Maintaining your Log Cabin

Maintaining your Log Cabin

To ensure you maximise the life of your log cabin(s) it is vital that you take the correct measures and due care to maintain the cabin properly. Preparations you need to focus on, to execute adequate log cabin maintenance:

1. Ensure that you treat your cabin as soon as it is built 
2. Ensure that you choose the correct treatment
3. Ensure that you re-apply treatment when required
4. Ensure to look out for possible rain damage and leaks
5. Ensure you take measures to control moisture in and around your log cabin
6. Ensure that your log cabin can settle properly
7. Ensure that your log cabin is secure

1.1  Log cabins are supplied untreated for you to treat and finish as desired. We strongly advise that you treat your log cabin as soon as you construct it and continue to treat it regularly to strengthen it against varying weather conditions. If left untreated, your log cabin will deteriorate.

NB. Summerhouses constructed from shiplap (T&G) cladding (not machined logs) are usually supplied factory dip-treated. It is advised and not to void any manufacturers warranties (if supplied with an extended warranty at point of sale), to treat your summerhouse annually with a suitable outdoor timber treatment.

Before you start, use masking tape to protect windows and hinges and protect the base around your log cabin with ground sheets. Remove the doors where possible.

It is always best practice to apply the treatments by brush and ensure that each coat is worked deep into all joints particularly at corners and between logs. Do not brush too thin or apply too thick. Ensure all edges of doors and windows are also weather protected.

For the internal treatment, assuming you do not expect dampness being created in the cabin and also that you wish to retain the light pine appearance, simply apply the one coat of Cuprinol/Sadolin clear preservative or similar all purpose preservative.

If there is likely to be moisture created within the cabin e.g. from cooking, many people breathing, gas heater, open garage doors and concrete floors, hot tubs etc. then the internal faces of the walls and ceiling must also be waterproofed. You could use Sadolin Extra Durable Clear Coat. In all cases it is a good precaution to treat inside faces of doors and windows with a water proofer.

All treatments are to be applied in accordance with the product instructions and maintenance coats are to be applied at intervals recommended by the product supplier.

It is sometimes necessary to add a silicon sealant to some joints in the cabin. This is always needed for log end to end butt joints that occur in long walls and sometimes around door/window frames to wall joints depending on weather conditions imposed.

It is a simple case of running a bead of flexible silicon water proof sealant into the joint to fill any gaps and provide a cover fillet.

However we recommend that the silicon is only applied after all other treatments are completed and the wood has dried and settled. For this reason our installers are not in a position to apply the final sealants and responsibility for doing this lies with the customer.

When applying the treatment, start at the top of each panel and do one panel at a time. Wait for each panel to dry before coating them a second time. When the panels are dry, remove the masking tape and sheets.

If you’re treating your log cabin during winter, make sure that the building is completely dry before you begin. Check the weather forecast and time this stage of the maintenance so that it is undertaken during a period of dry weather.

1.2  Choosing the correct treatment

Whichever product you choose it must satisfy three criteria:

1. It must be a preservative rather than a paint.
2. It must be a waterproofer (many preservatives do not have waterproofing abilities. This is also true of many varnishes)
3. It must have at least a small pigment of colour to provide a filter against the sun.

There are a number of different types of stain-based treatments that you can choose for your log cabin from various brands. The most popular brands of treatments are those supplied by Sadolin, Sikkens and Cuprinol. Sadolin have recently extended their Superdec range to 200 colours. To give you an idea of protection; Sadolin Superdec gives you (at time of writing):

• Up to 8 years protection
• Self priming and undercoating
• Solid colour finish
• Highly flexible, allowing for natural timber movement
• Exceptional durability
• Resists peeling, blistering & flaking
• In satin finish

Superdec is a great product for your newly built cabin or summerhouse but also ideal when a complete change of colour is required, or where the existing surface has become weathered and uneven. NB. We are not associated nor affiliated with Sadolin or their products.

Below is a list detailing the properties of each treatment type available on the market, to help you make your choice. Always consult with the supplier of the treatments to ensure that you are acquiring the correct treatment product.

Water-based treatments: Water-based treatments are water resistant and can be applied directly onto wood, no need for a primer. All timber to be treated must be sound, free from dirt, dust, wax, grease, organic growths and surface moisture. Areas to be treated should be dry and previous coatings or repellents should be removed or weathered sufficiently to allow treatment to penetrate/bond to the surface. For best results sand lightly in the direction of the grain and dust off. Allow to dry between coatings.

Solvent and spirit-based treatments: They provide more protection than water-based solutions and are also easy to apply. They are long lasting and are deep penetrating preservers which protect against wet and dry rot. Prior to application the wood stain should be stirred gently, with a wooden stick. Apply by brush ensuring a good even coating of the timber surface. Ensure any end grains are liberally coated to create a good seal. When using this solution, your log cabin should be re-treated every three or four years subsequently and depending on weather conditions this may need to be applied more regularly.

Oil-based treatments: are even better, soaking into the timber to provide thorough protection, yet leaving a certain amount of ‘give’ so your log cabin can still expand, contract, and settle naturally.  With long lasting UV protection, strong water repellent and powerful fungicides, these wood preservatives will keep your garden building looking good for longer. Oil-based stains are also more durable and only need to be touched up every 4-5 years. However, any sides of the log cabin that are particularly vulnerable to weather should be re-treated more frequently.

1.3  Making sure that you re-apply treatment when required

If you need to check whether it’s time to re-apply a treatment, spray a bit of water onto your log cabin exterior and see what happens. If the water beads up and rolls down the surface without seeping into the wood, treatment may not be necessary at this time; if the water soaks into the wood, you’ll need to apply a fresh coat. Be sure to check the corners and ends of the logs as well; even if most of the surface is still resistant, the sides might be absorbing more moisture.

In the vast majority of cases you will need to clean your log cabin before re-applying treatment. If the mud build-up isn’t too severe, you can clean it by hand. If you deem the cabin to be very dirty than you may need to pressure clean it and allow to dry out before applying a fresh coat of treatment.

Looking for Rain Damage and Leaks

2.1  During the cleaning process it is useful to note where the dirt splatters and rain spots have built up on the walls and may be causing damage. Here you should be taking measures to protect your cabin against these elements in those areas.

This can be vital for locating certain areas of your log cabin that you may need to waterproof with a flexible silicone sealant (available from DIY stores), although you should only use this after applying or re-applying treatment to your cabin. Common problem areas include the joints around the windows and doors, the interlocking corners from under the roof to the foundations, and any visible gaps on the log sides and ends. It is a simple case of running a bead of flexible silicon water proof sealant into the joint to fill any gaps and provide a cover fillet.

Controlling moisture in and around your log cabin

3.1  Creating an environment that aids moisture control is one of the most important aspects of log cabin maintenance. This can be broken down into four key areas: the roof, foundations, surrounding drainage and keeping the cabin warm.

Log cabin roof
Your log cabin is going to get wet when it rains, but positioning it so that wet trees will not drip onto the roof can make all the difference. Regardless of the position, it is vital that the roof of your cabin has wide eaves to prevent rain or snow from coming into unrestricted contact with the exterior cabin walls. If you choose to add shingles to the roof of your log cabin they may include a waterproof durable thick plastic membrane which provides extra protection. During periods of heavy snowfall, you should brush off any snow that accumulates on the roof, as well as making sure to clear any snow from the surrounding area.

Log cabin foundations
IMPORTANT. We always recommend the services of a professional and reputable building contractor to ensure that your base is laid correctly and to the correct size for your intended cabin and location. 

It is important that you do not set your log cabin directly on the ground, as doing so will make it easier for water to seep in through the flooring. The foundations are extremely important and must be installed correctly. Poorly laid foundations that can not support the weight and movement of a cabin may be detriment to the log cabin structure and its longevity.

If you opt for a concrete base it should be larger than the cabin itself by approximately 100mm, and ideally set at 100mm thick, or 150 mm or more if the ground is more uneven. It is also important to ensure that the foundations are well insulated and that the earth around the log cabin is not too close to the base.

In addition, you should make sure that that the joints between the floor and the walls are secure so that no water can seep through.

Remember that there are also more environmentally friendly Foundation Systems to help avoid the mess of concrete and the time it takes to mix, lay and set. Please contact us for further information.

Log cabin drainage
Ideally, to aid drainage, your log cabin should be placed at the highest point of your garden, or at least with the base elevated two inches from the foundation and the surrounding grass or dirt to reduce rain splashing back onto the logs. Use a gutter to direct water well away from your log cabin, ensuring that it’s kept clean so the flow of water isn’t disrupted. Apply due care when fixing guttering directly to the log cabin. Avoid fixing directly to logs that may restrict natural movement. Please contact us for further information and assistance.

Keeping your cabin warm
Keeping your log cabin warm in the winter can be difficult. Even if yours has thick walls, a thinner roof and floor can result in lots of heat being lost. Insulating your roof and floor is the best solution for heat retention; as is opting for an underfloor heating system. Both methods should be carried out and considered prior to the installation of your cabin. Opening the windows on dry days or when they are steamed up can also help prevent damp caused by condensation.

Settlement and Log Cabin movement

4.1  Timber is a natural product that will contract and expand according to the weather; you need to ensure that the wood has enough space to do so without restriction. A log cabin will always move in its lifetime and will do most of the settling in the first few years of being installed. A cabin can move as much as 35mm subject to the timbers moisture content. Moisture content in the logs will also change from season to season and with use which will cause expansion and contraction of the wall logs. This is a natural occurrence which can be limited by the application of an exterior and interior treatment. Please do not fix anything to the logs that may restrict the natural movement of them.

Once the log cabin is constructed, there will be a period of ‘settling’ as the wood reacts and adjusts to the surrounding climate. The wood will naturally expand and contract during settling which can lead to splits, cracks and gaps forming in the wood over time. This shouldn’t, however, compromise the structure of your building and such areas can be filled and sealed with a good quality flexible sealant. It is a simple case of running a bead of flexible silicon water proof sealant into the joint to fill any gaps and provide a cover fillet.

However we recommend that the silicon is only applied after all other treatments are completed and the wood has dried and settled. For this reason our installers are not in a position to apply the final sealants and responsibility for doing this lies with the customer.

If your log cabin comes with storm braces – wooden battens fixed to the cabin with coach bolts. It may be necessary to release the tension from the top coach bolt to allow the storm brace to move freely. This should be checked regularly throughout the life of your cabin to prevent gaps between the logs.

Should you have any queries over details provided in this article please contact us.

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