Aw Rats, We Have Bats!

“This was supposed to be the new house we wouldn’t have to work on or fix anything, as it appeared that the previous owners had taken a good care of the home” – shares Paul Kocharhook owner of SODO-based Pathway Design & Construction.

Did you know that bat colonies are living throughout Greater Seattle’s rural areas? Paul Kocharhook now has more first-hand experience and information than he ever wanted about bats. Here’s his story, just in time for Halloween…

Hearing things at night

“We moved in over the summer to the rural Maple Valley area, about 40 minutes East of Seattle. At first, it was my wife who heard noises in the bedroom shortly after we moved in so I knew it was something. I was thinking it was probably mice. The cat was going crazy from the sounds too, and then I started to hear scratchings and rustlings, we even had a bat flying through our bedroom, but thought it had flown in through a door.

I had a roofer come out to see what he could find. Our house has a really steep pitch, a couple of dormers and a few skylights. That roofer said it was a really bad mouse problem when he saw piles of poop behind the skylight so we created a plan to close up areas we thought were vulnerable.

My company operates with indoor air quality in mind for remodels and additions, so of course, having a colony of bats doing their biological thing, literally, under my roof, would have awful repercussions for my family, including my cat and dog. In addition to risking bites, and the fact that housing a bat colony isn’t good for peace of mind, the house overall, or air quality in terms of breathing particulates and stress caused by something you don’t fully understand.”

The actual assessment

“We called a pest control company and they opened up the ceiling and poop fell out. Pest control identified it as bat poop and that’s when their services stopped, they couldn’t do another thing for us. A colony of bats was housed under our roof!”

Why couldn’t pest control work with you?

“Bats are an endangered species. This being so, the colony removal from under our roof had to be careful not to harm any in the colony. This called for specialists. There are a few in the area; we worked with Critter Control out of Kent. They helped us to make a plan to seal up the areas where bats were getting in, along with other potentially vulnerable areas after we closed up their main gateway.

Essentially, they made a one-way door- exit only and closed off all other potential points of entry and/or exit points. We ended up putting a few bat houses up around our property to entice them to hang somewhere that wasn’t in our house.”

The helpful side of bats

“Bats are definitely the mosquito and bug eaters you want to have around your property, just not under your roof.

Once the initial shock was worn off, a few weeks in, it turns out there are some interesting things about bats:

  • They are the only mammal that can fly
  • Their guano is good for gardens since it’s high in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphate. Many people do buy and use bat guano for their gardens
  • Some nectar-drinking bats help with pollination. Similar to bees, some bats take in nectar and transfer pollen to propagate some crops (figs, peaches, mangoes and more)

Keep an ear open

“If you hear noises like scratching or rustlings at night or if you have pets that are agitated, fixated… or maybe obsessed by noises that you might not be able to hear (yet), get it checked out. It could be some kind of pest like mice or rats. For me and my family, it turned out to be bats.”

What to do if it IS bats

  • ​Contact a legitimate, specialist removal service so the bats will not be harmed – They will assess and make a plan with you to safely remove the bats. Hopefully, you don’t have a colony like I did.
  • Set up Bat Houses – These are pretty simple box structures. We purchased a couple, painted them black (as instructed) and set them up away from our house.
  • Check out Bats Northwest – a resource to dispel common, inaccurate concerns and offer an education around the bat populations in our area.
  • Another educational, local resource is Happy Valley Bats – There are a lot of facts and details about bats in WA, including a resource if you find an injured bat. On the Bat Houses page, there are diagrams and directions you can download to build different kinds of house, condos, etc.

So much for “no-fixing up needed” on this house.

Still, it’s worth it to take care of the issue, in the right way; have a safe home for my family and pets; and to have specialty housing, instead of shared-housing, for mosquito-eating bats.

How it turned out for the Kocharhooks

“Fortunately or unfortunately this has given us the opportunity to address some things in the home that we many not have gotten around to in the near future. It seems we had plenty of holes, cracks, gaps, poor construction details on this 1980’s home that has already undergone  several remodel projects

By addressing, repairing and maintaining those holes, cracks and gaps, we are able to

  • Save energy due to fewer drafts
  • Have more and better control of the air coming into our home
  • Experience fewer bugs and insects in our house (We have already noticed a significant reduction in insects getting into our home)

We can also better address the poor indoor air quality as result of the bat guano that we didn’t know existed. This is a really important subject for me, personally. Indoor air quality during construction remodels, plus green building practices are core to my business for my clients, more than that they are core to the good health of me and my family.

Might as well do it now

“Ultimately it has sped up the process for us to do some things to truly make the home ours, sooner than later. Since the “bat work” required a few repairs, we decided to just go ahead and gut the kids’ main bathroom and remodel it using Universal Design functionality and aesthetics. Universal Design gives a roomier, airier feeling; it’s beautiful, and my parents can use it safely when they visit.

While I’m still getting over the shock of the actual assessment of having bats under our roof, they did provide a source of great… inspiration to take care of a few things around my own house right away.

In addition to risking bites, and the fact that housing a bat colony isn’t good for peace of mind, the house overall, or air quality in terms of breathing particulates, there’s also a tremendous amount of stress caused by something you don’t fully understand and can’t resolve safely without a professional service.”

Ready for additional remodeling stories?

​Review another kitchen project, or the Leschi master bath for ideas and to get a sense of what it’s like to work with Pathway Design and Construction.

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About Olga Lockhart

Olga Lockhart, Marketing Manager for Pathway Design & Construction, researches, analyzes, and writes about these key topics: Universal Design, Aging in Place, Northwest building & Seattle remodeling trends, air quality issues, and solutions, during construction. She's also willing to chat about travel and culture out of the office.