Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, where we delve into the world of tiny living. In this episode, I’m sharing my own captivating [and slightly humorous] tale of dealing with unexpected visitors in my tiny house. It all starting with light scratching sounds, which led to the shocking discovery of these unexpected guests. In this episode, I am walking you through the entire process of diagnosing, cleaning, and ultimately sealing off the entry points for these tiny intruders. With valuable lessons and practical advice for both builders and current tiny house dwellers, let’s explore the importance of preemptive measures and the necessity of addressing pest issues promptly. Stay tuned for helpful insights and a real-life tale of tiny house pest control adventure.

In This Episode:

  • House maintenance: 🏠 Ethan's experience emphasizes the importance of inspecting and maintaining tiny houses to prevent critters from entering and causing issues.
  • DIY building tips: 🔨 For DIY builders, it's essential to prioritize properly constructing soffits and fascia to ensure they are effective barriers against critters.
  • Early pest control: ⏱️ Being proactive when signs of critters are noticed can prevent a minor issue from escalating into a major infestation.
  • Infestation aftermath: 🐭 Even after addressing the initial infestation, hidden traps are an additional precaution.
  • Prevention as a priority: 🚪 Highlighting the need for immediate action and the importance of not delaying pest control measures.


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Guest Bio:

Ethan Waldman

Ethan Waldman

Ethan Waldman is a tiny house author, speaker, and teacher. He built his own tiny house on wheels in 2012, and has been passionately helping future tiny house dwellers on their own journeys ever since. Ethan’s guide, Tiny House Decisions, has helped thousands of readers answer the big questions about tiny houses and plan each system in their future home. He’s also the creator and host of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, a show that brings you conversations with tiny house luminaries, builders, and DIYers.





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Ethan Waldman 0:00

It's easy to just say, well, it's no big deal or off. I'll figure it out later. I'll deal with it later. And when it comes to pests and your house later is not the right time to deal with it, now is the time to deal with it.

Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 286 with me and a bunch of mice who live in the roof of my tiny house. I'm joking, but it's not that far from the truth. As you may or may not know, my tiny house is something that I run as a full time Airbnb. And over the summer, a guest or two mentioned to me, Hey, we heard some scratching sounds we heard, you know, maybe a critter trying to get into the house. And I didn't think much of it because the house is parked right at the edge of a property very close to the woods. There's lots of animals, I see them, I see them on the security camera all the time. So I figured it was just you know, city folks who were experiencing being in Vermont and being in the woods for the first time, but put a pin in that because it's important.

Because somewhere around November 10, or 11th, I got a message from a guest that said hey, everything's great at the house, but we hear a critter in the ventilation duct. Now my tiny house has a an air exchanger system in it because the house is spray foamed and it needs to be ventilated. And there is a duct that runs along the peak, the gable peak of the roof inside the house in the great room. And then the guest followed up and said, and and we think it's a bat, we can hear a bat. And I immediately felt a huge sense of dread because bats bats can be bad bats are scary, they can have rabies, they can bite you in your sleep. And it's just a whole it's a whole situation that I didn't want my guests to have to deal with at my house or nor did I want to have to deal with it. But of course, as the person who runs the tiny house, Airbnb, I have to deal with it.

So I went down to the house, picked up some supplies, read about bats. And I, you know very carefully I covered my face, I covered my arms and hands and I very carefully started to disassemble the air exchanger heat box just because I figured I would find a bat in there. To make a long story short, I disassembled the air exchanger and did not find a bat and what I decided to do was get up on a ladder and put a new screen on the kind of where that ventilation system outputs the stale air.

So I get up on my ladder. I cut my piece of hardware cloth. I have my pneumatic stapler, which by the way, pneumatic stapler, the best tool ever invented. So I'm up on my ladder with my stapler, and I'm putting in this this hardware cloth and I noticed something strange. Along the soffit of the tiny house roof. I notice little kind of yellowish flecks of something mixed with little brown flecks of something and I wasn't quite sure what it is. But it dawned on me that the yellow flecks are actually my spray foam insulation and the brown flecks, well, I'll let you use your imagination, but they they come from animals, they come from mice.

And I think to myself, Oh no, maybe I can just clean it up. Maybe I can just kind of vacuum these little flecks out from the corner where the soffit meets the house. And so I get the shop vac. And I'm up there. And I noticed that the more I vacuum, the more it just keeps coming and I even took the vacuum and I tap tap tap on the soffit of the house and I just could tell that there was there was a lot of debris up there.

Okay, so now let's pause for a little anatomy lesson and the anatomy of a house and so the soffit is a part of the house. It's where the roof meets the wall. And the best way I could describe it is if you put your back if you were outside of a house and you put your back to the outside wall of the house, and then you looked straight up, you look straight up that wall, the horizontal piece above your head. That is the soffit and just fun fact, the facia fascia I'm not sure how to pronounce it is the vertical piece that's kind of parallel to the wall of the house but it's kind of at the end of the roof anyhow, when I built my tiny house, back in 2012, I was not what you would call a professional builder.

I'm still not a professional builder, but I did have someone helping me who knew what they were doing. And I don't remember what our thinking around this was. But the soffits on my tiny house are all just rough cut pine, like two by four, so it's fairly thick. And it's just screwed up into place underneath into the rafters. And I think at the time, it seemed like a pretty tight fit, like everything was nice and nice and tight, there weren't a lot of gaps. But over the intervening years, wood being the natural product that it is, it expands, it shrinks, animals chew through it. And so I could just look up at the soffits of the house and see that there were visible gaps, visible cracks and places where mice could get into the house. So I had diagnosed the problem, there were mice in the roof of the tiny house.

Now, at this point, I felt very lucky. Well, I didn't feel lucky. But there are a couple of things about the situation that actually made me feel pretty lucky, which is that the mice were not actually inside of the house like no Airbnb guests had seen any mice, I hadn't found any mouse poops in the house, it didn't smell in the house, like the mice had found this like spot in the ceiling, they were just ready to chill out for the winter. Other than the scratching noises in the ceiling, which I will admit were probably quite disconcerting. There weren't, there wasn't any mouse activity inside of the house.

And so what I did next is I pulled down the soffit. And luckily, in this house, it was quite easy. The soffit was just screwed up into place with you know, three or four inch star drive deck screws. So I just got my impact driver, I got up on the ladder, and I started pulling out these screws. And at some point, the soffit kind of popped out and didn't fall down entirely, it kind of created this ramp. And inside was more mouse debris than I've ever seen before in one place. And a whole lot of chewed out insulation.

So I immediately am thinking, oh my gosh, mice have mined out all of the insulation in my ceiling. And they probably have. And so I will put pictures to this in the show notes. It's maybe not for the faint of heart. If you don't like seeing mouse nests and evidence of mice, then you might want to skip it. But yeah, so I then proceeded to use a shop vac to clean up all this mouse debris. And while I was doing this, I could see mice, like mice were popping their heads out from kind of between the roof and the, you know, where the soffit was, mice were popping their heads out, because hey, I just had disturbed this kind of wonderful home that they had. And now they're wondering what's going on.

So I guess if we're putting this project in phases, phase one was was diagnosis and discovery. So I figured out that there were a mouse there. Phase two was cleaning up from, you know, cleaning up as best as I could all of the mouse debris, which took a couple of hours, and I kid you not, I had to empty the shop vac one time during this experience. So I filled a shop vac with mouse debris.

And then I had to, I decided that I was going to start catching the mice, because I had done a lot of reading about mice. And what I read is that, you know, you have to seal up the house, right, the only way to get rid of them is to seal up the house. But my concern was that if I sealed up the house with all these mice in the ceiling, that all these mice would just die in the ceiling. And that would smell really bad and be really gross and I would have no way to get them out. So I decided to try to catch them first. And I went really down the rabbit hole on mouse traps. I basically set up a whole line of mouse traps just on that soft board that was kind of hanging down.

I'm not going to share too many of the gory details but I I caught a lot of mice. And in the process I used a lot of different mouse traps And despite I'm you know, I'm like into new technology, I like things that are easy. Despite all that, I will say that the mousetrap that reigned supreme is the classic Victor wood and metal snap trap. As much as I didn't want it to be true, it is true. But anyhow, I caught mice for a few days.

And then I decided that it was time to seal up the soffits. And so I sealed up the soffits of the house using a combination of expanding foam insulation. And most of the companies who make that spray foam and a can insulation, make a blend that is supposedly a deterrent to animals, it's got some bad taste in it, that'll make mice not want to chew through it because you can seal up holes with that stuff. But But mice and squirrels and whatever is trying to get in will chew right through it.

But more importantly than that, I used hardware cloth, I used quarter inch hardware cloth. So this means that the little openings in this mesh are only a quarter of an inch. And it needs to be small, because mice apparently can squeeze through a space the size of your pinkie. And so I had to cut the hardware cloth into about six inch strips and get up on a ladder and then staple it into place under the soffit and kind of wrapped it down onto the wall of the house and then up onto the facia. Basically, I'm creating like a chain link fence, where mice cannot get in anymore into the ceiling. And so that took a took a couple of days of work. Of course, I had to go get more hardware cloth, I had to get a taller ladder to reach certain places on the house, but I got it done. And it looks pretty good.

I'll post pictures of the kind of repaired soffit, the the mouse guarded soffit. And for anyone who's currently building a tiny house, or maybe living in one, and it's only been a year or two, you know, take a look around your house, especially up at those soffits because that is a place that critters would like to get in. And if you see any cracks, any gaps or anything, be proactive, get on top of this before you end up with an infestation in your tiny house. So at this point, you might be thinking, good job, Ethan, you're done. You did it You you killed the mice, you fix the soffits. And I think I knew that I wasn't done because I knew there were still mice up in that ceiling, but I couldn't possibly have killed all of them.

And now if I had done my job correctly, I had sealed them in I had I had blocked their exit. And so sure enough that that very night, I think I got a message from a guest with actually a video of a mouse just popping its little head out of the wall by the loft above the front door and running across the loft. And that was a major "Oh No" moment, because once the mice were in the house, you're your hospitality business is over for the time being. So I, the guests were a really good sport about it, I did give them a refund. And over the course of the next week and a half, two weeks, the mice pushed their way into the house. And so I had to set a lot of traps inside of the house all around. And I'm not going to give too many details about that because of course killing mice, it's not my favorite thing to do. But at some point, there's not really much you can do. And after about two weeks, there were no more mice. And I still have traps set in several hidden locations just just as a failsafe, but after all of that there are finally no mice in my tiny house.

Alright, so what can you the listener, learn from my experience? I think that it depends what stage you are in your tiny house building journey. If you're currently building a tiny house having a tiny house built, you know, talk to your builder about how they are going to construct the soffits and the fascia and how they're going to seal up the house so that it is not going to become a place where critters want to live. If you're DIY building your house, this is really important to you know, learn about the correct way of doing things like building a soffit the way that I did mine was Certainly not standard, it was easy, but it wasn't the right way to do it, or it wasn't the best way to do it.

When you look around at most traditional homes, at least in the Northeast, the soffit is usually made of kind of a mesh metal like there, they don't use wood, it's just all metal, for this very reason. So you might consider upgrading your design, upgrading your your build, and I've recommended books in the past, there's a book called Building Construction illustrated, that does a pretty good job of of showing you all different assemblies, different ways that houses are built. And it's all illustrated.

Of course, there's YouTube, too. I mean, there's an unbelievable amount of of free knowledge on YouTube. But of course, you just need to take it with a grain of salt. And you have to evaluate whether the person who's telling you how to do the thing on YouTube, you know, does this person actually know more than me? Is this person? Is this person, a professional? Do they know what they're doing? You've got to, you got to judge.

And if you're already living tiny, if you haven't had any issues with critters, well, you know, good, good for you. Congratulations. But that doesn't mean that you can be complacent because what I've really learned is that this is a it's a game of prevention. And if not prevention, it's a game of as soon as you see the first mouse poop the first and the first whatever, you set traps, you research, you do what you need to do, because it's a whole lot easier to take care of them early before it becomes a big infestation. And saying this now it seems really obvious, but at the time, you know, I'm busy. My guests tell me about scratching noises. And I, you know, it's easy to just say, well, it's no big deal or I'll I'll figure it out later. I'll deal with it later. And when it comes to pests and your house later is not the right time to deal with it, now is the time to deal with it.

As always, I love to hear from you if you have questions about the mouse infestation, or if you have suggestions of things you want to hear me talk about or guests that you want me to have on the show, you can reach out, you can email podcast at the tiny house.net. Again, that's podcast at thetinyhouse.net I'd love to hear from you. That's all for this week. We are doing the show every other week through the rest of the year. So there won't be a show next week. But there will be a show the following week with a fresh interview. never before heard on the show before. So make sure you stay subscribed and stay tuned for that. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving if you are in the United States and that you have a great holiday season and I'll see you in two weeks.

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