Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mouse Games

After a relaxing vacation in Michigan and down south with family in Kentucky we came home to find our mouse problem on the rise.

The traps around the basement had caught one while we were gone and another mouse a couple of days after our return. This situation leaves me pondering one very important question, "Where are they getting in" ???    I had already constructed a curtain wall around the worst parts of the foundation.  I had replaced the old broken basement windows. It's time to change up the plan a little.

What ever shall I do?

I think I'll start feeding the mice and perhaps in return they will cooperate and tell me how they are getting into the house.  Maybe they will also tell me where they are going once inside and if they happen to have a nest somewhere?  Does that sound so crazy? Maybe my kids have subjected me to too much Mickey Mouse Clubhouse... oh Toodles!

A plan was hatched, no mousekatools required.

Before we started crating our dog we would use a black light flashlight to find urine spots. I tried the same with mouse urine but it wasn't detectable. However, I found some very bright florescent dust on amazon and thought it would leave a nice trail if I could somehow get the mouse coated in it.

Dust, food container, grass seed (bait).

It reacts nice and bright with the black light.

I thought I could impregnate some cotton balls with the dust as a transfer medium.

Shaking them in a bag worked out nice and didn't use much dust at all.

Now somehow I have to get them to take the cotton balls (for nesting material) and / or crawl through them.

After washing the dust off my hands I could no longer see any without the black light, but it was still there.  If I do catch a mouse in the other traps I should certainly be able to identify if it had been in the cotton. 

Some aromatic chocolates and dried strawberries were added as bait.
It's become apparent that any further interaction with this stuff will require gloves and should probably be done outside.

Two entry holes were cut into the container on the opposite side from where most of the bait was.

  It's a bit messy.

The whole contraption was placed directly in the crawl space.

There it is with the black light on it.

It's good at leaving an invisible mess.

After one day I checked the bait stash and noticed a cotton ball had been pulled out and there were definite tracks leading over to a brick structure in the crawl space.

I hope I don't find something nasty at the end of the trail like a large nest or this guy:

He just wanted the chocolates!...and maybe your skull.

After the second night more cotton was pulled out and there was a large path running over to our foundation. I noticed a big pile under a hole in the spray foam insulation.

I'm going to let the bait sit until the weekend and see if there are any other trails or areas of interest. After that I'll probably have to get in the crawl space and dig out some insulation to see if I can identify an entry point.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Basement Window Replacement

We set out on the task to replace the old broken and rotten basement windows. Originally we had considered replacement hopper style windows that open allowing air flow. However, the dimensions of the window openings mandated that we would need to order a custom size window as opposed to using a standard size $70 version from the local home store. Custom hopper windows, it turns out, cost a lot more in a non-standard size. A local company had quoted us $350 each to replace our current windows with new hopper style vinyl windows. A much less expensive option was to go with glass block. We compromised and ordered our glass block windows with a vent that would allow air flow.

Over the years the glass window panes had broken for various reasons. In one instance a lightning strike close to the house had shattered one sending shards into the basement.

This window was fitted with a dryer exhaust tube to facilitate laundry in the basement during major house construction. The insulation to either side was to plug panes where the glass had broken.

 Patches cut from scrap materials had been somewhat effective in keeping the elements out.

Only two of the four windows seemed to have retained their glass over the years. There were many other issues with moisture and drafts seeping in around all of them.

For some reason there was an electrical outlet wired outside one of the windows. I'm told this was used as a convenient power supply for outdoor equipment. I bet the local inspector would love this. It must come out as part of this job.

Each window had a mesh screen in front of it. I'm not sure what this material is but it became quite brittle and useless over the years.

The old window may have tipped out or been removable at some point, but it was screwed shut and had been painted over a few times by now. It was stuck in the frame quite well and needed a bit of coaxing to get it out in one piece, avoiding more shattered glass.

Prying around it and lightly tapping from the outside allowed us to pop out the windows in one piece.  The next task was to cut out the frame.

 A sawzall was used to make a cut in the bottom of the frame creating a good spot to pry it up.

 Next, each side was pried away from the stone foundation.

The old stone mortar was in poor condition and simply brushed off the rocks. These areas will need to be repaired  as part of the process. Much of the old mortar on the bottom sill was powdered as well and had to be chipped and vacuumed off.

The top frame was cut in a similar fashion to the bottom and came out as the sides were bent inward.


The bottom of the frame was very close to becoming dirt. They had been so damaged by moisture that there were plant root systems growing in them.

The sides were re-mortared and later tooled flat. One window had a cavernous gap on both sides where the mortar was gone; it took about 40 pounds of mortar to plug some gaps and bring the sides back where they needed to be.

Next the new window was shimmed into place tight against the wood beam above. Mortar was added under and around the window and allowed to cure for an hour or so.

A shim screwed to the top beam helped prevent the window from falling inward while it was being positioned.

After the mortar cured enough to support the weight of the windows the shims were removed and the gaps they left were filled with more mortar.

An angled shelf was tooled into place once the shims were out, this should help water shed away from the foundation. Any time we added or manipulated the mortar we kept a sponge handy to wipe up any mortar film that had got on the window.

Inside, the mortar was brushed and blended using a whisk broom to match the finish of the surrounding walls.


This process was repeated 3 more times and we had our 4 windows done.

Here's the final product. We'll wait 30+ days for the mortar to cure to a low moisture content then paint the inside white like the rest of the wall.

Hopefully these windows will withstand the elements better than the previous ones. We might also build wood framed screens to go in front of these to hide the block and simulate the look of the older windows.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Old Basement Repaint

After we finished the rodent exclusion project we had the ducts cleaned and disinfected in the old side of the basement. Our hopes are that we will never have mice making a mess of the basement or our ducts again so we proceeded to give the basement walls and floor a fresh coat of paint.

Before the fresh coat:

We also built a set of shelves to hold the many bins we still have.

I think the next task will be to replace the 4 old broken windows in the old basement.