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Master Gardener: Protect your home from the wrath of woodpeckers

Answer: Woodpeckers can cause a lot of damage to a house! Several years ago, I noticed drywall dust on my bedroom nightstand, looked up, and discovered a hole in the wall. A pileated woodpecker had pecked through the cedar siding, sheeting, insulation, and drywall, causing $1,000 worth of damage. I then discovered that insurance doesn’t cover damage from birds. During the past week I have been chasing them off the house every time I happen to hear rat-a-tat-tat.

Related: Ask the Master Gardener: Add a splash of fall color to your yard with shrubberies

There are nine species of woodpeckers found in Minnesota. Flickers and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers leave for the winter, but the others stay here year-round. Don’t consider shooting them out your window because woodpeckers are a protected species — it is illegal to kill or trap one without a permit. Wood siding, especially soft wood like cedar, attracts woodpeckers who leave behind holes ranging in size from one-fourth inch to one inch or more. Woodpeckers peck for three reasons: communicating, feeding, or roosting. They often focus on the area just below the eaves. The “drumming” you hear is the woodpecker searching the house for hollow spaces. If a woodpecker is looking for food it will usually leave several small (less than one-half inch) feeding holes scattered over an area or formed into rows. One or two larger holes (an inch or more) are typically a sign of roosting or nesting behavior. It is critical to take action as soon as a woodpecker starts making holes in your siding, and before it has time to make it a part of its routine.

There are some techniques you can try to scare off your woodpeckers, but before you begin, cover or repair any existing holes. For small pea-sized holes,

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I moved into my in-laws’ home. My husband wants to pay his parents’ mortgage, but it will come out of my income. How can I protect myself?

Dear Moneyist,

I got married recently and moved into my husband’s house that he shares with his parents. (His name and his parents’ name are on the deed.) Currently, we pay a small amount for rent, but my husband hopes to take on the mortgage of the house over the next couple of years. I am the breadwinner, and so the majority (or even all) of the money that would go towards the mortgage would be coming from me.

Before fully committing to this, are there any precautions I need to take? Or what are the risks I could be facing? I am worried about what would happen if I end up paying off their home, and they want to sell it or my in-laws pass away, or if they decide to give their share of the house to my husband’s sister, or if my husband and I separate (which is more of a worse-case scenario).

In all those cases would I be entitled to anything with the house? Unfortunately, you can sometimes get screwed over dealing with family. How can I prevent this from happening? I do want to help pay the mortgage. I would like to think my husband and his family would not do anything untoward, but I still would like to take precautions. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Thank you for your help.

Daughter-in-law

The Moneyist: My sister-in-law moved in with her mother, changed her will, set up a new trust and inherited everything. Is it too late to claim what rightfully belongs to us?

Dear Daughter-in-law,

It’s not a good idea to use marital funds to pay off your in-laws’ mortgage, particularly given all of the potential scenarios you lay out. There are probably a few more that you have not thought

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