Garage Loft Support

Earlier this month I noticed the 4×4 post near the center of the loft was bowed in two directions. Could there really be that much weight up there? As you may remember, we built the loft back in October. So here we are in May, five months later and now the post is bowing.

I was worried the whole thing would come down, so I had a friend come over and help me unload some bins I had stored on the loft. We installed a temporary 4×4 to help support the bowed post.

This past weekend I was able to run up to Lowe’s and drop about $50-$75 on some lumber, brackets and construction adhesive. The plan I made was to install two wing walls at each end of the loft. Each would provide 24″ of support under the LVL header. These wing walls will basically disappear once I complete all of my wood shelves I want to build along the perimeter of the garage. The primary part of my plan though would be two 4×4 supports in the middle of the loft. These two posts would be 3′ apart, leaving 9′ of open span to each side to the next 4×4 post against each wall.

I built the 2×4 wing walls on my saw horses and installed them. Under the bottom plates I used construction adhesive, then secured the plates with concrete fastening screws. I screwed the wing walls to the existing 4×4 posts that support the loft where it meets the walls. And lastly I screwed the top plate to the underside of the LVL.

In the center of the loft area I placed a 3′ bottom plate on the cement and a top plate on the underside of the LVL. Between the plates I inserted two 4×4 posts. I secured everything to each other, using metal brackets to help reinforce the 4×4 to plate connection.

I don’t think these new supports will hinder access to a parked car. I can’t imagine the loft is going anywhere now.

What I really believe is the single 4×4 post just warped as it dried out. I don’t think there was any danger of the loft collapsing, but it was scary at first until I could really assess the situation and reinforce it.

Pictures below. Enjoy.

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Mice

I may be premature in saying this but we may be on vacation from the mice for a while. Baby mouse number nine was found brained in my bedroom two days ago. Baby mouse ten was caught in a box ten minutes later and released by the porch. And finally baby mouse eleven ran into the live trap and was released the next morning out by the driveway.

The wife says an average litter of mice is 6-8 baby mice. Two mice being low, and fourteen mice at the high end. So of course we were at the high end.

No, we haven’t found the nest yet, and no I haven’t working on closing the hole in the rim joist behind the air exchanger (which will be pretty much impossible. I did line the siding a month or two ago with steel wool where the mice are coming in. They can not eat through steel wool, so clogging up the termite gap behind the siding with steel wool should impede them until I can find the hole and close it.

The cats have returned to normal in their routine so I’m thinking that’s it for mice for a while.

I’ll keep you posted when…er, I mean…if, we see more mice inside.

 

Baby mouse ten

Baby mouse number ten after being released.

 

Mouse Update

Well I’m pretty sure yesterday’s mouse was the mom mouse. We had caught or killed four baby mice. And today that total rose to six total baby mice. Our smaller cat was sitting in my bedroom hallway in an unusual spot. I didn’t think much because I didn’t see anything. Then after lunch she was back in there and this time I saw a little ball of something. It was a baby mouse, basically dead. I got rid of it outside.

Then a half hour later I came back inside and both cats had another baby mouse cornered under a pile of clothes. This mouse I was able to catch and release alive.

Somewhere in that bedroom is the nest. And possibly some more baby mice. But the cats aren’t in there really sniffing around showing me where the nest is at. I’m taking the night off. Maybe more mice will come out of the woodwork so to speak.

I feel bad though, all those baby mice separated from their mom. Some of them dead. Her out there wondering where her babies went. But there’s not much I can do about it. She was dumb for having babies in our house, especially since we have two cats. Hopefully she is smarter next time.

Mousepalooza

The house is infested with mice apparently. Last week we had four straight days of baby mice events. And after a week of rest we had another mouse today.

We haven’t caught today’s mouse yet. But the four mice last week were all taken care of. All these mice are on the main level. Not sure why. Maybe they are living in the air vents now. Otherwise they are climbing up from the basement. Three of them showed up at 4:30 to 5:30 AM. The fourth baby mouse was our first confirmed kill. I came home to find it’s twitching body underneath Dixon, our cat. He licked it to death apparently. Probably just wanted to play.

Today’s mouse was in the living room. Daisy, our other cat, chased it around the couch. At one point getting it to jump 5′ straight up in the air out of fear. That mouse is currently under the freezer.

Wait!

The trap just went off!

I had bought another live trap today, along with some smelly things at Lowe’s that are suppose to make mice go away. I also noticed more blue foam in a slightly different place at the back of the house so this must be the new mouse hole. And the steel wool was hanging down near the edge of the siding…they are definitely getting in there. A couple weeks ago we saw a live mouse near the rim joist in the storage room but there wasn’t much we can do about it at the time. Too high up and then it went behind the air exchanger…oh yea..that’s right there’s a mouse in the trap…I forgot.

Dixon is batting at the closed trap.

I pick up the trap…its got some extra heft to it. It’s definitely balanced to one end.

A quick “mouse” text to the wife for backup support. Cats mill about wondering where the mouse went.

Shaking I go out on the porch. I hate mice. They dart around too much. Zero logic and predictability. Defies how I’m wired.

The trap has a spring loaded door. Bare foot, bare hands…I’m ill prepared. I pull the door back and shake. Damn. It barely opens.

I pull the door back and shake. It closes again. This time there’s a tail sticking out at least.

Mouse.

Third times the charm. I’m able to hold door open on trap and shake. Mouse is literally hanging on to the inside of trap for dear life.

Mouse drops to pavement. Limps away.

Bye mouse.

Spring Pine

Happy Earth Day everyone! Today marks our sixth anniversary since we moved in.

Normally we buy a tree and plant it for Earth Day and to celebrate our house anniversary but to be honest we’ve been very busy. After running back from an appointment I just felt like sitting on the porch and writing. We’ll get a new tree here soon enough but for now I’m taking the rest of the day off.

I walked around the yard and took some photos to share. I had noticed a patch of green in the north meadow, as I pulled the car out of the driveway. So I went back there and noticed that along the path to the bees, there was a 2-3′ pine tree. This is one of the trees I planted years ago when we first moved in.

It’s a beautiful day, the sun is out and the birds are chirping. A great day to enjoy the house and all the hard work we put in to live here.

Ditch Digger

Round three of me working to preserve my gravel driveway. Last year and this winter have been rough on the driveway. A couple years ago I spread out a few tons of 411 limestone. Then last year I had Driveway Dave bring in a few tons and tamp them down where the pot holes are at. At the time Dave said I need to ditch around the perimeter, to route water under the drive. Possibly add a second pipe under the driveway. The surface water is creating and preserving the pot holes. Adding more gravel isn’t doing much.

In a perfect world I’d hire an excavating company to come out and fix the drive. Or in a slightly less perfect world I’d rent one of those kickass little baby excavators and dig my ditches using that. But here in the real world where I live month to month, I’m digging my ditches by hand. And I’ll have five tons of 411 delivered in two weeks (cost about $150-$300 delivered).

It’s really tough to gauge the fall of the land but from far away it looks like if I dig one continuous ditch along the south side it’ll route all the surface water to my one pipe, and under the driveway.

The ground is super wet due to a huge rain storm we had yesterday, so I decided to start digging and see how it would go. It went pretty good. I figured out to dig with the ditch, at one end of it, as opposed to against it or standing to the side. There’s a lot of thick grass and the ground is oversaturated so it was slow going, back breaking work. But the water is flowing along the ditch so that’s encouraging.

Ultimately my goal is to have a nice two track driveway devoid of potholes. We’ll see how well my ditches work once I finish them and it rains again. Maybe I finally found my calling in life.

Mouse!

MOUSE!!” I yelled out.

Immediately I could hear feet shuffle upstairs. I yelled a few more times for good measure but I knew they were on their way. See, the number one rule in mousing, for people at least, is to always keep eyes on your target no matter what. Because a mouse can move fast and a house like ours has an infinite number of hiding spaces. We don’t hunt our mice to kill, we prefer a live capture and release outside. If I kept my eyes on him, I knew our chances were good to catch him alive and get him out of the house.

‘Cause we’d done it before.

An Unwelcome Visitor

Early in December I went down to the storage room to clean the litter boxes and noticed some wall insulation fluff on the ground by the water treatment equipment and litter boxes. Looking up I saw a big ball of fluff on top of our foundation wall. My first thought was that our little cat, Daisy, had gotten up there and was pulling out insulation or maybe there was some lose insulation from when they built the house and she knocked it down. Daisy has gotten into the basement ceiling joists before so it was no surprise tome. I called up to the wife to come down. I was thinking I’d share Daisy’s latest escapade with her, then clean up the mess.

What neither my wife nor I expected to see was movement up there. We both about jumped out of our skin (me more so) when we saw a small, yet plump, brown body dart from one bay to the other, followed by a very long tail.

Holy crap it’s a mouse!

This stunned me because our house is suppose to be air tight, relatively speaking. But it obviously got in somehow. I know I was bringing some things in from the garage over the past few weeks. So maybe as a stowaway in a box. On the other hand the weather had just gotten cold; we had our first snowfall. It is the time of year for mice to infiltrate our homes.

How the mouse got in was secondary to how to get the mouse out though.

Mouse Hunt

I set a humane mouse trap up next to the fluff on top of the shelving unit I had made just a few months prior. I baited the trap with peanut butter. It’s a lever so when the mouse goes inside, its weight tips the lever and the door shuts behind the mouse, trapping it.

I checked that trap for five days and nothing.

Meanwhile our two cats were spending a lot of time in the storage room. Obviously they could tell we had a new visitor that week. My personal policy was that if the mouse got in the trap, great! I’ll let it go in the yard. Now if the cats got the mouse that would be okay too. In fact, with a certain degree of pride, I was hoping the cats would get the mouse. Poor mouse, but then at least the cats would finally be earning their room and board. I recently read though that well fed house cats usually don’t make for good “mousers”.

Well, during those five days the cats didn’t catch the mouse as far as I could tell. They’d sniff around the storage room. Daisy seems like more of the mouser than Dixon. She’d be in there every day but seemingly nothing. If the mouse was dead, she’d hid it’s little corpse deep in the stacks of crap in the storage room.

Point of Entry

There is an air intake and exhaust port on the back of the house for the air exchanger. I thought one of those might be the culprit, but upon inspection both looked fine. Though, as a side note, the exhaust vent was clogged shut with lint so at least the mouse-ca-pade prompted me to clean that vent before any more long term damage was done.

exhause-vent

The air exchanger exhaust vent after I took a wire brush to clear it.

One day, after the snow melted, I was outside setting out our live Christmas tree. I noticed along the foundation in the back yard, blue foam debris on the ground. The debris corresponded with where we’d seen the mouse inside the storage room. There you go, I now knew that the mouse was not a stowaway, rather he had broken and entered the house illegally.

I used a mirror to see if I could figure it out. As best I could tell, the mouse slipped between the siding and the termite flashing, then gnawed its way through the blue foam and from there somehow into the house through the rim joist apparently.

I put investigating the entry point and sealing it up on my “to do” list and went about my business for a few more days. I figured maybe the cats got the mouse or he left on his own accord.

Things That Go Bump In The Night

It was about midnight. I had just settled into bed and was dozing off. Dixon was asleep next to me. All was quiet.

Then he perked up.

A pause.

Then he jumped off the bed.

A moment later I could hear him by the window sill fussing with something. I knew right away what was going on because I’m pretty attuned to my cat (best friend really). Clicking on my bed light sure enough.

Dixon had the mouse cornered on the window sill of my bedroom.

dixon-and-mouse-on-sill

Dixon corners the first mouse on the bedroom windowsill.

I texted my wife, hoping she was still awake. I wanted to keep my eyes on the mouse and I needed backup. A minute later she was on the scene. The mouse darted into the closet. We closed the bedroom and bathroom doors. With her a one end of the closet and me at the other, Dixon in the middle spotting the mouse’s location, we had it pretty well contained.

We then spent the next half hour working to capture the mouse. I created barricades at both ends of our otherwise open closet. Dixon eventually lost interest but I kept putting him in there. We called for Daisy and eventually she came on scene. We placed her in the closet. She’s definitely the more aggressive mouser of the two. She hunted up the mouse quickly and gave it no room to escape. Almost to the point where we thought she’d hook it good if given the chance.

daisy-in-closet

Daisy and the mouse in our closet

Eventually we were able to chase the mouse into a paper box. I then scrambled to the front door, out into the yard and dumped the mouse out into the freezing cold night. I don’t know if he survived or not (he ran off but it was cold and he was surely scared), but I didn’t really care at that point.

Congratulations were given to Dixon for discovering the mouse in the first place, and to Daisy for hounding the mouse to the end.

Mouse Hole

For the couple weeks after the successful mouse capture things returned to normal. The cats didn’t spend as much time in the storage room. I didn’t notice anything out of place. This past week Daisy has been spending more time in my office, which is adjacent to the storage room, while I work but that didn’t seem out of the ordinary. After all I feed the cats treats regularly when I’m working.

Finally an open Saturday came around so I decided to clean up the fluff and see if I could discover the mouse hole. I gingerly poked around and vacuumed up the mouse debris. The last thing I wanted was a mouse jumping out at me. I hate how they dart around and I will easily scream like a little kid should one get within my proximity unexpectedly.

I looked up by the air exchanger outlet and I could see a cobweb moving in the “breeze”. Sure enough there must be a hole to the outside up there. I got up my ladder and “voila!”. Mouse hole.

the-mouse-hole

I could feel, see cold air coming into the house through this 1″ round hole in the rim joist.

I then hopped over to the big fluff pile on top of the wall, above the water filtration system. The fluff was from my actual walls. The mouse had gone up into the wall through a hole between a heating duct and the plywood floor above. I’m not too worried about the loss of insulation in my wall. There’s not much I could do about that, but I could clean up the fluff and seal the opening with some expanding foam. I vacuumed up the fluff after poking it a bit to make sure there wasn’t a mouse inside the fluff ball.

After everything was swept up I grabbed my trusty expanding foam and sealed up the hole where the heat duct went up into the wall. It looks like this after:

Then I don’t know what the heck I did, I think I stepped out for a second then back into the storage room. But as I went to reposition my ladder to spray foam the mouse hole at the other end of the foundation, I saw this:

mouse-2

Mouse number two. He has wet spray foam his side. I had just cleared out the area and was foaming the vent, not sure where he came from.

I don’t know where he came from but there was another mouse, or maybe the same mouse from a couple weeks ago. Anyway, actually I know where he came from because he had wet spray foam on his fur. He had been hiding out near the vent duct while I was spraying it. That’s when I yelled “MOUSE!” and the wife and kids came down with the “mouse box”; the same paper box from the last time we did this.

The mouse went back and forth on top of the work bench then inadvertently fell to the floor about six feet. I was able to corner him and in about five minutes got him to run into the paper box. He was covered in debris. I felt bad but there was absolutely nothing I could do for him. There’s nothing that will take that stuff off, short of taking the mouse to the vet and having the vet shave the mouse fur off. I’m crazy, but not that crazy.

My kids and I took the box outside and let the mouse go on the porch. The mouse scurried under the porch, out of sight.

I went back inside and spray foamed the mouse hole. I put everything back the way it was in the storage room. I’ll keep an eye on it but my fingers are crossed that our mouse encounter is over.

To fix the hole on the outside of the house, I really think I’ll have to hire a handyman or siding guy to take the siding off, and figure out exactly how the mouse got it, and seal it up. Also have to close that gap between the siding and the termite shield. There needs to be a gap but it needs to be just a few millimeters, not a full inch.

I’m definitely over the excitement of having rodents in our house. Having a tight house was always a source of pride, so when a mouse gnawed its way in, it sort of dinged my pride. More importantly though I was able to figure out where the mouse or mice were getting in at, and I am hopefully able to prevent it from happening again.

Now I just hope Dixon isn’t waking me up like that again.

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