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Schroeder Log Homes

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Winter Check List for Log Homes

It’s winter, and your log home is now in the most dangerous part of the year. Why?

Because of the weather, it’s not comfortable to get out and look around your home, and in the winter, any moisture we get seems to stay for a while because the moisture doesn’t evaporate as quickly as in the summer. Remember, inspecting your house is the single best tool you have to keeping your log home like new. Regular inspections can keep small problems from ever developing into large repair projects. We will take a look at this month is how a little simple trimming can save you big headaches.

So, what to look for? Let’s look first for issues with moisture.

First, take a close look at the trees and bushes around your house. Make sure there is at least 2 feet of air space between every bush and tree planted near your home. If you own a second home up here in the mountains, this can sneak up on you. Lot’s of time bushes get planted 2 feet from the house and then they quickly grow up against the house. As the branches lay up against the logs, they trap rain and other moisture up against the logs. Rotten logs can happen very quickly if moisture is held against them, and once the structure of the logs is damaged, cutting back the bushes or trees doesn’t restore them, they need to be replaced.

Next, check your gutters. You do have gutters don’t you? Controlling the rain flow around your house is critical, and gutters are one of the easiest ways to do that. If you don’t, the constant splash up from the rain can quickly wear your stain away and then start saturating your logs. Make sure that the run off from the downspouts is away from the house and not going toward it as well.

You’ve no doubt seen the bottom edges of dormers rotting out on many houses and buildings, and this is how it happens. The rain that falls on the dormer roof runs off the dormer, hits the roof below, and splashes up onto the bottom edge of the dormer. Very quickly, even with painted dormers, the bottom edge rots. Here’s how to solve this. Have your gutter guy put gutters along the horizontal edge of your dormers. You just need the trough, not the downspout. Have it angled back to the roof, and have the back end cut off at an angle so it dumps the water smoothly onto the roof with minimal splashing. The water will run straight down the roof, without splashing.

One note about gutters, though. If you have a second home and don’t make it up very often to clean the gutters, they can actually cause more problems than they solve. Water flowing over the back of the gutter because it is clogged can quickly rot the fascia and sub fascia, and then start flowing down the wall, leading to rot there as well. If you are not here often, consider some really good gutter guards that work for the kinds of leaves or needles you get around your house. On the other hand, you can contract with someone to check your home monthly and perform these inspections and services for you.

The final area of concern is common to the basic design of many of the log homes built in this area. Because many homes are built on steep hills, with a deck on the view side, most homes have a narrow 4 feet wide deck running along one gable end to get to the deck on the front. Not only is the gable side most vulnerable because the overhangs are so high that they provide little protection, but the deck contributes to a major splash up problem. Rain falls to the deck and then splashes up, soaking the bottom 3 feet of your wall. In a very short time, because of the constant bombardment, the stain is failing to repel water, and conditions for rot begin.

This area is going to take more care than the rest of your house to maintain the finish and protect the logs. Along with the exposed wooden chimney chase, this is the area most common to have rotten wood. Annual cleaning of this spot and possible reapplication of a water repellant stain is necessary to avoid costly log replacement. Other possible solutions include installing borate rods in the logs that are activated by moisture, and possibly extending the roof line out past the deck as the ideal solution.

Once moisture causes rot to begin in the logs, all kinds of insects begin to view your logs as lunch. Carpenter ants, powder post beetles, etc all tend to prefer damp or rotten wood to begin munching on.

For this month, remember:

1. Trim the bushes and overhanging limbs back from your home, allowing 2 feet of airspace.
2. Check your gutters and downspouts, make sure they aren’t clogged.
3. Check your dormers for gutters, get them installed if you don’t have any there.
4. Check the bottom of the wall along decks that aren’t fully covered, see if it is still repelling water. If it isn’t, clean those bottom boards, and reapply stain according to manufacturer standards. While you’re at it, stick a screwdriver into the wood and see if it penetrates, if it does easily, it’s rotten. Call a professional.
5. Have borate rod installed if you don’t live full time at your home, and you are worried about something getting out of hand before you notice it.
6. Have someone check the top and back of the chimney if you have a wooden chase, making sure it is draining properly, and that the back of the chimney is coated well, (this is a classic missed spot with painters, since it’s hard to see, and hard to get to).

In the future, we’ll talk about borate treatments, what kind to use, and how effective they are.

Originally appeared in the column, The Log Home Corner and reprinted here by permission from the author, Rich Littlefield.

Rich Littlefield has been doing log home restoration in North Georgia for almost a decade. In addition to using almost every commercially available stain in the area, he has developed a stain system that addresses concerns found specifically in the Southeast geographic region. He has given restoration and maintenance seminars at various log home shows and manufacturer sponsored events. He also offers maintenance seminars and plans for Home Owners Associations, commercial complexes, and individuals. Finally he is fully involved in consulting, evaluations, and offering restoration services and supplies. If you have any questions that you would like answered, please email him at Bearcreek@etcmail.com.