Wood decay is a phenomenon that isn't totally uncommon with log homes. If you're a long-time log home owner, you probably already have a yearly ritual of checking your home for soft spots and treating them so they don't spread. If you haven't been in a log home for long, know that it's a good idea to check for log rot about once a year. We have plenty of resources for treating small spots of log rot, as they can pose a problem if left untreated.
As your home gets older, there may be a greater potential for log rot, especially if you live in a very wet, humid climate. Most often, the logs with the greatest potential for decay are close to the ground, where they can't dry out well and are susceptible to soaking up water in the ground, or close to the edge of the roof. If your roof doesn't extend very far, or you don't have gutters, water falling from the roof and onto the log walls of your home can make it difficult for those logs near the roofline to dry out, and as that water sits in them, they more easily develop rot. While it's not super common, it is possible for large parts of logs to become rotten, at which point a full log replacement might be necessary. Here's what you need to know about repairing damaged logs on your log home:
Identify damaged logs and asses extent of damage
When checking for log rot, your best bet is to go around the home with a rubber mallet or hammer, tapping on each log (not the chinking between logs). You'll know when you hit a spot that has damage, as it will be soft, and will make a different sound than the hollow ringing sound of solid logs.
In most cases, you'll only find a few spots of log rot, and those can easily be treated and stopped from spreading, but from time to time you may find a log that has more substantial damage. In this case, you'll have to replace the entire log, rather than just treating the area that's affected. While this sounds like a major repair, know that many homeowners are able to replace rotten logs by themselves. If you're not comfortable replacing a log yourself, you can always call a professional, who will be able to fix the issue quickly. But, if you prefer to DIY your log home repairs, here are a few steps to follow if you need to replace a damaged log on your log home:
Get the right replacement
One of the first steps is to make sure you purchase the right replacement log. You'll want the same wood, the same shape of log, and the right length. If you've painted or stained your home, you'll have to repaint/stain the new log after you're done, so don't worry too much about matching the exact color of raw material.
Cut out the log - carefully
Depending on which log needs to be replaced, you may have to jack up the wall while you're doing the replacement, which is really a job for a professional. But, if the log is in an easy-to-reach spot that won't affect the structure of the home too much, you should be alright. So long as it's structurally safe to go ahead, you'll have to cut out the damaged log with a heavy-duty saber or reciprocating saw. Since most logs are fastened into the structure with metal spikes and bolts, you'll want to make sure you're using a saw that's capable of cutting through metal. If the log is mostly rotten, it shouldn't be too hard to remove.
Put in the new log
Once the old log is out, it's time to put in the new one. If you have a tongue and groove style log home, you'll likely have to remove the tongue from the new log to make sure it fits easily into the space. Then attach the new log with plated deck screws or ring nails.
Now that the new log is in place, use high-quality chinking to seal the new log to the older ones. This will help keep water out in the future and will ensure consistency of appearance on the outside. Chinking is also what keeps the elements from getting to the inside of your home.
Finally, you'll want to treat the new log, and probably the rest of your home with a wood preservative that seals the logs to keep out water. Once that's dry, you can apply the appropriate stain and seal to make sure the new log matches the rest of your log homes' exterior.
Again, totally damaged logs are fairly uncommon in log homes, and really only happen in much older, or neglected log homes. But, if you find yourself with a troublesome spot in your log home, know that solving the problem is as simple as just replacing the offending log. If you're checking your log home for necessary repairs this spring, know that Timeless Wood Care has all the products you need to seal and finish any trouble spots, or match new logs to your current exterior color. And, if you have any more questions about what products to use when repairing a rotten log, don't hesitate to give us a call at 800-564-2987.