I'm finally ready to tell the whole story. And I promise to take a photo of the awesome fair isle hat that I'm working on ... as well as the starfish hat which I finally finished (thank you Martha!). But first you must hear my long, disgusting tale of the rats ...
For years now, we have had "squirrel" problems ... we started noticing the scratching sounds in the wall and ceiling of the kitchen about 4 years ago. Then we trapped some squirrels in the attic which seemed to confirm our theory that the squirrels were entering our attic through a hole and then nesting in our upstairs wall and kitchen ceiling.
But for the past year, we've had Critter Control out with no luck finding where the critters were getting in -- all the holes seemed to be closed, but we still heard the sounds -- and they were getting worse. Finally, we found some droppings before the holidays in our workroom in the basement that had fallen through a hole in the base of the upstairs wall (or the ceiling of the workroom).
We looked on the web to figure out whose scat it was -- I was determined that it be squirrel and would always find sites that made it look like it was. But a week and a half ago, Keith from Critter Control came out and immediately said, "rats!" Augh!
He hypothosized after checking the house for entry points that they were coming up through the sewer line and emerging from some broken or uncapped pipe somewhere. Well, after a very uneasy night, I had some plumbers come out to look at the pipes. They didn't want anything to do with the problem: "You have a pest problem not a plumbing problem, that will be $90." errrr.
So the next day, after another uneasy night, I found some plumbers (Stemmle Plumbing) who would put a camera through the pipes (a "see snake") to see if there was a breach in the plumbing (Peter said he thought they were like vascular surgeons, they liked that). They found a hole in the base of the sewer pipe under our slab in the workroom and thought that maybe the rats had a cavern underneath this that somehow led them up into our walls. It seemed like a possible scenario, but we'd have to jack hammer up the foundation to find out for sure.
So after a weekend of uneasy nights, they came and spent from 8:30 to 6:30 working on the plumbing. These guys were awesome -- very funny, very nice, and very capable ... Unfortunately, there was no cavern. And the repairs totalled $1400. At this point, we'd spent $1900 total on the rats, but no solution had been found.
So the next day, we called Keith again. He came out immediately and I told him to just start taking down the ceiling. I figured once we tore it down, we could see exactly what was going on. The first hole that he popped out let loose a rain of rat droppings all over the kitchen (luckily we did have a drop cloth over most of it). Then came the smell. It was just awful. I realized that we might find some yucky dead rats up there, or live ones, so I scrambled to find someone to watch the kids (who were hypnotized by the whole thing).
Peter came home from work and he and Keith worked taking down the ceiling and part of the wall in the girls' room for over four hours before finally, they found the answer. We had been looking at the underneath of the pipes for a hole (the typical spot), and the breach was actually in the top of the pipe that leads directly from the upstairs toilet. It was a 10in by 2in hole in the top of the pipe probably from a small crack that the rats had then clawed through over time. Why hadn't we smelled raw sewage? Remember the earlier plumbing problem? The hole in the pipe at the base of the foundation allowed ground water to seep in that acted as a water trap for the odors. We only smelled something "off" when the ground water dried up (usually in the summer when it was over 90 degrees). We now remember saying things like: "we shouldn't have left that diaper in the trash" or "have you done the litter lately?" or "wow, that cat food stinks!" or "did someone forget to flush?"
When Peter and Keith told me they had found it, I was so incredibly thrilled -- you would have thought I'd won the lottery! The rats had been coming up from the sewer, nesting in the ceiling and then dipping back into the pipe when they needed a bite to eat. (that would be our waste ....) But the Reavey-Gilbert Rat Spa is now officially closed!
We put temporary patches on the holes and Willie the plumber was out the next morning to fix the pipe. The best part was that Willie cut us a huge break (probably charged us only 20%) on the plumbing bill and, this is just amazing, Keith from Critter Control didn't charge us at all. He said that he learned so much working on our job and that he was just happy to have figured it out. So he asked us to not pay him but to cut a check for what we thought it was worth and donate it to the local foodbank which we have done. It's nice to know that my awful rat problem has helped families in need. These were some fantastic people who helped us out ...
So now, after seeing my kitchen covered with rat feces and sewage (replacing the pipes was pretty messy), I want a new kitchen. As does Peter. As does my mother who is lending us the money. We're not doing anthing really fancy, but it needs to be done!
In the meantime, after bleaching the entire area 3 times, we're back using the space again until we get the cabinets, etc. in and all the contractors lined up. Hopefully, in a few months, we'll have a sparkling new kitchen. Rat free for good.