Antique vertical log building, Molde, Norway (C) Daniel Friedman A Guide to Vertical Log-Wall Log Buildings

  • VERTICAL LOG WALL CABINS - CONTENTS: Vertical log wall cabins: design & build a log cabin with upright logs. Guide to Identifying, Diagnosing & Repairing Vertical Log Homes. Vertical log wall caulk, spline, gasket, and coating product guide. Vertical log wall checking, cracking, shrinkage, & leaks - not the same as horizontal log walls. Window & Door Installation Details for vertical wall Log Homes
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about the design, construction, & repair of vertical log wall cabins & homes

This article explains the inspection and diagnosis of rot and leak damage on older log homes and other log structures that used vertical logs to form the building walls.

This series of log cabin articles provides information on the inspection and diagnosis of damage to new and older log homes and includes description of log home insulation values and alternatives, and also a description of the characteristics of slab-sided log homes. Our page top photo shows an older vertical-log walled log home along the Susquehanna river in Pennsylvania.

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Guide to Vertical Log Wall Homes - the Original Green Cabin

Log Cabin vertical log walls

Additional older traditional log cabins and fishing camps are illustrated and discussed at Antique & Old Log Cabins. Also see LOG HOME WALL INSULATION VALUES

At left is a vertical-log cabin in northern Minnesota. Photographed in 2006, this log cabin was built in the late 1920's or early 1930's as a fishing camp.

Thanks to the wisdom of the owners who at least kept a decent roof on the cabin, the log building endured for many decades. But it was in rough condition by the turn of the century, needing floor structure, roof, wall, and window repairs.

The vertical placement of most of the logs on this building permitted the original builders to use local cedar logs cut on this rocky point of land extending into a great lake even though the logs varied widely in diameter.

There was no problem of mating logs of different sizes at the building corners when this approach was used, yet the building corners and structure remained intact, even absent the structural tie of overlapping log ends.

The original log structure was not chinked nor well-sealed but inside the builders nailed furring strips between vertical logs, in some instances using oakum or newspaper as a chinking material behind the furring.

Checking, Cracks, Leaks & Rot Concerns at a Vertical Log Walled Home

Checks in vertical logs do not pose the same risks as in horizontal logs in a building wall, because the checks or cracks naturally drain. This condition puts the logs at less risk for rot or frost damage. But the damage risks are not zero.

For example in the vertical log wall cabin shown here, the builder, or someon else later, poured concrete around the ends of the vertical logs (photo, below left). Unfortunately this detail, illustrated below, trapped water around the base of every log in the wall. Eventually, even though these were rot-resistant cedar logs, they decayed, as you can see at below right.

In comments and photographs below we illustrate the types of damage and log home failures that occurred in this structure.

Source of log rot on a cabin (C) Daniel Friedman Log rot on a log cabin (C) Daniel Friedman

The principal causes of rot and carpenter ant damage we found at this Minnesota log cabin were

  • Rot at the bottom end of logs placed on sill beams that stretched between piers (Photo above right)
  • Rot at the bottoms of logs behind horizontal trim boards - the boards may have been added later to cover existing damage, but the absence of any caulking let wind-driven rain enter and become trapped behind the trim boards causing extensive rot in these areas (Photo above left).
  • Carpenter ant damage to interior partitions due to wood close to soil where floor beams rested on or close to dirt in more shallow areas of the crawl space at the right side of the building.
  • Rot damage to several interior areas due to roof leaks, including fungal growth at the top of vertical logs inside where leaks at roof eaves soaked into the exposed end grain of the vertical logs. (Photo below left)

Fungus growing showing rot in a log cabin (C) Daniel Friedman

If you see fungus like this growing on a wood structure you can safely assume that significant rot damage is present and that the conditions that caused this damage are old and protracted.

The green cabin underwent an extensive renovation and reconstruction after 2000 and it remains in frequent use as a dry (no plumbing) guest cottage.

Our photo (left) shows the original 1930's home-made sink that included plumbing that drew water from and emptied back into the lake - a system that was removed completely when the cabin was repaired and renovated.


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