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Log Home Repair and Restoration Inspection Checklist

Would you like to restore that old log home that you found on the property you just bought? Or have you had a chance to "steal" a log home at a low price because it was in need of repair? Whatever the reason, log homes are beautiful and, if they have not suffered from total neglect for too long, you can restore them back to their original pristine charm and beauty.


Log home restoration, although not a real easy job, is very rewarding as you see the fruits of your efforts when the home is finished. What do you look for when preparing to start restoration?

First of all, most structural integrity of a log building comes from the corners. A thorough inspection of the corners to determine the level of degradation will offer a lot of insight as to how well the restoration will go.

wood rot and log rot Look for Mold and Mildew
Minor rotting and the presence of mold or mildew can be dealt with very effectively, and should not deter you from taking on the project.

Inspect your roof

The next place to look at is the roof structure, collar ties inside the home and the upper two thirds of the walls. This is especially in the case of two story homes, or homes with a loft. Look at the plumb line of the upper sections, compared with the lower wall sections. Often, especially during the early 1900s, collar ties were cut short. With the constant weight of the roof pushing down, they lacked the strength to keep the upper three or four courses of logs from being pushed out.

You also need to check the roof for "swags" or other indications of improper settling. As older homes settled, quite often the roof was held up by the interior supporting beams that run from the floor to the roof. In essence, the walls and most of the roof settled around the supports.

In severe cases, it may become necessary to replace the entire roof structure. And while you have the roof off, you might as well pull the walls back in line before you start to replace the roof.

Check doors and windows

Another place to check for improper settling is the doors and windows. If the windows show signs of being out of level, or do not open and close freely, then you may have to rework the jambs and replace the doors and windows. The home has probably settled on the windows or doors, and over a period of time has made them difficult to use.

While you're inside the home, pay special attention to any stains that indicate water infiltration at some point in time. Some of the places that will be the most evident are support beams that pass through the log wall to the outside. If not properly sealed, water can enter the wall easily and possibly lead to rot, decay and insect infestation.

Check inside corners and fireplaces

Any suspected areas can be probed with an ice pick to determine the damage. Also, check around fireplaces and mantels. Remember, logs can move, masonry cannot. So the propensity for more leaks is present in these areas, once the settling process has finished. Check the inside corners for drafts or light that may allow for heat or cool to escape. It is very difficult to get a "perfect" corner cut, especially back when no one had the proper tools. Consequently, itís common in older homes to have corners that donít fit exactly .

As the tendency always goes, the desire to make the inside look good often outweighs the real need to start on the exterior. In reality, you really should think about what you need to do to stop the weather from doing whatever it has been doing for the past few years. So, fight that urge to start ripping the inside apart, and concentrate on the exterior first, especially if the weather permits.

Clean the exterior

If the home has gone several years without any care, probably the best thing to do first is a good exterior cleaning to remove all the graying, mold, and mildew to see what the wood underneath looks like.

Quite often, once all that old buildup is removed, the wood comes out looking very good. But, before you start the cleaning process, take note of any suspected areas of rot, or excessive moisture retention before you just blast away at the home.

To effectively clean the old stuff off, secure a pressure washer, household bleach, TSP, or some of the new percarbonate cleaners offered in the market. You may also want to think about picking up some Oxalic Acid to "brighten" the wood up and neutralize the surface, especially if you decide to use bleach or stripper.

Pressure washers

The pressure washer you get should be around 1500 pounds per square inch (psi). Remember, this is an older home and you donít need 4,000 (psi) to remove the old finish and whatever else may be growing on the wood. You just need enough pressure and water volume to effectively remove the stuff you want. Higher pressures will most certainly damage the wood and will blow water inside.

Using bleach

Using bleach is harsh on wood and we use bleach only as a last resort. We use CPR, TimberWash or TimberBrite whenever we can. When you are ready to use the bleach mixture, put it in a low pressure (garden type) sprayer and start applying the mixture at the bottom of the structure first. Bleach applied to the top will run down the wall and cause streaks that can only be removed by sanding. Use bleach solution no stronger than 3 parts water to 1 part bleach. Leave the bleach on for 10-30 minutes and then rinse thoroughly to remove the residue. Some areas may require additional bleaching or cleaning to entirely remove discolorations. When rinsing with a pressure washer take care not to excessively damage the wood.

Always be careful when using bleach or bleaching agents, as they are normally caustic and can cause severe burns to the skin and eyes. Wear the appropriate safety gear, glasses, gloves and long sleeves, and anything else that will keep the bleach off your skin.

Pressure washing normally will "fuzz" the wood somewhat, and if you stay in one place too long, you will most certainly damage the wood. If this happens, a light sanding once the wood is dry can remove the fuzz. The pressure washer will also find all of the leaky spots in the corners and other places, so itís a good idea to have someone inside to monitor the amount of water coming in.

Before and After

Corn grit blasters

If the idea of using caustic compounds and high pressure water bothers you, consider the use of a system to "dry clean" your home that involves no water, no caustic products and once clean, is ready for the application of a finish. There is also no harmful residue to deal with since the blast media is biodegradable and will rot and go into the soil. The home will be dry and whatever media gets inside can be easily cleaned up with a vacuum cleaner.

The downside is that most homeowners do not have a Blaster sitting at their local rental mart, and they have to obtain it from another source. These blasters also require a healthy amount of air to effectively move the blast media. In addition to the blaster you will need an air compressor capable of putting out between 125 and 185 cubic feet per minute (CFM) at 90 pounds per square inch(psi). By comparison, the normal shop type air compressor only produces about 8-10 CFM at 90 psi.

To blast with corn, you donít need excessive pressure; you do need a high volume of air. If you think youíre ready to do this, again, be prepared for the job. Proper safety equipment, right tools, and some extra help will make the job easier and more efficient.

When preparing to blast your logs, be sure to follow all of the directions that came with the equipment, especially the safety end of the operation. Make sure the equipment is hooked up correctly, and you understand all of the safety requirements. Start the cleaning process at the back of the house, or on some other unnoticeable wood surface to see how the corn grits clean and what type of surface will be left before you just blast away on the front wall of the home. Start by holding the blast nozzle 2-3 ft. away at a 45 degree angle.

Once you get started, move in or out as need be to get the best cleaning action. Not all logs will clean the same, especially with old, weathered logs.

If you pass over an area that seems to leave some of the spots, move on. Dwelling or staying in one area too long will cause unnecessary damage to the wood.

The blasted surface will have varying degrees of texture, based on log density, operator capability, and other factors. The corn media will remove the soft wood easier than it does the hard wood, so normally the wood will have a "weathered" look. This look also cause the subsequent stain to develop a deeper color due to the texture of the surface and the inability to reflect light as a smooth surface does.

Make sure to test a small area or sample wood with the finish you are planning to use prior to staining the entire structure. Another way to lessen the darkening effect is to borrow a trick from the furniture industry.

First apply a clear coat of finish that will allow you to put a color coat on as a second coat. The first coat must not have water repellents or waxes.



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