An Inside look at Log Home Restoration: Meet Log Restoration Expert Dave Tuxbury
On vacation in western Montana one year, Dave Tuxbury noticed that a number of log homes were being built. Right then and there, he knew his life was about to change.
“My week’s vacation stretched into a life full of wood chips,” he says.
That was about 20 years ago. The log home industry was in its infancy and Dave started learning everything he could about the art of building handcrafted log homes. Shortly thereafter, he returned to Michigan and founded the first handcrafted log yard east of the Mississippi with nationwide sales. In time, the company established log settling guidelines that are used today by companies worldwide.
Along the line, Tuxbury recognized there was a market for log restoration and replacement. His company, American Log Restoration, has repaired over 500 structures, including the original Harley Davidson estate and Michigan’s Log Castle.
LHDI: How often should homeowners inspect their logs and what should they look for? At what point does restoration become necessary?
Tuxbury: Every spring and fall. You were always told to stay out of the rain. Now I say, get a rain jacket and get out in the rain. It’s a good idea to inspect the exterior of your home during a hard rain each spring and fall.
Check the rain gutters to make sure water is gathering in the gutters and draining properly. Look at the bottom of the downspouts and see if water is gushing out of them. If not, they are probably plugged. Valley gutters should be checked to make sure they are large enough to accommodate all the water runoff. Is there adequate ground drainage or do you need underground piping from the downspouts to control the water runoff? Look for any logs getting over saturated.
When inspecting the interior of the home, look for leaks around windows and doors, dormers, chimneys and between logs.
Once a year, take a hammer and gently tap on suspect logs to check for log rot. They will sound hollow compared to a solid sounding hit. Also, some of the logs with interior rot will have a loose exterior shell and have a tendency to bounce the hammer back. A sold log stops the hammer bounce.
LHDI: What causes logs to deteriorate?
Tuxbury: There are a number of things that cause logs to deteriorate:
- Logs too close to the ground
- Shrubs planted too close to the building, which causes poor air circulation
- No rain gutters or the gutter are too small to handle water
- Improper flashing around dormers
- Flat surfaces on the topside of logs
- Vines growing on the walls
- Sprinkler system wetting the house, especially when wind conditions are right
- Decks built up against the logs
- Short roof overhangs
- Not having proper sealant
- Chinking failures
- Insect damage
- Logs not borate treated
- Room beams and log ends protruding past roof overhangs
- Door and window trimming not properly installed
- Soil grading sheds water toward the house
- Improper venting in the crawl space
- Lack of maintenance
LHDI: If a restoration project is necessary, what actions should be taken to preserve a log home?
Tuxbury: All rotted logs should be replaced as soon as possible. If you catch the rot at this stage, chances are you can save the interior half. All logs should be replaced full length when possible.
Check all doors and windows to see they are operating properly. If you have difficulty opening and closing them, determine what the problem is. Is it rotting logs? Are there problems with the jambs or bucks? Or are they related to log shrinking or settling?
Epoxies can be used when it is impossible to replace logs. Usually this occurs on purlins, tie logs or rafters.
If you notice that log finished are not repelling rain, absorption is taking place. Perhaps a maintenance coat should be applied.
Lastly, you should remove or grind down any flat surfaces on tops of all logs and correct any chinking failures or gaps.
LHDI: Take us through a typical log home restoration project.
Tuxbury: There are so many ways to do it. Different manufacturers have their own way, and there are a lot of do-it-yourselfers. I’m going to refer to a system that is very common throughout the United States.
My remedy for many homes is to:
- Duplicate necessary logs for replacement. I do not suggest using an interior groove method. Some of the exteriors of these logs are machine turned, some hand-peeled and some skip-peeled. I hand set each log into place and secure it. To being the process of log replacement, the entire length of the rotted logs must be investigated to see if they support other structural members and how their load can be taken up by bracing during the jacking and removal process.
- Remove the existing finish on the solid logs, trim, eaves and fascia by corncob blasting and hand sanding all log surfaces using grinders, sanding discs or wood chisels.
- Remove existing caulk if present, and apply new caulk on all horizontal and vertical joints as well as all log ends.
- Apply borate wood preservatives for mold, insects and rot control.
- Apply a stain and topcoat according to the manufacturer’s directions.
- Stain the trim and fascia with a slightly darker color, as they usually get water spots and discolor faster. A darker color will last much longer.
I have yet to come across a log home that is beyond repair. From time to time I have come up with creative solutions to problems and find a way of replicating the most intricate log building to recover its structural integrity and revive its natural beauty.
LHDI: What services does American Log Restoration provide?
Tuxbury: In our initial visit, we collect some background information and conduct an inspection of log walls. We’ll compile a report that includes:
The history of the home. We ask questions like: Is this a registered historical building? How old is the home? What’s the ownership history? What is the owner’s future intent – keep or sell?
Log condition. We look for green moss or mold growing on logs and corner. Then we look for discolored areas caused by repeated moisture.
We gently tap each log with a hammer paying particular attention to the upward-facing surfaces in addition to areas below windows and doors and around downspouts. We also closely inspect the first few logs above decks, porches and corners. We look for upward facing log cracks where water could run into the interior and cause damage and identify any gaps that may allow air and water infiltration around corners, doors and windows, and roof lines. We look for sagging logs which could be caused from rotting or overload situations. We check to see if doors are operating correctly. We also look for flat surfaces on the tops of logs which could cause water to puddle up.
Checking the exterior finish. We look for fading – primarily on the sound and west walls – and cracking, peeling or blistering. We look to see if there is mold or mildew underneath the finish, or if there is a different color shade on top of the logs as opposed to underneath it. And we look to see if moisture runs off the surfaces of the logs.
Check the chinking and caulking. First we find out what product is currently on the logs. Then we check the color and look for cracks, tears and lack of adhesion, or fading or hardened caulk.
Inspecting the grounds. First we check for logs touching the ground. Then we look to see if shrubs or trees are too close to the home and check for firewood or furniture that is place too close to the home. Are there water sprinklers reaching the logs, especially when wind conditions are right? That’s something to watch for, and we check for sawdust or holes on or around the logs from insects.
Looking at the roof, gutters and downspouts. We check for proper overhands and look at dormer and chimney flashing.