The concrete guy has been found. This is good.
He can't do the work until the end of May. This is bad.
The reason this whole replacing-the-front-step project moved to the top of my priority list (besides the fact that the wooden platform & mailbox there now is an eyesore) is that mice have been getting into the walls of my house via the gap left by the missing step. I discovered this in mid November. It was too late to do any work on the concrete, so I closed up the area as best I could and went into denial. Thankfully, I had spent a huge amount of time weatherproofing my house and this paid off in the fact that the mice lived in the walls and couldn't enter the house, with the exception of the one visit in the kitchen which I promptly stopped.
I'm a pretty calm person and not a lot stresses me out. Mice stress me out. Mice really stress me out. When I get stressed out I can't sleep. I also tend to over research the problem to learn more about it. In this case, big mistake. On some website I read that mice can multiply from a few to a few hundred in a month or so. Correct or not, my imagination took over.
So with a month left before any work can be done replacing the step, last Thursday I conned my dad into coming over and helping me remove some the existing wood step to see if we could do some patch work on the foundation holes. The original plan was to take off the top layer and the sides and see if we could patch foundation holes with a cement patching mix. Then we were going to lay the top back on the whole thing and let it sit until the new concrete step was poured.
We weren't exactly sure what was under the wood platform. I was going by memory of what I had seen last winter when I put up some hardware cloth on the side lattice work. I remembered large gaps in the concrete and some spots of missing foundation, but it was really cold back then and my memory is not great. My assumption had been that they had started to take out the old step and found it was too much work and just left the rest and built the platform over it.
Once we got the top and the sides off, we figured out it really was a slab of concrete over a pile of concrete pieces. The top slab was actually in one piece and not in terrible condition. Originally there was a concrete handrail that would have covered the sides. We also realized that while there were chunks of the face of the foundation missing, the holes into my house were actually where the board under the threshhold had been removed. We decided to just remove the whole thing and be done with it.
Once the wood platform was gone, I used copper mesh (similar to the brand Stuff-it)(purchased from Lee Valley Tools) to jam into the holes in the wood and concrete. The copper is nice to work with because it is very flexible, animals can't chew through it, and it doesn't rust. For larger holes, we filled the mesh tube with a small amount if fiberglass insulation for bulk.
The old, uncovered step really doesn't look half bad. You can see where at one time tile had been placed on it. You can also see evidence of the small, enclosed entryway that my neighbor told me had been added then removed from the house years ago. It looks like the riser of the step had a stucco finish layer on it at one time. Little snippets of history.
Hopefully this is the beginning of a speedy end to this whole saga.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
The concrete guy has been found. This is good.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
I am happy to report that the mouse "situation" has been successfully resolved
Once again, I went over every square inch of my house with caulk gun in hand to seal up any little hole in the baseboards, crown moulding, cabinetry, etc. My kitchen has been nuked with a nice bleach solution. I am still trying to figure out how the studs in the walls don't prevent the critters from traveling the horizontal length of a wall. However, I am feeling much better about StuccoHouse.
I am a little embarrassed (yet relieved) to admit that what I thought were mice in the walls of my bedroom, upon further research, turned out to be birds flying south for the winter stopping in a noisy bunch on my rooftop for a few consecutive mornings. This happened to coincide with my mouse discovery. I am not a morning person and not able to process my world very accurately in the early moring hours. Birds landing sounded like mice crawling to me. That's my story and I'm sticking to it ;-)
Of course, the front steps (and gaping whole in the foundation wall that leads directly into my house) will be the first project on the Spring "to do" list. Let's just hope that my little screen repair holds out til Spring
Friday, November 18, 2005
I am in the throes of a mouse problem. I thought things were under control, but I woke up to mouse noises coming from my bedroom walls this morning.
Two words. This sucks.
Three words. This totally sucks.
One of the previous owners of the house decided that when the top concrete step to the front door decayed they would just chop it up - leave the concrete pieces in a pile - and cover the whole thing up with a pressure treated wood platform. The sides were decorated with a wood lattice. The gap left by the stair near the foundation under the platform was left wide and clear.
This wood platform has been on my list of things to repair. Pour a new concrete step. But I wanted to figure out what my front steps looked like originally (my neighbor has photos). It appears there may have been a concrete arm rail (does that make sense?) on either side of the step.
Now, mice have apparently discovered this little highway into my house. Earlier this week I took off the lattice and discovered the pile of broken up concrete and the gap in the foundation. Its hard to see exactly what is going on under there, but you can see enough to know it is not good.
So, I placed some mouse traps there. I caught a mouse. It was ugly. I'm still trying to erase the picture from my mind. Seems though there is a family of mice - so the trapping continues. Did I say how much this sucks?
Today I went out there and stapled hardware cloth over the lattice and then a layer of black aluminum screening over that. It actually doesn't look that bad and I am hopeful it will work in keeping new mice out. I don't want to make any permanent changes, because once Spring comes I want the whole thing fixed properly (a new step can't be poured now that it is cold.)
I am just thanking heaven that over the past two years I have weatherproofed this house to within an inch of its life. I am fairly confident that the mice will not be able to find a crack into the house. Having said that, there is now a trap sitting in my bedroom.
Sigh. If I actually catch a mouse in my bedroom, I may have to move. Could it get any more gross than that?
Monday, November 14, 2005
I was baking in my kitchen on Friday and pulled out a tipsy cake (like a fruitcake but edible) that I had been priming with liquor for the holidays and had temporarily stored on a lower shelf in my cabinets. It was wrapped in Saran Wrap and then a layer of tin foil.
A little scattering of tin foil pieces caught my eye. Then I saw it. The corner of my little tipsy cake was missing. Something had chewed through the tin foil, the plastic wrap and taken out a chunk of the cake.
I spent the weekend in denial. I am not a fan of small, fast moving things with fur....especially in my house. Actually, this is probably an understatetment. More accurately, I am hysterically afraid of small, fast moving things with fur in my house.
By Sunday I came to terms with the fact that a mouse had entered my kitchen. When I first moved into my house I cleaned and repainted all of my cabinets. As part of this process I had also caulked every gap in the room.....except one corner. So, it was fairly easy to determine where the critter was making his entrance. I said a quiet little prayer and pulled out the refrigerator. Thank heavens there were no little corpses laying there, but sure enough I spotted a gap between the wall and the cabinet back. I spent time shoving steel wool in each and every crevice. Those too small for steel wool received caulk.
The foundation of my house is somewhat unusual in that it runs about 18" up the side of my house. There are only small hairline cracks that I have filled in religiously since I move in. So, once again, it was pretty easy to figure out where the critter had entered the house. By the make-shift, wood front steps into the house (more on this topic in the future).
I went back into denial.
Today about lunchtime I was surprised to hear some wood gnawing going on behind the baseboard near my front door. Off to Menards I went. I cleared out the "pest" aisle and returned home with many different kind of traps, pellets, hardware cloth, and expanding foam.
I won't go into morbid detail, but let's just say if he is smart he will steer clear of the peanut butter. I'm not quite sure what I am going to do if I actually do catch something. I can only imagine there will be phone calls made, bargaining & pleading and large sums of money changing hands.
Two thing struck me as quite funny in this process. 1) That the makers of those traps actually advertise them as being reusable - as if; and 2) I managed to attract the mouse who thought he needed a cocktail.
More as it happens..........