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Your Home:

Thinking about chinking your home:

The first on a list of the many things to think about when considering chinking your home is whether or not it needs chinking at all. Of course, if it is full round “chink style” construction that decision was made during the planning process. But if it is one of the various types of chinkless types of construction, the initial intent was probably for the log joints to remain free of any type of sealant on the surface. Later, there may be many reasons to go ahead with chinking. Often a number of the joints between logs will open from twisting and settling allowing air and a route for insects to enter. On rare occasions water may be wicked or blown between the logs causing a problem with decay. Quite often a homeowner just likes the look of a chinked house and the opportunity to select a color to outline the logs

The comfort of your home:

Certainly the ambient warmth you feel in a log cabin is hard to match. This is a big reason for the popularity of log homes today. That warmth isn’t just ambiance as log structures can be very thermally efficient. The mass of logs and the associated thermal flywheel affect can be of great benefit in keeping your home comfortable in both summer and winter, but If gaps between logs are allowed to remain open, air infiltration can make your home cold, drafty, and very expensive to heat as well as difficult to keep cool in hot summer weather. Chinking can help keep a solid barrier between you and the outside breezes.

The maintenance of your home:

By far the most important factor in preserving the integrity of the structure and the beauty of the logs on your home is keeping them dry. Dry wood logs will literally last for centuries. Keeping the wood dry should always be of prime importance when considering both the design and maintenance of a log home. With adequate roof overhangs and gutters there shouldn’t be a problem. But if there is a situation where water is being driven between the logs by the wind or water frequently runs down the wall you should keep a close eye on that area. If there is a situation where water saturates fiberglass insulation that is against wood you should take steps to remedy the situation immediately. Fortunately, once there is an application of good quality elastomeric chinking material, the chinking itself is very long lasting and low maintenance

The look of your home:

Energy efficiency, comfort, maintenance, and simply keeping the bugs outdoors where they belong are all important factors when considering chinking. However, if you are like most people, the way your house looks is of primary importance and rightly so! A log home nestled among the trees of the forest looks like it belongs there. That is why you chose to build a log home in the first place. They look great.

With the different chinking colors available you can affect the look of your home in many ways.  The effect of the chinking between the logs can highlight the pattern of the logs and tone down the transition of the sharp line where the logs meet. Or you may want to choose a color where you won’t notice the chinking at all.

Often I find that people are quite apprehensive about changing the look of their home by chinking the logs but feel that it is necessary to seal the house because of air infiltration and insect problems. Initially they may decide to chink only the interior or the exterior. Then, more often than not, after the chinking is done they decide to do the other side in order to achieve the same look. The comment I hear most often is: “Now it looks finished.”

For Do-it-yourselfers:

Sometimes I am called on to chink a log home where the homeowner has either started the chinking or has chinked the entire house and needs to have it redone. One of the most common mistakes I see, other than a general lack of tidiness, is the improper use of backing material or on “chinkless” style homes; masking tape used as a “bond-breaker”. When installing foam backer rod it is important to install it in such a way to keep a fairly even thickness of chinking across the joint. If round backing is installed on low profile log joints the result can be that the chinking material will have a ‘W’ shape with chinking that is thick on both edges and very thin in the middle. This can create a very weak spot in the center and also leaves a visible ridge along the center of the joint as the chinking shrinks slightly when it dries.

When tape is used improperly as a bond-breaker, a ‘V’ shaped joint is formed where most of the contact surface has been covered with tape so that the chinking material is only making contact with the logs on the very edges. In this case there will be little elasticity in the thick center part and very little strength on the thin edges. It is important to keep in mind that these thin spots in the chinking are weak points that are the most likely to tear if there is movement of the logs.

A few other tips for beginners:

  • Keep all your tools rinsed clean or in a bucket of water. The more dried chinking that is on your tools the more difficult your job will be.
  • Don’t work in the direct sun and if possible work in cool damp weather. It becomes difficult to finish chinking in hot weather even for professionals because the surface dries and becomes tacky very quickly.
  • It is tempting to start with a joint right by the front door just to see what it will look like, but is better to start in the back corner of a closet. You might consider starting with a couple scrap logs in the backyard.
  • If possible, order chinking material in a disposable tube to give it a try. It is best not to order material for the whole job until you are ready to start chinking and that you are reasonably sure of the type and color best suited for the job.

Remember, they call it Perma Chink for a reason; once you have it on the wall it is there to stay. So take care with what you do and have fun. If you need advice you are welcome to give me a call.


Choosing a chinking contractor:

Surprisingly, I not only get calls to redo or finish chinking that a homeowner has done, but on occasion to finish or redo the work of someone they have hired. Just as it pays to do your homework before doing your own work, you should do some research before hiring someone else.  Have a good idea what their work looks like through photos and, if possible, go see their work in person. Check with references, and be sure you know who will actually be doing the work. Ideally, anyone you consider hiring will have had a suitable apprenticeship and a current contractors license.  Every so often, I get a call from a carpenter or painter who wants to know what they should charge for chinking a house they are working on. This is like a roofer asking what he should charge to do the plumbing, or a painter asking what he should charge to build a brick wall. In other words: the competence at his trained profession has no direct bearing on his ability to do the other job.

Price is important but occasionally I see work that I would have paid someone not to do. Remember that the chinking is the finishing touch on your home and is expected to be there for life. Be careful not to sacrifice quality workmanship when attempting to cut cost or rush the job to completion. The result could end up costing a lot more to the appearance of your home and/or the expense of redoing the job later.

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