September 24, 2014

Mice In The Attic

Sam, not caring about mice
This is the time of year we get mice in the attic. We probably wouldn't have known about them it if hadn't been for our cats. Well, we would have known eventually, when they chewed through electrical wiring, but every cat we've ever had can be found staring up at the ceiling in one particular corner of the living room this time of year. They hear them up there. Every year Dan sets traps in the attic and catches quite a few.

So how do mice get into the attic? Inside the walls. This is another problem Dan and I have been discussing in regards to re-doing our front porch.

When our house was built in the 1920s, the techniques were a bit different than modern construction. If you see a house being build today, it's common to see the foundation put in first, then a subfloor, then the framing for the walls.

The walls for our house were build right on top of the sill before the floor was installed. There is no subfloor; they put up the walls, then nailed down tongue and groove boards, and then put linoleum on top of that. The problem is that none of the floor boards actually butt up to the sill, rather, there is a gap. Dan says the blown-in wall insulation is falling down into the crawl space.

Obviously it isn't air tight at the top, either. So besides being a convenient passageway into the attic for mice, cold air channels up the walls too. That cold air seeps through our tongue and groove walls, making them very drafty. The worst place is the front corner bedroom off the front porch. It catches the brunt of our bitter winter winds, which obviously blow through the gaps in the foundation and right up the walls! Between that and the large, single glazed windows, that room is impossible to heat (or keep cool in summer).

This is something that is finally going to be addressed as part of our front porch project. I mentioned sealing off the foundation from critters, but it will help with wind too. Then Dan will seal the cracks between floor boards and walls with foam. When we get to the new siding, the old bedroom windows will be replaced with energy efficient ones. Eventually, we'll get to the room's interior and do like we did in our bedroom, take down old walls, insulate properly, and put up new ones.

For those of you who like old houses, here's a couple of old photos to illustrate:

These were taken during our 2011 kitchen remodel. Most our walls are pine
T&G. All are painted, which wasn't a good idea since the paint cracks at the
board lines when the house shifts. Insulation was blown in at a later date.  

This gives you an idea of what we've been doing. One
problem with the blown-in insulation is that it didn't get
to some spots, like under the windows and under the
diagonal corner bracing. Redoing made all the difference.

All of this makes for a huge project, especially with all the seasonal things which have to be done around here. We just try to prioritize (animals and food growing always comes first), and stay focused on the task at hand. This is the best way to not get overwhelmed with all the things needing to be done. It's one step at a time, all the way.


Sandy Livesay said...


I would say allow the cats in the attic but you have insulation up there and you don't want them getting their paws in the traps. Mice are a big nuisance when temperatures drop. I hope you're able to get the front porch secured and the mice caught.

Suggest for bait on traps a little dab of peanut butter, they love it.

Anonymous said...

We currently have one of those chooeky little critters under our fridge. I saw it creep out one night when I was watching movies late. The cats sit and stare intently under the fridge for hours at a time. They're excellent ratters and mousers but I don't care for catch and release inside the house (hence our current resident).
We recently had the insulation done in our house and boy, the difference it's made! We sealed along under the house (our house is on stumps and on a slope) with corrugated iron and insulated under the floor, in the walls and in the ceiling and we've been toasty all winter through. :) Good luck, it's a huge job.

Farmer Barb said...

I'd rather mice than rats. California has rats. BIG ones. My best mouse hunting technique is the peanut butter on the outside of the trap to get them comfortable with it first... We have plenty of good hiding spaces OUTSIDE. I feel no need to share.

I value your prioritizing skills. You are amazingly able to keep it all straight. It may not feel like it to YOU, but it does to us!

Izzy said...

Slow and steady wins the race!

Leigh said...

Sandy, true about the insulation in the attic. Have to agree about the peanut butter, it's Dan's go-to.

Rabidlittlehippy, ah yes, the old catch and release. Why do cats do that?!?!? Our cats have brought in chipmunks and baby rabbits, but thankfully never mice. At least I don't think so.

Barb, I definitely agree with you about the rats! And the peanut butter.

Not so sure about prioritizing. Seems a thing jumps to the top of the list when it becomes a "fix or else". :)

Izzy, I reckon I should be thankful that I'm in the race at all, LOL

tpals said...

I have a room like your front bedroom. It used to be a screened in porch until someone decided to turn it into a living room with 7 windows. I keep the door closed to it all summer and winter. I think I would have preferred the porch!

Renee Nefe said...

At least the mice didn't mess up your plan...the front door did that. ;) I can see all your improvements paying for themselves quite quickly.

Here we have to purchase a new furnace which has set back the new tires on my car, the new car for hubby and the new kitchen (of course while that's a high priority, we still aren't in agreement over the counter tops). Luckily a friend of mine is in the HVAC business and they offer a great deal for homeschoolers in our group. We saved $650 on this. And we're also lucky that this week has been so summery and we haven't needed the furnace at all.

Although I really didn't notice it at first, I can tell that our new windows we had put in have helped keep our house much warmer. Now for the new furnace to lower our gas bill even more!

helenabelle said...

I was just commenting to a friend last night that I could not, would not, let the long list of "to do" on our farm get to me. Otherwise I would be too overwhelmed to do anything! One task at a time! It's good to know we are not alone!

Harry Flashman said...

Poor Stuart Little! Alas, Mrs. Brisby!

I catch mice in catch 'em alive traps and let them go out in the woods.

I know this is somewhat eccentric but I never hurt animals if I can help it.

Leigh said...

tpals, reminds me of when we lived in Florida. The retirement village my in-laws lived in had cute houses with nice front porches. Folks wanted to screen them in, then add windows, and finally they needed to add an air conditioner because the enclosed porch was too hot to enjoy!

Renee, keeping the mice out is the bonus. :) Great deal on the furnace! But it sounds like you'll never agree on those kitchen cabinets, LOL

Helenabelle, I think it's something we all deal with! It's hard to keep from getting overwhelmed, but focusing on the task at hand helps.

Harry, we're not big on killing animals either, but we can't have them coming back, nor do we want them to become someone else's problem. We release whatever we can.

Chris said...

Ah yes, its beat the clock before all that nice weather disappears. I actually feel quite a pull when nature is calling me to finish my yard work, but something else is calling me back inside again.

I'd rather be outside! But then some things just can't be postponed forever.

Dawn said...

we have been racing againt the clock to get the winter jobs done, we compiled a list and set about what was important to get done outside, rainy days see us indoors tackling jobs.
there are always jobs being added to the lists and i dont think for one moment we will will ever get everything done in our lifetime. :-)

Tuesday said...

Our first home was a 1920's craftsman style home that would get a mouse every now and then. Our kitty would hunt them for days and dispatch them. I think having a mouse comes with an old house.

Just this weekend as we were walking along the fridge line on the property, I spotted a tiny mouse in a hole. One of her babies popped out and she dragged it back in. It was quite interesting, and I was happy to see a new critter on the property.

Cdngardengirl said...

When you seal up the walls after insulating, go with 8 ml vapor barrier rather than approved 6ml. It's thicker and a bit harder to put up but oh so worth it to keep out drafts and cold air. In our bathroom area, the exterior wall butting the bathtub was actually left open in the framing and open to the actual brick wall. Not surprising we had loads of mice in the house and a very cold tub. We closed it off with sheet metal before installing the new, warmer tub. Small improvements can make such huge differences.

Leigh said...

Chris, that's me too. I love being outdoors! And as thankful as I am for all of this month's indoor food preservation activities, I'm glad to be out again too. Seems like the front porch is a bit of a compromise though. We'll be outside while working something that will improve the inside. :)

Dawn, one race I'm losing is the fall garden! Seems like I'm late putting it in every year and this one is no exception.

Tuesday, when we first got the place I found mouse long abandoned nests. The house had been vacant for a number of years so I guess the mice vacated tool. They've certainly flourished now that we have critters and feed droppings around!

Gloria, sounds like very good advice. I know your improvements made a huge difference! (Nothing worse than an icy cold tub in the middle of winter!)

Mark said...

Hi, Leigh. We're blessed with a house that is relatively new and a cat that regularly leaves gifts of mice, gophers, moles and occasionally birds on the patio.

I grew up in a post-civil war era built house (Mom still lives there) where the rustle of mice in the walls and ceilings was a regular event. We did put some effort into sealing up where we could, but traps in the winter and a hearty corps of barn cats seem to have been the best way to repel the boarders.