17 Nov Log Home Maintenance: Avoid the High Cost of Doing Nothing
When a tree falls in the forest Mother Nature immediately goes to work breaking it down and returning it to the soil. The primary agents of the “rotting” process are ultraviolet radiation (sunlight) and the presence of moisture accompanied by wood boring insects, mold and fungus. Log home owners face the same issues in maintenance efforts designed to protect their home’s exterior wood surfaces and eliminate costly future repairs.
The initial step to preventing log repair issues is awareness, and an annual inspection should be conducted by the homeowner as a first line of defense. Visible log damage should be noted and addressed immediately but other things to look for include:
Black surface fungus. This is common on log homes and usually appears on the north (and sometimes east) sides of the home. This mold is referred to as “artillery fungus” because of its ability to travel airborne over long distances. In our area of the country, it is often seen as black streaks on asphalt shingled roofs. The fungus originates in mulch beds and, as the name implies, can spread to your home from some distance. It thrives in damp environments where it feeds on the organic compounds found in your home’s exterior (including the logs). The presence of artillery fungus indicates that your home’s surface sealant isn’t doing its job preserving the wood underneath and artillery fungus must be treated before the home is resealed. A simple test to confirm that the black growth on your home is fungus is to dip a Q-tip into common household bleach and touch the tip to the suspected fungus. While you should never use chlorine bleach on a log home, this small test spot will confirm it as a mold or fungus.
Green surface mold. Any mold growth on the log surface is cause for concern as it indicates conditions favorable for decay growth (moisture intrusion and the presence of rot). The term “dry rot” is a misnomer: rot indicates moisture, and the source of the moisture intrusion must be corrected. Typically, this problem occurs only on the surface and is easily corrected however it is important to identify and eliminate the conditions that allowed surface mold to grow.
Undetected Log damage. This is a significant worry for homeowners… but good news: most of the log damage that we encounter can be remedied without major surgery if spotted and addressed in time. The best method a homeowner can use to identify hidden log damage is to tap any suspect log surface much like you would a cantaloupe at the supermarket. Using a rubber mallet, a hammer handle, piece of lumber or similar item gently tap the log listening for a change in the resounding tone. Solid, dense lumber will sound different than a log with internal damage and a hollow cavity. This isn’t as high tech as the fiber optic camera we use to inspect the inside log surfaces, but problem areas can often be identified by an observant homeowner and corrected before more costly repairs are necessary.
Chinking and Caulk Joints. Moisture intrusion through surface checks and cracks is a major contributor to log damage but this preventative maintenance can often be accomplished by a competent, skilled homeowner. The proper materials (backer rod and an elasticized log home caulk like sealant) and the use of a two-point adhesion method are important.
Carpenter Bees: What log home maintenance conversation would be complete without mentioning the wood boring Carpenter Bee? We’ve had so many requests for information that we have a free Carpenter Bee brochure that we will email you upon request. The busy season for bee treatment begins early spring so it’s not too soon to start planning.
Surface Sealant: Keeping UV radiation and moisture away from the logs is the most important element of log home preservation and today’s high tech acrylic sealants encapsulate your home in a breathable “Gore-Tex” type membrane engineered to keep UV radiation and moisture away from the logs. Treating the stripped wood surfaces with Borate preservative is a proactive step in battling decay and the use of contact insecticide additives in the surface topcoat has proven to be incredibly effective in treating carpenter bee (and other insect) problems. If you already have an acrylic finish, an annual wash is recommended for peak performance. Topcoat refinishing is scheduled on an as needed basis. If you are still using an oil finish, annual cleaning and a coat of sealant every 2-3 years is recommended. If water fails to bead up on the surface it is time to recoat the logs.