Log Home restoration: To Caulk or Not to Caulk
In the log home industry, like all industries, the implementation of techniques, products and procedures vary from company to company. From concept to design to actual construction, each log home will have its own set of variables and unique challenges. However, one particular procedure is often preformed in an inadequate manner, or substandard products are used, or may be neglected altogether.
Ignoring the proper installation and maintenance of this very important aspect of the construction process can and has led to major damage. Logs, trim work, fascia, soffit and other areas of the log home have succumb not only to major mildew problems and insect infestation, but most importantly, wood rot.
This important procedure is caulking. Probably at least one half of the log homes I inspect or work on are improperly caulked, not caulked completely (meaning the home is weather tight) or not caulked at all.
Generally, most log homes have some amount of caulking. Usually it is found around windows and doors. Sometimes the corners have either been caulked or some type of expanding foam may have been used. However, more often than not, that is about all the caulking that can be found.
Now, depending on who you talk to, will determine the answer to what and how much should be caulked on a log home. The reality is, common sense will reveal the truth.
I recommend caulking every joint and seam from under the eaves of the exterior walls down to the floor rim joist. Starting at the top, this would include running a bead of caulk between where the soffit and the siding or logs meet. This is one of the most overlooked areas of the home and one of the largest areas that not necessarily leaks from water intrusion, but air and insect infiltration. Most of the time this wall just butts up to the soffit and very seldom has any type of weather proofing.
Next, if the window and door trim has been installed, it is hard to tell if these areas have been caulked properly or caulked at all. If the builder is reputable, then most likely it has been taken care, but it would be wise to check. It may be necessary to remove the trim to be able to see where the logs butt up to the window/door framing.
Now to the logs. This may be debatable, but it seems to me if there is a crack or gap between two pieces of wood, this is an invitation for air, water and insects to enter. When we use a chemical strip to remove old failing finishes during a log home restoration, we always find leaks. It doesn't matter if the house is one or one hundred years old. Every log home will leak to some degree or another. We have stripped many log homes from large lake homes to small cottages and to date, they all have leaked somewhere to some degree.
With that being said, that is not necessarily bad. When a leak is found, it is marked so later when the caulking process begins, we can identify where the leak was and address it as needed. Granted, these leaks were caused by high pressure water being forced onto the logs. However, if the water can find it's way into the home, so can ambient air an insects.
So, at the very least, all window and doors, butt joints, log corners and checks should be caulked and caulked properly.
The next questionable area is the seams between each stacked log. Most but not all manufactured log homes have a tongue and groove system milled into the logs. During construction generally each log will have some type of gasket, usually foam, and a bead of caulk running the length of the log in this groove to form a seal between the two adjoining logs making them weather tight. In theory, this should be sufficient. The problem is in new construction, these new logs are going to shrink, settle, twist ,warp and bow over time as well as expand and contract due to temperature changes and depending on the initial moisture content of the logs, all of this can cause considerable movement. This movement very likely will cause the caulking and the foam gasket material to fail, logs to pull apart at the seams and also butt joints to separate.
This can easily be eliminated from the beginning if the homeowner will ask to have the entire home caulked at the construction phase or when log home restoration is needed. Once the old sealer is removed exposing clean bare wood, then would be the perfect time to install new caulking and thereby eliminating any potential problems with water, air or insects.
To caulk a log home properly only takes a few days. If it is new construction, there is not much prep work. If it is a log home restoration, there may be some old caulk that will have to be removed first but, after that, the new application is easily applied, tooled and cleaned to leave a neat weather proof joint that will last for several years.
Remember, log homes are constantly shifting, shrinking and swelling, therefore there will always be caulking issues to be addressed. The solution is to stay on top of it by doing annual inspections and making repairs as necessary. It doesn't take long and most people can do it themselves or you can hire a professional to do it. Just make sure it gets done before any real damage occurs and you are faced with some real expense of replacing damaged logs or other woodwork. Log home maintenance cost far less than log home restoration. You make the call.
Taskmasters Wood Maintenance