A 380-year-old log cabin, the oldest in America, was recently put up for sale. Most of the cabin owners likely neither envisage nor have plans for their cabins to last that long. Yet, the Gibbstown, New Jersey cabin provides a great example of what’s possible when a building is well maintained.
Log Cabin Maintenance Tips
Whether your log cabin is your everyday residence or is a holiday home you set foot in for just a few weeks each year, it’s in your best interest to put in the time and effort necessary for it to last longer. The following are some important tips for log cabin maintenance.
1. Build on an Inorganic Base:
As a building material, wood is popular because of its numerous advantages. It, however, has a number of key drawbacks such as vulnerability to moisture and insect pests. To guard against these risks, do not sit your cabin’s wooden walls at ground level.
Instead, built a foundation a foot or two above the ground using an inorganic material before laying the logs on top. You have a number of options to achieve this base but rocks are particularly loved by cabin owners since they seamlessly blend with the wood’s natural motif.
Walk around the cabin’s exterior and carefully inspect the ground near the foundation. It should slope away from the structure so as to drain rainwater and snowfall. This inspection must be done regularly because the soil may have compacted since you last checked and gradually created a negative slope. Pour several yards of fresh soil around the foundation if you need to correct the slope.
3. Cover the Gutters:
Place a mesh over your downspouts and gutters to keep leaves and other debris out while enabling the smooth flow of rainwater. Filtering out debris not only prevents blockages but also mitigates against the accumulation of moisture under leaves. Not all gutters have leaf-blocking built in so if your cabin doesn’t have this feature, consider replacing it with a more suitable one.
4. Apply Sunblock:
When it comes to sun damage, wood is not that much different from human skin. Continuous exposure to harsh UV rays may cause the wood surface to disintegrate. Use pigmented wood stains as well as products containing UV combatants to keep your cedar siding and exterior logs safe from sun damage.
5. Do the Water Test:
Every so often, use a garden hose or water bottle to douse the exterior wood surfaces with water including the wood decking, log ends and cedar siding. If the water forms beads and simply trickles down to the ground, that is a sure sign that your preservative works.
If, however, wet dark patches appear, that means the wood is soaking in the water. It’s time to apply a new coat of preservative. When performing the water test, pay extra attention to log ends as they can absorb water nearly ten times more than the siding.
6. Watch for Mildew or Mold:
Most cabins are located in areas where they are regularly exposed to moisture such as rain and snow. Mold and mildew are not only a health hazard but can also speed up the weakening of the wood. You’ll notice a black, gray or green film when it starts to form.
Whereas most wood preservatives have a built-in mildewcide, regularly inspection will ensure you can arrest any growth before it causes any serious damage.
7. Prudent Landscaping:
Ideally, mulch and ground cover must be a minimum of 5 feet from the external base of the cabin. That ensures efficient air circulation and also keeps bugs, debris and dew are a safe distance from the wooden walls. This will, in turn, reduce the risk of mold, moisture damage and wood-devouring insects such as termites, wood ants, and roaches.
Similarly, tree canopies should never be positioned above your roof given that the falling leaves and twigs will make it harder to keep your gutters and downspouts free of obstruction.
Correctly built and well-maintained Log – Cabin – Kits can remain in good condition for decades. In addition, the more regularly the cabin is inspected and any issues fixed, the cheaper and easier the work required during each maintenance session.
That being said, as the above tips suggest, effective maintenance has to be built in. It comes down to building the cabin with the right materials and the right design.