Saturday, 22 April 2017

Unwanted and non-paying tenants

When I posted the second to last time, back in mid January, I said I would say why Luke was replacing the insulation (known in NZ as batts - not sure if that's what they are called elsewhere), but only if someone asked. And Carol did - quite quickly after I posted, but I haven't been blogging recently, so the explanation has waited in draft until now. Here's what I started to write back then:

Thank you, Carol! I wanted to say but it's a bit gross. But seeing as you have asked I will be brave and do a post ...

We have recently discovered that some time before we bought the house there were rats living in the ceiling space - they could get in because there were trees overhanging the roof and there was a rat-sized gap all around the roofline between the guttering and the roofing material. We knew there was one dessicated dead rat up in the roof space when we did the kitchen refit back in 2014 - the electrician told us so. What we didn't know was that there had been rat families and the wider community up there at one time. The dead and dessicated rat wasn't causing us any trouble - he didn't bathe much, but he didn't smell, and he wasn't eating anything or throwing late night parties, so we let him be.

When Luke came to install the wardrobe doors late last year, he went up in the ceiling space to investigate why we had 3 stains on our bedroom ceiling that came through 5 layers of paint that I had put on, one of them an ineffective stain coverer. He found the dead rat and three rats' nests (made of batts) - one nest per stain. That meant the stains were caused by rat urine. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! And in another part of the house was a former wasps' nest - that must have been dealt to some time ago. So far, all tenants were dead and/or gone.

Flat dessicated dead rat - certainly not the key ingredient for rat au van a la Baldrick! Looks peaceful, doesn't he? Not sure where all his mates went.
But under the batts near the nests and stains, as large as life and twice as active, were millions of ants - well, lots of thousands. Now I don't mind ants, except when they come into the pantry and start eating the provisions - it's bad enough that they come to the house to live uninvited and without paying, but to be taking the food out of our mouths is a bit much!

So we decided the first step was to put ant-bombs up there to kill the ants. Luke did that while David and I were away over New Year. Ant problem solved, we all thought.

The next step was to replace all of the batts which were installed when the house was built 25 years ago and were getting a bit flat and tired. They would have kept doing their job of insulating the ceiling with slowly diminishing effectiveness; but as they were 25 years old and as we plan on living here for another 20 years or so, we thought it better to get them replaced now. So up Luke went into the maze of framing on Monday to start the process. However, he came down pretty sharpish to tell us that the ant bombs had killed the ants where he's originally moved the batts back, but there were thousands more under the batts that hadn't been moved - Note to self: fibreglass has very good filtering properties - must keep a batt or two handy in case of poison gas attack or smoke.

So, some internet research, a couple of phone calls to other friends who've retaliated to ant attacks, and off David and I went to the hardware shop to buy anti-ant invasion spray. On the way, we got a call from Luke asking us to buy him another protective suit as he'd broken the one he was wearing - he'd thought it was a one size fits all, and had bought an M - the man needs XL or XXL at the very least because he is so tall and has long arms and legs - his M sized suit came somewhere above his wrists and I told him he wouldn't be allowed on my work site with inappropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). It wasn't difficult for him to break it as it was paper thin anyway and one good stretch and it was history.
See what I mean about the suit being too small? I did also tell him he needed nitrile gloves with long arms but he scoffed ...

We do admire Luke immensely - he could have told us to get someone else to do the clearing of batts, as he is a tradesman and it's not a skilled job, but as he is a friend and a very kind man, he did it for us, and started clearing them away - a bit of a b*gger of a job as he had to move them from between ceiling joists and then get them over to the manhole and then throw them down then load them into the trailer and then stomp them down to make more room and then repeat all steps several times ...
There were several piles created like this. To load them into the trailer he used the pitchfork - he's not stupid!

Before it left, the trailer had about 3 times more batts loaded in it.
 So once all batts were out (which took a day and a half), he sprayed the whole of the ceiling area - appropriate PPE WAS worn, including mask, gloves, decent protective suit. I did try to get him to wear goggles but they fogged up so were discarded early.

The next task was to remove the stained gib-board in the bedroom. Much sheeting and covering of bedroom furniture, removal of the blinds, removal of paintings/plates hanging on the walls preceded this task - and a good thing too. Luke discovered that there were still ants alive in that part of the ceiling and when he pulled down the gib and the batts he'd not been able to reach the little b*stards were still tromping around merrily. But not for long! I sprayed them liberally with flyspray and I think they drowned rather than breathing in the toxicity - good job! Luke put Raid ant bait in wine bottle tops (see, drinking IS a good idea, and stelvin caps are excellent re-usable resources) and placed them on the ceiling joists. Then he jammed in some new non-ant tainted batts and affixed new pieces of gib board. Back up went the scotia, and he plastered the repaired area.

Since then he has done two more coats of plaster, and all it needs now is to be painted - that is the painting department's job, and David says he'll do it. But he is pretty busy on Weaving Memories work (understatement - he is working 12 hours a day on it), so it might be up to me.

I'll probably get motivated when the wardrobe doors go back, on courtesy of Luke, soon - he's been flat out on work for other people and the doors have been sitting happily in the garage for the last couple of weeks, having been beautifully spray painted by Sam.

So the ants and the rat and nests have gone. The rats can no longer get in as a) we've cut back all of the trees that overhung the roof, and b) we've had heavy duty gutter protection installed - no gaps for anything bigger than a small spider to get through.

Good old Luke, we say - it is worth baking scones daily and making his lunch to have him doing things for us!

Update on 23 April (Bl**dy hell, has it been three months since this all occurred?):

Luke ended up painting the ceiling when he came back to install the spray-painted wardrobe doors - took him an hour and a half all up to do two coats. That hour and a half included taking down and putting back up the blinds and cleaning up the roller when he'd finished. The man is a legend and we are way too slow!
Beautifully painted and fitted wardrobe doors - mine only - I cannot take a photo of David's from the bed where I am sitting. If you use your imagination, you can see in your mind's eye one set of double doors to the right of the picture. Got it? OK, that's David's wardrobe, half the size of mine as befits a person who doesn't like shopping for clothes or shoes. If he was in bed too, which he's not, as you can tell by the fact that his dressing gown is missing from its hook, (and, by the way, I am STILL waiting for my second cup of tea) I would get him to take the photo as he would be a couple of feet further away, but he's not, so imagination will have to do the job for you. PS I am going to have to get a new dressing gown - white and purple polka dots don't match the rest of the room ...

I do occasionally see ants outside on the driveway and around the side porch - more ant spray has been purchased and they had better watch out ...

1 comment:

Carol said...

Thanks for the explanation Marilyn. xx