Spring is the season of renewal: trees, flowers and buzzing insects all shake off winter’s chill and the world feels reborn. For the average homeowner, though, spring also brings a bit of work. It’s the season of squinting skeptically at that newly discolored board on the deck, or clambering up a ladder to check the rain gutters.
All home styles have unique maintenance needs when the warmer weather arrives, and log homes are no exception. But log home owners have an advantage: potential trouble areas are much easier to spot in a log home than in a conventionally framed home, making it easier to stop problems before they develop. Here’s a "Honey Do" list to get you organized this season.
TO DO: Check logs for trapped moisture.
Water is the enemy of wood, and winter offers the best opportunity for moisture to penetrate your log home. Pay particular attention to logs near the foundation and where decks or porches are attached—anywhere moisture sits.
The Test: "If you aren’t sure whether your logs are shedding water as they should, simply spray them with a garden hose and see if the water beads or runs off," says Mark Feder, vice president of sales for Appalachian Log Structures in Ripley, West Virginia.
DIY Solution: If a log turns a darker color when you spray it, the wood may be absorbing water—which means it’s time to touch up or reapply the sealant. Dormers and gables (the most exposed areas of log homes) may need more frequent sealant application than the rest of the house.
TO DO: Check logs for cracks, soft spots and faded stain or sealant.
Not every crack in a log is cause for alarm. "A certain amount of seasoning is normal," says Mark. "While making your inspection, keep an eye on the color of logs to make sure the stain or sealant hasn’t faded."
The Test: You can do a basic soundness test anywhere you have doubts. Take a hammer or hard stick and rap any log that worries you (a hollow sound could indicate problems). If you can easily push a large nail into wood that seems discolored or soft, you’ll want to treat the area or replace the wood.
The Solution: Focus on caulking cracks that face upward and are wider than 1/4 inch, since they can allow rain to seep into the log. Also, if the sun seems to be fading your stain, plant shade trees or add overhangs or porches. You can also purchase a range of products at home centers or paint stores to stabilize areas of minor decay.
Hit the Deck
TO DO: Check your porch or deck for sprung boards.
Sprung boards range from those that are a little loose to wood that has actually warped.
The Test: Try to push the boards up from below—particularly any that feel a little unsteady underfoot. Boards that you can actually move will require special attention.
The Solution: If they’re loose—or the warping isn’t too bad—you can simply nail them back into place. If a board is badly warped, however, you may want to replace it.
TO DO: Check for spots vulnerable to insects.
Several log home producers use species that are naturally resistant to weather and insects, such as standing dead cedar and Engelmann spruce. But any log that is properly treated with protective stains and finishes will be guarded against wood-boring insects.
The Test: Look for small holes surrounded by wood powder or "frass."
The Solution: Spray these areas with household bug spray and fill them with quality exterior caulk to prevent future entry.
TO DO: Trim plant life close to the house.
If you didn’t get around to trimming back vegetation near the house in the fall, you’ve still got time before the weather warms up—and we aren’t just talking weeds. Letting plants get overgrown—or planting too many shrubs and trees—can be a problem if it traps moisture near the house or invites insects into dark corners.
The Test: Walk your property to see if plant life close to your home is concealing moisture. Also look for areas that are permanently shaded.
The Solution: Whether you move a plant away from your home’s walls or simply trim it back a bit, keep your log walls clear of vegetation.
Reed Karaim, a freelance writer living in Tucson, often finds his "spring to-do list" turning into his "summer to-do list."
For more tips on maintaining your log home, check out the April 2005 issue of Log Home Design Ideas.