How do you weather/bug proof a rental apartment?

July 13 |
Hey! How did YOU get in here!? Ant © by waldyrious, used under Creative Commons license.
My husband and I live in an apartment that we love, except for the bug problem. We've tried everything to get rid of them without much luck.

Today, I took a good look at our outside door and windows, and realized that there's an uneven gap between the side of our front door and the frame. It's no wonder we couldn't get rid of the bugs! It's not even enough to apply weatherstripping all the way down. I've also noticed some less-major gaps around the windows that I would like to close up.

I've done some research about sealing gaps, but it all seems geared to people who own their home, and I'm in a rental. This is not a serious enough gap that my landlord would be willing to get involved. Any advice from the homies? This would also help with our energy bill!

-Sarah

  1. It depends on the type of bug you're trying to control. For crawling bugs (cockroaches, ants, bedbugs), sprinkling diatomaceous earth works well. It's a natural product that's non-toxic to humans and pets, and it works by slowly dessicating the critters as they crawl over it. For flying insects, you can try traps and flypaper and such. If you keep your windows open but have crappy screens, you can get "build-a-screen" kits at Home Depot that you can cut to any size and don't require putting holes in the wall. My flying insect strategy was to buy a carnivorous plant, because then at least I can get sweet, sweet revenge.

    As far as the gaps, I'd talk to someone at a hardware store about it. Explain your situation, and they'll probably be able to offer you a no-damage solution that's more sophisticated than duct tape and prayer.

    5 agree
    • Just adding that you probably want food-grade diatomaceous earth, rather than the stuff you use in your pool.

      My now-husband and I ended up going with boric acid in front of all the doors and gaps under the cabinets. We saw a drop in the number of live roaches and a corresponding uptick in the number of dead ones when we started using it.

      We ended up finally solving our pest problem by moving, though!

      6 agree
    • Which plant did you use for the flies? I remember my Dad having venus fly traps when I was a kid, but they never lived very long inside.

      1 agrees
      • Sundews rock! I had one for a long time that would catch 1-2 huge houseflies a week in the summer.Really easy to care for too.

        1 agrees
  2. Have you asked your landlord, or are you just assuming they won't help? Unless your landlord has proven particularly unresponsive or uncooperative in the past, I would ask them before trying anything on your own. Infestations caused by problems in the property (however minor) should be something the landlord deals with, not something the renter has to solve.

    Hopefully other commenters will have some thoughts about sealing the gap.

    18 agree
  3. we are having this exact same problem. Our backdoor has gaps all the way around it and you can see where previous renters tried to put in weather stripping. Our front door has a large gap underneath it. My stepfather put in a the longest door skirt he could find but it isn't long enough – still a gap. Which as caused a major bug problem. We haven't found a solution yet so I'd really like to see the comments to this post.

    0 agree
  4. This won't help with your energy bill, but my go-to ant trick is to spray them all with a mixture of tea tree oil and water. I discovered by complete accident that tea tree oil acts like napalm on ants (weird, huh?).

    The mixture is something like a Tbsp of tea tree oil in a large spray bottle of water–sorry I don't have exact numbers, I literally just went bloop! from the bottle of tea tree into the water and that was it. :)

    After I sprayed them all, I sprinkled cayenne pepper over the trail where they had been walking to break up the scent/acid/whatever trail and discourage them from walking the same route.

    After that, I found the hole they were coming in, soaked a cotton ball in tea tree oil and sprinkled it heartily with cayenne, and shoved the ball into the hole. Haven't seen an ant since.

    My favorite thing about this technique is that it's totally people- and pet-friendly, so I can do it, leave the house, and not worry about my cat licking toxic chemicals off the floor.

    5 agree
    • Just an FYI on the tea tree oil and pets…pure tea tree oil can be extremely harmful/toxic to cats specifically. So be careful :)

      2 agree
  5. i second kahlanamnell's comment about asking your landlord. Having a huge gap around any doors/windows/entryways seems like a structural thing that the landlord should take care of to maintain the integrity of the property. Also..really? Give people properly fitted doors and such- living with bugs is not nice

    0 agree
    • The problem is that it's not a huge gap… it's maybe 1/2 inch at the widest point. My landlord came out to look at it, but doesn't consider it a big enough problem to deal with fixing it. He has, however, agreed to install new screens in the windows, so that should help!

      3 agree
  6. I've had this problem before and simply taken a caulk gun to it (permanent marks be damned!). My thinking was that a landlord who doesn't notice gaps like that is unlikely to notice that there's some new caulking.

    18 agree
    • This has been my approach. I'm pretty handy, but my calking always looks awful, but no landlord has ever looked closely enough to notice.

      2 agree
  7. ooh, we have a major ant problem in our building, I will have to try some of these ideas. Our landlord FINALLY sent out a questionnaire to all the tenants to see who had an ant problem, and if they should bring in an exterminator, but that was months ago.

    I find I have the ants mostly under control, but I can't leave my kitty food out unattended for any length of time because even though I don't see the ants moving around otherwise, somehow the bowls become SUPER INFESTED, like swarms of ants out of nowhere, no matter where I put them.

    Any suggestions on surfaces ants just won't want to crawl over to get to food? I read about making chalk lines, or putting the food on a different raised surface, neither have seemed to help yet.

    0 agree
    • The cat food solution for ants outside our house growing up was to put the cat food dish on a larger plate or saucer (whatever it fits on, it doesn't have to be much later) that has water with a little dish soap in it. The cat won't touch the water with soap in it, and the ants drown in it if they don't avoid it. The water does have to be changed regularly, but it doesn't need to be much, just enough to keep the ants out!

      1 agrees
    • Baking soda has worked well for me and my bunnies to keep the aunts out. Mixed with a little powdered sugar in a tiny shallow dish it makes for great ant traps and around the windows/doors/walls has helped keep most of them out in the past.

      0 agree
    • Back when we lived in an apartment with an endless ant issue, we did a similar thing to the poster above. We ended up keeping our dog's "airtight" bucket of food in a larger bucket in the bathtub. We put a few inches of water in the larger bucket, and ants never got in the food again.

      0 agree
    • Wrap duct tape around dish sticky facing out the ants will stick. And not make it to food.

      1 agrees
  8. This won't help with gaps, but coffee grounds keep ants away. The nitrate in the coffee burns their legs and makes it difficult for them to communicate by scent! I put some on our windowsill last week and so far haven't seen any intruders where an entire colony seemed to be trying to get in before.

    2 agree
  9. Murphy's Oil mixed with warm water is also an excellent bug killer. This is what it was actually created for, before the realized its also really good for polishing wood…

    0 agree
  10. I really like the carnivorous plant idea. However, my kitties are doing a pretty good job of killing the cockroaches and spiders that come into the apartment.

    The only downside is, they tend to drop the dead bug bodies at my feet. It's like "Here! A beheaded cockroach just for you!" LoL.

    As for the ants, try to avoid cleaning products that smell like citrus (oranges, lemons, etc). Ants are attracted to the sweet citrus-y smell and tend to flock towards it.

    0 agree
    • If you'd like to stop them bringing you dead things you could try completely ignoring it until the cats aren't there. Admittedly ignoring a dead bug on the floor isn't always easy, but at least don't pick it up or move it until they aren't there to see.

      They think they're bringing you a yummy treat in return for you sharing "your" food with them. If you "reject" it sooner or later they should stop trying.

      (The downside being if they don't eat it themselves they'll be leaving the dead bugs wherever they find them so you might still get them around the house.)

      0 agree
  11. I agree with caulking or spray foam. We had a similar problem in an old apartment which the landlord didn't think was a big deal. We said- you fix it properly or we spray foam. Needless to say we spray foamed the shit outta that place, but I think caulk is better for places with exterior exposure.

    1 agrees
    • There are actually several types of spray foam that will expand with different forces. You want to get one that is made for around doors and windows because the ones for in the walls will expand too much and can warp the frame. There might also be indoor outdoor types, too. That being said, spray foam is awesome !

      0 agree
  12. We are having the same issue right now! I woke up this morning with at least 4 spider bites on my arms. :( We have a gap under our front door and they come in through the AC vents. So any spider remedies out there homies? Because my cats are TERRIBLE spider hunters, (though they ARE very good at catching invisible bugs and shadows on the walls…so we're safe there…)

    2 agree
  13. For bugs that come in through vents, we discovered vent filters this summer. They are filter material that you cut to size and slip into the vents. Air gets through, but bugs don't!

    We installed these in every vent we could find and our spider & house centipede problems have vastly decreased. You can get them at Lowes/Home Depot/Target/the intarwebz. Just make sure you measure your vents first!

    1 agrees
  14. I lived in an old house full of gaps and giant spiders. We already knew that my slumlord wasn't going to do anything about my spider/gap problem (as she seemed completely unconcerned about the no heat/no AC, glass fuses screwed down over pennies, outlets blowing constantly state of the rest of the place) so we spray foamed the living shit out of every gap we could find. Spray foam is wonderful stuff, but it is not very pretty. If you care about your landlord's opinion, and I'm guessing you do because maybe your landlord is not a soul sucking evil monster like mine was, use caulk. It's not hard or scary. It fills gaps and you can smooth it all nice with your damp finger to make it look pretty. Practice a little and you'll see how easy it is. Doubtful that the landlord will even notice, and if he does he might be smart enough to know you did him a favor. Good luck!

    1 agrees
  15. I got rid of the ants that used to crawl in my balcony with lavender essential oil. Since I had a cat and could not use any chemical products so it would not get poisoned by accident I would simply rub the floor with lavender oil once in 2 or 3 days. I got rid of the ants forever in just a week and a half. Plus it smells gorgeous, it's totally natural and effective. Maybe you could try rubbing it on the holes where the bugs come in, lavender is known to be insect repellent

    0 agree
    • Essential oils, including lavender, can be harmful to your cat. (So can tea tree oil, someone above mentioned it as pet friendly when it isn't).

      0 agree
  16. We bought a bottle of this awesome essential oil blend of lemon and eucalyptus, which smells amazing. I then mix it with water in a spray bottle which is our air freshener for the bathroom. Lemon and eucalyptus both deter many insects, especially spiders and silverfish which are big problems in our basement apartment.
    We are still battling centipedes. For them, a key point is that centipedes are (insect) predators. Therefore, if you can eliminate other insects, the centipedes will move on.
    Tea tree oil is equally fantastic if not better as an insect repellent.
    ***Remember that essential oils are toxic to cats.***
    Diatomaceous Earth is very effective but it has to be applied where it will not be disturbed as it is an irritant to the lungs and throat if inhaled by mammals (and birds?)

    Other than that I would recommend closely inspecting every square inch of your unit for gaps you can easily seal. We spent about $10 on spackle to seal gaps between the wall and baseboards. Lightweight Spackle is good for this provided it's a spot that won't get bumped a lot or it will crack. Look at "window" (flexible) spray foam or cut-to-size foam strips for more difficult spots.
    It's total BS that our slumlords are not required to address structural and (resulting) insect issues, but in the end spending $30 or so to vastly improve your quality of life is totally worth it.

    0 agree
  17. Note that caulk is the sworn by method of professionals for sealing gaps, just keep in mind that it's expensive and tricky to work with.

    0 agree

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