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This article explains the cause, detection, and cure of leaks on solid-log homes such as at cracks, checks in logs, log wall corners, at log wall windows, doors, sills, and eaves. Errors in placement of log splines, gaskets, or caulk are discussed along with various remedies.
This series of articles provides information on the inspection and diagnosis of damage to new and older log homes and includes description of log house and log siding insulation values and alternatives, and also a description of the characteristics of slab-sided log homes as well as all other types of log home construction. We include illustrations of log structures from several very different areas and climates in both the United States and Norway. Our page top photo shows a modern kit log home constructed in New York State.
For modern kit and factory-sourced log structures we include details of common construction and building defects that cause water and air leaks and ultimately rot damage and we point to key problem areas that need to be inspected carefully when buying or maintaining a log home.
Where to Look for Leak and Draft Problems at Log House Windows, Corners, & Log Splines
The windows in this new log home were installed with no spline/gasket seal between the ends of the wall logs and the window jambs.
Our left photo shows our probing ruler penetrating almost 6" - the full width of the "D" profile logs (depending on where in the curved log face you're measuring) used in constructing this home - in other words, at the point where we've inserted our ruler there is absolutely no seal between the inside face of the window frame and outside of the wall jamb rough opening at the window jamb. We found this true also between the ends of the logs and the other face of the jamb rough opening.
This poor window installation detail on the solid log home combined with wide and checks in the logs near the windows (see photos below) to send water into the window assembly (see stains along our ruler where we had removed the interior sill and trim) and also into the building interior (see stains at the log/window assembly butt joint in the lower right of the photo.
The photos above show the outside log wall at the same leaky wall. The checks in the upper half of some of the logs abutting the window jamb were as much as 2.75" deep (2" at the probe point in our photo above right). These leak points combined with the absence of a window spline and gasket or caulk barrier and permitted water to enter the window jamb structure.
The "cure" for this problem was a custom-designed window head flashing and additional exterior sealing using a sealant recommended by the log manufacturer. It was also important to seal the upwards-facing log checks, as we discuss further below.
Construction at the corners of a log home, and around openings for windows and doors must be tight and properly executed to avoid drafts, leaks, and condensation problems. During arbitration of a dispute between a log home owner and the builder we found that improperly-installed windows on the home were causing window condensation and wall leaks. At the builder's own log home, built a decade before, we found that these same details led to severe structural rot in logs under leaky windows.
Windows and doors must be set, framed, and trimmed wit care to seal straight components (such as window frames) abutting rounded log surfaces (such as a log wall or log slab siding walls).
Inspect where normal log shrinkage has opened minor cracks in logs (checking cracks are typically 1/8" or more in logs) and between logs. Checking between logs in a modern kit home log wall can determine if splines were installed where they should have been to prevent leaks and drafts between the logs in a wall.
From outside the building at its corners, look into the ends of the log corner to see if you can spot the type of spline or log interlocks that were designed by the manufacturer.
If your probe extends into the log groove at a building corner for a distance greater than the outside overhanging portion of the log, the gaskets were not extended to the corner as they should have been. The incomplete caulking you see in the left photo is an inept attempt to seal drafts at the building corner.
FAQs below discusses field reports of problems & solutions for this topic
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about log home wall leaks
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Questions & answers or comments about diagnosing and repairing water and air leaks in log homes and kit log homes
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"The Logless Log Home," Jim Robbins, New York Times, 05/05/2010 Home section, p. D1 & D6.
"Shop Talk," Martin Mintz, AIA, Builder Magazine, April 1986, detailed solutions for log shrinkage movement by using a "T" jamb at windows and doors. A January 1986 Builder Magazine article shows window installation details in 8&qUot; thick log walls.
"Caulking, Chinking, Insulators, Sealants - which System works Best," Log Home and Alternative Housing Builder, Nov-Dec 1983.
Lincoln Log Homes Marketing, Inc., 6000 Lumber Lane, Kannapolis NC 28081 704-932-6151
Insulating Characteristics of log homes were neatly summarized by Roger Rawlings in "Log Homes in a New Light," Rodale's New Shelter, April 1983, p. 28
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Or choose the The Home Reference eBook for PCs, Macs, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or Android Smart Phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAEHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
Design of Wood Structures - ASD, Donald E. Breyer, Kenneth Fridley, Kelly Cobeen, David Pollock, McGraw Hill, 2003, ISBN-10: 0071379320, ISBN-13: 978-0071379328
This book is an update of a long-established text dating from at least 1988 (DJF); Quoting: This book is gives a good grasp of seismic design for wood structures. Many of the examples especially near the end are good practice for the California PE Special Seismic Exam design questions. It gives a good grasp of how seismic forces move through a building and how to calculate those forces at various locations.THE CLASSIC TEXT ON WOOD DESIGN UPDATED TO INCLUDE THE LATEST CODES AND DATA. Reflects the most recent provisions of the 2003 International Building Code and 2001 National Design Specification for Wood Construction. Continuing the sterling standard set by earlier editions, this indispensable reference clearly explains the best wood design techniques for the safe handling of gravity and lateral loads. Carefully revised and updated to include the new 2003 International Building Code, ASCE 7-02 Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures, the 2001 National Design Specification for Wood Construction, and the most recent Allowable Stress Design.
Diagnosing & Repairing House Structure Problems, Edgar O. Seaquist, McGraw Hill, 1980 ISBN 0-07-056013-7 (obsolete, incomplete, missing most diagnosis steps, but very good reading; out of print but used copies are available at Amazon.com, and reprints are available from some inspection tool suppliers). Ed Seaquist was among the first speakers invited to a series of educational conferences organized by D Friedman for ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors, where the topic of inspecting the in-service condition of building structures was first addressed.
Defects and Deterioration in Buildings: A Practical Guide to the Science and Technology of Material Failure, Barry Richardson, Spon Press; 2d Ed (2001), ISBN-10: 041925210X, ISBN-13: 978-0419252108. Quoting: A professional reference designed to assist surveyors, engineers, architects and contractors in diagnosing existing problems and avoiding them in new buildings. Fully revised and updated, this edition, in new clearer format, covers developments in building defects, and problems such as sick building syndrome. Well liked for its mixture of theory and practice the new edition will complement Hinks and Cook's student textbook on defects at the practitioner level.
Masonry structures: The Masonry House, Home Inspection of a Masonry Building & Systems, Stephen Showalter (director, actor), DVD, Quoting: Movie Guide Experienced home inspectors and new home inspectors alike are sure to learn invaluable tips in this release designed to take viewers step-by-step through the home inspection process. In addition to being the former president of the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), a longstanding member of the NAHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), and the Environmental Standard Organization (IESO), host Stephen Showalter has performed over 8000 building inspections - including environmental assessments. Now, the founder of a national home inspection school and inspection training curriculum shares his extensive experience in the inspection industry with everyday viewers looking to learn more about the process of evaluating homes. Topics covered in this release include: evaluation of masonry walls; detection of spalling from rebar failure; inspection of air conditioning systems; grounds and landscaping; electric systems and panel; plumbing supply and distribution; plumbing fixtures; electric furnaces; appliances; evaluation of electric water heaters; and safety techniques. Jason Buchanan --Jason Buchanan, All Movie Review
Straw Bale Home Design, U.S. Department of Energy provides information on strawbale home construction - original source at http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/designing_remodeling/index.cfm/mytopic=10350
More Straw Bale Building: A Complete Guide to Designing and Building with Straw (Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series), Chris Magwood, Peter Mack, New Society Publishers (February 1, 2005), ISBN-10: 0865715181 ISBN-13: 978-0865715189 - Quoting: Straw bale houses are easy to build, affordable, super energy efficient, environmentally friendly, attractive, and can be designed to match the builder’s personal space needs, esthetics and budget. Despite mushrooming interest in the technique, however, most straw bale books focus on “selling” the dream of straw bale building, but don’t adequately address the most critical issues faced by bale house builders. Moreover, since many developments in this field are recent, few books are completely up to date with the latest techniques. More Straw Bale Building is designed to fill this gap. A completely rewritten edition of the 20,000-copy best--selling original, it leads the potential builder through the entire process of building a bale structure, tackling all the practical issues: finding and choosing bales; developing sound building plans; roofing; electrical, plumbing, and heating systems; building code compliance; and special concerns for builders in northern climates.
Lincoln Log Homes Marketing, Inc., 6000 Lumber Lane, Kannapolis NC 28081 704-932-6151
Merrimac Log Homes, Henniker, NH, sells log home products, milled log home kits, log siding, and log home plans and log home construction accessories. 866-637-7462 or firstname.lastname@example.org - merrimacloghomes.com
PermaChink Systems, Knoxville TN 800-548-1231 provides a range of log chinking products, coatings, and sealants for log and other wood buildings.