The Rot Doctor


Subject: log home inspection
Date: Wed, 07 Jul 1999

Dear Doc

We're in the process of buying a log home in Oregon. The home will be examined by a (reputable) licensed inspector to determine any red flags that are less than obvious. Log homes are a rare commodity in this area and the inspector has already said that there are limitation to what they are able to do to assure 'fitness' for purchase. Given our naivety of how to identify problem areas with log homes, is there anything you can suggest that we can request the examiner to do so we will feel more comfortable with his findings.



You are raising a very interesting question, and wisely thinking ahead.

Wood rot is the biggest problem the inspector will probably not be too familiar with and which will need some attention. The main structure of the building he can adequately evaluate by looking at the whole structure, i.e., the visual integrity of large standing sections. If the home is settling badly it will be evident because of gaps between walls and gaps between beams and around windows and doors.

Wood rot in the logs can be discouraging if it is widely spread and deep. It will most often occur in lower logs, because that is where the water hits the wood. This can especially be a problem if the logs are close to the ground, as opposed to being on a foundation. Once they badly rot then they have to either be repaired using our process (as outlined on our website) or the house jacked up and the logs replaced. Jacking up a house is expensive and doesn't do good things for the structure. Repairing with our method is much less expensive, but time-consuming.

So, what the inspector needs to watch out for, and perhaps you too, is rotten logs. The logs themselves can be deceptive. The inside of the log can be rotted away but still have a one or two inch thick outer face that looks good. You determine the viability of a log by rapping it with a hammer or mallet. You should hear a solid thunk. If you get large tone changes (a hollow sound) at different points on a log, or big tone changes between logs, then you have to suspect a problem. Drilling into the log will quickly determine what's happening inside. If it were me I'd walk the outside circumference of the building with a hammer in one hand and a portable drill with a 3/8" bit in the other and see what I discovered. The holes can be plugged shut with a dowel afterwards. Or you can use a fish fillet knife or other thin stiff object to probe into the cracks on the top half of the log. This allows access to the interior of the log without having to drill holes. Hopefully you'll hear good noises from the hammer and no drilling or probing will be necessary. Sometimes the bad wood will be evident on the surface. Poke it an see how deep it goes, and how far it goes.

Beyond this, look at the log ends for deteriorated or soft wood. It may be fairly local and not penetrate too far into the log. It is fairly easy to repair using our CPES (Clear Penetrating Epoxy Sealer) but is still an issue regarding the price of the home. In this context, if large areas of rot are found in lower logs then I would think the price of the home would have to be re-negotiated to account for repair costs.

Window areas, decks and the like are also subject to rot. Look for soft wood. Poke around with a screwdriver and push here and there looking for soft places. Again, it is repairable with CPES but is a pricing issue.

Feel free to get back to us if anything suspect is discovered. We'd be happy to give you an opinion.
The Rot Doctor