Our business started out of necessity in 1978, when my father (former owner of Edmunds & Company) was looking to restore our family cabin in Northwest Wisconsin. Not finding anyone to do the work locally, he did it himself. Below are 15 of the most common problems we see with middle-aged log houses and what can be done to remedy them. Cantilever log platforms are a potential problem area.
We come across these types of decks several times a year. A cantilever platform is a platform that rests on logs that attach to a wall (on the outside) and support the platform. These decks are usually found on the second floor of a log house and are most often small in size. The problem is that most of the time, they are built with pine logs that are designed or allowed to protrude beyond the roof line, where they are exposed to rain, snow and ice.
They absorb so much moisture that they become susceptible to rotting. When these logs start to rot, it often happens very quickly. In my assessment, there are basically three options for the landlord, assuming the records are still in good condition. In our experience, chinking is one of the often overlooked finishing touches.
Some log houses are designed to be caulked or caulked. For other log houses, over time it becomes necessary to cut them. Unless the joint between the logs self-drains like a Swedish layer does, the logs need caulking or grinding. Chinking doesn't need to have the “bulky” look that many people first think of when they consider their logs being cut.
Often lines don't need to be wider than 1.Reduced moisture migration between logs is the main reason for cracking. Saving energy and reducing currents is a secondary reasoning and an additional advantage. Some states allow energy tax credits to be taken for starting a log house. Talk to your tax professional about this possibility.
Lack of headroom above doors and windows can cause them to stick together, which is an annoying problem we see in log houses. All wood shrinks between 5 and 10% in diameter from the time it is cut to the time it is “seasoned”. This seasoning process lasts about seven years. Most log packs are placed “green” or “unseasoned”, so this means that at some point the lifespan of a log wall will be reduced on average 6.If the sides or jambs of the window are not allowed to “slide” as this shrinkage occurs, or if an inadequate amount of space is left to accommodate shrinkage, windows may become tied up and stop working properly.
The type of logs used to build log houses is not suitable for leaving outside the roof line. Although it is a popular design feature to leave logs stuck past the drip line, these roof members or corner logs that can protrude in the weather are very susceptible to rot. Most of the time, cutting these logs (putting them inside the drip line) is the best method to solve the problem. Some of the most extensive repairs we've ever done are the result of when rot spreads into the house.
Many log houses are built with milled logs, which tend to develop cracks or “cracks”. A check is a crack that radiates from the center of the trunk to the outer surface. Testing is a natural part of the curing process. As the wood dries, the difference in surface tension and moisture gradients between the inner and outer parts of the logs causes these checks.
When controls become a concern is when they cause logs to absorb too much moisture. Logs with cracks that face up are very susceptible to rotting because they allow water to go deep into the logs where rot begins. Logs that are too close to the ground, or that are actually in the ground, are very susceptible to rotting. Sometimes it's impossible to change where a given log sits relative to the ground, which may have been a design defect from day one.
Sometimes landscaping, reclassifying, or adding gutters can move water away from these vulnerable logs. Keeping these low logs dry and well treated with borates is key to staying rot free. Part of the defense against decay and insects are boron compounds. Most of the time we recommend using a borate compound before finishing logs when the pores of the logs are open or unprocessed.
Borates work by raising the pH level of wood to the point where the body is prevented from rotting and, subsequently, insects are less able to attack it. Borates and insects? Unfortunately, most of the time boring insects indicate a larger rot problem. Bats are the other common rodents in. Usually, bats look for a place to raise their young.
They occupy small or large cracks that can be entered from below. A bat needs 3 feet of free fall to fly again and, for this reason, generally likes places closer to the roof line. They make these cracks their home and eventually fill them with their faeces, which in turn becomes a very widespread problem. Houses with bat problems have a distinctive smell.
If you see signs of bats, such as droppings, contact a bat evacuation company immediately. By sealing your paths to the cavities with bumps, in combination with evacuation efforts, this problem can be overcome. Ideally, do not place the cab under trees to prevent leaves and debris from falling to the roof and blocking gutters. See my blog How to Install Gutters in a Log Cabin for tips.
Ground cover, soil, and mulch must be at least 3 feet from the bottom of the cab. Opinions may vary in this regard, however, the general consensus, and with which we agree, is that the base must be the same size as the footprint of the cabin. Most log cabins come with storm stands that are long wooden slats attached to the top and bottom of the 4 corners of the cabin. See Maintaining a Good Finish in the Outer Log Section above.
If the base is not level, the cab sits on the defects, the logs are not properly seated, and the roof boards do not attach to the cab in a straight line. This can cause problems such as warping, cracking and cracking of the wood. See Maintaining a Good Finish on Exterior Logs above. Sun, Wind, Water, and Creatures Can Be Destructive to Your Log House.
From excessive sun to persistent carpenter bees, here's how to fight and defeat the natural enemies of log homes naturally. The two main problems that arise with settling are adjusting the height of the posts and maintaining the gaps around doors and windows. Vertical posts that support the roof or upper floors need to be shortened when log walls settle. During construction, space should be left in the framed interior walls to allow seating in the log walls.
Many builders place weight on the ceiling on poles instead of supporting walls and leave a space near the top behind the trims. The support posts are supported by wedges or adjustable screw jacks that sit on the top or bottom of the beam. Screw jacks can be left open or enclosed as part of the design element on the posts. A wooden frame or copper details are used to enclose the screw jack.
Screw jacks can be adjusted periodically every 6-12 months after new construction, and again after a second full heating season. The timing of it will vary depending on the climate and the heating used in the home. However, if you don't have problems with the foundation, it could mean that your log walls have shrunk and cause irregularities in the floor joists. This would be the time to look for the main contributors to the liquidation of logs.
If you have wood destroying insects (WDI), contact an exterminator or professional log master. Similarly, you shouldn't smear a thin layer of putty over all your logs in an attempt to seal them, it's definitely not recommended. Problems with sedimentation of logs can be solved by removing the border around the window, evaluating the location of the “binding”, eliminating the “offensive” pressure point behind the edge. While it can be nice to spend a weekend in a cabin in the mountains, living in a log house on a daily basis isn't as glamorous as it sounds.
Having gutters in good working order can go a long way in preventing water from splashing back into your log house. Log builders often use reinforcing bars within walls to combat settlement and prevent the overall wall from settling. Log house inspectors must undergo additional training to receive a log house inspection certification. To be clear, log house settlement is used to describe the loss of log wall height over the life of your cabin.
All that said, hopefully to save a life, the main causes of log settlement are shrinkage and compression of the trunk. Log house construction contractors often use flexible tubing to avoid the dangers of a gas or water leak as the house naturally settles. Upward-facing cracks can accumulate water and allow it to go deep into the logs, which can eventually lead to internal decay of the wood. There is a way to get a beautiful log house without all the problems that wood entails.
Settlement will occur as the logs soften and cannot support the weight of anything above them. These insects work silently, devouring tunnels, creating multiple roads within logs without regard to structural integrity. Like a decaying wisdom tooth rotted inside, similarly, the outside of the trunk may look good, but it could only have a good veneer. Most home inspectors will advise you to look for a professional log house builder or a certified home inspector.