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  1. #1
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    Question Mice Versus Plaster or Drywall?

    Hello! I have a 1915 farm house that has had quite a mouse problem for a long time, judging from the number of old mouse traps under the house.

    I am currently deciding upon gutting the plaster walls and going with drywall. I rather like the plaster but hate the mice. MY QUESTION IS THIS: If I take the plaster out, and insulate, will it help get rid of the rodents?

    Just for kicks, what do all of you think about getting rid of the plaster in the first place? It is in fairly good shape, actually, with cracks but nothing horrible. The ceilings were not primed properly and so the paint continually peels but that is about it.

    I have considered and reconsidered this to the point of total confusion and know that there are advantages and disadvantages to each path. What about insulation? There is none at this point.

    I am getting ready to have $16,000 worth of painting done and this interior wall stuff is my next step.
    I truly appreciate ANY thoughts.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Mice Versus Plaster or Drywall?

    I would think that taking plaster off the exterior wall would allow you to possibly find how the mice are getting in and correcting any problems. In addition you can insulate and update the wiring. There are many ways for mice to get in including under doors and small cracks about a 1/4" or so.
    I remember one old farmhouse I looked at had lots of snake skin sheds. I assume mice not so much.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Mice Versus Plaster or Drywall?

    Older homes were often built with "balloon frame" construction with wide open wall cavities from basement to attic, with not so much as a fire stop. Opening up the walls certainly gives you the opportunity to close off these cavities to varmints while insulating and updating utilities.

    You should hold off on any decorating until this kind of work is finished, or perhaps do certain areas completely in in stages.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Mice Versus Plaster or Drywall?

    That's a good point about balloon framing and sealing up and fire blocking.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Mice Versus Plaster or Drywall?

    Quote Originally Posted by ordjen View Post
    Older homes were often built with "balloon frame" construction with wide open wall cavities from basement to attic, with not so much as a fire stop. Opening up the walls certainly gives you the opportunity to close off these cavities to varmints while insulating and updating utilities.

    You should hold off on any decorating until this kind of work is finished, or perhaps do certain areas completely in in stages.
    This house doesn't have balloon framing as far as I know. It is a "folk victorian" and has various "on center" measurements, depending upon where you are in the house, lol. The mice I think come in from the crawl space and then work their way through the house. They got in the dropped ceiling and chewed through that. It is a farmhouse on a working farm so I am not sure how successful I can be keeping them out.

    I have heard that taking the plaster walls out can contribute to racking and that it may affect my house value negatively. ?????????

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Mice Versus Plaster or Drywall?

    Balloon framed homes were not neccesarily built to no standards. The walls were built on the ground and then raised, just like a barn raising. At the turn of the last century, you could actually buy 2x4's ( real 2x4's) in unheard of lengths by today's standard. 24 feet or better were used. They often ran from just above ground to a high first floor elevation, up two floors with 10 or 12 foot ceilings.

    My guess is that the mice are making entry mainly from the basement or crawlspace. Sealing every conceiveable void down there would increase the comfort and safety of the house, even as it bars the critters. Those wide open wall interiors and nice rough cut 2x4's make the whole cavity a critter super highway.

    I've painted a few such buildings over the years and wondered why they were in such good condition in terms of rotted wood. The answer is that there is so much air moving in the walls, that even if something gets wet, it dries out before rot sets in. Insulation saves you money on heat and makes you more comfortable, but if the wall interior gets wet, you usually have problems with rot or mildew.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Mice Versus Plaster or Drywall?

    Keep in mind that if you do remove the plaster, building codes may REQUIRE you to insulate, replace electrical and plumbing, and remedy structural issues to meet the modern codes.
    The "Senior Member" designation under my name doesn't mean I know a lot, it just means I talk a lot.I've been a DIYer since I was 12 (thanks, Dad!). I have read several books on various home improvement topics. I do not have any current code books I can refer to. I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Mice Versus Plaster or Drywall?

    Removing the plaster & lath from the exterior walls should not cause the building to rack as long as there is exterior sheathing. In addition the house may or should have diagonal bracing at the corners. If there is a concern about bracing, flat metal strap bracing could be added to the corners before drywall is put on.
    Replacing the plaster will be a real mess and lots of work. The insulation and sealing up of the walls will help with heating and probably rodents. Updated wiring is a safety factor that is important.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Mice Versus Plaster or Drywall?

    Quote Originally Posted by ordjen View Post
    Balloon framed homes were not neccesarily built to no standards. The walls were built on the ground and then raised, just like a barn raising. At the turn of the last century, you could actually buy 2x4's ( real 2x4's) in unheard of lengths by today's standard. 24 feet or better were used. They often ran from just above ground to a high first floor elevation, up two floors with 10 or 12 foot ceilings.

    My guess is that the mice are making entry mainly from the basement or crawlspace. Sealing every conceiveable void down there would increase the comfort and safety of the house, even as it bars the critters. Those wide open wall interiors and nice rough cut 2x4's make the whole cavity a critter super highway.

    I've painted a few such buildings over the years and wondered why they were in such good condition in terms of rotted wood. The answer is that there is so much air moving in the walls, that even if something gets wet, it dries out before rot sets in. Insulation saves you money on heat and makes you more comfortable, but if the wall interior gets wet, you usually have problems with rot or mildew.
    I will try to find out about how it was built, anyways, I am really concerned about the moisture aspect. The wood is in such good shape on the majority of the house and really hard and I don't want to screw that up. My furnace conked out during some 20 degree weather and I was quite comfortable in a 13' x 13' room that was heated solely by one of those old style, box electric heaters that have the guards on the front. I made sure that I just didn't lean against a wall, lol.

    The majority of the plumbing is under the house, so not much to worry with there. The electrical badly needs redoing but that can be done without pulling all the plaster. It isn't easy but most things with old houses aren't, except for falling in love with them.

    I grew up in Portland, so I have a pretty good idea of what havoc water can cause.

    Your thoughts?

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Mice Versus Plaster or Drywall?

    Quote Originally Posted by ewesfulewe View Post

    Your thoughts?
    I think, therefore I get headaches

    I would open the walls completely and re-do it all completely while it's open and easy to do. You can do this room-by-room to better manage the mess and the money. If you're going to re-do the walls, might as well go into the ceilings too so that everything inside is as good as it can be when you're done.

    Old wood is often better stuff than what you get from the lumberyard today. There may be dimensional issues, you may need to add purlins, fire-blocking, or bracing, but in the end you'll have a better structure than a brand new home does. If you do a total tear-out using new baseboard and crown the difference in wall thickness with drywall won't be an issue; I personally prefer it over plaster since it's hard to find decent plaster craftsmen anymore but sheetrockers abound. Plus it's far easier to DIY sheetrock well.

    I'm sure there will be headaches for you too in this process but they will be well worth it when you're finished and everything is good-to-go and beautiful forever

    Phil

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