Last year I took a job to help a client replace his deck columns. He had some rotting vertical logs that needed replacing. We are not a log home builder so I requested advice from a log home company here in Oregon. He sold us Fir logs as we are in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and Pine will not hold up to the weather. I requested logs that had been dried sufficiently so we wouldn't have shrinkage issues, but was relying on his help. I was told the logs were at 20% moisture content. They arrived with some very small 1/8" or so checks according to my picture history. We installed the logs and finished the job. Again, being in the Willamette valley (wet damp climate), the client painted the logs.
Fast forward one year:
I received a call about a month ago saying the logs have large checks, what do we do? I made a site visit and noticed multiple checks, and two of the logs had fairly large checks. The largest check I found was 5/8" wide. The home owner is not happy. I called the log supplier to see what to do, and to find out if this is normal. The response was, yes, Fir logs will have fewer checks than pine, but they will be larger. 5/8" is not something to worry about, get some backer rod and the right caulking (he gave me a name that I don't have on me at the moment) and caulk them shut. I passed this info on to the owner, thinking this must be normal, and he is unwilling to accept this as normal. He claims that his original logs were Fir and never checked this much. I trust him and in looking at job start photos, I saw some checks on the original logs, but no 5/8" ones. They may have been caulked and painted, but I doubt it.
1. Is 5/8" check acceptable or normal in the industry?
2. If they have been installed 1 year, will they continue to get worse or do we need to wait to caulk them?
3. How long do logs typically lay prior to being used? What is a typical drying practice to eliminate or reduce checking? I need to verify with my supplier if the proper thing was done.
4. Any other advice?
Checking is certainly normal, however, the columns appear to be checked more than normal. The paint is the main cause for this. The 20% moisture thing can be deceiving in timbers and logs, as the tester prongs usually only go an inch or two into the wood. The center of the log will likely have a higher content. When the log dries and the outside of the log has a non-breathable finish on, the log will check more.
Another thing you can do to minimize check cracks is to seal the ends in green logs so that the logs dry slower, because they lose a signifigant amount of moisture through the ends.
The checking in your columns will have little to no affect to the structural integrity of the columns, other than a water entry point. Sealing them with energy seal or another quality log sealant would be ok, unless your client has a problem with the visual, in which case they are also partially responsible, if they are the ones that applied the paint.
Hopefully you get it resolved and keep a satisfied client.
This makes sense, I am not sure what product he used to paint it, but it almost seems more like a solid body stain. I imagine that still seals the pores like a paint.
What is the typical drying process for a log? Are they put in a kiln or some specific controlled environment prior to shipping? I am wondering if it is typical that these logs would have been dried in a more controlled environment (kiln), minimizing checking, or if they would dry just sitting in a yard? The client seems to think that typically they would be pre-dried prior to installing, and I am not sure if that is the case.
Thanks for replying!
I don't know what your provider's policies are, but I will say this. In this industry, hand hewn logs for columns are rarely completely finished drying at installation. It's not tragic, but some adjustments have to be made during installation and preservation.
Thanks Raymond! I called another local supplier and received a similar answer. I did get much more detailed and professional information than the original supplier gave me though. It felt much more like it should. The way the original supplier had informed me made me feel as though it must be real simple and straightforward. Not so. :)