Emergency home repair looks different when the problem slithers or flies

November 16, 1996|By ROB KASPER

I WAS PAGING through a book telling you how to behave in domestic emergencies when I came across the section on "Snakes Inside the House."

This problem caught my eye for several reasons. First, of all the 188 problems listed in "The Home Repair Emergency Handbook," by Gene Schnaser (Taylor Publishing Co. 1992, Dallas, $15), this snake-invasion situation was one of the few I had missed.

I have battled problem No. 26, a defective electrical plug (turn off power, disconnect cord, cut off defective plug, take to hardware store for replacement). I am well-acquainted with problem No. 74, the stopped-up disposal (turn off power, hit reset button, insert wrench into hole underneath unit, failing this, call plumber.)

And problem No. 82, broken window glass, is such a common occurrence in our home that I buy glazier points and putty in bulk. Instead of asking me for the measurements of the replacement glass, the guys at hardware store ask "which window is it this time -- the kitchen or the dining room?"

In the face of these recurring, ordinary problems, an exotic household problem like snakes slithering across the family room floor, sounded intriguing to me.

Another reason the snake problem caught my eye is that the answer seemed so obvious. What do you do if you see a snake in your house? You run like heck.

That, it turns out, is not the correct answer. The book devotes an entire page of single-space type to the many facets of "snakes inside the home."

For instance, it tells how to catch snakes. "When snakes are known to be loose in the house," the book says, "place moist cloths on the floor in the area where they were last seen. Loosely cover these moist cloths with dry burlap

bags. Check these areas twice a day; snakes like moisture and will crawl under or between these cloths."

I don't know if putting bags on the family floor actually does catch snakes. But it seems to me there is one major question remaining. Namely, what in the blue blazes happens if it does work? What do you do if the snakes show up? Ask them if they prefer "paper or plastic"? Offer them hors d'oeuvres? Or run like heck? The book leaves us hanging on that one.

As for long-term, snake prevention steps, the book recommends employing some of the same measures outlined in the remedy to problem No. 118, keeping skunks out of your house.

Those measures include closing entry points to the home. Any space around pipes or wires that pass through the exterior wall of the house should be plugged up, the book says. Drains and vents should be covered with galvanized screens. Basement doors and windows should be kept tightly closed. If not, you could be sharing your living space with slithering snakes and smelly skunks.

Getting rid of snakes didn't appear to require as much finesse as getting rid of bats. Apparently when bats are in your belfry, you have to wait until they have all flown out for the night, before bat-proofing your home. Bat-proofing seems to be a fancy way of saying -- plug up the holes in your attic.

After reading how bats must be coaxed, not harassed into leaving a home, my opinion of the flying, furry creatures rose. They seem so polite, so well-bred. For instance, according to bat tradition, once the first bat leaves the roost, the entire bat colony follows within 20 to 30 minutes. If this civilized departure routine is interrupted, all bets on bats are off. Once bats get perturbed they won't budge. So remember when vanquishing bats, don't rush them. Let them depart for the evening at their own measured pace. Bid them adieu. And half an hour later, plug up the joint.

I felt so relieved after reading "The Home Repair Emergency Handbook." Living in a city rowhouse, I don't have to battle bats, or snakes, or skunks. But I revel in learning about the havoc these creatures can wreak. Which is another way of saying that the most interesting home-repair problems are the ones that happen in other people's houses.

Pub Date: 11/16/96

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