A few nights ago I was laying in bed and heard some uncharacteristic noises.
Normally, Roscoe loses his shit when it's dark outside and he hears noises near - or in - the house. But this time, he didn't bark. At all.
Normally, Freckles equates noises to animal footsteps, and makes every possible attempt to catch and eat whatever she thinks she hears. But this time, she didn't budge. At all.
As a result, I didn't think much of it. But I knew it was a mouse. I mean, I didn't KNOW it was a mouse...I just had a feeling. That feeling may or may not have been based on finding a giant pile of fresh baby mouse poops in the basement about a week ago.
The following morning I found a mouse squashed in one of the traps.
So...I'm still sharing the house with rodents. Which is awesome.
Long story short, the basement foundation pointing work got back-burnered over the weekend so I could demo out the last little bit of finished ceiling in the basement's front room.
Those finished basement ceilings seem to serve as little mouse highways, and while getting rid of them doesn't eliminate their house access point, it does help prevent the mice from hanging out with us on the house's main floor.
Back when I gutted the basement's front room, I left the ceiling above the duct intact because to remove it the duct would have to get disassembled and removed, which I didn't want to get into at the time. It's not complicated work, but removing the rectangular duct from the front room meant also getting into the neighboring bathroom ceiling, which I really didn't want to do.
Mice have a funny way of changing one's priorities.
Once I got the first big section of duct on the floor I tore out what little ceiling, which was drywall on top of plaster on top of wood lath, I could get to.
Here you can see the underside of the marble fireplace hearth, and the bulked-up framing beneath the fireplace on the first floor. All those joints where joists run perpendicularly into other joists, they're all connected by mortises and (thru) tenons, which is kinda cool to see. No joist hangers (they didn't exist 142 years ago) and very few nails; can you imagine house framers today carrying an arsenal of chisels like the framers of the 19th century?!
That, as I was about to realize, was the easy section to deal with. The next section was half in the front room, half in the bathroom, with a bunch of newer wall framing snugged up tight to the duct. There was even less wiggle room than I had with the first big section.
So I started poking around the basement bathroom's ceiling to figure out just how much I was going to have to tear out to get at the next section of duct connections.
You know I hated tearing up that lovely wallpaper border.
Actually, what sucked about the demo was having lots of mouse poop rain down on me.
All the little black specks? You guessed it: poops.
However, I did get a little satisfaction out of the work; I found a couple little mouse tunnels in the insulation near the duct, which kinda confirmed my suspicion that the mice love that wall of the house.
Unfortunately, the more modern basement finishing was a total DIY job: a shit show of bad framing and terrible ideas. Needless to say, the sawzall made an appearance and I did what I could to surgically remove the bare minimum. With no dumpster on site, I didn't want to create any more trash than was absolutely necessary.
I ended up removing all the cleats and duct hangers, which should have allowed me to pull the big 8' long section through the bathroom wall, into the front room, and to the ground.
I yanked and pulled and wiggled and did everything I could think of, but the duct wouldn't budge. I did this for, like, 15 minutes before deciding to take a closer look.
Subsequently, I f-bombed the entire thing for the next 15 minutes. Why? Because somebody figured the best way to hold the duct in place was to drive a handful of screws into it through the framing.
So just back out the screws, right?
Here's the thing...when residential space is built, the order of operations typically goes something like this:
I know the pic makes it look like there's plenty of room, but I promise you, I own a pretty unhealthy quantity of tools and I couldn't find a single screwdriver, or combination of tools, that could bee-bop around that PVC pipe to back that screw out.
And there were screws like this one, where I couldn't even see the head of the screw, all I could see was the screw going through a 2x4 (that was covered up by other 2x4s) and into the side of the duct:
See the light shining between the duct and the nearest 2x4? And that little thing near the top of that light bridging the gap between the duct and the 2x4? That's a screw. And it has no business being there.
My sawzall could only do so much in tight quarters. I got out one of my little oscillating saws, but it didn't entirely reach all the screws either. So...out came the 1 chisel I reserve for beating the holy hell out of any and all materials. I ended up chiseling away enough material to remove the screws, but I wrestled with that nonsense for the better part of an hour and I'm pretty sure the dogs, hanging out on the first floor (they won't come down the basement stairs) thought I was engaged in some sort of fight-to-the-death with another human being.
Eventually, I removed the screws and then the duct came apart like it was supposed to.
Then it was back to the ceiling demo, which was a dusty, nasty, poopy affair. I ended up with this:
There was a stupid amount of work involved in getting to that little area of remaining ceiling, but now it's gone. I didn't put the ducts back because I first need to repoint the top section of the wall, so the house's living room isn't getting any hot air right now, but we'll be OK. I'll take no warm air to the front of the house in exchange for not having mice come up through the floor near that fireplace.
On the bright side, removing the ceiling revealed all the mortise and tenon joints, which haven't seen daylight in 142 years.
I'm also going to try to figure out what all is going on with the fireplace above this area; there are several purposely-put-there holes in the wall and ceiling that could have been old flus or cleanouts. I don't think they'll amount to anything, but I kinda dig trying to figure out what all this old stuff did or was used for.
So...that's that. Probably still have mice. Definitely don't have warm air getting to the living room. But now the mice have 1 less way to get upstairs and poop under my bag of hockey gear, and I'll call that a successful operation.