Log Home Inspection: What to look for when buying a log and timber home

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” my dad use to say. The same goes when buying a custom Log or Timber Frame Home. It’s important to do a full log home inspection, inside and out so you can assess and address any potential problem areas. The exterior logs may not look perfect but that doesn’t mean you should turn your back on a once beautiful home. Some log homes just need a little tender love and care to bring them back to their original beauty. Log homes have some characteristics that are very different from conventional homes, so here are a few things to look for when doing a log home inspection. 

Top 9 Things to Look for During a Log Home Inspection

Log home interior overlooking kitchen

#1 Log Home Settling and Shrinking

First off, full scribe log homes are the most prone to settling but all log homes have a bit of settling and shrinking. Settling typically occurs over the first few years as the logs dry, lose their moisture and shrink. A properly built log home will take this shrinkage into consideration when building to ensure you don’t have major cracks or structural damage. Here are some signs to look for during a log home inspection that may indicate the home didn’t settle properly.

  • Logs inside and outside the home: Logs shrink in diameter due to loss of their natural bound
    water over time. As they dry out, they may naturally crack. Some cracks are not a concern but larger cracks more that ¼” in width should be repaired or have some caulking applied.
  • Windows and doors: Log homes should be built with settling space above the doors and windows in order to prevent the weight of the walls from bearing down on them. If you notice bowing or the doors sticking when opening this may be the result of not enough space left for settling.
  • Staircases: If walls lose height, anything connected to them does as well, and this includes the stairs. Inspect stairs to ensure they are level and still properly connected to the home.
  • Electrical and pipes: Vertically installed plumbing pipes and rigid conduit may accumulate stress in two or more storied homes if not properly installed for shrinkage. It’s important to work with an electrician and plumber that has expertise with log homes as the procedures are slightly different compared to traditional log homes.

#2 Examine the Log Home Exterior 

It’s not uncommon for log homes to look a bit dirty and have some flaking on their finish, but if you notice black spots on the exterior surface, this could be a sign of mould or mildew. If possible, use a hammer to tap the logs. If you hear a hollow sound, this could be a good indication of rotting within the logs. If you have a professional doing your log home inspection with you they likely will have other tools to examine the area. 

#3 Inspect Log Home Finishing Stains and Coatings 

Logs can easily become deteriorated by weather. Different stains and coatings are designed to protect log surfaces from UV damage, while some also prevent destruction from wood-loving insects and pests. To test the effectiveness of the log home’s finish, spray the logs lightly with water – if the water beads on the surface, all is well, but if it is absorbed by the wood, then the finish is no longer functioning properly. Speak to your log home inspector and they can advise you on the next steps and what is required to ensure no further damage occurs. 

#4 Look for Insect Infestation: 

Fortunately, most wood-destroying insects tend to leave behind little clues of infestation. The entry and exit holes can tell you what species of insects you are dealing with, while sometimes you may actually see the insects themselves. Both termites and carpenter ants shed their wings and burrow into the wood when they reach a new location, leaving behind tell-tale piles of wings and small bits of sawdust-like particles around holes. Be sure to research what damage-causing insect is in your area, as well as any tips on how to prevent infestations.

#5 Ensure there is Proper Drainage

We talk often of the perimeter of your home having proper drainage, and it is crucial that no logs are touching soil or grass. As beautiful as your landscaping can be, it can cause serious moisture issues and bug infestations, when it resides too close to the exterior logs of your home. It’s a good idea to walk with full perimeter of the log home to ensure you don’t miss any problem areas. Little non-issues if ignored can turn into large headaches over years. 

#6 Was Proper Deck Flashing Installed 

When installed correctly, decks look amazing and can last a lifetime, so make sure the proper flashing has been installed and that there are no huge gaps between the exterior wall and the deck. When water drips off the roof and onto the deck it tends to splash back onto the house, so keep an eye out for water damage. Even if you are examining the home during the summer your log home inspector will be able to help you identify what happens when it rains. 

#7 Gutters and Downspots Direct Water Away

Though not all that aesthetically-pleasing, gutters prevent water from running down the exterior walls and causing water damage to your log home. The downspouts also direct water away from the foundation, preventing water from going directly into the basement. Just as we mentioned in point #5, you still need to ensure that their is proper drainage. Some spots carry dirt and twigs, overtime this can create a bank and stop the water from moving away from your home and instead pools back towards the home. 

#8 Overhangs and Exposed Logs

Overhangs keep snow and rain from saturating the foundation and off the exterior walls. They should be no less than 24 inches and at least 36 inches on a two story home. Logs that have been exposed to natural elements can turn grey and begin to rot over time creating huge structural damage to the home. This extremely important over decks and garages. Many builders like to expose large timbers because it looks great, however with no protection from weather these logs become rotten over the years and can harm the structure of the house. 

#9 Missing or Messy Chinking or Caulking: 

Look for any spots where the chinking or caulk is missing or appears messy and unappealing. This could be an indication that other areas of the home may not be up to par care. The repairs should not be done with a “good enough” attitude and shouldn’t stand out like a sore thumb. Your log home inspector will help you identify homes that have been built by proper builders and homes that may have some concerns. 

During your log home inspection, if you do notice there are some areas of the home that need some attention and repair, you can hire an experienced log home builder or trades person to help you in most cases. This article will provide you with a good overview of what you should be looking for and we recommended having someone who is familiar with log homes to accompany you, even a log home trained inspector, as log homes have different behaviours compared to traditional homes.

If you have purchased a log home and are looking to have some repairs or renovations done feel free to contact us info@artisanlog.com.

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