September 14, 2006

The Maintenance Intense Love Affair

Okay, so I own a log home. And I love it. It's cozy, comfortable and has that lodge feeling that everyone just loves.

But...

Owning a log home is a serious pain in the ass. Mind you, I've learned a great deal from owning a log home, but I never wanted to become a scholar in log home maintenance, and yet, I have no degree in this lowly field.

It all started after our first, blissful summer in our lovely little home. The previous owners had "preserved" the wood using the time tested technique of simply applying a 50/50 mixture of linseed oil and turpentine to the logs every 2 years. Well, the house is over 30 years old and it's survived all of those New England winters, so it must have been at least adequate.

Well, sure, but not really.

This lovely little mixture, of which they left me plenty, doesn't protect the logs from the harsh UV raining upon us day in and day out. The result? Black logs. Not only black, but the outer 1/4 inch had been so UV damaged that it had converted into a strange type of cellulose sponge that just LOVES to hold water. You heard it right Bub! Water and wood...well, let me just say that there are tons of lovely little 6-legged creatures that view that mix as a huge, freakin' dinner bell. Needless to say, I've spent the last FOUR years experimenting with ways to remove that outer layer of wood. I've tried chemicals (TSP, CPR which works great but my logs are BLACK), pressure washing and straight sanding.

Straight sanding is the quickest when you have damage like mine.

The CPR is awesome...basically a potent (high molar value for you chemist types) mix of hydrogen peroxide. It's not just for teeth and bloody owwies! I'd put this stuff on and it would foam like a horny, rabid dog! The black would just start pouring out of the wood, but yet it was still not right. So I would SCRUB...and I'm not talking about no pansy assed scrubbing, I'm talking about sweating your balls off scrubbing. This method worked quite well, but was damn hard to make any progress. But since this was the very first thing I'd tried, it worked and I was sticking to it..for a while at least. Plus there was one added side effect: I discovered, because of my vigorously high pressure scrubbing, that my second floor joist had been invaded by a sizeable colony of carpenter ants and some other foreign creature that had turned the outer 4 inches of log/joist to a papery pulp. Eeeewwww.

Malathion to the rescue!! But what about that joist? OMFG!! I had a "professional" come out and provide me with an estimate of what it would take to fix this 3 foot section of joist...I about crapped myself when he said it would be at least $28000. He didn't even offer to blow me!

Needless to say, I didn't entertain this guy's special brand of nuttiness but instead turned to my trusty resource, the Internets. Sorry, had to throw in some GWB speak there. Well, it basically came down to saturating the shit out of the joist with a borate mixture that would help prevent any further infestation and then drilling holes in the log about every 4 inches and putting in these nifty little chemical rods (more borate and copper I think) that end up getting leeched into the wood in a petrifying type of way, so they actually provide some structural rehabilitation. As for the big, nasty hole that was exposed to the outside, I sanded it down and made a notch that got filled by a piece of another log...essentially facing the damaged log with a piece of log siding that was about the same depth. In any case, you wouldn't even know it was there. My cost? About $200 for the chemicals, impeller rods and adhesive/caulk that I used to make it all work.

Well, that took 1 summer and I'd only finished 2 and a half walls with 5 more walls to go, and 2 of those walls were 2 stories...needless to say, at the rate I was going, I wouldn't be done for a long time, not to mention I really don't want to spend my summers doing this shit. I put up some 6 mil plastic over the exposed and untreated wood for the winter. What a fucking nightmare that was...nothing like the sound of heavy plastic blowing against the wall in the middle of winter. I had truly made it back to the trailer, while living in a log home.

The following summer, I had the bright idea of using a pressure washer to blow away the damaged parts of the log. This worked great...but...it caused the wood fiber to swell with water and fray. So I'd have to pressure wash followed by some sanding using a disc sander. It seems faster, but not really. It is less strenuous though and that's a plus. I make it through another summer and have finished 3 more walls, with 2 more to go. I've also managed to put the 3 coats of stain on..there was no way in hell I was going to listen to that plastic for another winter. The house is really starting to look killer, but man has it been expensive and time consuming.

The next summer, I begin to completely blow off doing any work. I'm sick of this shit. I wait until OCTOBER when I have a week off between jobs and get an entire wall sanded and stained. I didn't screw around with the pressure washer, just used a disc sander and 16 grit discs. Yep, you heard it right, 16 grit Buddy! That's like gravel glued to some paper. It worked so fast, it was hard to believe I was ever silly enough to not just stick with the old fashioned method: sanding. I also rented a cherry picker since this wall was on a sloping grade and it made my progress so much quicker. But just four days of rental left me $1000 poorer in my savings account.

This summer, I got the remaining wall sanded in one day. I haven't worked on it since and am planning to get it this weekend, then I'll be done.

Did I mention that my roof is leaking and in a fit of caffeine induced enthusiasm, decided that I would rip off my shingles. It's now almost October, and I have only the big blue shingle up there.

Crap. And did I mention that the former owners didn't know dick about roofing?

I'll save that for my next post...in the mean time...raise your glasses to the girls with hot asses!

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