Or: More Adventures in Home Repair

For the last several months we have been experiencing a terrible smell from our stove whenever we broiled food in the oven. An odd, not food like smell, more like burning insulation or plastic or something. It was barely noticeable when we just baked, but once the top elements got really hot for broiling, the odor got nasty. We opened windows and turned on fans, but it would linger in the whole house for hours. We cleaned the oven, we cleaned under the stove burners, no change. The other day we finally decided to tear into it and figure out what was going on.

We pulled the plug, moved it out from the wall and started taking out screws. Top element removed, connections looked fine, no charring or loose wires. Took off the door, removed back panels, found some greasy dirt, but nothing that looked like it was burning. After taking the stove top and head unit completely off we spotted a few mouse droppings in the bit of fiberglass insulation exposed under the edges of the pan which separates the stove from the oven. I started wondering if mice had moved in to the insulation, then met their hot demise. I found it interesting that the pan was held on with Torx screws which seemed to imply that it was not supposed to removed. I dug out my Torx driver, removed the screws, and cautiously lifted, afraid of what I might find. As it came up we saw a dark brown area on the otherwise light yellow insulation and knew we were on the right track. We slowly peeled back the insulation, afraid that any moment a horror movie worthy charred remains of a dead mouse would be revealed, but instead there were dark pea sized pellets? Whaa? those look like – no it couldn’t be – rabbit droppings??


While my mind churned for a moment trying to grasp what I was seeing, BRB suddenly spoke the answer – Cat Food! Yes, there were not rabbits nesting in the stove (whew, I hate it when that happens), but rather mice had stashed a winter’s worth of cat food pellets in a hollowed out area in the fiberglass insulation, and then the pellets had baked and burned when the top of the oven got hot enough. We proceeded to carefully perform a pelletectomy surgical procedure with gloves, scissors and vacuum cleaner. We managed to remove the food and the damaged insulation, but were left with a big hole in the insulation exposing the top of the oven compartment.


We left everything torn apart all over the kitchen and drove to the appliance store to find out how to get replacement fiberglass. The service man did not seem to even offer to sell us some, but agreed with our suggestion that it would be easy to scavenge a piece from a dead oven. We drove over to their appliance graveyard where things were piled up for recycling. Unfortunately they had just sent out a big group of ovens, but there was one stove top that had a few strips of insulation in it – just enough to fill the hole, and its bright white color made it look like surgical gauze, to complete the surgery metaphor.


After reassembling the whole mess, we  seem to have solved the problem, and tested it / celebrated by baking some muffins. And now we know not to try to bake a cat food hot dish for the cat. Like revenge, cat food is a dish best served cold.