The number one enemy of logs is water. Start your inspection from the roof peak and visualize a drop of water as it seeks a way to reach the log surface. Begin with the roof line and look for humps or dips which could indicate improper settling. Check the condition of the roof and ask when it was last replaced. Are the gutters in good condition or are there any gutters at all? Does the roof have adequate overhang of 18″ or more? If not, then water may find its way to the log surface below.
Even if there is sufficient roof overhang the water that drains off the roof will hit the ground causing water to splash back onto the log wall. Because of this you want to check for adequate ground clearance of 12″ or more. Carefully examine the logs around any surface or object near the log walls such as basement access doors, propane tanks, furniture, landscaping, decks, etc.
You now have a pretty good idea where water may accumulate on the log surface and can begin inspecting exterior logs more closely. Since it is not possible to test every log for integrity, concentrate on areas you have determined are most likely to accumulate water. These areas may be indicated by mold, mildew, fungi, checks (cracks in the logs), insect holes, large gaps between logs, caulking or chinking gaps or tears (material between log courses), peeling or fading finish, green or blackened logs.
If you suspect an area that may have decay ask the homeowner or agent for permission to lightly tap the logs with a hammer. Compare that sound with a log you know is in good condition. The good log will sound solid and hard and a decayed log will sound hollow and soft. Log decay is difficult to find as the log can look perfectly normal on the outside but hollow and in advanced stages of decay on the inside.
Make sure any porches or decks are in good shape too. Many times the posts are in contact with the ground and may be supporting your porch roof. A sagging porch roof may indicate post decay.
When inspecting the interior of the home make sure the windows and doors operate properly. If they have difficulty, this may be due to improper allowance for settling during construction. Look for gaps or light between log courses, in corners and where the roof sits on top of the log wall. The roof rafters, purlins and ridge beam where they intersect the log walls are also common areas of air infiltration that will affect energy efficiency.
Look for water stains on the log surface which would indicate a broken seal or caulk problems. Check for small round holes or powder like talc which could indicate previous or current insect problems.
In the basement check for accumulations of water on the floor, mold on the walls, or a musty smell which would indicate poor drainage.
Below is a checklist that may be helpful when considering purchasing an existing log home. If you have a specific concern, ask your agent or the home owner if you can take pictures. The photos can be emailed to a log professional for their opinion. Once you have decided on the home you would like to buy, it is advisable to have the logs professionally inspected.
Information about the home:
Disclosures – look for disclosures of log decay, insects, drainage…
Exterior Log Inspection:
Roof Line – look for sags or humps
Roof Condition and Age
Proper Overhang (18″ or more)
Landscaping (12″ or more from logs)
Ground Clearance (12″ or more)
Deck and Deck Post Condition
Weathered or Darkened Logs
Peeling or Faded Finish
Green Algae, Fungi, Mold or Mildew
Gaps Between Logs
Interior Log Inspection:
Operation of Doors and Windows
Light or Air Infiltration Between Log Courses
Gaps Where Roof Sits on Log Wall
Gaps Around Rafters, Purlins and Ridge Beam
Signs of Insects
Check Basement for Water and Mold
Buying a log home is an exciting time but can also be stressful. We hope this article offers some insight and provides a starting point to help narrow down your search. Please keep in mind, many of these issues are common and can be easily corrected. By following these steps you will be better prepared and more confident when making your log home buying decision. We wish you all the best in searching for your log home!