Many of the log buildings in Atlantic Canada need some work. The repair options may include replacing deteriorated logs and stabilizing the problem areas with preservatives and appropriate finishes. This may require the removal of existing finish and addressing design flaws that allow the problem to occur in the first place.

The best solutions involve keeping the water, especially driving rain, off of the log wall. This can often be done with increased roof overhangs and eavestroughs.

Balconies should be built to shed water away from the house, like a very low-sloped roof. Water is easily trapped against the log wall or under the decking material. We often find serious damage in these areas.

Checks or cracks occur naturally as the logs dry out. This can cause problems on the upward facing log surfaces of exterior walls. Water that enters the log through these checks will cause the wood to deteriorate. These checks can be filled with a borax-based preservative, in liquid and powder form, and then sealed with a high quality chinking to keep out most of the water. It’s difficult to keep all of the water out, but any water that gets in will activate the preservative. The wood will continue to move, shrinking and expanding as the humidity changes, so these checks will require constant maintenance.

Logs that are badly deteriorated can be solidified with liquid epoxy or filled with epoxy putty. Unfortunately, rotten logs are usually too wet to allow this treatment so it is often more effective to replace the affected log.

Insects love an untreated log wall. They are attracted to deteriorating wood and they work to accelerate the process. It is very important to treat logs with a borax-based wood preservative prior to applying any water-repellent finish. These preservatives are effective against wood-destroying fungi and wood-eating insects. Any insect that ingests this treated wood will die of starvation as their digestive enzymes are destroyed by the borates. If an ant problem persists, you may need a pest control expert to get to the nest and treat the foundation.

Chinking log walls, interior and exterior, can also solve draft problems and reduce the cost of heating your home. Exterior chinking will help the log walls to shed water away from the building.

The first step is a detailed inspection to determine the state of the logs and the reasons why problems may be occurring.

Next, we make a plan to address any concerns, using appropriate methods and materials. In consultation with the owner, we’ll determine an effective and aesthetically acceptable solution. In these decisions, we consider the location of the home and its exposure to extreme weather conditions.

The log walls usually need cleaning, sometimes sanding, always borax and the finish should be a water shedding but breathable wood finish. Chinking the joints between the logs and between the logs and framing is often a very good idea.

Experience shows that sanding the logs is considerably less expensive than cob blasting. There are advantages to both methods. It is often better to remove the finish by sanding rather than cleaning because the cleaning process uses a lot of water.

The most permanent solutions involve protecting the logs from extreme weather. It is very difficult to effectively stabilize badly deteriorated logs without removing the factors (i.e. the exposure to weather) that caused the problem in the first place. Solid boron rods can be used to carry borax deep into the wood but as long as the source of moisture persists, these rods will dissolve and require regular replacement.

Rotted exterior wood can often be cut out and replaced without disturbing the interior log or stability of the log wall. Some log wall designs are subject to water infiltration and are very difficult to effectively seal. Sometimes it is best to frame and clad the wall with an acceptable siding material. Western red cedar clapboard or shingles are my materials of choice.

Finally, a continuing maintenance schedule needs to be established and carried out on a regular basis to preserve the building as effectively as possible.

If you currently own or are considering the purchase of a log home or cottage, I am pleased to offer my opinions on the state of the logwork and suggest repair and maintenance options.