Buying an Existing Log Cabin

Who hasn’t dreamed of living in a log cabin home?  Maybe that dream is about to come true and you’re shopping for an existing log cabin.  Do you know what to look for?  Here a just a few items to check out before you make an offer. 

Staining

peeling cabin stainThe first thing you need to know is that water is a log cabin’s enemy.  A multitude of problems can result from water damage.  Start by looking at the stain of the exterior logs to detect potential trouble.  Stain protects the logs from moisture.  Usually a visual inspection suffices.  No bare wood should be visible.  Stain should not appear faded.  Logs should be the same color on the top as the bottom.  If you splash water on the logs, the water should bead up and not be absorbed.

Logs Touching the Ground

Another item to note is if any of the logs are in contact with the ground.  Be cautious if the cabin is not built on a foundation and is constructed on dirt or mud.   Logs in direct contact with the ground are prone to absorb moisture which can lead to rot.  If the logs are on the ground, pressure treated logs will fare better against rot, bugs and fungi than traditional logs.

Check the Chinking

Chinking is the sealant used between logs in some types of log cabins.  Check for missing chunks of chinking.  The chinking should be neatly applied, intact and in good condition.

Insects

How do you know if a log cabin has an infestation problem?  Look for bore holes that are

Hole in wood from carpenter bee

a sign of carpenter ants, certain beetles and carpenter bees.  Carpenter bee holes are so symmetrical, they look like a drill made them.  There may also be piles of wood shavings where the pests have tunneled through the wood.   Some insects drop their wings before entering holes so there could be wings discarded nearby.  Wood boring insects are usually a sign of rot.

Rot

log cabin rotObvious signs of rot are dark spots on the outside of the logs.  This can point to logs rotting from the inside out.  It’s also possible for logs to look healthy on the outside but have rot on the inside.  A quick way to tell is to hit the log with a hammer.  Rotting logs will sound hollow and soft.  Healthy logs will sound solid and hard.

Checks and Cracks

Checks, splits or cracks can occur in logs as they dry out over time.  cracks in log wallsIt becomes an issue if the checks are over ¼” wide or are located on the top side of the logs.  Particularly vulnerable places are around windows and doors.  These conditions make it easier for the enemy water to get in.

Signs of settling

It is not uncommon for log cabins to settle in the first few years as logs dry.  The original builder should have taken that into consideration.  Test windows and doors for improper signs of settling.  If they stick, don’t open or bow from the weight of the walls, there may be a problem.

Don’t Let the Light Shine In

Heading inside, look for signs of light and air infiltration.  It’s problematic if you can see light between the logs.  Look closely between the wall and the roof, roof rafters, purlins and ridge beams.  There should be tight seals there as well.

All of the above problems can be fixed with varying degrees of expense.  It’s advisable to have a home inspection completed by a professional who is knowledgeable about log cabin construction before you buy an existing log cabin.

Keep in mind that some types of logs are less susceptible to rot, insect problems and settling.  Glu-laminated kiln dried logs are a stronger, more stable choice for log cabins.  Because of their low moisture content, they are resistant to checking and settling.  The low moisture content also discourages fungi that digest moist wood causing it to rot.  In addition, since these logs are straighter than traditional, they don’t require chinking as a sealant between logs.  More information can be found at on our Everlast Log page.