The wide variety of siding available today means that almost any home can be very close to maintenance-free. Want to avoid rot and pests? Opt for vinyl. Want to throw in fire protection? Go for fiber cement. But what if the only thing that will possibly suit your style is an old-fashioned log home? That’s when maintenance issues become a front-and-center issue.
Here’s the good news: Log home maintenance doesn’t have to be as time-consuming and expensive as you might think. The key to bringing down the cost is twofold: first, see design as your front line of defense, and second, never allow the maintenance and log treatment schedule to lapse. If you can make these two things happen, you can enjoy your log home — free of pests, fungus, rot and other problems — for many decades to come.
Start with log home design
When you are trying to keep your log home in tip-top shape, the design makes a huge difference. Start with the most basic rule of thumb: Your logs absolutely cannot touch the ground. This simple rule keeps the logs away from excessive water and snow, and as you already know, moisture is the enemy of any wood in the home. Make sure those logs are at least eighteen inches away from the ground.
Speaking of water, careful management of it can help your logs last longer. Install splashguards, gutters and routed downspouts to direct water away from the house. The ground should slope away from the foundation to ensure that no water builds up around it. At least 1/2 inch per foot of slope for at least the first ten feet will ensure that you have no problems with pooling water. An underground water drainage system can take the protection even further.
Another issue with log maintenance is the glare of the sun. Those UV rays can discolor the logs and eventually weaken them, leading to problems many years down the line. Stop that problem before it starts by creating wide overhangs that protect the logs as much as possible. A deep, wide porch that wraps around at least a portion of the house — preferably the south and west sides, where the sun can be the worst — is a great way to not only protect your investment, but also offers a great place to sit and enjoy the outdoors.
Finally, keep shrubs at least three feet away from the house, and clear out the trees for at least 20 feet around the house. This provides you with a nice clearing, gives you some leeway if a tree were to fall, and most importantly, prevents the problem of roots reaching underneath the house and potentially opening up paths for water to flow right where you don’t want it.
Continue with regular log home maintenance
Once the design elements are in place, then you have to worry about the regular maintenance that any log home demands. It starts from the very beginning, when the house is being built. But if you are moving into an established home, your maintenance should begin as soon as you move in.
Start by making sure the logs are absolutely clean and dry. This is a very important step that is often overlooked. Once that is done, it is time to apply wood preservatives that prevent the growth of fungi, mold and mildew. These preservatives should also repel insects, provide a layer of protection against water and prevent decay from setting in. Keep in mind that some good wood preservatives do most of these things, but you might need to use more than one type in order to get the full protection you need. Follow the instructions exactly. If you aren’t sure you can reach certain logs or if there are already some worrisome spots, hire a contractor to handle it.
You might also need to add a layer that blocks UV rays from reaching the logs. Some wood preservatives have ultraviolet-absorbing agents mixed in. Colored pigment stains can reflect the UV rays. Choose which one is right for your home based on the color of the logs and the look you want to maintain for your home over the years. Just remember to never, ever use paint or varnish on your logs — these actually trap moisture inside the logs and shorten their lifespan significantly.
Finally, remember to inspect your logs on a regular basis. If there are any problems at all, especially on the corners, exposed log ends or south and west sides, tackle it immediately — that means within days, not within a few weeks or even a few months. Stop problems as soon as they pop up to avoid serious, costly issues in the very near future.