Updated: Jul 26
High quality craftmanship is required for log home building. Most log homes are appraised for more, on a square foot by square foot basis, than similarly sized conventional homes.
Unlike the walls of a traditional homes that are made with wood frames, insulation and drywall, log homes are solid. One can find occupied log homes in Europe, that are more than 800 years old.
When entering a home, a person will most likely get a feeling. Log home wood not only warms the heart visually, but because its thermal mass is so dense, solid wood logs are energy efficient and often warm to the touch. There are many variables that should be checked when inspecting a log home. Always choose a certified log home inspector.
For that reason we recommend the buyer obtain;
· the name of the original builder
· proof of certified log grading
· written settling adjustment records
· any special systems installed but not visible at the time of the inspection
· maintenance records
· additional construction or repair details since the original construction
Today’s log homes should have a long-life span. Unfortunately, poor maintenance has many home owners replacing rotted logs within 10 years.
Log Integrity Proper sealing and maintenance of a log home is important part of ownership. Without this, any part of a log home that is continually exposed to rain/snow will rot in time. Log ends that stick out beyond the roofline are areas of concern. Logs that are part of a wall system are expensive to repair. Home owners should visually examine logs during the wet season. During a home inspection, any visible logs in question should be tested by your inspector with infrared scans, a “sound” test and pick test.
Mold and Mildew After the above tests are preformed, samples of organic growth and inspection for wood destroying organisms may be in order. Minor rot, mold or mildew can be dealt with effectively. The source of the moisture should be identified and redirected away from the home. It is best to clean (https://oregonloghomecare.com/finish-removal-wood-prep/) the exterior of home before the inspection. At the very least it, should be hosed off.
Corners Most of the structural integrity of a log building comes from its corners. Water follows the path of least resistance. Inspecting corners for issues is key.
All houses settle. Log homes settling is unique unto itself. The plumb line of the upper sections, compared with the lower wall sections is integral part of the inspection. During the early 1900s, some collar ties were cut short. These ties lacked the strength needed to keep the upper three or four courses of logs from being pushed out. Roof “swags” are another indication of improper settling. Swag indicates that the walls of the log home and sections of the roof may have settled around the supports. In this case, it may be necessary to replace the roof and reset the walls plumb.
Doors and windows Windows and doors may show signs of settling. Some may not open and close properly. Telltale stains may indicate water infiltration following support beams that pass through the log wall to the outside.
The fireplace and mantel of a log home have the propensity to leak after settling has occurred. Logs can move, masonry cannot. Once upon a time, it was a challenge to get a “perfect” corner cut. Consequently, a good look was often preferred to sound construction.
Mud mixed with grasses and hog bristles or horsehair was originally used as a binder for the mortar we sometimes see between the logs, called chinking. Thankfully, mortar has evolved over time. A sand, lime and cement mixture is currently used. Inspectors may see many older log buildings with mortar-based chinking that has been re-applied as owners strive to retain their homes' original appearance. Thermal expansion and contraction, poor repairs and inferior repair compounds can all play a role in moisture intrusion.
Settling in log homes describes the loss of log wall height over time. The majority of a log wall settles with in the first two years. A wall that is 8 foot tall may lose up to 6 inches in height during this time. The log diameter shrinks as the logs dry to a stable condition. The diameter stabilizes when the logs reach Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC). EMC is reached when the log moisture content is equal to the average relative humidity of the home site.
Over time, the weight of the structure will also compress the wood fibers. This will also cause the wall logs to settle. Wood compression causes less settling than shrinkage.
Is your dream log home made of handcrafted or manufactured logs? What method of cuts, processing and assemble was used to build this home? Is it sealed properly?
Look See Property Inspections offers certified professional inspections of log homes. We are uniquely qualified to answer these questions and so many more. We inspect for proper component installation and the general structural integrity of the build. As well as checking for fungal activity and rot within the logs. We pay attention to any builder concessions to the design and the use of softer woods.
Chenin West in an NHIE Professional Inspector. As a life long learner and natural teacher, Chenin enjoys the investigative aspects of home inspection in addition to educating her clients about their (new) home. When not inspecting, Chenin is an outdoor enthusiast, avid photographer and writer. For her the transition from general contractor to home inspector was an easy choice.