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My cabin in Richmond, Virginia, is about 100 years old. As far as I can tell, nothing has been done to the outside of the logs since it was constructed. (The inside has already been renovated. The logs were blasted with dry ice pellets, sanded, and the logs treated.)

The logs are dark in places. I tested with bleach and they appear to just be black from accumulated dirt. The logs on the southern side appear very dry. There are some logs that are receiving splash back from rain; I've installed gutters and am working on plans to make certain all water is diverted away from the house. I've posted photos of the logs at http://goo.gl/Fa5VIB.

Here is what I'm considering doing for the logs themselves. I've tried to be environmentally sensitive throughout this entire project, which I want to continue. Comments and advice, including product names, are welcome!

1. Caulk large cracks where the logs have split.
2. Scrub areas where there is mold or mildew with a bleach/water/TSP mixture
3. Pressure wash the logs, then hit with Osborn brush. If the pressure washing isn't enough, I will have to revert to something like cob or CO2 blasting, but I'd prefer not for the expense.
4. Trim any logs that extend to the edge of eaves back to within four inches of the notch and treat with a silicone sealer.
5. Repair any soft areas with liquid epoxy.
6. Stain the logs. I'm comfortable with natural coloring, though I understand that stain may help preserve the logs.
7. Apply a protective coat of some sort to the logs.
8. Apply an exterior masonry sealer to the Portland cement chinking

I appreciate any advice you can give me! Thanks in advance!

John

Tags: caulk, cleaning, masonry, mildew, seal, stain

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Sound like a really excellent plan.  Only thing I might suggest is skim coat chinking over the existing concrete chink with Sashco or Permachink product.  Add a nice 1/8" thick layer of skim coat and then the cabin will look more modern and the chinking will strengthen the existing mortar.

Thomas Elliott

Log Home Finishing

Log Home Media Blasting

That all sounds like a good plan and I agree w/ Thomas's note, also. I'll stay out of the stain recommendations, as I'm biased. :-) Just know that Sashco makes them. Ha!

My one suggestion: use something else to seal those log ends. Stay away from anything silicone. Nothing will stick to silicone or penetrate whenever the silicone is present (including caulking, chinking, stains, etc.). If you're OK with that, use the silicone.

Natural coloring is nice. You can always choose a very lightly pigmented stain that stays close to the original log color while giving some good UV protection. Just know that lighter colors generally require more maintenance.

Good luck!

-- Charis w/ Sashco - www.sashco.com - cbabcock@sashco.com - 800-767-5656

Thanks to both of you.

Thomas, I don't care too much about giving the cabin a modern look (it is, after all, pretty old), but I am interested in learning what you mean by a skim coat. Do you mean a skim coat of Portland cement, or some other product? Is that going to strengthen it more than a masonry sealer will? Or do I do both?

Charis, I don't mind your bias -- at least I know where it is coming from. If you have advice on different products that have different qualities within your line, I'd like to hear from you. You can write to me directly if that is better (john.k.duke@gmail.com). If not silicone to seal the log ends, what do you recommend? Some sort of epoxy product?

Thanks again for the advice!

John

I will write you directly, John. Of course, feel freel to search the forum here for my opinions on stain, as I've given them many times in the past.

As to the log ends: use epoxy if you have any soft spots. Dig out the rot first, then seal with epoxy. Otherwise, our advice is always two-fold: 1) install Cobra or some other borate rod to help prevent any potential moisture that gets in from turning to rot; and 2) apply extra stain to the ends. You still want those ends to be able to let moisture out. Coating with a silicone or epoxy can actually end up trapping moisture that might get in by other means (usually microchecks in the log face surrounding the end), leading to more problems. You obviously want to keep the moisture from getting in when at all possible, but you don't want to stop it from getting out.

Hope that answers it for now. Watch for an email from me soon. :-)

-- Charis

I made my own daubing out of sand, dolomite, smidgen of water and some elastomeric I had laying around (I tinted it the color I wanted)...I was going to go lime based mortar (with just a small amount of portland), but chose to do my own thing.  Very sticky daubing.....not as easy to work as lmortar based....but will tool, and we used a wet paint brush to smooth out and raise the sand a bit to give it more traditional look. It takes a considerable period to cure...it will skim over but it takes weeks to fully start to harden (did an early test).  I spritz it with water the first week about twice a day if it is really hot out.  Any hairline cracks can be easily filled with a slurry of the mix smoothed out with a lightly wet brush.

My logs (white cedar) I aged with eco wood treatment tinted with 1 quart of latex paint/ tint per 2 1/2 gallons of treatment.  It gave the logs a nice gray bronze dark aged patina....when I get the desired aging, I will probably seal with a clear or amber type sealer. Prior to this I also treated with borate solution. 

Of course I have a porch roof covering all my logs.

Chink / daubing recipes...more traditional;

http://www.thehenryford.org/research/caring/log.aspx#notch

http://www.limeworks.us/Chinking.html

I also forgot to mention Michael Dutton posted some older traditional log home recipes on the Bearfort Lodge site that might be interesting as well;

http://www.bearfortlodge.com/

Also another interesting site on a historical reproduction...good info.  I am a log and timber fanatic I guess..:)

http://www.taylorsisland.org/documents/2012restoration/Smith-Taylor...

Thanks for all the useful information and helpful links. It will take me a while to absorb some of this. I should say I'm not going for historical restoration, but I am trying to remain true to the spirit of the cabin as much as possible. I love the photo you included -- it looks like you have done a wonderful job on your home.

John

Thanks.

My wife and I built it (bucket list things).  I used a beam maker rig from harbor freight ($19.00) for my chainsaw, and rough sawed the cedar logs, then I used and old ships adze I had to hew / smooth out the fuzz the faces, then I sanded with an angle grinder a bit before wood treatment.  My wife hand chiseled the steeples on the corners.

I will tell you that "chinking"  to quote Dean Fitzgerald from http://www.fitzgeraldtimberframes.com/logcabins.html;   "can be more like visiting doctors, the more individuals you ask the more varied opinions you get."

I used a variety of materials to close in my space (not very big) between the logs, wood splits, pipe insulation snakes, and spray foam (messy by worked good).  A lot of people will use fiberglass insulation packed in, or sheeps wool, or oakum.

On top of my chink (the filler material in between the logs), I cut and fitted metal stucco lath.  I first used galvanized finish nail every 3" or 4", then alternated one nail in one nail out...slid the mesh in between the nails then bent the outer nail on top of the mesh to hold it.  I then used a few roofing nails to secure the mesh every once in awhile.  Prep is time consuming, but worth it.

The traditional chinkers will advise that if you use mortar, use a more "lime based" mortar with very little portland cement, as lime releases moisture better and is more flexible than modern portland cement type mortars. 

Many of the older daubing mixes included sawdust, wood flour, straw etc. or similar material to help with expansion and contraction of the logs. 

Another good read on old lime mortar;

http://www.masonrymagazine.com/1-06/limemortar.html

I also follow ramsey restoration on FB.  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ramsey-Restoration-Inc/1292114004237...

Many of these more traditional restoration (old school) people will give you some good advise if you contact them.  Of course there are also pros on this site which will give good info too (more modern technology).

Good luck with your project.

The other thing I forgot to mention...is that we bought a grout bag at HD for around $4.00 or $5.00 (which is like a cake icing pastry bag).  Excellent tool (if you are using a mortar based chinking) to get into tight spots.  Since my chink spaces are fairly small compared to many homes, I used a small rectangular masons trowel, or used a joint trowel for the smallest places. Then we smoothed with paint brushes.  On the logs, we used masking tape, and taped very well before daubing (I am sloppy :) ).


There are also a lot of youtubes on log cabin restoration etc.  The US park service has a good on on some of their work.

Thanks again, sha

Hello John,

You have a lot of work planned. If only all log home owners were this detailed our jobs would be easier. I have a few suggestions as well.

1. Be sure to select an acrylic based latex caulk that is designed specifically for log homes. These high performance products will stick to the wood better and will stretch and compress as the wood "breathes". Even old wood responds to the moisture in the air and the change in temperatures.

2. Today's chinking products are similar to the caulks in that they too are high performance products that can withstand movement which is why Thomas suggests this.

3. As for sealing the logs, most log home stain systems consist of coats of color (1,2 or 3 in some cases) and a clear topcoat. Again specifically made for log homes. Heavy coats of color or clear could seal the cut ends as well. I agree that silicone might not be the best option.

Information about all of these high performance products can be found at www.weatherall.com. We also make a masonary sealer that could be used on your cement chinking, I will email a spec sheet directly to you.

Good luck with your project.

Brian

bweigel@weatherall.com

800-367-7068

Thanks for the detailed response, Brian. I'll look for the spec sheet.

John

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