1. Preventive Medicine. Maintaining your cabin begins in the design stage, before a single log wall goes up. First, site your house to combat prevailing weather patterns, then slope the landscape away from the house to keep water from pooling around the foundation.
When it comes to the structure, deep, wraparound porches provide excellent protection from rain and UV rays, shrinking your maintenance to-do list. If covered porches don’t fit in with the look you’re after, make sure your roof overhangs are a minimum of 2 feet deep. And be sure to keep your logs off the ground. Most building codes require a minimum foundation height of 8 inches, but to keep your log walls healthy, start the first course 16 to 24 inches from the finished-grade level.
2. Regular Checkups. Seasonal inspections are the key to helping a healthy cabin stay that way. In the early spring, check your home for any signs of wood degradation that winter weather might have caused. (In the fall, look for signs of insect infiltration.) With a thin nail, poke the exterior logs. Focus on the logs closest to the the foundation, where the wood may have had prolonged exposure to heaps of snow or nasty critters that made their way up from the ground to nosh on your home. The nail shouldn’t penetrate the logs easily. If it does, it may be a sign of wood rot.
Then, inspect the logs for upward-facing checks. (These are cracks in the log where wood fibers have separated.) Checks are normal and don’t adversely affect the logs on their own; however, upward-facing checks can collect rainwater and enable moisture to penetrate the wood — then you’ll have a problem. If your home has chinking or caulk, inspect it for tears or separation from the logs as well.
Finally, give your home the spray test. With a normal garden hose, shower the logs with water. If your preservative is still working, the water should bead. (Note: Tinted preservatives will protect your home from UV rays better than a clear preservative will.)
3. Rx for Good Health. Like tending to your own health care needs, it’s important to address any issues your log cabin has immediately. Fill upward-facing checks with a clear sealant to keep water out. Touch up your preservative if the water doesn’t bead or if the logs look faded from the sun. (But make sure to use the same color and kind, either water- or oil-based. If you don’t, the results could be disastrous.) Repair tears in the caulk or chinking (follow manufacturers’ directions), and remove any ground debris or plant growth from around the foundation. If you see wood rot or insect infiltration, it’s probably time to call on the professionals.