How To Manage Settling Problems In Log Homes

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Settling from wood shrinkage is a natural characteristic that you should be prepared for in a log building. In fact, anticipating it and building for it during construction can help homeowners or builders tackle it well. Most wood shrinkage and settlement around doors, windows and vertical posts cause energy efficiency problems and take up time and expense in maintenance. There is cause for concern about construction quality rather than structural integrity with settling.

What is Log Home Settling?

The dynamics of a log home should allow for shrinkage of logs over time and it is not even unique to log homes, as this is common even among stick-built homes. The cylindrical shaped wood fibers often shrink in the radial direction as they dry out causing the logs to contract in radius, without any appreciable change in length. So you will find the height of log home walls reducing in height from shrinkage. The time it takes for settling depends on the local weather conditions, the type of wood used for the logs, the season when the logs were cut, the final amount of moisture trapped in your logs and even the type of home heating you have installed. Many people mistakenly believe that kiln dried log homes do not settle but even log homes built with kiln dried logs will settle and there should be a plan in place to address it.  While there is no simple answer to deal with the problem of settlement, building for possible movement seems the best way to prepare. Log builders usually accommodate for the settling of log walls during the building phase, so that settling becomes a minor maintenance issue only later.

Tips To Control Log Settling

The two major issues that arise with settling are adjusting the height of posts and maintaining gaps around doors and windows. The vertical posts supporting the roof or upper floors have to be shortened when the log walls settle. During construction there must be space left in interior framed walls to allow for settlement in the log walls. Many builders place weight on the roof on posts rather than bearing walls and leave a space near the top behind the trims. The support posts are supported on shims or adjustable screw jacks that sit at either the top or bottom of the beam. Screw jacks can be left open or enclosed as part of the design element in posts. A wood frame or copper details are used to enclose the screw jack. The screw jacks can be adjusted periodically in every 6-12 months after new construction, and again after a second full heating season. The timing of it will vary depending on the climate and the heating used in the home.

When the log walls settle, the shims can be taken apart or the jacks dropped down to lower the center of the roof so that it is aligned with the log wall. The settling space concealed behind the trim gets cut down when the center is lowered. The trim is fastened only at the top of the settlement space so it does not have to be removed for any adjustments.

Log builders often use rebar within the walls to combat settling to stop the wall as a whole from settling. In this method though, there are large gaps left in between the logs because the logs themselves will still contract and these need to be chinked.  Many log homeowners have a preference for such chinked walls in their home. Windows and doors can also be mounted with slip joint so that the openings remain square even as the wall settles.

Large overhangs can help protect the exterior logs from exposure to sun and rain.

Rain gutters have to be properly installed to stop water from splattering back onto the bottom logs, especially around decks.

Log home owners can also apply a borax based wood preservative to all the exposed log surfaces and inside all the joinery. Try and avoid using any finish that seals the wood, trapping the moisture inside and preventing it to breathe.

This finish needs recoating after the first year of construction, and generally every three years after that.

If you want to discuss your log home design, log cabin structure and construction plans with our experts at Performance Log Homes, please contact us today at 800-781-2551.