The American Dream

or Log Home Nightmare

I’m not here to throw stones at builders, contractors, log home kit companies, etc., and I praise the young do-it-yourself couples who purchase a piece of land, cut the trees, peel the bark, and build a cabin with the help of their friends.

The young couples now have their own home, which will be their asset and appreciate in value. They may also be mortgage free, which adds to their investment and financial security.

Historically, I believe that when our country was settled, log homes were intended to be temporary until a permanent home could be built. Due to the times, conditions and finances, log homes were built, chinked, and added on to. They were lived in much longer than the settlers anticipated. To many Americans, log homes represent a deep tradition and the root of independence and prosperity that motivated the courageous settlers who came here. It represents a sense of promise.

There are people that absolutely love log homes and share the American dream of owning one. These are also the same people the log home kit sales vendors look forward to at the trade shows. Contrary to the reality, these potential new owners are led to believe that log homes are maintenance free.

Loring has over forty years of construction experience with many of them in the log home business. The other members of Log Home Restoration Worldwide, LLC have nearly 60 years of combined professional construction expertise. Our teams are extremely talented and the most courteous professionals in the log home industry.

My name is Loring Woods, owner of Log Home Restoration World Wide LLC in Canaan, New Hampshire. I have spent the last thirteen years researching, developing and time testing the correct methods, procedures and materials to provide the proper series of steps that will protect and maintain your log home or any log structure. Proper maintenance in the early stages is far less costly than to repair the damage that occurs from improper maintenance. In other words the sooner you start maintenance on you log structure the less expensive it will be.

We have met the log home owners who have done their own research, built their own log home and went out of their way to do the best they could to properly maintain their home. Still, problems arise and finding someone who knows the proper maintenance in such a critical time can be almost impossible.

click image to enlarge
click image to enlarge

This is a call we get periodically:

"Hello, we just bought a log home a year ago. The log home is seventeen years old and we found a couple of rotten logs. When it rains hard, water runs down the inside wall."

I say, "What color is the outside wall?"

"Oh, it’s brown."

At this point I know exactly what has happened. The previous owner who knew about a multitude of problems, decided that instead of spending the money to restore this log home, which at this point would not have been too difficult or costly, he would spray a solid color to cover up ultraviolet damage, weather stains, mold, mildew, insect damage and log decay. [Click here to view additional pictures in the Gallery.] The seller of this log home deliberately deceived the buyer and intentionally concealed structural problems. They most likely signed a real estate document called a Seller’s Statement of Disclosure stating he did not know of any structural problems with this home. Please remember this is a worst-case scenario. I witnessed such an incident when the seller’s brother was the real estate broker involved. This is a criminal act as far as I am concerned and angers me because I am the one who is called upon to make an estimate and break the devastating news to the new owners. For example, we may have to replace logs, strip off a solid sealer that was recently applied, clean, and neutralize the wood to restore the pH level. Finally we have to seal and chink the logs. Chinking is an absolute must for the exterior of the log home.

When we are finished, the log home looks better than when it was new. Now, the new homeowners have a solid, problem-free investment and could easily sell their restored log home. If a real estate broker compares other log homes that have not been through our restoration process to the restored home, the restored homes are the first to sell.

Our business saves log homes in the same way that my son, who works as an EMT, saves lives. I am proud of him. I initially felt guilty making money on the log home problems of other people, but then I think of a physician who makes money treating a cancer patient and often loses the patient, but keeps the money. This sounds awful, but I can assure you we do not lose homes. My customers have something to show for their money. When I drive away from a completed restoration job and look back, I get that satisfied feeling that we just completed yet another masterpiece. What really makes our day is that rewarding phone call from the owner that usually goes something like this:

"We just couldn’t believe it… we never thought it would look so good!"

If you are questioning whether this could be your log home, please see our Photo Gallery. Your American Dream can become a reality.

We save log homes.

I am proud of the results that we have created through outstanding craftsmanship, time-tested procedures, and proper applications of high quality materials. We can provide you with a list of references of very pleased customers we have generated from years of experience.

Important factors to consider when building or purchasing a log home

1. The bottom log of a home should not be close to the ground. When a log home is built on a concrete slab or foundation near the ground, rainwater runs off the roof creating constant splash back, which takes very little time to rot the first four tiers of logs. The splashing rainwater carries the dirt onto the logs. We have found that it is the minerals in the dirt that eats the sealers off the logs in a short time. We recommend and have installed a two-foot wide perimeter of crushed stone over a plastic growth barrier to help prevent this problem

2. Roof overhangs should be two feet on a single story and three feet on a two-story structure. The protection is unbelievable. Mother Nature’s job is to decay dead logs. The sun with its ultraviolet damage hastens the process, add in water, and decay begins. Roof overhangs need to be supported well in windy areas. When I make an estimate for log home restoration, I always stand beside the sidewall and line up the roof overhang to see if it extends beyond the log ends. If it does not, I know that I have to recommend trimming all the log ends back within the roof overhang.

3. Allow for shrinkage. This sounds simple and it really is. I can make exceptions for the do-it-yourself couples that build their own home, but it is inexcusable that contractors, builders and especially the log home kit companies who are aware of shrinkage as a structural problem in log homes, choose not to acknowledge and correct this fact in the building process. It is an embarrassment to the integrity to the log home industry that some companies are very aware of this problem and choose to ignore it.

If this simple problem was addressed and corrected, the log home industry would really be booming. From the sales personnel to the contractors, builders, and even real estate companies, all would experience a better reputation, more sales, work, and a much healthier log home market. This is the main reason we ended up with our very successful log home restoration business: the damage that resulted from a structure erected in a way that did not allow for shrinkage. On the brighter side, there are log home companies that are now using proven techniques that address shrinkage. For example, there is a company in western Massachusetts that patented its own shrinkage system, which works very well.

I met a man in Northfield, Vermont, who used his Yankee ingenuity and pre-drilled and counter sank each spike so when the logs shrank they would slide down the spike and the heads would not hold up the log above it. When installing his doors and windows, he allowed a three and a half inch space. He also did not use any gasket, but instead had me chink the exterior and interior. He claimed years later that his log home was so tight he had to crack a window so he could light his wood stove.

The difference between a green log and a seasoned dry log is the drying time. For a white pine log, it dries about one inch each year. Therefore, a six-inch pine log drying from the outside to the inside would be dry to the middle in three years. During the drying process it is evident that shrinkage occurs. The log is lighter in weight and becomes half an inch smaller in diameter. When you consider that log home manufacturing companies cannot afford to keep an abundance of logs sitting around for three years while they dry, it is easy to understand why this problem with shrinkage exists.

Over the first two to five years each log in a log structure shrinks a half-inch in diameter. This causes the whole house to settle. The logs that sit on top of door and window frames throughout a log structure are unable to settle with the rest of the house. The weight of the structure above is now bearing down on all the door and window frames. With one look this is easy to detect. By simply leaving a calculated space above each door and window as the home is built, the entire log home slowly settles down over time. That calculated shrinkage space eventually is eliminated.

4. Chinking is a love-hate situation and generates a lot of controversy with log home builders. Ask any salesperson at a log home trade show in the East if their log home has to be chinked. "Of course not!" Then the typical reasons why come out, "We have a gasket system…"

In log home magazines you will see that most Western log homes are the larger style logs and are chinked. I believe large logs look great chinked. On the other hand, small logs at a distance begin to look too busy with chinking that is a contrasting color. To offset this visual problem with smaller logs, we use a color match chinking that blends in with the logs. It matches so well, you can’t see it from the road and in fact have to walk up very close to see it. If you were to see a log home that was half chinked, you would agree that the log home didn’t look finished.

Log home kit sales people in the East do not want to lose a sale by agreeing on chinking. To them it is an added expense not worth mentioning. Remember, these are the same people who assert that log homes are maintenance free. In reality, every log home after three years when the logs have been seasoned, should be chinked. Wind blows rain into the center where the spikes and gaskets are and rots the logs from the center down. This is not visible from the interior or exterior of the home. It will go undetected for years. Another problem area is around doors and windows. Chinking around doors and windows is an absolute must. Additionally, all the gaps in a log structure are a natural nesting area for a multitude of insects. Quality chinking, when installed by skilled craftsman, is a long lasting product and if necessary, can be repaired easily. Additionally, there are a variety of ‘log caulks’ available for certain log structure applications. We are currently evaluating these ‘caulk’ products to further determine their feasibility.

5. Sealers and products for log homes. We use only the highest quality sealers designed for log homes. You cannot buy it from a hardware store or on sale in large home improvement centers. Other sealers are sold cheap because they do not last and manufacturers of sealers are in the business to sell volume. Call them and ask them how long their product will last and they will lie to you. For instance, a product called X-brand water seal is most likely ninety percent paint thinner. In addition, there is not anything in a hardware store worth using on a log home. Not caulking, sealer, cleaners, or chinking, with the exception of paint for window and door trim.

The American Dream continues...

If I get a call to estimate a log home that is three years old and has never had anything sealers applied to it like sealers, I feel elated. This is an ideal time to work on a log home. Although the logs are gray from the sun, it is an easy process to strip this off, neutralize the logs, seal, and chink. Presto! The best looking log home ever for the least amount of expense at a good point in the life of this log home. In this case, the wood was caught before any decay and the logs are seasoned (not green). I did not have to use harsh cleaners, to remove inadequate sealers. When completed the finish feels and looks like furniture.

It is a very different story if the log home was just built. This is the perfect time to begin the preventative maintenance process, especially before the doors and windows are installed. We clean off dirt, pencil marks, dirty finger prints, hand and foot prints, mold, mildew, any graying from the sun and most of the weather stains. We then neutralize the surface and after it is dry we apply the highest quality sealer. At this point, I explain to the customer that when we finish, the log home will look beautiful.

Keep in mind, as the logs are drying over the next three years, the sun pulls out moisture from the green logs and breaks down some of the sealer. This cannot be helped. We do not blame the sealer, because we use the best products on the market. When the log home is fully seasoned, it is recommended that the exterior of the log home be cleaned, sealed, and at that point in time, chinked. It is not the contractor, builder, or the sales person that pays for the long-term maintenance of the log home, but in fact the new log home owner who purchased it who was lead to believe that it was maintenance free. Let me assure you, this second sealing process will last with periodic maintenance. In addition, water and insects will be kept out. There will not be any drafts and your heating and cooling cost reduction will help pay for the long-term maintenance of your log home.

Think of it this way, if you bought a new unfinished Mercedes Benz, you would not hire a handyman to go down to the local hardware store, buy a can of paint and apply it with a brush. My advice is not to feel discouraged. Just do it right. In order for log homes to look beautiful and be protected, you must have the right preventative maintenance program. Most of all, you will be satisfied with the integrity of your American Dream.

Loring Woods at work saving another log home

Sincerely Yours,
Loring Woods III
Owner of Log Home Restoration World Wide LLC
P.O. Box 232
Canaan, NH 03741
1-888-FIXLOGS
1-888-349-5647
www.fixlogs.com
info@fixlogs.com

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