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

Log Home Living - - FLOOR PLANS -

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.

Buy Wisely

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.

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