Tag Archives: log homes

Sealing “Checks”/Cracks in Logs and Maintaining Exterior Wood Timber Elements

It is imperative to keep characteristic normal “checking,” or cracking, of exterior exposed wood timbers well sealed in the Pacific Northwest. Elevated moisture conditions in wood can lead to WDO (wood destroying organism) activity and damage. Open cracks, or ”checks,” which are normal and typically of no structural concern, allow water to penetrate the inside of log timbers and, in so doing, create wet conducive conditions for WDO activity. WDOs, such as beetles, carpenter ants, rot fungus and termites are literally attracted to elevated moisture; keep it dry and they have no interest in your home. Oftentimes, visible damage in exterior log timber elements doesn’t become readily apparent until the timber is substantially deteriorated. I can give countless examples of this from my experience inspecting thousands of homes.

Of course, home inspectors can’t see the interior of timber logs nor can we invasively inspect. A wise home inspector would- even if “checking”/cracking were noted to a minor extent- recommend further invasive inspection of the affected timbers by a qualified contractor to make sure there isn’t substantial damage within. This is why, when inspecting log homes for instance, I always recommend further evaluation by a qualified log home contractor whenever I see cracks/”checks” in logs or visible evidence of ANY water intrusion, water staining or damage whatsoever. Timber log elements are expensive to replace and are very important to maintain!

If you own a log home, or a home with exposed exterior wood timber elements, here are some tips to help you maintain their beauty and function for a prolonged period of time. It’s all about maintenance!

  1. Keep exterior wood elements well sealed. Untreated wood that gets wet attracts WDOs.
  2. Monitor log timbers for normal “checking”/cracking and properly seal when noted. Use the highest quality elastomeric sealant you can afford for reduced maintenance. A borate treatment should also be considered as a preventative measure.
  3. Monitor exterior caulking and “chinking” details, repair when failed or cracked.
  4. Eliminate Earth-wood contact; keep dirt and debris away from timber elements.
  5. Eliminate vegetative contact with timber elements; keep landscaping elements pruned back from the building exterior so
    the building can remain dry.
  6. Consider top- and edge-flashing exposed vertical and horizontal timber elements. Metal flashing details on the tops and edges of exposed timber elements look great and significantly reduce maintenance.
  7. Keep timber cut ends well sealed; cut timber ends tend to “wick” water quickly, are particularly vulnerable and deteriorate first. Flashing cut ends, as above, virtually eliminates the need to maintain and can create a nice aesthetic finishing detail. Use a high quality “end grain sealer” for cut log ends.

In the end, it’s all about moisture! Keep everything sealed and your home’s beautiful timber elements will last a lifetime. Failure to maintain exposed wood timber elements will inevitably lead to costly repairs. Log home contractors and vendors are a great resource on best maintenance and repair practices.

Here’s a link to a blog about log maintenance that might prove helpful and instructive.



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).