Chimneys, Mice, and Broken Refrigerators – The Un-Fun Side of Home Ownership

steel wool

Well, we had a super productive week but not in the fun way where I have a bunch of pretty pictures of a decorated room.  It is the kind of week that has instead been dirty, expensive, and dirty.  Did I already say dirty? It was dirty. Owning a home is not always unicorns and rainbows and creating vignettes. My intention of writing this blog has been to be honest and show all sides of what it entails and help others with similar problems in the process.

First off, one of the findings we had from the home inspection was the chimney needed a new liner, cap and some mortar work (there was a bit of crumbling at the top). The chimney as is was not usable but more important than that it was increasing the risk of carbon monoxide in the house. Our previous liner was clay and had all but totally crumbled causing a hazard by blocking air flow from the furnace. In preparation for another New England winter (and one the Farmers’ Almanac predicts as being brutal) we wanted to not only have a working fireplace but fix any safety hazards. By the way, this was in no way a job we could DIY. $3,800 (ouch) and two days later we have a fireplace in perfect, working condition. That’s a big check off the old to-do list.

Next problem? We noticed the refrigerator had a slight smell which grew into an AWFUL stench. To the point that we did not want to open doors unless we absolutely had to. I clean the fridge out very regularly so I was confident it wasn’t food that went bad. At first we both thought we may have a dead mouse under the fridge since it was a bit of a “death” smell. We pulled the fridge out ready to find a corpse – to no avail. Let the hunt begin. We then decided well if it’s not under it must have crawled up. Once we were stumped and googled our hearts out we learned that it may actually be a part that went. The fridge is 12 years old and is a low end model to begin with so it made sense it’s at the end of its life span. Through our incessant googling we found that when some parts go it can cause a foul smell.  Though this wasn’t a purchase we were expecting to make soon, it’s not a shock it needs to be replaced.  Since we plan to redo the kitchen within the next few years anyway, we’re hoping the other appliances can at least hold off until then. Fingers crossed the first generation dish washer from 1836 lasts. Just kidding. But it may seriously qualify as an antique.

Finally, mice have been a nagging issue we have waged a war on. When we first moved in we noticed the telltale mouse evidence of droppings. If you have been so lucky as to not experience this, it looks like small brown rice. In the Northeast this is a super common but obnoxious problem to have.  This is also highly important to solve before winter because if they can get in the home now it will only get worse when they are looking for warmth. We have set up traps in areas we saw the most activity but more importantly we have worked to find holes that they may be getting in. Mice can get in some of the tiniest places. Common areas to look at are gaps around pipes under the kitchen sink, gaps in the wall where appliances are plugged in, and around a basement hatchway or garage.

How to Patch Cracks and Holes to Prevent Mice

Now entering the stage: The Hatchway. This basically has a sign on the front that says ‘WARM HOME AND FREE FOOD FOR MICE’. We needed to fight the good fight and stop using just traps but search for where they were coming in.  From using the traps, we knew we saw the most activity in the back corner of the basement where the hatchway is. We knew we had to zoom in here as a likely entrance way.

In the first picture on the left, you can see the cracks from the foundation settling and aging.  Mice can fit in the tiniest of places.  We used the foam sealant, picture below, to fill these cracks. This not only helps prevent mice but will help seal up the home to be more efficient against air and water leaks.


foam sealant

This hole was on the bottom of the doorway to the hatchway and is a big spot mice can get in.  Here, I stuffed it with steel wool.  Mice can chew through many things but not steel wool.  I used a screwdriver to pack the steel in this spot as well as the gap between the stairs and the basement floor below.



Fingers crossed we see a decrease in any mouse droppings but we also left the traps out in case too.

P.S. Although I may not have any big, grand reveals for rooms, I scored a major win at Home Depot for $20 together (!!!!). World, meet Mr. Fiddle the Fiddle Leaf Fig and his friend Ivy…the Ivy.  They’re enjoying a nice sunbathe in the fall sun. Mr. Fiddle will eventually take a place in the corner of the living room when he’s dressed up in a nice pot.  When Ivy gets a little bigger I picture her cascading off the mantel.  More to come!

indoor plants


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