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best way to get rid of rats in basement

How To Get Rid of Rats in The Basement

Rats love basements because they provide warmth and comfort. Moreover, basements are dimly lit and relatively quiet places that experience less human activity than other parts of the home.

So, nesting in the basement is safer for rats as they can live comfortably without human intervention.

To remove rats from the basement, inspect your home for any openings and block them with steel wool and caulk. Next, place traps in areas that rats commonly frequent.

The smell of rats may attract more rats since they can pick up the scent (pheromones) of living and dead rats. So, remove rats from your basement before the problem gets out of control.

What Are The Signs Of Rats In The Basement?

Rats are intelligent and stealthy animals that can hide in plain sight and avoid being spotted for long periods. They’re mostly active at night, making them harder to spot during the day.

Here’s how to tell if you have rats living in the basement:

Smudges And Rub Marks

Rats carry natural oils and grease on their fur, which mix with dirt from places they visit. So, rats will leave smudge marks on surfaces they regularly interact with.

Since rats are creatures of habit, the smudges often get darker and more noticeable as they use the same pathways to travel back and forth between their nests and foraging sites.

The areas you’re most likely to notice smudges include:

  • Walls
  • Floors
  • Behind furniture

Footprints And Tail Marks

Rats leave footprints on surfaces they pass through, but you won’t notice them on clean surfaces. However, since basements experience little human traffic, they’ll often be dusty.

If you notice any small paw prints on your basement floor or walls, or large swoops in the dust (from rats dragging their tails), the chances are that you have rats in your basement.

how are rats getting in my basement?


There are ways to distinguish rat poop from mice poop: rat droppings are larger, spindle-shaped, and dark brown/black.

Usually, rat droppings are concentrated in specific locations where they spend most of their time. In addition, you may notice the pungent smell of rat urine, which has a strong, ammonia-like scent.

The smell of rat urine is more pronounced in severe infestations. So, if you notice this repulsive odor inside your basement, you likely have many rats hiding there.


If you have rats nesting in your basement, you may hear the pattering of feet as the rats run to and from their nests. This will be especially noticeable at night when it’s quiet.

Also, you may hear scratching and squeaking noises from areas with high rat activity.

Gnaw Marks

Rats are notorious chewers that habitually gnaw on objects to file their teeth, helping to keep them from growing too long.

Not only do rats chew on walls, ceilings, furniture, wires, and other structures in a home, but they’ll also utilize their teeth to access food reserves.

So, if you notice holes in cardboard boxes, paper bags, and plastic packaging in your basement, you likely have rodents living there.

Presence of Nests

Whenever rats enter a home, the first thing they’ll do is start nesting.

Usually, rats build their nests using readily available materials, such as cardboard, shredded paper, and fabrics. They prefer narrow spaces and hidden locations to avoid human disruption.

Areas you’re likely to find rat nests include closets, empty drawers, boxes, bags, and under furniture.

How Are Rats Getting In My Basement?

Rats can enter your basement through small openings in your home’s structure.

According to the University of Nebraska, rats can squeeze through holes as tiny as ½ an inch in diameter. This means even a small gap in your wall is enough for rats to enter your basement.

Most rats that enter basements do so from the ground level. However, some rats will first enter your home through the roof before hiding in the basement. This is particularly true of roof rats which are excellent climbers by nature.

Often, these rats will access your roof by scaling the walls or leaping from tree branches close to your house. Once inside, they’ll retreat to more isolated and quiet parts of the house, such as the basement or attic.

Unfortunately, rats give off pheromones that other rats can detect. According to JAALAS, rats use pheromone signals to communicate with other rats. 

So, once a few rats access your basement, their scent will draw in others and cause the rat population to explode. To avoid this, you need to seal off all openings.

Best Way To Get Rid Of Rats In The Basement

Having rats in your basement poses a serious safety hazard to your family and property.

If left to their own devices, rats will contaminate your home and weaken the structural integrity of your home with their habitual chewing.

It’s critical to eradicate these vermin from your basement by doing the following:

Block All Entry Points

Most rats enter houses via holes, cracks, and crevices in the walls before heading to the basement to set up nests. So, your first step is to identify possible entry points.

Survey your basement for any openings in the walls, windows, and vents that rats may use to gain entry. Once located, seal these entry points off.

This not only prevents more rats from entering your basement, but it traps the rats already within your basement to ensure they don’t relocate to other areas in your home.

Trapping or Poison

Once you’ve sealed up all entry points, removing rats already present inside your basement is the next step. The most commonly preferred option is trapping.

Most homeowners prefer to use electric rat traps since they’re quick to set up and kill rats humanely. Alternatively, you can opt for a snap trap to kill rats instantly on impact.

Whichever trapping method you use, bait the trap with a treat that rats find irresistible, such as peanut butter or bacon. This will lure the rats to the trap and increase your chances of capturing them.

Traps work best when only a few rats are in your home. If you have a full-blown rodent infestation, using poison to eliminate the rats is a better alternative.

Anticoagulant rodenticides are the most commonly used poisons for rat control. These chemicals work by preventing blood clotting, which results in internal bleeding. Death typically occurs in 1-3 days.

signs of rats in basement

How To Keep Rats Out Of Your Basement

Rats are attracted to basements during winter since these areas provide warm shelter and comfort.

If there are any cracks, holes, or gaps in your walls or roof, it’s easy for rats to enter the basement via these openings. Fill up any openings that rats might use.

Other steps that you can take to keep rats out of your basement include:

Remove Rat Attractants

Ensure there are no food sources in your yard to entice rats to your property. All outdoor garbage bins should be sealed and pet food secured.

If overgrown bushes and shrubs are in your yard, rats are likely to use these as hiding spots. Therefore, you should cut your lawn regularly and trim any bushes.

Having an unkempt yard creates favorable conditions for rats. Once there’s a large population of rats outside your property, they’ll start to look for new territories, and some may end up in your basement.

Deny Access To Water

Rats will likely enter your basement if they can find a reliable water source.

So, ensure that your basement is moisture-free to make it less inviting for rats. Fix any leaking pipes and faucets in your basement to deprive them of water.

Store Food Securely

Rats are often attracted to people’s homes by the smell of food.

If you have food on your kitchen counter or pantry, rats are more likely to come into your home. Ensure that all food is stored in tightly sealed, rat-proof containers and locked away.

Tinned food is usually safe, but rats can access damaged canned food. If a can is dented or not air-tight, you should consider throwing it away.