Answers From Experts: Q&A With Log Cabin Maintenance Expert
Earlier in the month we announced our “Answers from the Experts” series. In part two of the series we have interviewed John Schroeder from log help, a log cabin expert, on some of your most popular questions on maintaining, protecting and looking after your log cabin home.
For those of you who own a log home, this post will help you with key maintenance elements of maintaining/restoring caulking, staining your cabin, and protecting against mildew, mold, termites, and rot.
A full transcript of our interview with John can be seen below:
Why should a log cabin owner be interested in or care about regularly maintaining their log cabin home?
Just like a periodic car wash, tune-up, oil change, and tire rotation keep a car looking better and running longer, so an annual inspection and as-needed maintenance will keep a log home looking good with integrity and value.
What’s the first thing a log cabin owner should be aware of when it comes to maintaining their cabin?
As Benjamin Franklin wisely said, ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ Simple steps like washing your home, giving it a yearly inspection, and preventing issues before they happen will save major headaches in the long run. An example is water-based stains with a top clear coat: It’s an easy process of washing and reapplying the clear coat when and where needed. If left too long before maintaining, however, there could be weathering, peeling, or other issues that might require more extensive and expensive surface restoration.
What’s the best option to protect a log cabin from mildew, mold, termites, and rot?
Keeping moisture out of the wood will prevent most issues. Borate preservatives can be applied to bare wood before staining to prevent rot and insect infestation. Mildewcides can be applied to the stain/sealer to prevent mildew and mold in areas of high humidity. Promoting airflow by keeping shrubs away from the house can also deter mildew and mold.
What’s the best type of finish or stain (e.g. oil-based, latex-based, varnish) to use on a log cabin, and how does it help towards cabin maintenance?
The ‘best’ stain may vary by the home, personal preference, and situation. There are pros and cons to water vs oil, penetrating vs surface, etc. A knowledgeable log home stain dealer should be contacted for guidance on which product is right for the home and how to best prepare for its application.
What’s a good technique for restoring and maintaining log cabin caulk?
Proper caulking repair will depend on the material that is used and the state of its disrepair. If applied correctly, modern, synthetic caulk typically only needs to be applied once. If the old or new caulk is failing, the best option is to remove it and start fresh with a backer rod and synthetic log sealant. Full replacement isn’t always an option, however, and so often a good way to repair old caulk is to put a strip of clear packaging tape over the old, damaged caulk and apply a new layer of synthetic material over top. Other situations may call for different repairs, so when in doubt contact a knowledgeable log home caulking dealer or restoration contractor.
What are your best quick tips for ensuring that a log cabin stays in good condition over its lifetime?
The simple answer is this: Keep the water off the logs. During the design/building stage, that means keeping the first course of logs two or more feet above grade level, building long overhangs, and directing water away from the building. After construction, that means installing or repairing gutters, maintaining a water-repellent log stain/sealer, and caulking checks and cracks that may collect water, etc. Keep moisture out of the wood and it will last indefinitely!
We really enjoyed our interview with John and we hope you did too. If you have any additional questions on log cabin maintenance then please post a comment below and we will be sure to answer!
We have a log home built in the 1970’s and it has been badly neglected over the years. We have had it oiled/stained with bug repellant in the stain and are now ready to chink. My question is “What do we do about the large cracks in the logs?” Should we use a caulking material like Log Builder, a chinking like Log Jam, or leave them alone? Any help would be appreciated.
Splitting is a natural characteristic of timber, especially with Pine, it’s commonly known as ‘checking’. Depending upon the position of the check depends upon the treatment. If the check is facing upwards, then water will pool during rainy seasons, causing the check to open up. In this instance I would suggest chinking like Pemachink or Log Jam to fill the check. Providing the checking isn’t facing directly upwards, then the decision is yours, fill it with caulking or leave it to appear rustic.
Hope this helps,
I have an 1856 log house in northeast Wisconsin. How can I insulate the roof? The home has been used by my family for 30 yrs. as a summer place. I am now considering insulation would be called for as the cabin is being used more and more by adult children. Can insulation be applied on the interior side of a ceiling and covered up/plastered (there are two bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor)? Thank you for any advice you can provide. It’s a beautiful building – mitered corners, etc. – and has been lovingly cared for with professional attention to exterior of logs every few years.
Your cabin sounds beautiful!
To answer your question, yes you can apply to insulation to the interior of your cabin.
In three simple steps it would be; sheath the roof with boards, staple a moisture resistant membrane (i.e. Tyvek or Kingspan) to the boards and then apply insulation. A full tutorial can be read at here
We have a log home built in 1929. The logs appear to have never been treated with anything except Penetrol (told to us by the handy man watching over the place). The logs have darkened to a beautiful, dark brown/black which we would like to maintain. A few of the areas show wear and tear but generally the logs are in great shape. We are having a window installed and a door moved so we will have to add new logs to these areas. Our questions are: Do we have to sandblast the cabin and start over to maintain the beautiful color and to match the new logs? We would prefer to not but just need your expertise on how to achieve matching.
Is there any tradesman who deals with treating log cabins and how much?
Your best option would be to contact a local tradesman so they can visit your cabin and inspect/quote you in person.
Hi , I have another question for you if the base of log cabin is going green and chipping would it harm the cabin? And is there a solution for it
Are you referring to the foundation or the actual logs themselves?
We are staining our log home (bare pine wood) the stain is very much darker in front of the house as it is on the side of the house. We just don’t understand why.
Is this before or after you’ve stained? You can always remove some of the stain before applying the new layer to reduce the darkness.
My log cabin was built in 1787 and has been relocated twice. The last time was 48 years ago. It has had two new roofs during our ownership (33years).
There is a water stain between the top log and the overhang of the roof. My roofer has visited for the first time and give good marks for the last roofing job. I thought the stain was on one end only but it is on all four sides.
There was a sign of water damage 33 years ago but it seems to happen in the winter months when we are not there. My roofer is puzzled. We have tarps standing by until we find the solution. Any insights?
Wow…it must be a well built cabin to be that age and have been relocated twice.
Can you clarify whether there was, or wasn’t water damage 33 years ago?
Many thanks, David
If I want to make D logs should I ruff cut over size let dry for a year and then cut the final D log ? Or just cut the tree down size and make D log and then let air dry for a year.
I recommend cutting them to the shape you want and then let them air dry for a long as possible.
Make sure when you store your logs to dry them, that they have good circulation.
Remember that the logs will shrink so you should cut them slightly oversized.
The moisture will also escape from the ends of the logs 10x quicker than anywhere else, so to avoid them splitting you’ll need to seal them.
Hope that helps,
We have inherited our grandparents 100+ year old cabin. The chinking is cement. It is so dark inside. What is the BEST way to brighten up the cement? I’m not sure if just painting it with regular paint is wise, or should we use another product? Thank you!
You should only you touch the chinking if there is a structural or maintenance reason.
I HAVE DRY ROT IN SOME LOGS – CAN I CAULK TO PREVENT MOISTURE NOW AND REPAIR NEXT SPRING?
Hi Lee, thanks for your question. You can do that, sealing the logs can kill the fungi causing the dry rot, but you take the risk it doesn’t fully seal and the dry rot spreads further. I would advise an epoxy treatment, or other repair, as soon as possible to save you money next year. Thanks, David.