We often get calls from people who are looking at purchasing a log home for the first time. A common statement is, “I am considering purchasing a log home but I really don’t know much about them. What should I be aware of?” It is standard practice when home shopping to have a home inspection done before putting an offer in. Home inspectors have varying degrees of knowledge about log homes and sometimes, a home buyer thinks the inspector has given the home a “clean bill of health’ when in fact, the logs may have hidden problems with rot or the basic design of the house is such that it can contribute to the common problems that log homes can have.
Log homes and cabins tend to have unique problems and often it takes someone who has specific expertise in log homes to be able to recognize these problems. When we have done pre-purchase inspections on log buildings, sometimes we discover major problems that need to be addressed such as:
- Rotted logs
- Failing finish or stain
- Signs of leaking on the interior walls of the home
- Improper flashing of windows, decks, roofs, or doors
Other times during a pre-purchase inspection, we find problems that may not necessarily require immediate repair but could become problems in the future. Many times the new owner, in conjunction with the seller, can negotiate to have these issues fixed. When considering buying an existing log home, it is important to go into the venture with your “eyes wide open”. You want to know exactly what you are buying and what it takes to be in the position of maintaining your investment versus repairing it.
Over the years, we have had many people come to us months or even a year or two after purchasing their log cabin or home saying, “I purchased this house a couple of years ago and now I see rot” or “I just now noticed this” and now they are stuck with the cost for repairs even though the damage may have already been there when they purchased the home.
Here are some things to check out when considering purchasing a log home or cabin:
- Have a site visit by a log home expert who has experience assessing the condition of logs as well as an in-depth understanding about the unique aspects of owning a log home.
- Assess the flashing used between attached decks. This can be a very problematic area for log homes if the flashing was not done correctly.
- We have found that decks, steps, woodpiles and propane tanks left in the drip line of a roof can cause the logs to rot out.
- Determine if the roof overhangs sufficiently enough to protect the logs from the weather.
- Be aware that if the log ends (crowns) extend beyond the roof line where they can catch water coming off the roof, there may be problems with rot either now or in the future.
- If possible, find out what kind of stain has been used on the exterior logs and if it has been properly maintained over the years.
- Look for large (more than 1/16”) cracks on the upside of the logs that are not caulked. This can cause moisture to get into the log and travel to other logs, causing excess moisture and perhaps rot.
- Look for signs of wood boring insects such as powder post beetles or carpenter ants. They feed on decaying wood and can be a sign of rot.
Log homes can last for generations provided they have been faithfully maintained. The more you know about what it takes to properly maintain a log building, the more you can make an informed decision before you invest in the unique beauty of a log structure.