Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Year, Old Logs

At the risk of sounding sappy, I am going out on a limb to offer without apology another sentimental perspective of log homes.

As the New Year approaches and I look at photos I've taken of historic log buildings, I am touched by the significance log homes have regarding time and encapsulated stories- not only the cabins themselves, but also the individual logs they are made of.

Log cabins, whether newly built or 200 years old, have a nostalgia that brings us back to simpler times. Every log building has its story- be it a new log home that is the realization of a couple's dream or a small log cabin that has watched the passing of decades and centuries. Every log building has its story, but every log within that building also has its tale. The log home might be settling-and-shrinking new, or it might be 200 years old, but whatever the life of the home is, the logs are likely 50-200 years older. Take a moment to look at the logs in your home. Each ring represents a year in that tree's life, each knot is a limb that it had. Each ridge of texture was the stroke of a drawknife, axe or adze, and each notch was carefully scribed, cut and perfected by a skilled craftsman. Even on a milled log home, the surface of the log was at one point passed over by a blade and inspected by a wood professional.

If the home has a stone fireplace or masonry accents, there's a whole new pile of stories. The stones have a history thousands of years older and a story possibly even more impressive than the logs. Those rocks were once molten lava, then broken up by the movement of glaciers, thousands of years later selected and split by a mason, and finally fit precisely into the final, artistic monument.

Next time you are passing some time enjoying your log home, or next time you walk into an historic log cabin, take a moment to ponder the life of the logs and the life of the structure and appreciate all that a log home is. Look at the logs and think about how each started as a seedling. Each grew large and provided food and shelter for countless birds and animals. Each knot on that log was once a limb that may have held an eagle or a porcupine. At some point, someone- a lonely pioneer or a modern logger -came along, selected that tree, and cut it down. The limbs were removed, the bark was peeled, the logs were cut. Each log was cut, measured and scribed to fit in the structure and nestle on top of the log below it. Once sweat and strain erected the building, an individual, a couple, or a family moved in and called it home. A log home is the perfect intersection of natural occurrences and human productivity; the place where the concentric, chronological ripples of trees and people intersect. A log home is not just a building; it is a cozy testimony of time.

From the quaint birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, to the impressive Old Faithful Inn, there are hundreds of log buildings scattered around the country that are rich with stories they've acquired through time. The story of each building is extended even farther into time with the story of each tree and rock that was used to build it; from pioneers erecting a quick log cabin shelter to engineers carefully planning a massive, log tourist destination. Take some time to look at your log home or the log cabins around you. How many years have they seen pass? What is their story?

First photo is the log cabin at Traverse des Sioux historical site in Saint Peter, MN, before its restoration.
Second photo is the fireplace at the Chippewa National Forest Supervisor's Office in Cass Lake, MN.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Log Cabin Christmas

Of course I am biased, but I don't think there is any structure that illustrates a traditional, American Christmas better than a seasonally decorated log home. The Christmas tree, cedar boughs, and green garland complement a rustic log structures' unique grains, knots, and natural wood character.

What makes the setting even more idyllic is a flickering fireplace in the picture adorned with stockings and candles. Perhaps it's the logs' nostalgic connection to the heritage of our nation, or maybe it's a reminder of the humble, rustic setting of the First Christmas with the Savior's birth in the stable; maybe it is the certain coziness about log homes fending off winter's chills (provided the cracks and joints are sealed well!). Whatever it is that summons the semantics, Christmas and log homes are practically made for each other.

Indeed, there is even an illustrated book with the title The Log Cabin Christmas and a book of historical pioneer romances called A Log Cabin Christmas. One of the frontier's favorite authors, Laura Ingalls Wilder, even talks about the pioneer Christmas in Little House in the Big Woods. There is a great children's adaptation with illustrations of it called Christmas in the Big Woods. Log homes and a traditional American Christmas both have close ties to the forest. From cutting down one's own Christmas tree and cedar boughs, to choosing a yule log, to traveling "over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go," there is no denying that a traditional Christmas is best presented in a rustic scene.

There is an historic log church in Coleraine, MN, and for years it has been tradition to have an annual Christmas in the Country concert of carols, folk tunes and bluegrass music which would make the window sill candles and audience's hearts dance together with nostalgia. The money raised from each concert goes into the preservation fund to keep the treasure in its grandeur. An Internet search yields many other log churches around the nation that also host special Christmas services, programs and concerts within their sanctified log walls. In Grand Marais, MN, a musical artist hosts a series of Log Cabin Concerts in his own home. Michael Monroe and his Log Cabin Concerts are a great way to experience folk music infused with a rustic log setting, even if you don't live in a log home of your own. Search the regional news and events, and you will see log buildings old and new all over the nation that host holiday events in their country charm.

Whether it's spent in a log home, a log cabin concert, or trip over the river and through the woods, I hope you find a way to connect with the nostalgic and rustic side of this holiday season. Have a very merry log cabin Christmas from us at Schroeder Log Home Supply.

Photo retrieved from http://publicdomainclip-art.blogspot.com/2009/01/log-cabin-in-winter.html

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Building on Your Own

Are you building your own log home or cabin and looking for guidance? Of course, it is always best to leave the craftsmanship to a professional, but there are many do-in-yourselfers who like to take on the project and build your own. In doing so, it is easy to make mistakes and get lost in the steps of construction. Researching books and videos can certainly help, but having access to experienced builders is well worth the time. One way to be part of a brotherhood of builders to share information, techniques, and ideas is to join a log builders' association. Consider joining the Great Lakes Log Crafters Association and be a part of a group of builders who are there as a support system to share centuries of knowledge of the craft of log building.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Prevention is simple! ...Restoration takes some effort.

by John Schroeder
Log homes are classic and cozy and any potential problems can be greatly reduced in good planning and design. Keep the bottom log a minimum of two feet above the ground and keep all of the log ends well-protected. Otherwise, situations like in these two photos could happen. The building is sitting at ground level, it has logs jutting out well past the roof line, and there are practically no eaves and no gutters. It's a recipe for rot.

Prevention is simple! Restoration takes some effort. The exposed logs absorb rain and melting snow. The ground-level logs also get ground moisture and splashback from ground proximity and a lack of eaves. The result is quick decay. Building longer eaves with gutters, trimming back the logs to keep them covered, and stacking the logs on a higher foundation would have prevented this issue. Prevention is simple! Restoration takes some effort.

Is it too late for "prevention?" Do you have a situation like this that needs repair? Call 1-800-359-6614 for a referral to a professional restoration contractor in your area or visit this page for DIY tips.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Log Home Inspection

Some friends of mine, a young couple, are looking at purchasing a log home in the area. It's a nice home with a very appealing design. Unfortunately, it has a few issues to take care of before closing. Some of the log ends have deteriorated and will need repair. Many of the ends are sticking out far, even past the eaves. It's a perfect example of how gutters, log eaves, well-stained log ends, and caulking on upward-facing checks could have gone a long way to prevent headaches down the road. The existing problems are repairable, but protecting the log ends better would have prevented them altogether.

For the areas where there is enough sound wood that replacement isn't necessary, repair will include flooding the rotted wood with borates like Penetreat to kill rot, filling the void with WoodEpox, and finding ways to keep water out of the log in the future. Preventing future rot includes keeping the logs underneath the overhang (even if that includes trimming them back), caulking upward-facing cracks, and soaking the ends with a log home stain that will keep water out while maintaining the log's ability to breathe. Go here for more tips on log repair.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Log Home Maintenance Slides

Chinking Log Homes Overview Video

Tips for Cleaning

A Suggestion For Applying Cleaners
Mix the materials thoroughly in a pail or sprayer. Wet down the logs with cleaner from the bottom working upward. This is done so that any material running down will be onto a wet surface so that streaking is prevented or minimized. Wet down only the area that you will work in the following hour. If heavily weathered areas exist, scrub in and then rinse. Residues could cause adhesion problems with some cleaners. Many prefer to use a pressure washer to rinse and scrub. If you choose to use one, a 500-1500 psi washer is sufficient in most cases.

Oxalic acids like New Log Prep leave more color in the wood while chlorine bleach can blond the wood. If this happens, you may need to apply a pigmented finish to re-color the wood.

Oxalic acid mixtures will also help remove iron stains. (See New Log Prep) This material leaves more of a golden color to the wood. Use an oxalic acid based cleaner if you will be finishing your logs with a solvent-based or water based finish, make sure the cleaner is thoroughly rinsed off.

Neutralize the bleach with clear water, or the salts in the bleach could remain to feed future fungi.

Use a more diluted mixture on softer, more porous woods like cedar. Example Use a mixture of 1 part bleach to 5 parts water. On heavily weathered wood, you may need to use a 1:3 mixture.

If you choose to use TSP as a cleaner and use it in heavy amounts, it can pull out the reddish undertones in Red Pine (Norway Pine). This red undertone can react with yellow finishes to give stains more of an orange appearance.

How to Power Wash Logs

Power Wash Only The Exterior

The interior surfaces are not critical, since they see no exposure to extreme weather. To avoid damage to interior areas, power wash the logs in the yard before they are shipped to the job site. If it is not possible to clean the logs in the yard, it should be done early in the construction cycle at the job site.

Use A 1500 PSI Power Washer
Extremely high pressure is not necessary since you run the risk of tearing up the surface and leaving it with a "fuzzy" or "hairy" condition. This will not hurt the performance of the stain, but the appearance can be objectionable and can be buffed off with an Osborn Buffing Brush.

Use A Low-foaming Detergent
The detergent will assist the high pressure water in loosening and lifting all surface residues. Use hot water. Then rinse with cold water to flush any detergent from the surface. A garden hose works well for this.

Use A Fan Spray Nozzle

Apply the water at an angle so it does not spray back into your face (be sure to wear safety goggles). Hold the nozzle at a distance, just far enough away from the surface to avoid "fuzzing" up the outer layer of wood. At this distance, the water and detergent will impact the wood with tremendous force and will remove virtually all residues, as well as creating considerable micro-roughening of the surface for enhanced stain penetration.

Apply The Finishing Touches

If you will be applying PeneTreat, apply it once the logs have become slightly damp after cleaning. Caulking the checks and cracks may be done at any time after the cleaning operation is complete and the logs are dry.

Note: The most effective method for removing mill glaze and roughening the surface is cob or sand blasting. But for many, this approach is too expensive or impractical. If this is the case, power washing or sanding the logs will remove the mill glaze.

Cleaning Logs

How do I clean my logs?
1. Exterior Cleaning Lightly cob blast, sandblast, sand, or pressure wash (the most often used method) new logs.

Why should you power wash new logs? As is true for most any job, proper preparation is as important as doing the actual job. This is certainly true for properly preparing the exterior surface of logs before applying stain to them. The leftover mill glaze* must be removed, and the surface should be slightly roughened to allow the stain to penetrate as deeply as possible. *Mill glaze is the stain-repelling film leftover from shaping the logs in the processing mill. One way to understand the importance of this step is to realize that it is very rare to ever have any failure of a coating applied to the cut end of a log. The log end is extremely rough in texture, and the coating has ample opportunity to penetrate and establish optimum adhesion. The goal of power washing is to stimulate the texture without dramatically affecting the log’s appearance.

When pressure washing, we suggest you used one of these cleaning agents if you will be applying either a water-based or oil-based finish: CPR, New Log Prep, X-180 Weathered Wood Restorer, or Bleach & Water: A mixture of one part household bleach and five parts water, plus one tablespoon TSP (Tri-sodium phosphate) per gallon (optional). Note: Log Maintenance Wash is best for cleaning logs that already have a finish.

Bleach is a corrosive chemical irritant that can damage surfaces like skin and fabric. Never mix bleach and ammonia for any reason, the results can be fatal. Also, it is not recommended to mix bleach with other household cleaners that may contain ammonia or to mix bleach with vinegar. Vinegar and bleach will create a chlorine gas that is a toxic health risk.

Do not use household bleach as a cleaning agent for deck lumber that was treated with CCA (chromated copper arsenate) or more commonly known as "pressure treated lumber". This type of treated lumber was removed from the market by 2003. If your deck or landscaping timbers were made from this lumber, use an oxygen bleach like KleenStart Wood Cleaner instead of household chlorine bleach. Chlorine bleach when combined with CCA forms highly toxic chromium and arsenic compounds.

Apply cleaning agents from the bottom and work up. This will avoid streaking of the logs. Allow agent to stand 10-15 minutes before power washing. Rinse thoroughly. Allow to dry 3-7 days depending on drying conditions before applying stain.

Be sure to thoroughly rinse the cleaning agent and allow the log surfaces to completely dry before applying a finish.

After cleaning, you will notice a woody pulp on the surface. This can be removed by hand with a 3-M stripping pad or a quicker method is using an Osborn Buffing Brush on an angle grinder or car buffer. Usually two brushes are required for a house. If you did not use a sap-stain control, you may notice sap-stain, a blue, red, or brown coloration deep in the wood. These are permanent stains and unfortunately can not be removed.

2. Interior Cleaning on the inside may be more messy than on the outside, if the house is already furnished. A general dusting may work, but to actually clean the logs, a sponge saturated with a bleach and water combination may be used. The logs will need to be rinsed, hence the messiness. A trough could be built to catch any of the dripping water when rinsing, or use another sponge with plain water. Otherwise, just a light sanding is necessary.

Using a Froe

By Paul VanKeuren, Customer Service   Everybody knows what an axe is. Many people know what an adze is. Who knows what a froe is? A fro...