As we began demolition on our new farmhouse, we interviewed contractors and requested quotes so that we would have someone to oversee the progress and keep it on track when we couldn’t be on site. The project seemed fairly straightforward: repair the bug damage, add two bedrooms to the back of the house, expand the kitchen and add a mudroom—all of which would require extending the roof, which was in dire need of an overhaul anyways. We knew going into it that we should hope for the best and brace for the worst—and, boy, am I glad I did!
Demo started in the section of the house in the worst shape—kitchen and main bath. With sagging, water-damaged floors and broken fixtures, the bathroom was by far our first target. As we opened up the walls, it also became evident that the former owner had a rodent problem—”had” being the operative word. The first carcasses we came across were practically mummified, but unfortunately, a pile of still decomposing bodies remained in one section of the wall. (For once, I was glad to be the designated errand girl. I totally missed out on the foul odor that nearly knocked out both my husband and my father when they opened up the wall.)
The bath signified just the beginning of our adventures in uncovering dead critters in, under and around the house. The previous owner chose to use poisons instead of bait-and-trap units, which meant that many animals not only died but also remained inside the house. An opossum skull, raccoon nest, and countless rat and mouse carcasses made their way to the dumpster as we pulled out old (and stinky!) insulation and started digging out a crawlspace under the house.
The proximity of the house’s substructure to the ground opened it up to more destructive creepy crawlies, too: powderpost beetles, termites and carpenter ants—the latter of which could still be seen gnawing away on the remnants of wood. While there were no signs of current activity from the termites and powderpost beetles, the damage and even some mummified insect remains were obvious. (Check out the picture of the powderpost beetles we found when pulling off the faceplate to reveal the rim joist—and the debris path they left behind!)
Photo by Stephanie Staton
These little monsters ate, bore and demolished their way through the house’s rim joists and floor joists, leaving porous wood and dust in their wake. In the end, thanks to these bothersome bugs, we ended up replacing more than half the floor joists and almost all of the rim joists supporting the house.