Elk Lake Michigan Log Cabin (C) Daniel Friedman Home Buyers/Owners Guide to Log Homes

  • LOG HOME GUIDE - CONTENTS: Guide to Diagnosing & Repairing Leaks & Other Problems on Modern Kit Log Homes. Guide to Identifying, Diagnosing & Repairing Older & Antique Log Homes. Window & Door Installation Details for Log Homes can prevent later leaks & Damage.
    • Log caulk, spline, gasket, and coating product guide for log houses
    • Log checking, cracking, shrinkage, & Leaks in log houses and log siding
    • R-Values of log home walls
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about log homes: construction, inspection, troubleshooting, maintenance and repair guides for log homes and log home troubles

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Log Home Guide: here we provide a detailed buyers' and owners' guide to log home construction, inspection, diagnosis, and maintenance or repair. If you are buying a log constructed building or if you already own one, here you will find important information about the construction, maintenance, and energy costs or savings in log construction.

We illustrate log buildings from around the world and both new and antique or historic structures.

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Guide to Log Home Inspection, Diagnosis, Repair for Owners or Buyers of Log Houses

Modern kit log home on the Susquehanna in PA

This series of log home construction & troubleshooting articles provides information on the inspection and diagnosis of damage to new and older log homes and includes description of log house and log siding insulation values and alternatives, and also a description of the characteristics of slab-sided log homes as well as all other types of log home construction.

We include illustrations of log structures from several very different areas and climates in both the United States and Norway.

Our page top photo shows an antique log cabin located at Elk Lake Michigan, was constructed by the Church family about 50 years ago using local materials.

Our log cabin photo at left is a modern kit log home constructed in New York State.

For modern kit and factory-sourced log structures we include details of common construction and building defects that cause water and air leaks and ultimately rot damage and we point to key problem areas that need to be inspected carefully when buying or maintaining a log home. Also see Log Home Construction for a brief description of this building construction method and see Log Home Design, a U.S. Department of Energy guide to log homes and energy savings.

Precision in manufacturing and assembly, combined with new sealants, gasket materials, and special wiring and other fixtures have reduced many of the complications present in traditional rough-hewn log homes. However even using the most carefully-engineered kit-type long construction methods, care and detailing during construction are important for durability and comfort in these structures.

Log homes sold as kits may have been constructed with varying levels of expert supervision. Examination by an inspector who is experienced in log construction can find some (not all) indications of the care that was taken during construction.

A Brief Catalog of Types of Log Homes and Log House Construction Methods for Modern & Antique Log Homes

As we introduced in our discussion of log house framing methods at Framing Methods as Indicators of Building Age log building construction is a very old construction method that remains in popular use today in the form of both traditional rough log house construction and in the use of manufactured log and kit log homes. Recent substitutes for solid rough logs and manufactured logs even include "logless" log homes made of concrete logs and fiberglass logs.

As InspectAPedia focuses on the diagnosis and repair of buildings we refrain from aesthetic remarks about these alternative materials, though there are certainly practical considerations of cost, weight, durability, ecology, and availability of alternative log house and meta-log houses.

The author's opinions in this series of articles on the inspection, diagnosis, and repair of log homes, both antique and new, comes from having constructed, demolished, and repaired both antique log homes and new kit homes as well as from having inspected and diagnosed log home leaks, window installation, and structural concerns for owners and builders. We love log homes, but because these articles are designed to find and reduce problems in log buildings, our focus is on issues, not on the beauty, aesthetics, and comfort that can be found in log construction.

  • Traditional solid log homes built of individually-cut (each unique) logs, originally set on or close to ground level or placed on stone foundations, later on concrete block foundations. Log homes (1640 - est U.S.) using solid logs were usually felled and prepared at or close to the building site, set on ground level, on flat stones on ground, or on a stone foundation, corners joined using various notch and overlap methods.

    Log homes were first constructed in North America by Swedes who had immigrated to Pennsylvania in the 1640's. Photographs and construction details of traditional solid log homes in the U.S. and in Europe are at Antique & Old Log Cabins.
  • Manufactured solid log homes, built of machined logs or milled logs that are consistent in shape, diameter, straightness, and that typically incorporate a spline and gasket design between logs.

    After 1970 most log homes constructed in the U.S. used factory-cut and milled logs and log kit homes. Kit home logs, unlike their more rough ancestors, are milled to consistent diameters and use various spline and gasket methods to seal joints between horizontal and vertical members. Our photo at the top of LOG HOME GUIDE is an example of a milled-log home that we inspected in New York.
  • Manufactured slab-log siding homes, built as traditionally stick-built 2x stud walls (insulated), having on their exterior half log or thinner rounded siding either cut from rough logs (rare in modern construction) or cut and planed from heavy lumber. Slab-sided log look-alike homes combine the appearance of a log home with conventional wood framed structures, making the installation of wiring, piping, and insulation a bit easier.

    See Slab Log Cabin Siding for an example of a slab-sided log cabin we put up on Lake Superior.
  • Alternative-product log homes, constructed using logs cast in solid concrete (100 pounds per linear foot), hollow insulated fiberglass logs (one pound per foot), wood veneer on hardboard backer over foam core logs, or log-lookalike siding using pre-formed log-shaped styrofoam panels nailed to a building exterior and sprayed with concrete into which log-forming molds are pressed.

    For a recent news report of these new alternative "logless log homes" see the New York Times article we cite below.

Each of these design approaches has its fans and its detractors, and each approach has its own unique aesthetic, practical, cost, and maintenance qualities. We are collecting material for a table comparing the cost, weight, materials, durability, insulation R-values, and other considerations for each of these materials. Contact Us with any suggestions.

Our log home article links listed at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article provide a series of log home diagnosis and repair articles.

Quick Guide to Log Sealants, Log Chinking Products & Log Home Log Wall Coatings

For details about log home chinking, coating, and sealant products, please see Sealants, Caulks, & Coatings for Log Homes.

A traditional log home constructed of individually-cut rough (and varying-in size and shape) logs is shown in our photo at left. Concrete chinking was used, here painted white, to fill in the irregularities between the mating horizontal logs to stop drafts and water from entering the structure.

Some of the really unfortunate disasters we've seen on log home exteriors were caused by use of a log coating or sealant which was not recommended by the log manufacturer. Use of the wrong sealant can lead to peeling and ugly surfaces that can be very costly to correct.

Here are some Log Home special sealants and caulking or chinking products. But before applying anything to the logs on your home, inside or out, find out what products your log manufacturer recommends.

  • Geocel Caulk or other GETM caulking products specifically designed for log buildings
  • CompribandTM, an impenetrable sealant made by Secoa Corporation, Warminster PA
  • Log Home FoamTM, Norton Sealant Operations, Granville, NY
  • Sample of Perma Chink log chinking material (C) Daniel FriedmanPerma-Chink™, a flexible log chinking material that looks just like concrete, remains flexible, from PermaChink Systems, Knoxville TN 800-548-1231 (Photo at left was taken by the author of a sample provided courtesy of Perma-Chink) permachink.com. Our sample has remained flexible and un-damaged since PermaChink sent it to us more than 20 years ago.
  • LifelineTM Natural Wood Finish (acrylic polymer) from Perma-Chink Corp.
  • PR-5636TM, poltyurethane sealant, Products Rersearch & Chemical Corp., Glendale CA
  • Traditional mortar log chinking (we do not recommend this approach as it falls out, leaks, requires frequent repair)
  • Preservative stains, pigmented, penetrating type: we've used these with success on slab log siding on log homes; a good practice for maximum durability and insect resistance of slab log siding is to seal all surfaces of the log siding before it is installed.
  • A special protective coating for log homes is Lifeline™ Natural Wood Finish, an acrylic polymer from Perma-Chink Corporation.

Producers of products for the construction, maintenance, repair or protection of log homes are welcome to submit product data for inclusion; there is no fee; our website has no financial relationship with any of the products or materials discussed here. Contact Us with any suggestions.


Continue reading at ANTIQUE & OLD LOG CABINS or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

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