A home constructed of solid logs can offer excellent durability against a wide range of natural forces: rain, snow, sun, insects, and even tornadoes and earthquakes. This article describes how excellent durability can be achieved and maintained in a log home in the face of all of these threats.
Log home durability starts with the selection of the logs themselves. The supplier of your logs should use the TPI (Timber Product Inspection) grading system, in which each log is individually graded to assure that only the finest logs are used in your home.
Log species can also be a consideration. Pine species offer an excellent combination of strength and durability. In particular, southern yellow pine has the highest specific gravity of common structural wood species, providing superior fastener-holding power and load-bearing capacity. These qualities made southern yellow pine the species of choice for roller coasters when they used to be made out of wood.
Kiln Drying of Logs
Kiln drying of the logs removes moisture, providing the log with an enhanced stability that further contributes to the durability of your log home. Logs that are not kiln-dried tend to exhibit greater degrees of shrinking, settling, warping, and checking, all of which can detract from durability.
Kiln drying of the logs also acts to “sterilize” the logs by killing any pests, bacteria, or fungi that may be present.
Precision Milling of Logs
An important factor in log home durability is the optimal fit and matching of the logs used in the home. This optimal fit can be best achieved when the logs are precision cut and notched in the controlled environment of a mill specializing in log homes. This precision milling also saves considerable construction time and minimizes errors that can occur on the job site.
Borate-Treatment of Logs
The durability of your log home will be enhanced if your logs are treated at the mill with a borate solution. Borate is a natural, environmentally safe mineral salt that increases your logs’ ability to resist attack by termites, carpenter ants, wood-boring beetles, dry rot, and fungal decay. Be sure to insist upon a borate treatment of your logs in order to provide a solid base of protection against these threats.
Proper Log Stacking
Proper stacking and fastening of the logs during the construction of your log home will be a major factor in achieving greater durability. The company that supplies your logs should also provide engineered fasteners to ensure that the logs will be tightly bound to one another with a high degree of stability. The tightness of the log joints can be further enhanced through the use of specially designed gaskets and the use of a high quality caulk. This type of 3-prong system (fasteners, gasket, caulk) will ensure that the logs (and the interior of the home) are well-protected from moisture and insect infiltration.
Staining and Sealing of Logs
Once your log home is constructed, the application of a high quality stain to the exterior of the home will provide protection against moisture, insects, rot, and the ultraviolet rays of the sun. It is generally best to work with a log supplier who can also provide a stain product that is suitable for use with your logs.
Generally, stains that are darker offer the most protection against the sun. There are also lighter, more transparent stains for those log home owners who prefer this look. These lighter stains may require a bit more frequent application in order to maintain their protective qualities.
Frequency of stain application will vary depending upon whether the exterior walls of the home have direct exposure to the elements, or if they receive protection from porches, overhangs, and eaves.
A high quality stain will both protect your log home and enhance its beauty for years to come.
Protecting Logs Against Insects
As described above, the first step in protecting your log home against insects is to use logs that have been borate-treated at the mill. This will provide an excellent base of protection against a number of insect species.
It is highly recommended that the same termite protection treatments that are used for conventional homes in the area also be used for your log home. These regular treatments are often very cost effective, and offer excellent protection for your log home.
In many areas of the country, carpenter bees are attracted to conventional houses as well as log homes. Carpenter bees “drill” small, almost perfectly round holes, usually in vertical wood surfaces. The best log home suppliers will provide a carpenter bee preventive treatment such as “Bee Gone”. These preventive treatments can be applied alone or mixed and applied with the log stain. Spot treatment for carpenter bees can also be done with a wide range of common insecticides.
Logs and Fire Resistance
Log homes made of solid logs are generally considered to have very good fire resistance in comparison to other wood structures. This is the result of a number of factors, including: 1. a higher degree of structural integrity and support offered by the solid log walls, 2. a lower ratio of wood surface area to mass exposed to oxygen, 3. no concealed cavities in a solid log wall through which a fire may travel.
Log Homes and Wind Resistance: Hurricanes and Tornadoes
The superior structural integrity of a quality log home can provide protection against high winds, including those that can be experienced in hurricanes or in the vicinity of a tornado. There are numerous examples of log homes being the only structures remaining in a neighborhood that has been subjected to one of these violent storms: Hurricane Hugo, Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Katrina, the Tuscaloosa tornado of 2011, and many others.
When a “micro-burst” hit the headquarters of Southland Log Homes in July 2012, a steel building was destroyed when the roof was torn off, the walls collapsed, and large pieces of debris were blown onto adjacent businesses. All four of the company’s log structures on the site survived the storm undamaged.
Log Homes and Earthquakes
The superior structural qualities of log homes also serve to provide enhanced protection in the event of an earthquake. In addition, the flexible nature of the logs tends to outperform other types of construction, particularly brick, block and masonry homes that are much more brittle and susceptible to seismic stress. Log home performance in earthquake conditions has been demonstrated both anecdotally and under laboratory conditions.