Buying a Log Home

log homes

Log homes are popular here in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  Log homes or log cabins can be pre-manufactured, sold in kits, custom or site built.  There are a number of manufacturers and custom log builders in our area along with a historic tradition of owner-built log cabins– some of these crafted homes are well over a hundred years old and still in use.

Sample Inspection Report for 18 year old Log Home

Things to Consider When Buying A Log Home

Different construction types

True log homes are built from whole logs and therefore they do not have cavities in between the wall for insulation.  Some newer types of log homes do allow for cavities in between the log siding for rigid foam insulation.  Some homes are standard ‘stick-built’ construction that have quarter-round siding made to look like a log-home.  As part of the due diligence process it is important to determine as much information as possible about the construction of the home before purchasing.

For log homes it is recommended that the seller should be asked for the following information:

  • The name of the original builder;
  • The type of Construction (i.e. whole logs, super-Insulated ‘half-logs’, quarter round siding only)
  • The type of Corner System (i.e. butt & pass, dovetail, saddle-notch, post & sill)
  • The type of Log Fasteners (i.e. spikes, lag screws, through-bolts)
  • The type of Sealing Systems (foam, rubber, caulk, liquid foam, etc…)
  • The type of Roof Systems (Conventional, Built-up, SIP’s, etc…)
  • Species of Wood and Proof of certified log grading if available;
  • Written settling adjustment records or other engineer documents if applicable;
  • Any special systems (shrinkage/settlement systems) installed but not visible at the time of the inspection if applicable;
  • Any performed maintenance; and
  • Additional construction or repair since the original construction.

Maintenance

With log homes the siding is also the framing which is why it is very important to maintain the exterior finish.  It is recommended to re-stain your log home every 3 years –chinking/caulking repairs and maintenance should also be done at this time.  When maintenance of the chinking is neglected water can penetrate through the walls – especially at the gable ends where the walls are more exposed to the elements.  Improperly maintained logs will result in wood-destroying fungus, decay and structural settling.  Log homes should also be professionally treated for carpenter bees and other wood destroying insects at least once a year or as needed.  Inadequately treated logs can result in damage from carpenter bees, woodpeckers, old house borers, powder post beetles, termites, and more.  Maintenance of the gutters and preventing gutter overflow is very important to prevent decay of the logs.  Gutters seams, corners and end caps should be re-caulked every 3 years.  Owners may consider upgrading the gutters to larger sizes or to have leaf guards installed to prevent issues. Maintaining the logs from the elements is the most important thing a log home owner can do to protect their investment.  Decayed logs are very difficult and expensive to repair/replace.  Regular maintenance will always be cheaper than structural repairs over the long-term.

Age

Older log homes are more likely to have experienced neglect, decay, repairs, settling and hidden damage.  Many times with older log homes, seller disclosure is the only way material facts are learned.  In my experience if maintenance has been neglected decay and settling can be observed within 15 years of construction.   Because log siding is also the framing log homes can depreciate faster than standard framing homes as maintenance neglect is more likely to cause structural damages and settling over time.

Energy Efficiency

Log homes are typically less energy efficient at the walls, windows and doors than standard construction (2×4 or 2×6 walls) and therefore it is recommended that the roof framing is super-insulated to help compensate.  Most log homes do not have any insulation at the walls and rely on the R value of the log itself.  According to energy.gov the R-value of a log ranges between 0.7 per inch for hardwoods and 1.4 per inch for softwoods.  Hardwood is preferred over softwood for Log homes for decay resistance, however hardwood has half the R-value that softwoods have.  Some log home manufacturers claim that an 8″ softwood log home wall could have equivalent R-value to a standard 2×4 framed wall with fiberglass batt insulation however:

  • More decay resistant Hardwood logs would only have half the R-value
  • 8″ logs are typically thinner where they intersect
  • Improperly installed or maintained chinking could cause significant energy loss

Even in some newer log homes occupants can experience draftiness in the Winter.  Regular maintenance to the exterior and an efficient wood stove could help mitigate energy loss somewhat.

A Typical Log Home Inspection

Typically the talking points of a Log Home Inspection are the condition of the log siding itself.  It is not uncommon to find decay, wood destroying insect damage and evidence of settling or water penetration– typically neglected maintenance is to blame as log homes need more frequent exterior maintenance than most homes.  It is common to see water stains between the chinking of the logs – especially at gable ends where the logs are more exposed to wind-blown rain.  Log homes are usually located in the country and it is not uncommon to find squirrel, mice and wood-pecker damage.  Other observations (not related to the log framing) should be typical of other homes of the same age.

Typical Log Home Defects:

  • Wood Destroying Insects
  • Decay of siding/logs
  • Rodent infestation
  • Evidence of water penetration at gable ends
  • Other defects related to all homes
    • Aging components
    • Maintenance neglect items
    • Grading/drainage issues
    • Crawlspace environment issues

Log Home Inspection Limitations

Due to the nature of the construction techniques the inspection of a log home is limited and it is not uncommon for issues to be hidden even to an experienced home inspector.  Some of the limitations of a log home inspection are:

  • Proper finish-coating material and application
  • Hidden decay within log cores or inaccessible areas
  • Hidden defects
  • Hidden components and settling/shrinkage systems
  • Wood Destroying Insect infestation
  • Proper chinking installation methods
  • Settling
  • Compliance with manufacturer’s specifications
  • Compliance to Standards set forth by any organization or association relating to log home construction

For all log related comments found in an inspection report the buyer should consider consulting a log home specialist for complete evaluation of the log siding to determine necessary repairs, maintenance, and re-finishing requirements.

Asheville Log Home Inspectors

Builder Buddy is your resource for Log Home Inspections in the Asheville area.  We also provide Log Home Radon testing, Log Home Mold testing, Log Home Water testing, Log Home Well Inspections, and Log Home Septic Inspections.  Schedule online or call with questions.

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