A horseshoe crab and two soaring shore birds grace the back wall of a cottage on Cape Cod.
A horseshoe crab and two soaring shore birds grace the back wall of a cottage on Cape Cod.

My project du jour (or rather, du mois) is fixing a bathroom wall on a cottage owned by my wife, Laurie. A year ago we began noticing a “mousy” smell in the room and suspected that some of Mickey’s cousins had taken up residence in the wall over the winter. This year the odor became unbearable, and fixing the wall went to the top of the project list. The problem was that the inside of the bathroom was beautifully finished with hand-made tile, so I had to attack the problem from the outside to leave the interior finish intact.

Sound familiar? I’d asked author, Steve Baczek, how he would deal with the situation, and he detailed a solution that we ran in the April 2016 issue of JLC. A few weekends ago, I tore off the shingles and sheathing to expose a mess that would be absolutely disgusting to any creature besides a mouse.

I followed Baczek’s instructions for cleaning the affected stud bays, and I put hardware cloth (wire mesh) around the openings. Then I used a special expanding foam (Pest Block) to fill every opening around pipes and wires before packing the stud bays with layers of rigid foam insulation, as Baczek had suggested.

Last weekend, I finished insulating and sealing the wall and installed 3/4-inch Advantech sheathing to match the thickness of the original T&G pine boards (some of which could not be removed). I sealed the edges of the wall and added new flashing over a basement bulkhead and was ready to do some shingling.

The cottage is very artsy and Laurie had seen some decorative shingle patterns that she liked. “Can you do that?” she queried. “Oh, sure!” I boasted boldly. And truth be told, I had done a couple of simple patterns back in my hammer-swinging days, and in a former life I’d edited an article on decorative shingling by Mike Guertin, who also wrote on the topic for JLC in June 2006.

The cottage is perched on the edge of salt-water marsh, and Laurie chose a horseshoe crab and a shore bird as appropriate designs. Those designs came from the online portfolio of a great little company called The Mosaic Shingle Company. (It turns out that the company is just a short drive from our home). I did the American thing and copied the photos onto my computer. The horseshoe crab came first. Using photo-editing software, I enlarged the image until the shingle exposure on the screen was 5 1/2 inches, what I’d measured—or what I thought I’d measured—on the adjacent walls of the cottage. I traced the creature right off the screen, tail and all, and built a “kit” for it, cutting out and assembling all the parts and layers on a piece of plywood in my shop: slick!

Crabby Kit Traced from an image on the web, the pattern for this horseshoe crab made it easy for the parts for each layer be cut and assembled on a board ahead of time. The parts were then labeled and disassembled to be brought to the jobsite.
Crabby Kit Traced from an image on the web, the pattern for this horseshoe crab made it easy for the parts for each layer be cut and assembled on a board ahead of time. The parts were then labeled and disassembled to be brought to the jobsite.

The cottage was shingled with red cedar, so I made my crabby friend out of white cedar for contrast. At the cottage, I quickly realized that the shingle exposure where the horseshoe crab would be going was actually 5 inches. I didn’t want to re-crab, so I went ahead and made those course 5 1/2 inches. I cheated down on the first course to gain back a little, but I was still almost an inch off when the crab courses were finished. What to do …

Course Correction When the courses for the horseshoe crab turned out to be larger than the courses on the adjacent walls, an undulating "water line" was put in to disguise the adjustment that brought the exposure into alignment.
Course Correction When the courses for the horseshoe crab turned out to be larger than the courses on the adjacent walls, an undulating "water line" was put in to disguise the adjustment that brought the exposure into alignment.

I’d toyed with the idea of a wavy “water line” to put the crab and the birds in their proper environments. So I snapped a chalk line at the proper exposure for the next course above the crab, and then made my wavy water line at that course layout. The undulating line perfectly disguised the exposure discrepancy—art had come to my rescue and covered up my dumb mistake! PHEW!!!

Shingles in Flight The two birds were made at the proper exposure and went in quickly and easily. The final two courses above the birds will be installed soon.
Shingles in Flight The two birds were made at the proper exposure and went in quickly and easily. The final two courses above the birds will be installed soon.

Luckily, I hadn’t cut out the birds yet, so I made the kits for them at the proper exposure. They “flew” onto the wall without a problem. The wall looks great even without the last couple of courses, which I hope to install this weekend. And unless a scrutinizing neighbor comes by with a measuring tape, no one will ever figure out that the wavy line above the horseshoe crab is doing anything other than trying to look like water.