How do we keep a log home dry and stop rot?

Log Home Maintenance

When talking to clients, I get asked all the time: “OK. I can see that I have a problem with rot and my logs. I know I need to repair this. My main worry is how do I prevent it in the future?” Here is what I tell them.

The basic cause for rot is moisture. If wood is allowed to have moisture content over 20% it will rot. This is a rule of nature. So . . . everything we do to prevent decay or rot has to do with keeping the logs dry.

I use this checklist of items when going over a log home to evaluate how well we are preventing moisture from getting into the logs.

1. Maintain a good finish on the exterior logs. A good finish for log homes prevents the migration of water into the log in the form of rain and (this is key) it allows moisture to make its way out in the form of vapor. We must accept the fact that moisture will get into the logs and we need to allow it to get out.

2. Have adequate overhangs wherever possible. This keeps water from getting on the logs in the first place.

3. Have gutters in place and keep them in working condition, again –preventing water from ever getting to the logs.

4. Free board – in other words: keep the house up off the ground. This keeps it dry.

5. Protect the lower logs around your decks. Decks can pose some unique challenges in terms of keeping water off the logs. It is very important to make sure that a deck is properly flashed against a log wall.

6. The caulking and chinking between the log joints must be in good condition. Sealants keep water from going between the logs and getting into the areas where there isn’t any stain.

7. Keep objects away from the logs to avoid water splashing back on them.

8. Pay particular attention to windowsills. These need to be pitched away so as not to allow water to “stand” in these areas and cause the moisture to rise in the logs.

9. Keep plantings away from log wall. Many times we see bushes, trees and ground covers that are allowed to grow up against the logs and this can keep the logs from drying out after a rainstorm.

Keeping the logs dry is key to preventing rot. We find that starting with this perspective about log homes will help us make good choices in terms of maintaining your log homes.

Here are some links that may help in understanding this process further:

Why Do Logs Rot?
Borate Treatments