7 Strategies for a Successful Log Home Reno
Since 1978, Wisconsin-based Edmunds & Company has been helping folks restore and repair older log homes around the country, and they have some great advice to share. Here are a few of their top inspection tips when considering purchasing an existing log h
1 Have a site visit by a log home expert who has experience assessing the condition of logs as well as an indepth understanding about the unique aspects of owning a log home. 2 Assess the flashing used between attached decks. This can be a problematic area for log homes, if the flashing was not done correctly. 3 Make sure the roof overhangs are sufficiently deep enough to protect the logs from the weather (18 inches to 2 feet is ideal). 4 Take note if the log ends (crowns) extend beyond the roof line where they can catch water coming off the roof. There may be problems with rot either now or in the future. 5 If possible, find out what kind of stain has been used on the exterior logs and if it has been properly maintained over the years. 6 Look for large (wider than 1/16 of an inch) cracks on the upside of the logs that are not caulked. This can allow moisture to penetrate the log and travel to other logs, causing damage and, perhaps, rot. 7 Look for signs of wood-boring insects such as carpenter bees. They don’t eat the wood — they excavate it to build their nests. Tell-tale signs are uniform holes about the size of a dime with piles of sawdust beneath the opening, and yellow/brown stains caused by excrement they deposit below these entry holes.
Log homes can last for generations, provided they have been faithfully maintained. The more you know about what it takes to properly maintain a log building, the more you can make an informed decision before you invest in the unique beauty of a log structure.
Adapted from advice shared in the Log Home Neighborhood, an online community of log home owners, enthusiasts and professionals. For more great tips, visit
get it wrong and $10k or more can be shaved from your asking price (if it’s an investment property) or you may be dissatisfied with the outcome (if this is your forever home). Just like enlisting a pro to fix the structural issues, consulting with an interior designer for ideas is money well spent. It’s not as easy as it looks.
Materials. When restoring a log home, the decision to use modern or period-original materials can be tough. Using modern materials may be mandated by code. For example, as traditional as they are, wood roof shingles, like cedar shakes, are banned in many forest-fireprone areas. Obviously wiring and plumbing and other safety concerns must be updated with modern materials, per building codes, but other items, such as flooring and cabinets can stay true to the period of the house. Reclaimed materials add a unique and historic look, which is popular right now, but simple improvements, like making cabinet pulls out of old hand tools or taking wood from a col- lapsing barn and repurposing it as wainscoting for an accent wall, can make a simple, powerful and affordable statement.
As for the repairs themselves, they are not technically difficult or sophisticated. Log home repairs are about labor … generally lots of painstaking labor. For the advanced do-ityourselfer, YouTube is a good place to look for how-to videos, from both professionals and industrious amateurs, on log home repairs. If you want to tackle it yourself, but would like a little hands-on guidance, try hiring a professional to work along side you for a day or two. If you don’t feel confident about your abilities, or you simply want to play it safe with one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your life, hiring a professional for all the work is a great way to make sure it’s done right. This is not the time to be penny wise and dollar foolish.
Finding a log home fixer upper is fairly easy. However, making a smart choice can be a challenge. Homes tend to be the largest purchase people make, and when all is said and done, its value after the repairs and improvements should exceed the cost of the home plus the cost of the repairs. Buying the wrong home or ineffectively using money on repairs can ruin this equation quickly.
The best advice is to work with experts who’ve been there. Yes, you can expect to pay for that experience, but you also can expect a superior outcome. Using the cheapest bid is generally not the answer. This is not to imply that you can’t tackle some (or all) of the work yourself. Just be sure that any work done, is done right.
In the log home restoration industry, there’s a saying: If you don’t have the time or money to do it right the first time, you’re definitely not going to have the time and money to do it right a second time. Make a wise and informed decision. Look for a structurally sound home that hasn’t had any potential long term water exposure on the logs. Aim for homes that show signs of regular maintenance and consider it a bonus if the log species is naturally decay resistant. The age of the home isn’t an issue,
provided the maintenance has been kept up. Choose a style and floor plan that are appealing to you with minimal changes. Use an expert to prioritize repairs and keep the reno consistent with that of a log home. And finally, never try to make your log home something it’s not. Alex Charvat is a licensed engineer with a background in forestry structural engineering. He’s worked as a forester in the Pacific Northwest, has engineered and designed hundreds of log homes and is the engineer of record for NAHB’s Log & Timber Homes Councils’ log grading program. He’s hosted his own log cabin renovation show for the DIY Network called “Cabin Rescue,” with another program in development. Alex owns Alexander Structures, Inc., a national engineering and design firm. He can be reached at alex@ alexanderstructures.com.
ABOVE: Vintage log cabin elements, like a freestanding wood-burning stove are right at home next to modern conveniences. BELOW: Look for creative ways to repurpose materials, even if it’s not structurally. Here, corrugated tin roofing and wavy board make a fantastic portable bar.