely durable, it's still a form of plastic, which means it's malleable. Rodents' incisor teeth are super sharp--sharper than some forms of metal. They instinctively have to continuously chew on things to keep their teeth worn down, as their incisor teeth never stop growing; many home building materials are chewable. They're also looking to access the water supply available within the tubing, making it a perfect target for rodents.
Now, let's discuss a few ways that you can keep rodents away from your PEX pipes. We'll look at humane methods and suggest some natural rodent repellants that you might already have around your home.
How do you protect PEX from rodents?
There are a few preventive measures that you can take to protect your PEX from rodents. Here are the most common ones:
Seal Off Access Areas
Preventing access to your backyard and home is one of the best ways to keep rodents at bay. Rodents have the ability to crawl into even the narrowest of spaces within your home's building structure. They are adapted at contorting their shapes to squeeze through spaces and crevices within wood, metal, and hard plastic to reach sources of food and water.
One preventive measure you can take to minimize this is to seal off any potential access areas to your building. This includes basements, attics, window sills, and foundational gaps or openings.
Provide a Water Source
Providing a water source to the rodents is also an effective way to keep them away from your PEX. Yes, it may sound counter-intuitive, but the reasoning is sound. Giving them a temporary easy-to-access water source while using other extermination methods can effectively deter them from your pipes.
Rodents have excellent hearing, which is why they can easily identify the moving water within your PEX tubing. If they have the water that they need above-ground, they will not be as motivated to access your pipes to find more. Again, this will only be a temporary solution.
Another way that you can prevent rodents from accessing your PEX is by using effective rodent traps. Most traps work by catching the rodent, though many can kill them as well. Using traps while implementing other natural repellent techniques or poisons can help stop and exterminate rodents while they are above ground and before they have a chance to burrow down to your underground tubing.
Remove Food Sources
Always be sure to completely close any discarded trash bags and food items. Make sure to cover outdoor trash cans and don't leave any vegetative materials (such as mulch or plant soil bags) out in the open. Rodents will eat just about anything, and the more available food sources near your home and backyard (especially in urban or densely-populated areas), the higher the likelihood that they will sniff out these resources and cause potential damage not only to your PEX but to other areas of your property as well.
How do I stop rats from chewing my pipes?
Rat Bait Stations
Bait stations are an extremely effective way to bait and capture rodents on residential properties and industrial properties. You may commonly see these on the side of grocery stores and farmer's market shops. They are small enclosed devices that contain any number of rodenticide bait products. Bait stations don't necessarily trap rodents in the same manner as traps, but instead, lock the rodent inside the device so that it may ingest the fatal bait and be discarded later.
Snap traps are probably the oldest and most traditional rodent trap available on the market. Snap traps are small wooden or plastic devices on which rodent bait is placed. They work by killing the rodent when they come to access the bait, and they are probably the least expensive rodent extermination traps on the market. These traps are very effective, but not necessarily the most humane, as they either typically kill the rodent or gravely injure them.
Another great option is to use live traps to capture rodents. Live traps work by capitalizing on rodents' natural motivation to investigate and crawl inside small spaces and holes. Once the rodent is inside the trap, it cannot escape, as a mechanism installed in the trap releases the door, blocking the entryway.
Traps are usually made of welded metal wire and are typically about the size of a handyman toolbox. To keep them effective, they must be inspected and emptied regularly. Live traps offer a more humane way of getting rid of rodents, as opposed to killing them with poison or fatal traps.
Is it OK to use PEX underground?
Yes, PEX tubing has become a top competitor with copper and galvanized steel and is more suitable for water line pipes. Not only is it approved for direct burial underground, but it stands up better to freezing temperatures and has shown to have a lifespan of over 90-years according to testing programs. Here are a few ways that PEX outshines copper water piping:
- It's cheaper; a 1/2-inch length of PEX tubing typically costs about one-third of the price of copper.
- It can be installed faster; PEX fittings are designed to allow for quick connections instead of copper soldering.
- It's non-corrosive; copper piping can corrode in locations where the water is acidic, but PEX doesn't have this issue.
What is the best natural mouse repellant?
There are several natural mouse repellents available today. If you prefer a more humane way of keeping rodents away from your property and PEX, are a few to consider.
Peppermint oil is probably the most widely used natural mouse repellent. While there are a few different types of essential oils that work very well at repelling rodents and other household pests, peppermint oil tends to be the most talked about. Rodents hate its strong smell and will naturally stay away from areas in which it is concentrated. To use peppermint oil effectively, fill a spray bottle with the oil along with water using a 2:1 ratio (2-cups oil to 1-cup water).
If you prefer not to spray the oil, you can also use it to soak cotton balls and place them in areas around your home that are most frequented by rodents. It's best to replace the cotton balls or spray the investigation areas every few days or once you find that the smell has dissipated. You can also use peppermint plants as well.
Mothballs aren't just great at deterring moths; they can also be great mouse (and possum) deterrents. The balls are poisonous both to humans and rodents, so it's best to use caution when planting them in infestation areas. It's best to plant a handful of mothballs in various areas for maximum coverage, rather than just one or two balls. The stronger the scent, the more the rodents will tend to avoid them and the area.
Onions are known for their strong odor, which can be attributed to an enzyme called alliinase. The pungent smell of an onion easily deters mice, which have a sensitive sense of smell. Onions are fairly inexpensive to purchase at most local stores or markets.
Placing cut up pieces of onion in designated areas in your backyard can be a great way to help keep rodents away. Just be sure to replace the onion after a few days, as it will begin to rot and possibly attract other pests. (Note: Onion is best used in combination with other methods.)
White vinegar can also be a great option for mouse repellent. It can typically be purchased for under $3, and you may already have this in your kitchen pantry. White vinegar, similar to many other natural repellants, deters mice with its strong stinging smell. You can apply the vinegar by using a spray bottle or applying it to cotton balls, similar to the peppermint oil method. Since vinegar is extremely acidic, be sure not to spray it near any garden areas or areas frequented by your cat or dog (or simply keep them away while using this method) as it may irritate their paws.
Steel wool is another humane and environmentally-friendly option to repel mice. It works by blocking their entry points to areas such as backyard fencing, crevices, and small home openings. Steel wood pads can be purchased at most grocery or home improvement stores for under $4 and can also be bought in bulk. For effective use, break the pads up into smaller pieces and make sure that they completely block the entry areas to your home or backyard.
Rodents are naturally deterred by the strong and spicy smell of cayenne pepper, and they definitely don't want to chew on anything to which it's been applied. It's another common pantry household item that can be purchased for just a few dollars at the grocery store. To use cayenne pepper as a rodent deterrent, take a cotton cloth and then sprinkle it with cayenne pepper, completely saturating it.
Next, place it in the areas that you believe are most frequented by rodents. You can also sprinkle it by itself near potential mouse entry areas such as your backyard fencing or basement door. Other spices that will work well include clover and black pepper. You would use these spices in the same manner, sprinkling them near common infestation areas.
Wrapping Things Up
Rodents can be difficult to get rid of once they've infested your property. They can cause thousands of dollars in structural damage to your house and pose health and safety hazards. If you find that you aren't able to rid of them completely on your own, it's best to contact an extermination professional so that they may offer an effective solution.
We hope that this guide has offered you a bit of guidance on protecting your PEX pipes from rodents. Before you go, be sure to check out our other posts: