Here in up-north Michigan and northern Wisconsin, we inspect many log homes because of the strong vacation property market and countless lakes. It seems that everyone who comes north wants to live in a log home, myself included. Over the years I have learned that there are a few recurrent themes with log homes. These are things we look for when inspecting them.
It’s common to see log homes with sloping floors. This is because they settle as the logs lose moisture content and shrink. The amount of shrinkage and settling depends on the greenness of the logs when incorporated into a structure. Logs are either air dried, kiln dried, or dead standing timber. The one that will shrink the less and is the driest is the dead standing timber (typically a product of western states). These are also the most expensive. But, even if logs are the code minimum 19% moisture content, a properly designed and executed “settlement system” can compensate for the shrinkage factor. This is the difference between package log home companies and lumber sawmills. Package companies have engineered systems to take care of this issue where with a lumber mill it is up to the builder to allow for shrinkage.
Another common problem with log homes is the lack of substantial overhangs. Deep and wide overhangs help protect the log walls and log ends from the effects of weather. Three feet (or better) of overhang is considered good. Exposed log walls from small overhangs are going to require more cleaning and staining maintenance.
Because of the unique wicking tendency of natural logs, close proximity to the ground can cause moisture damage and attract wood destroying insects. All roof drainage systems should properly convey water away from the house and foundation to help protect the logs.
We also look for termites, powder post beetles and carpenter ants. The carpenter bees will drill small holes creating cavities for larvae. These larvae will attract woodpeckers that can cause significant damage to a log home. The best defense for preventing wood destroying organisms is to treat it with an insecticide. We recommend pest control companies for annual treatment.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s log homes were promoted as a do-it-yourself type project. Building a house is not a task for an amateur. House construction is intricate and complex and amateur mistakes have resulted in latent defects which I have seen in some of the log homes we’ve inspected.
On the positive side, log homes are some of the most beautiful you will see. They invite us to come north and relax, to enjoy family and friends. Owning a log home is a labor of love and to many a dream come true. We hope that if you are purchasing a log home, or any home for that matter, you will trust us to inspect it and provide you with the confidence you need to make an informed decision.
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