Every month, we seek to bring our readers insight from the worlds of home construction, home repair, and home maintenance straight from local Northwest Washington contractors in a segment we call “3 Questions.” Yep, you guessed it: we ask three questions, and the contractors answer them. This month, we learn about structural issues with Pete Bird, owner of Fidalgo Restoration Log Home Repair LLC.

Q1: Log homes are beautiful, but they do require regular maintenance. How fastidious do I need to be about sealing typical cracks that inevitably develop in exterior logs?

I do not believe sealing “cracks” (the professional term is “checks”) in the logs is a good idea. I have repaired thousands of feet of rot repair on homes in the last 16 years in business. Some of the rot is from neglect and a lack of stain, some from poor design, and some from a well-intentioned attempt at sealing checks. In the course of the year, logs will expand and contract based on the temperature and humidity in the air. This constant expansion and contraction varies based on the region and based on weather conditions, etc. “Checks” are nearly impossible to fill and remain sealed over the course of a year. The check usually begins and ends in a hairline fissure in the wood, and any attempt to seal the check will fail for several reasons. It will fail because it is nearly impossible to prepare the wood surface inside the check to assure good adhesion. It will also fail because of the aforementioned expansion and contraction of the logs. This will cause the material to stretch and compress and cause failure. It is also impossible to fill enough material at the lateral ends of the check where it tapers down to a hairline fissure. All of these attempts result in moisture seeping past the “seal,” and then being trapped behind the sealant and causing rot. 

Q2: The cut ends of logs should be properly sealed as this seems to be one of the first areas to show deterioration. Is there a slick way to seal log ends? How about flashing them with metal?

Flashing the top of a course of logs on the ends is a good idea if they are sticking out beyond the overhangs. I do not recommend sealing ends because this attempt will usually trap moisture and cause rot. This is a recommendation on horizontal logs. If you have log posts on your deck, I do recommend using a cap such as an HVAC-type cap or a custom cap you can find at www.loghomestore.com. I don’t recommend sealants on the ends of logs since I believe they trap moisture in the logs and cause rot. I recommend grinding the ends during restoration and soaking them with a good stain, then keeping an eye on them each year and reapplying if they appear to be fading away. I don’t recommend the sealants that some companies tout as a way to seal ends. Let the logs breath and off-gas any moisture they draw in during rain events.

Q3: “Chinking” is an elastomeric material used in log homes to fill horizontal gaps between logs. When cracks develop in the chinking, do they need to be sealed right away? How long should the chinking last and can a handy homeowner repair failed chinking?

Chinking, if correctly applied, is the most durable product used on a log home. I have seen professionally applied chinking on logs that has been on the home for 30 years. The key to chinking is correct prep and application. The substrate for the chinking needs to be viable and clean. That means the existing stain on the home needs to be in really good shape and at least washed with a log wash product prior to chinking. The chinking should be applied in accordance with tech specs for temperature and amount of chinking to ensure adhesion and longevity. To repair chinking, it is best to cut out the section with a box knife and lightly sand the edges and clean it, then apply the recommended amount of material (minimum 3/8 of-an-inch depth) to the repaired area and brush it out with a stiff bristle brush, water, and some Dawn dishwashing soap in the water. Look online for some videos to see how it is done. Use a 1″ stiff bristle cheap paintbrush. Or call a professional to assess the overall condition of the chinking, because if it is splitting, most likely it was not applied correctly, and you may need all-new chinking! 

About Fidalgo Restoration Log Home Repair LLC

Fidalgo Restoration Log Home Repair LLC will restore the natural warmth and beauty to your log home and cedar-sided home using state-of-the-art restoration techniques and materials. The company provides log home and cedar-sided home restoration services to Washington State and California. Fidalgo Restoration Log Home Repair LLC provides rot repair services as well as chinking, caulking and sealing for your home. Fidalgo’s chinking process significantly reduces or eliminates drafts, insect incursion and will minimize wintertime heat loss. The rot repair process can save your log or cedar home from the destruction caused by rot fungus and possible structural failure if left unchecked. Fidalgo Restoration Log Home Repair LLC has extensive knowledge and experience restoring log- and cedar-sided homes back to their original state. For more information, visit https://www.log-home-restoration.com

A big “thanks” to Pete for his responses!If you have questions or comments about plumbing issues or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).