How to save time and money with your log home
The bad news first!
So, some of you may be asking yourself how can I keep my maintenance cost down? Let's start with the the bad news first. Unfortunately some log home designs are flawed and will create chronic problems because of the architectural details built into the structure. I have worked with a countless number of property owners in this situation and sometimes the only way to fix the problem is by a major remodel or making repairs such as wood and log replacements and knowing that the problem is not fixed. This is the most unfortunate situation both for the property owner and the structure. Some of these lemon houses are built by the homeowner and some by contractors. Most are due to the design of the log package and the location it was built. For the rest of the log homes and businesses there are some some things that we can do to keep cost down. It is best to schedule a consultation to accurately assess the situation of your building if you still have questions after reading this article. Here are some bits of knowledge that should get you started in the right direction, the key is to identify problems and fix them before they manifest into a bigger issue.
Water is Bad!
In general if your logs or wood are getting wet often then you have a problem. Water is the number one cause of log home problems. First, it is important to identify where the water is coming from and what causes it. Is the water splashing as it is falling off a roof? Is it splashing off a deck? Is the gutter leaking? Do you have gutters? Are you located on a lake and when there are storms that come off the lake your building gets drenched so much so that water comes inside? Does water splash off of trees and shrubs that are near the building? Did your house settle after construction and now you think your roof may be leaking? Do you have bad Ice dams in the winter? Water problems come from many sources identifying if you have a issue, is sometimes harder than you expect, and easy after problems develop. Take time after major weather events and analyse the performance of your home.
Manage the water?
If you don't have gutter and downspouts on your building then the first thing you should do is install them. I recommend heavy gauge seamless metal ones and 5 or 6 inches in diameter. Don't skimp here. Buy the best that you can afford. A professional gutter contractor with a roll former is the best bet. Gutters and downspouts greatly reduce water splashing and blowing on your logs. If you have gutters make sure that you clean them out and that they are well maintained. Pay close attention to end caps that are near a log wall and any seams. End caps and seams are almost guaranteed to leak at some point. If your gutter or downspout is leaking then fix it.
Fire up the chainsaw!
Easy fix number two. Walk around your building and notice if any trees, branches or brush is near you building or touching it. If so get out the saw or call and arborist. Log home people love to be tucked into the natural environment. For me there is nothing more therapeutic and relaxing than watching birds right out the window. Customers often tell me that the trees or brush offers cover for the wildlife and I get it. The fact is that branches wear holes in roofs. Water wicks and splashes off foliage and decreases drying of the logs not to mention vegetation close to the house posses a fire risk and a place for criminals to hide (hiding criminals is not a big concern in Northern Michigan and Wisconsin). So cut, clip, wack or chainsaw the vegetation back. It is painful for some owners...please just do it, you will thank me in 10 years.
Decks are a pain in the neck!
How about decks? Let's be honest how much do you use your deck? In my experience decks are underutilized. Very few people use them all the time. Most just get used for grilling or a birthday party every few years. They are undesirable when it is cold, raining, when the bugs are bad or when it is too hot which leaves a very short window in our northern climate. If you are going to build a house you may want to consider skipping building a deck and build a porch or masonry patio instead. Masonry patios offer much of the same benefits of a deck without the hassle of maintaining wood, handrails and shoveling the snow away from the house. Masonry is more durable and takes less maintenance. At least porches are covered and can even be enclosed for three seasons of use. Back to decks, you may have a beautiful deck with marvelous log rails and spindles. What is its expected service life? I can tell you that you will be very lucky if your railing is problem free for more than 15 years. What can you do to improve the performance of the deck if you already have one? If water splashes off the roof onto your logs we typically install industrial steel grating so that the water passes through. If you really like wood decks then instal wolmanized pressure treated decking. And I get the most push back from this, if you need to replace your log rails and spindles consider using and alternative product.
Keep it clean!
Clean your logs and maintain your stain. Many log home stains have uv inhibitor in them. When the stain is dirty then the inhibitor is less effective. Special attention should be given to south facing walls and areas that receive the most sun. Also uncovered areas such as rails and spindles should receive more maintenance coats and inspection.
Maintenance in winter?
Shovel the snow if it piles up on your logs. This is mostly of problem for homes built close to the ground, wind prone areas and on decks. Snow piled onto logs melts and can hold water on your logs. If it is a seasonal place and you have a caretaker, make them aware of snow removal near the logs.
What would Elmer Fudd do?
Manage your pest. Squirrels, porcupines and other pest can do damage in a hurry. I have worked with many people over the years that have been overrun by red squirrels. They love finding ways into your cozy insulated roof. The problems is they make terrible tenants. They chew, defecate and reproduce at an alarming rate. Do whatever you feel comfortable with to get rid of them. Hire a professional exterminator, live trap and relocate, death trap or the patriot american solution send lead down range! Just be careful if you chose poison. If you have a porcupine that is feeding on your logs you can do the same, some of my customers have sent the pest to the taxidermist so it can safely stay inside the home and others pulled out the old porcupine recipes and made a nice meal, most just let the birds have a feast.
Who looks at the roof anyway?
Inspect your roof. Log homes tend to settle after construction and it is important that they are inspected. Common areas to inspect are around chimneys and penetrations. Is your flashing too short now? Did the sealant pull away? If you had a metal roof installed during new construction there are other issues that should be assessed. Sadly, I often find that the big beautiful chimney that is often a centerpiece of the home has no cricket on the high side of the roof? Water now pools behind the chimney out of site and is slowly doing damage. What is a roof cricket? A cricket is a ridge designed to divert water around the high side of the chimney. If you have icicles coming out of your soffit vent, staining on your ceiling, cupped shingles or any form of leaking your first and foremost priority is addressing your roof.
Wet wood is delicious
If you have carpenter ants of wood boring beetles you have water and rot issues. Don't wait any longer. It is time to call a professional. Insects are a sign of a bigger problem and it should be addressed immediately before more damage occurs and the repair is more costly.
Mushrooms are delicious on cheese burgers, nice to look at in the forest, and terrible news for a log home. If you have mushrooms or fungus on your logs or wood then the same applies your have a water issue. Address it as soon as possible.
Time for action!
The most important aspect to save time and money with your log home is regular maintenance. I left this for last so that you wouldn't think this blog post was a sales tactic for you to hire me. Educated and passionate homeowners are the best defence for the longevity of any structure. We all have things in our life that keep us busy. By doing regular maintenance and inspecting your home you can save money in the long run. Getting to fully understand how your log home works and performs can be a fulfilling endeavour. If you don't have the time, skills or want then the other option is hiring it out. You may be able to hire some aspects out to different trades however a properly qualified log home specialist can give the best guidance.
Below I have included some photos to give a visual reference to some of the ideas discussed above. Hover on the image and a thumbnail should appear.