We’ve all seen the tiny cracks in telephone polls, log homes, and even log furniture. These cracks are known as checks and naturally occur in round logs. While checks are common in round logs, there are a few things you should know about them as a log homeowner.
Checking occurs as the logs dry and shrink. Because logs dry from the outside in, the log is shrinking at different rates. This puts pressure or stress on the log, causing it to check or pull apart slightly. The majority of checking in logs occurs during the first two years after construction.
The amount of checking and the size of the cracks in log depend on a variety of factors. Typically, checks are narrower in smaller logs and the closer you get to the center of the log. Another important factor is the amount of moisture in the logs at the time of construction. Logs that are air-dried or are used when they are still “green” will have larger more extensive cracks. Although logs that are factory dried are not immune to checking, drying wood in a kiln will speed up the drying process allowing the wood to dry at a more even rate resulting in less checking. Cutting logs in the winter can also help to reduce checking, due to the lower moisture content in the log.
Checks in logs are rarely a structure problem, but they can lead to other issues. Checks that appear in outer walls may lead to water damage or rot issues if its position or shape causes water to run into the interior of the log. Checks that appear near windows or doors can break a seal causing air or water to leak into your home. The final concern for homeowners is insects. If left unattended insects or even mold can take up residence in your home.
So, what should you do about checking in your home?
- Build your home with factory-dried logs.
- Be sure to install all of the spines, gaskets, caulk, T-jams and other sealing mechanisms between logs and at window and door openings.
- Monitor checks in your logs. Sealing openings larger than ¼” with sealant approved by your log supplier.