Log home owners need to be able to recognize wood damage resulting from rot. Being able to recognize wood rot is critical as rot, if left undetected, can quickly grow from a small situation to a major problem. In other words, wood rot left to fester can go from a weekend project to a time consuming and costly restoration event.
I think it would be safe to say wood rot is not exactly the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about log homes – but in the context of log home maintenance it should be.
What is rot:
These are common types of wood rot with which to get familiar: brown rot, soft rot and white rot. Each type has leaves behind tell tale signs of its presence and these characteristics that will help us identify and distinguish one from the other.
Brown rot tends to split the wood first along the grain and then fractures it against the grain breaking off into little chunks that flakes off crumbling easily to wood dust and resulting in a dry powdery wood unable to support any load or pressure. This is sometimes referred to as dry rot.
Soft rot renders the wood moist and slick and sloughs off in a muddy silt-like sludge or slime when touched.
If the wood has a damp spongy feel this is white rot. Many times the affected wood will appear to have a slight velvet like surface with colors ranging from deep gold and yellows to grayish white.
The rotted wood you see, brown, soft or white, is the result of the microscopic fungi consuming the wood. For fungi to flourish four environmental conditions are required: warmth, air, food and water.
To prevent fungi from taking hold we need to eliminate one of those requirements.
From spring through autumn warm temperatures conducive for fungi growth cannot be controlled so there is nothing that we can do about that. Your logs are providing the food fungi needs in the form of cellulose and lignin in the wood fibers and unless you live in a vacuum there is no way to eliminate oxygen which leaves us one choice: eliminate the water.
Keep your logs dry and find the source of the water that is soaking your logs.
Here are just a few simple steps you can take to keep your logs dry:
If you are using gutters and downspouts make sure they are free of debris and direct water properly away from the foundation and that there is no splashing that can reach your logs.
Make sure plantings are trimmed back at least two feet from any log wall. There should be adequate space for you to walk between logs and your landscaping.
Make sure seals, caulks, and weather stripping around doors and windows remains intact and maintain a strong seal.
Protect your logs and log ends with a quality protective finish. The finish should repel water yet allow wood to breathe and provide UV protection. There are a number of quality products, finishes, options and additives available from a number of good companies.
Protect lower logs from water splashing from decks or the ground.
Check the integrity of chinking and seals.
If you need to clean dirt from logs simply use a clean damp cloth without detergent to wipe down the log – if you need to use a cleaner try something gentle.
Never let a garden sprinkler water your logs.
Never spray down your logs with a garden hose.
Never power-wash a log home nor hire a ‘pro’ to do it. I will write more about the danger of power washing in an upcoming post.