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Log Home


kurt
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Today's job was a little different......

3 1/2 million dollar log home. Originally built in 1893, but had a very extensive renovation in 1999; total structural, mechanical, & interior overhaul. Quite nice really.

Except the logs. They still have the bark on them. The logs are "chinked" w/some sort of elastomeric goop that adheres to the bark, but the bark is pulling loose. I know enough about log homes to tell the guy about the bark problem. I also tell him that there is no way anyone can accurately predict future performance.

Long term, I don't see how they can avoid peeling the bark off, treating & sealing the logs, & then rechinking w/ more elastomeric goop. Of course, I have no fooooooking idea how this might be done, what it might cost, or anything else.

100+ year old masonry? I know more than anyone I can think of.

112 year old logs? All I can see is future (major) problems. Anyone know where I can go to figure this one out?

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Hey Kurt,

Sounds like a great job. What I like about this work is the way I always find something I've never seen before.

Question: If this log home is 112 years old, what factors lead you to be concerned about "long term" considerations?

Is 112 yrs not long enough to prove the building's durability? If the bark has yet to fall away, when do you expect it might? Or, did the "structural renovation" mentioned involve log replacement?

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The place was originally built by a meat packing baron from the 1890's as a summer retreat; it's about 8000 SF. It went to his son who lived in it like a hermit until about 1950. It sat vacant for about 45 years, then a rich neighbor bought it and "renovated" it entirely, and now, this "cabin" is fetching over 3 1/2 million dollars.

Problem is the logs. There's rot, decay, lousy caulking, and all manner of bad stuff. There are some buildings where one can say "it's been there for 112 years, so it must be OK". Then there are other buildings where the age means things are hitting critical mass, & disaster is around the corner.

This place is one of those other buildings. Age is a problem, not an indicator that everything is cool.

What I've been reading all night on those sites Mike sent me to is making me think that this baby is due for some major work; new chinking, peel the logs, seal, caulk, etc.

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The original part of my last home was log built in 1690. I've been involved with several other 17th and early 18th century log homes that were well preserved. Had a log "cabin" in VA built around 1850. Inspected probably over 120. All have been chestnut or oak. Unless sub termites have been feasting unchecked and the logs are above grade, they seem to hold up well.

Why do these examples survive? Two reasons:

1. The timbers are hewn square. It removes most of the sapwood (except for the corners of the square) the heartwood is more resistant to decay and powder post beetles aren't interested in the core.

2. Primary documentation consistently indicates that the logs were always covered with weatherboards immediately after construction.

In the late 19th century, owners of these older log homes removed the cladding to expose the rustic character. Thanks to Abe being born in a log cabin, many new ones were built in the last quarter of that century with the most rustic designs possible. This included using round logs with the bark left on.

I would suggest consulting with the ultimate expert of 19th century log construction,

Doug Reed

Preservation Associates, Inc.

Phone: 301-791-7880

Email: Dcraigreed@aol.com

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Thanks for the referral.

That's what we got here; round logs w/ the bark left on. The bark makes it literally impossible to chink the exterior weathertight. It also provides a wonderful haven for powderpost beetles, moisture, & anything else that wants to hide & eat wood.

If it was someone's summer home, cool; it would be fun. If it's a high powered attorney that is full partner in one of the largest law firms in the country paying over 3 1/2 million dollars, it's something else.

What's amazing to me is the amount of money they spent on the interior, right down to the Von Morris door hinges & Dornbracht plumbing fixtures, but they didn't bring in a log expert to put the exterior together. All the butt joints were gapped about 3/4", and then filled w/ silicone caulk installed in great heaping gobs without backer rod or bond breaker of any sort.

In a way, it was sort of humorous; the realtor was effusively proclaiming that "they brought in 12 men from Poland to chink the logs", like smearing Permachink on the bark was some sort of Olde World tradition reaching back centuries.

I played dumb for a while w/comments like, "I've heard that log home construction is a specialty of the Polish people"; the realtor's eyebrows would go up w/a big smile and she would say "oh yes", w/that glint that told me she was already spending her commission in her head. After toying w/her, I brought the hammer down coldly. She was smart enought to know she'd been had. It was the most fun I've had in, oh, 3 or 4 days.

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Originally posted by kurt

In a way, it was sort of humorous; the realtor was effusively proclaiming that "they brought in 12 men from Poland to chink the logs", like smearing Permachink on the bark was some sort of Olde World tradition reaching back centuries.

Got a grin out of that one. [:D]

After toying w/her, I brought the hammer down coldly. She was smart enought to know she'd been had. It was the most fun I've had in, oh, 3 or 4 days.

You're a bad, bad man Mitenbuler. Surely there's a special place in Realtor Hell reserved just for you. [:-hot][:-devil][:-dev3]

Brian G.

Not Associated With That Mean Ole' Mitenbuler Fellow [^]

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