Storing household items in pole barn

miscindy(5 SW MI)August 6, 2009

We have our house up for sale and plan to move into a rental while we build a new home out on our land. The land currently has an old pole barn that we are going to use to store things we don't need in the rental house, rather than moving them twice. It also makes our house less cluttered looking during the open houses etc . . .

We have inspected the around the exterior and interior metal walls and see no openings. We have caulked small screw holes in the roof to prevent rain from coming in. The only opening we can't get to is at the peak of the roof on one side of the pole barn. Birds are getting in and out--we see their droppings. But something else is getting in as well-- there is scat on the ground (it's a dirt floor) that is about 1/4" in diameter and about 1.5" long. Too big for a mouse or rat and not a bird. What could it be, how could it be getting in, and how can we discourage it?

We have put some pieces of plywood on 2x4's on the floor and are stacking boxes on top of that. Blankets etc have gone into those zippered plastic bags or giant ziplocks and then into cardboard boxes. Misc items are in cardboard boxes that have all opneings taped shut. We're thinking we'll put some sort of tarps over the boxes. Do you think our items will be protected from pests? Is there something else you recommend? The expected length of storage is about 6-9 months--well into the winter.

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Buy cheap 1/4 or 3/8 inch construction plywood/wafer-board. Make boxes to place your bags and cardboard boxes in. It is no challenge for a critter (sounds you have raccoons) to chew through a cardboard box or plastic. The tarps over the top of your wooden boxes will keep them dry if a new leak develops.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 1:14PM
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miscindy(5 SW MI)

seramas- Wooden boxes, not a bad idea . . . I'll have to run that by dh. We thought maybe racoons or something of that size. Wonder how they're getting in or why they'd even want to get in there. There is no food at all in there. I see we're both in SW Michigan!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 1:39PM
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johanna_h(Z5 SW MI)

Mice can get into the teensiest places, and if there is fabric, they might shred it for bedding. Better to do what seems like way too much, and keep your things intact, than do slightly too little and have damage!

Where in SW Michigan are you? I'm in Galien, and my barn is full of mice!


Here is a link that might be useful: My place: Busy Solitude Farm

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 7:14PM
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Have you got the possibility to buy/rent sea containers? They seal good and you can lock them. If you buy one, you can make a good storm shelter later.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2009 at 1:18PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Buying a conex is a great idea, one in good shape will be both air and water tight, which means mouse tight as well, when they fall off of ships in storms they often float for months in the water, like big steel icebergs. An 8'X40' conex will cost you about $1,600 and add up to $400 for delivery (probably have to get one a ways away, and you have to lift them off of the truck most of the time). If you keep it up on blocks and are proactive with rust it should last longer than you do.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 8:19PM
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miscindy(5 SW MI)

Thanks for the suggestions. I know we won't be spending $1,000 on a large box to put our things in.

I guess what I was asking for is ideas to repell critters from the pole barn ie . . . moth balls (can't do because we bring our dog out there), hot pepper flakes . . . whatever you've tried and had success with.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 9:37AM
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Here on garden web there are discussions of killing off mice rats and squirrels. You mix dry plaster of paris with peanut butter. It is suppose to be safe for humans and pets but best to keep away just in case. home depot carries plaster of paris in the paint department. very low cost. Suppose to be more effective then expensive mouse killer because this stuff is more fresh and will not keep for years on the store shelf.

here on GW some people call them bon bons.

I found the info on being safe for dogs cats and people etc on the internet doing more search on this idea. I guess it makes the mouse want to throw up which mouse can not do. but dogs cats humans etc can all do so easy and get the poison out of the body.

but when it comes to using poisons you are on your own. Accept responsibility and do some extensive internet searching on this method.

It should not kill racoons.

Here is a link that might be useful: info

    Bookmark   August 11, 2009 at 7:46PM
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goodhors(z5 MI)

Have to think that any kind of cardboard, even wrapped well, is going to get damaged by animal barn visitors. Do any kids come visit the barn without permission, who might wreck stored items or start a fire?

Putting stuff into lockable plastic boxes is safer waterproof storage, Rubbermaid types, with the mothballs inside or scattered over the top. However plastic will not stand up to chewing by rodents or coons pulling on it. Tarping it is not going to add any protection.

Dirt floor is NOT your friend, will have dampness all year around. Barn floor might even flood in seasonal rain or weather. We get flooding here when those terrific storms go thru, out in the barnyard ditch. I had two feet of running water with a pond of standing water at the neighbors yard, couldn't get all that water into the tube under the road. Took about 4 hours of runoff field water to finish draining and have the ditch water down to a trickle thru the 2ft tube, AFTER the rain stopped Friday.

Have you checked out any of the rental units with locking doors at a building? Maybe one of them will hold all your stuff if well stacked. Still not heat or cold proof, not sure about mice. But again, scattering moth balls around might help, dog could not get into them. Any stuffed furniture tends to pick up a dampness, keep a moldy smell thereafter. Valuable things, antiques, might need much better protection, seal them in bags and tape loose ends down.

Do get renter's insurance on anything stored at a facility.

Sometimes it is not worth being cheap, when storing your nice things you will need later on. Especially if they will have to be replaced with damage or rust from poor storage location in the pole barn.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 9:33PM
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miscindy(5 SW MI)

Goodhors- I agree with everything you've said. However, men can be stubborn and DH thinks the pole barn is the best thing to do. It is located on very high ground, so is not likely to flood, it's at the top of the hill. DH has sealed any small holes and checked for leaks and doesn't see why any animal would chew into boxes if there's no food in them.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 9:22AM
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pris(8B TX)

They will chew up the boxes for nesting material. Once inside the boxes they will pull stuffing out of furnture and shred anything made of paper. Food is not the only thing they go after. I personally believe that if you secure your belongings well enough to be pest and rodent proof, you will have spent more than a climate controlled storage unit would cost. Penny wise and pound foolish as my old grandpappy used to say.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 6:56PM
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Shelter, nests is just as important as food in the wild, shade from the heat, heat from the cold, babies, babies, babies and so the cycle goes. They do this to survive and have probably been living in the barn for a very long tme. What do you plan on using the barn for after you build your house?

Anyway, Tupperware is remarkable but certainly not chew prove, but one of your best bets. Check on the containers weeky/monthly for damage and replace as needed. I would probably wrap my belongings in plastic also from damage from the climate, mildew. Put china/glasses/pots/pans etc at the bottom of the pile that's where they will start.

Good luck
Lee Ann

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 3:16PM
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I had been told that Bounce fabric softner sheets would help to repel mice. I place some of the unused sheets in the containers when I store household things in sheds or an old basement. So far I have not had any problems with mouse damage.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 7:32PM
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Beeone(4 N. Wyo.)

No matter how well sealed, it will be hard to keep mice out of the barn. However, you can still deter them and keep them in check, if everything isn't already in storage. Get some pallets or cement blocks and lay them down, then lay a sheet of chipboard or plywood on top. Make sure that the pallets or blocks are a couple inches in from the edge of the board so that any mice will have to crawl on the underside of the plywood to get to the edge and on top, and make sure they are high enough off the ground they can't just stand up and climb up. Before laying down the plywood, leave a couple packages of bar bait scattered underneath, or a bunch of boxes of mouse bait. By putting them underneath, they will be accessible to the mice but not to your dog or other pets that might eat them (my dog and cats will eat the bait). Check these occasionally to see if they have been eaten and need replacing. That gives you a physical barrier to getting to your stuff and something to thin down the population of rodents in the building.

Then use the large plastic tubs to put things in and close the lids tightly. That should have you pretty well mouse proof, and if you do have the holes sealed up well, should keep larger animals such as skunks and coons out.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2009 at 1:45AM
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miscindy(5 SW MI)

mini- I will try the dryer sheet thing. Does it have to be Bounce brand?

beeone- That's a good idea. I just have my boxes on plywood over a 2x4, but I can build it up higher and then sprinkle the bait under as you suggested.

Something's still getting in there though, as each time we get in there (2x week), there's another bit of scat. We can't figure it out! Maybe it's a tunneling critter whose tunnel hole is not along the outside of the pole bard, but further away and the hole could pop out in a hidden spot in the pole barn. Who knows?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2009 at 9:16AM
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