Over time, you are likely to see small cracks developing on your logs, and this is quite normal. They go by the name checks, and many people think of them as a welcome addition to a log cabin’s (more information here) aesthetic appeal. However, for other people, the occurrence of these checks causes them to worry. The truth is that most cracks that occur in your cabin are quite harmless. However, before we get into whether you should call in an expert or not, let’s see where the difference between checks and cracks comes in.
Cracks vs. Checks
A check is a crack that occurs on the surface of a log. It does not go through the diameter, and it is pretty small in size. Owing to these properties, it does not affect the structural integrity of your cabin. A crack, on the other hand, is much more pronounced. It is likely to pass through the diameter of the log and can occur for many reasons. It could be that the cabin is under a lot of pressure, that the drying methods used were not suitable or force on the log.
Checks are not all that noticeable and can either be on the interior or the exterior of the log. In most cases, they do not present a problem. However, you should monitor them over time to see whether they are increasing in size. They can allow water to the log’s interior, and this can lead to water damage as well as insect infestation. Checks are only an issue if they are creating an entry to the interior for water and pests. Otherwise, they are okay.
Cracks are a problem, and the sooner you deal with them, the less it costs and the easier it becomes to uphold the structural integrity of your log cabin. You can replace the entire affected log, or you can add support to the house. The method chosen will depend on how severe the crack is, and it is best to call in an expert to weigh in on the situation if you have not handled such a case before.
As for checks, you do not have to get professional help, and you could quickly fix the problem. Here’s how:
Wood Putty/ Filler Sticks
Start by getting a filler compound that has a similar color to the log in question. Purchase filler sticks and putty in crayon shape, as they will make your work easy. You can get these in a home improvement store. If not, you can always get a variety of the same online. As is the case with the filler compound, be sure to get those that match the color of the wood. If this is not possible, you can get many colors and mix them to come up with a different shade. You can also opt to color the wood once you finish and in this case, your best bet would be to get a product that can stain with ease.
Next, place the filler material into the crack using your finger. Suppose you are using a filler stick, you can achieve this by rubbing it over the hole then spreading it as needed using your finger. For putty, you can overlay it over the crack using a knife or whatever material helps you to get it in there. Continue adding filler to the hole, ensuring that you fill it in thoroughly. Once the hole fills, add some more material to create an overfill. The essence to this comes in when you smooth the filler material as it helps in blending the crack.
The material dries pretty fast, so it is essential to start flattening it out immediately. You can use a putty knife for this and where you cannot get your hands on one, use your finger or a rag. Ensure that the cloth you use is clean to prevent the introduction of debris to the crack which can lead to other problems.
Once you flatten it out, you can leave the filler material to dry. The time needed for this step will vary depending on the filler material you use. As such, you should check the label on the product to figure out what period is suitable. Leaving the filler to dry for about eight hours should be good enough. It is safer though to do this overnight for the best results.
You can now start sanding down the overfill using a fine grit or plane sandpaper. The sandpaper grit should be somewhere between 120 and 220 for the best results. Work on the excess filler and wear it out until it lies flat against the wood. Once you achieve this, the crack shouldn’t be noticeable, if you used a filler material with a similar hue. You can then decide on coloring and treating the wood as you deem necessary.
Glue and Sawdust
This option works great and is pretty easy on the pocket. To start with, get sawdust that matches the color as well as the type of your wood. You will use it to cover up the glue as well as to blend the crack, and its color will determine how excellent the results are. You can get some sawdust by sanding or sawing the kind of wood in question. If you do not have any wood that you can work on, a trip to a home improvement store will do. While you are here, be sure to grab a bottle of wood glue.
Start by pressing the wood glue bottle to release the contents into the crack until you fill the hole. You can also use a syringe when dealing with a small hole to get deeper into the pit. Next, cover the glue with sawdust completely and rub a finger over the hole to ensure that the adhesive sticks to the sawdust. The sawdust should prevent anyone from seeing the glue underneath once you finish.
Allow the glue to dry overnight, and once it is dry, it should not be possible to see the crack. If you can still notice it, add the glue and sawdust combo and give it another day to dry. Using grit sandpaper that is between 120 and 220, sand down the area until the filler lies flat.
With these simple steps, you should be able to rid your log cabin of all checks that may threaten its structural integrity.