A Log Home Love Affair

By Beacon Staff

There’s something about a log home. Just ask anyone who owns one. Some will speak of its natural beauty. Its enchantment at sunrise and sunset. Its comforting unconformity.

Yet others, like a quarreling lover, may cast their admiration aside, and speak of a darker, cold-hearted side of a log home: its maintenance.

Indeed, a log home is no vinyl-sided ranch. And in many ways, truly caring for a new log home can make raising a puppy seem easy.

Even before a log home is built, special considerations must be made. For example, logs must be kept and dried with care, much like a winemaker ages a fine wine. Roofs must be designed to extend and protect log walls from sun and rain. And foundations must be built high enough to keep logs above back-splash from rainwater and mud – for there is nary a log home owner who wants to bear the burden of a sullied sill log.

And once a log home is built, so begins a courtship of checks and chinking.

Checks – what many people call “cracks” – occur naturally when a log dries. Checks form because the outer “rings” of a log dry almost twice as fast as the inner rings. And under stress, the outer rings pull away and check, or crack.

And while checks do not affect the strength of a log, they can pose big problems. And a wary owner must keep a watchful eye. For example, exterior checks, especially upward-facing ones, can collect water and moisture. Water is the enemy of wood. So checks must be sealed to keep water and moisture out. Interior checks, especially large ones, can allow air to flow in and out of the home and significantly reduce energy efficiency.

So each season, a caring log home owner dutifully checks for checks around their log home, inside and out. And with devotion, some may find themselves re-doing a check they just did last year. But the labors of log home love don’t stop with checks; there’s chinking too.

Chinking refers to gaps in between logs and the material used to fill them. Ages ago, early Montana homesteaders used sticks, wood chips, and mud for chinking. Nowadays, chinking material is high-tech stuff designed to repel water, resist UV-ray damage, and provide superior adhesion and elasticity – it’s enough to stump a high-school science class. And much like a knight in shining armor, log home owners don’t want an open chink in their log homes either. So to prevent moisture infiltration and damage in between the logs, chinking must be cared for as well.

Logs must also be properly coated and finished to prolong their life. Without proper finishing, a log is much more susceptible to rot and damage from the elements. Sure, any home with wood siding needs to be sealed or painted, but log home finishing can be described like some relationships: it’s complicated.

For example, the cut-end of a log, where the open grain of the wood is exposed, requires different treatment than the smooth sides of a log. So caring log home owners typically use an end-grain sealer to fully protect the ends of logs.

And in some cases, logs in different parts of the home must be treated differently. For example, outside, the logs near the south-west corner of a home may need extra protection against damaging UV-rays from the sun. Yet logs near the northeast corner, that tend to get the least sunlight, may need extra protection against moss and mildew, especially if tall trees are nearby. And inside, logs in a bathroom or kitchen may need special treatment due to excessive heat and humidity.

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