European Larch and Douglas Timber

I love Larch, it has such a wonderful colour and feel to it, a really lovely hue of pinks, oranges and yellows. We’ve recently built a raised decking area on our show site incorporating Larch decking, steps and balustrade, we built it around one of the very popular Tourist Gazebos and it really has worked very well.

Tuin UK Show site

Larch decking and balustrade incorporated into one of our standard treated pine gazebos.

It looks gorgeous!  Larch does not need treating but I love the colour of it and to ensure we can see it for a very long time we’ve treated it with Clear Carefree Protectant.

Of course, being made from Larch you do not have to treat it, it is a very oily, resinous and dense wood that does not need any maintenance. It will weather eventually to a silvery grey and this process depends on its location, weather conditions and positioning. Of course if you would like to keep the gorgeous colour then it can be treated with a clear timber treatment as we have done.

On a recent to visit Tuindeco we went through the latest products for the coming season and I was really pleased to see as well as the stunning Larch Modular Garden Building Range they are also introducing a Gazebo range, all made from Larch. I have already ordered one and we’ll be putting it up on show soon, I’m sure sales of these will far exceed the pine ones, not only for its beauty but also its extensive longevity, strength and ease of care.

Larch is such a wonderful timber, it’s been used in construction for years and is also used with boat building, in Central Europe it has been long regarded as one of the best building timbers. It’s stronger than pine and is very popular with architects for external cladding and outdoor structures. Un-dried larch is particularly good for heavy structural work.

Larch is unusual amongst the softwoods as it is deciduous and sheds its pine needles in the Autumn. It also features in Lapp and Siberian folklore as the ‘World Tree’. The smoke from burning the timber is said to ward off evil spirits and is used as protection by their Shamans as well to induce visions (not recommended).

Properties of European Larch

Strength and its ability to withstand constantly changing wet and dry environments is its main desirable property, couple this with its natural rot resistant properties, wonderful colour and fine texture which make it lovely to work with and enjoy in your garden.

  • Larch is a deciduous, softwood, conifer tree, highly resinous, and a medium density wood (530 kg/m3)
  • Tuindeco Larch is sourced from Western Europe – PEFC or FSC. Environmentally sound and sustainable.
  • Being a  very dense wood it can resist constant changes from wet to dry with very little distortion, warping and shrinkage once dry. It can be prone to surface splits but this does not affect the strength, longevity or durability.
  • A strong timber and stronger than other conifers such as Spruce and Pine. It is 60% stiffer than European redwoods, 30% stronger in bending and compression, 40% harder. It does though have similar crushing and impact properties to that of pine and spruce.
  • Larch is faintly scented and has a wonderful straight grain with small knots. It is reddish, orangy, pinky in colour with contrasting white sap rings. It has fine texture and a high definition of grain.
  • Low maintenance and does not need treating, when allowed to weather if becomes a silvery grey colour. It is a good idea though to treat it where it is directly in contact with the ground.
  • Larch is in the durability class of 3 – 4. Durability is the measurement of a 50mm x 50mm cross section of timber left in the ground unprotected. Class 3 is 10 – 15 years. Class 4 is 5 – 10 years. When untreated and NOT in ground contact you can expect a life of 50 – 60 years. When treated and outdoors the life expectancy is 100 years.

Larch Limitations:

Like everything there are some limitations and foibles that it’s worth bearing in mind when you are working with Larch.

  • Due to its dense nature larch can split easily if you nail it without some preparation. Always drill a pilot hole before nailing or screwing to stop any splits being created.
  • Larch can leach slightly when new and can stain concrete surfaces. This is due to the high tannin content. It is a good idea to treat the timber when in contact with the ground
  • The Tannins can also react with iron and will produce and blue / black colour stain. Ideally always use non-ferrous nails and screws to guard against this.

Identification of the Larch Tree

A couple of useful videos to aid in the identification of a larch tree should you wish, the first one I found particularly useful!

Tuindeco Larch Timber Products

The ranges of timber are constantly expanding, numerous lengths, profile, and pieces are available for your own Larch construction project

Larch

Larch timber is available to complete any garden construction project in a huge variety of thickness, profiles and lengths.

Also available is an extensive range of Douglas modular buildings in both flat roof and apex roofs. Douglas is very similar to larch in colour and density. a very popular choice for garden structures.

Apex larch gaben building

Modular Douglas Garden Buildings in three main styles and a myriad of possibilities, sizes and styles.

New for this season are Larch Gazebos: I can see these really taking off as these will make a stunning addition to any garden.

Larch timber gazebos

Larch timber gazebos

Cracking and Splitting in Timber

Timber – A bit of a pain

Cracking and Splitting of timber is a complete pain for our industry during the summer, it’s at this point we get customers questioning the ‘quality’ of our timber used in some of our products as some cracks and splits start to appear in items that use posts such as play equipment and gazebos.

Thankfully, it’s not just us either, every single supplier of timber products for the garden gets exactly the same thing.

Summer historically costs the timber industry thousands upon thousands of pounds due to perceived ‘defects’ in timber by customers when 99% of the time no defect exists at all.

Natural Organic Substance.

Timber is a natural substance, we all know that.  And, as it is organic, it is greatly influenced by it’s surroundings and more specifically it is trying to reach an equilibrium with it’s natural surroundings.

Water Content.

When a tree is first cut down (green wood) it can contain over 50% of it’s weight in water.  This water is naturally contained in the wood and is divided into two categories:

Free Water and Bound Water.

Free Water is water that is held within the wood via capillary action.  It can be absorbed and expelled.

Bound water is water within the wood that is bonded via hydrogen atoms.

When timber is dried it will be the free water that is the first to leave.

Before timber is used it is dried when most of the free water is removed (fibre Saturation Point of Wood (FSP)) FSP is achieved at about 25 – 30% moisture content.  Wood is dried to it’s natural surrounding environment and as such is engineered to work within it to about 20 – 25%.

Benefits of dried timber.

  • Decay organisms generally cannot thrive in wood with a low moisture content.  Many wood loving insects can only live in green timber.
  • Dried wood has better thermal and insulation properties.
  • Preservatives and finishes penetrate better with dried wood.
  • Dried wood is generally a lot stronger than green wood.

Equilibrium of the environment

As I’ve mentioned wood wants to be the same as it’s environment both in moisture content and temperature.  This is where we start to see a problem, especially during the Summer months and soaring temperatures. The timber starts to exhibit cracks and splits where it further dries out from it’s original point of FSP.

It is, by its nature trying to reach an equilibrium with it’s surrounding air moisture. During summer this moisture content in the air is going up and down all the time as is the temperature and the wood is trying to do the same thing.

Seasonal Wood Shrinkage.

Regardless of how well dried a piece of wood is it will always grow and shrink according seasonal changes in relative humidity of the air.

Changes in ambient humidity is all that is needed and will always affect timber regardless of any other influences.

A good treatment can slow this process down greatly regulating how fast moisture gets in and out of the timber. Wood shrinks by different amounts in different directions, there is however very little movement in the grain lengthwise.  There is some shrinkage radially and a greater amount tangentially (along the curvature of the growth rings).

Here’s a picture of my gate post at home, the weather we’ve been having is having a major impact on it.  You’ll notice that cracks and splits are appearing and will continue to do so at different rates. Most of the splits are occurring perpendicular to the growth rings because there is more shrinkage along the direction of the rings.  At the moment this piece of timber is still drying to reach an equilibrium with it’s surroundings, the inner core is wetter than the outer but once that has dried to the level of the atmosphere virtually all these splits will dissapear.

Cracked and Splitting timber

Cracked and Splitting timber

Here’s another basic but extreme example.  Because of the different rates of radial and tangential shrinkage, distortion of the wood can occur.  It can also cause radial cracks from the centre of the wood to the outer edge.  This is because the circumference shrinks more than it’s radius and a big radial crack appears allowing the circumference to shorten.

Shorter circumference resulting in a radial crack

Shorter circumference resulting in a radial crack

Here’s my post again showing a crack top to bottom, this is a radial split as above and will close up once the whole of the post has reached an equilibrium either by further drying or expansion as the moisture in the air increases such as Autumnal weather.

Longitudinal crack along the radius of the grain.

Longitudinal crack along the radius of the grain.

Here’s another example, this is a crack that’s just starting to emerge, they can appear very quickly during a hot day and often after installation if exposed in the hot sun or stored in a hot environment such as a garage.

Gazebo Post Crack starting to appear.

Gazebo Post Crack starting to appear.

The same thing happens to furniture when out in the sun or a change of humidity.  This is the timber from my picnic table I photographed yesterday, you’ll notice small cracks are just starting to appear.

Cracks starting to appear in the top of a picnic table.

Cracks starting to appear in the top of a picnic table.

Round poles such as the type used in many play centres, swings and climbing frames also exhibit the same properties and often far worse:

Round pole split along the radius

Round pole split along the radius

What is mainly affected?

The properties exhibited here are mainly found in products that utilise posts such as our gazebos and outdoor play equipment.

This is because the posts are made from a whole tree trunk.  You can see that very clearly with my fence post as an example, this was not supplied via Tuindeco but by a local fence supplier, our posts however will be the same.  This post has been in the ground for about 12 months and supports a gate.fence-post This post is encompassing both the ‘Heart’ and the ‘Pith’ of the tree  and as such it shrinks and swells at different rates.  A whole tree trunk is used as it is considerably stronger than the outside of the tree, If we were to use the outside then we would lose a huge amount of strength, the strongest part of a tree of course is the heart.

Summary

As I’ve said and we all know, wood is an organic substance.  It also tries its hardest to match it’s environment which you may not know.

It moves, swells, and shrinks to do so and is normal timber behaviour.

This should be fully understood and expected when buying any timber product for your garden. Sometimes these cracks can open up alarmingly large but remember it is entirely normal and once the inner core has dried the crack will close up.  Likewise as the moisture in the air increases so will the free water absorbed by capillary action in the wood and once again the cracks will close up.

None of these splits or cracks in the timber will affect it’s structural integrity or inherent strength.

If however, it concerns you I recommend the use of a good quality timber treatment as this will restrict the moisture both entering and leaving the wood.

Basically timber can be viewed as a bit of a pain!

Customers sort through the DIY shops, they buy gazebos or other ‘post’ style products and immediately reject them as being defective, this is simply not true!

Wood, by definition cannot be defective, there is nothing to go wrong other than obvious rot which is very rare in graded timber.

If you experience cracks and splits in your timber, especially when it is obviously milled from a whole trunk it is not a ‘defective’ product, nor is the strength impaired, it simply is timber exhibiting it’s normal state and characteristics.

Enjoy it and embrace it as it is part of it’s charm and warmth we all enjoy.  Watch it and marvel at it’s behaviour, cracks and splits will disappear, open up, wander and move …. is it really a pain or a bloomin’ clever feature of a very basic material we all love?  If you don’t like it, treat it with a good timber treatment and restrict the flow of moisture in and out.  However!  Even the best treatments allow moisture transfer, even plastic does to a certain extent.

The ONLY thing to remove the transfer of moisture is aluminium as found in crisp packets!  Cover your posts in this and they will never crack or split!

A personal Experiment with Cracks in Timber

Update:  11th August 2013

I’m going to try and prove my own waffle, I’m going to focus on my fence post, bear in mind it’s been in the ground for about a year and I’m now going to try and study it.

I plan to photograph it over the weeks, months and maybe years ahead.  It’s all very well me spouting on about the theory.  Some may even see it as excuses for a dodgy bit of timber so lets actually see what happens with this post over time if at the end I’m a liar I apologise.  This is going to be interesting ….. as far as a bit of wood can be …

I’m also going to find a brand new post from one of our Gazebos, stick it in the ground and see what that does as well, for now, my fence post …..

This picture is dated 5th August:

August 5th, split fence post

August 5th, split fence post

Updated picture, today, 11th August 2013

Split post taken on 11th August

Split post taken on 11th August

Some of the radial lines looks smaller to me, or am I just imagining them?  The split at almost 12 o’clock is smaller.

There’s changes but nothing has really closed up.

The week’s weather has had some rain, a couple of storms but not massive amounts, it’s still been pretty warm.  Lets see what the next week or two does to it.

The next time I’ll keep the camera back like the picture above so we can really see the changes ….. if any … or at least compare them better.

Update 29.10.13

A huge change since the last time I looked at the post.  You can really see the change this time and most of the splits have closed up.  Both the heart and the pith are reaching an equilibrium.  Clever stuff wood!

"The

The splits that were showing in the side of the post have almost gone as well.

Fence post cracks are almost gone.

Fence post cracks are almost gone compared to the summer months.

Timber splits in Construction

I enjoy looking at the properties of timber, it fascinates me how it moves twists and turns yet remains the exact same strength.

On a recent trip to a city shopping center it tickled me to see this split in a main supporting post.

Crack in supporting post

Crack in supporting post

A crack big enough for my daughter to put her finger in!

A crack big enough for my daughter to put her fingers in!

Amazing stuff timber! This isn’t defective. It’s not a problem and its strength is not at all affected, I hope not, as it’s supporting a massive canopy in the cities new shopping centre!

Update, 11.10.2018

One of our employees had recently returned from a long weekend away in a log cabin – Lucky for some, I know. Although the log cabin she has stayed in is seen as a ‘traditional’ log cabin, meaning that they mostly use rounded/half round logs in their construction, the timber is similar. Just like almost every type of timber you’ll find, there will be cracks and split, but it hardly affected its use for our employee’s holiday!

She writes as follows:

“So thought this might be of interest, I stayed in a pine log cabin over the weekend and you should have seen some of the splits in most of the logs… I’ve attached some pics, it was interesting to see. (The pics aren’t great, sorry).”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I think that the pictures show more than enough to prove that even with cracks the log cabin is still standing strong.  It is more than suitable for the accomodation purpose it provides!

 

Types of Timber in your Log Cabin

I have been emailing with a potential customer today and he asked me this:

“I am still therefore split in my decision between your cabin and one other competitor, (an improvement on the eight I started with!).  To this end, can you tell me the real issue over the timber quality with Companies that are using mixed pine/spruce as opposed to your materials?  The other Company do this which seems to be the main difference as neither of you do finger jointing. Hopefully then I can make a better informed decision.”

I explained in a very condensed version what the differences of timber are that are currently being used in log cabins across the industry but mainly in the UK. I think it was actually a bit of a ramble but with a glass of wine in my hand I can write it a little better here and more concisely than what was sent my customer earlier today by me.

If you are researching a log cabin it helps to know what you are getting, and like my customer asked, you can then make a fully informed decision:

Two Types of Timber we can use in a log cabin.

In a log cabin we can either use Pine or Spruce.

1. Pine – Wikipedia Pine Entry

Pine is known as a redwood, it’s widely used for a lot of things we use daily. No doubt you will have some pine furniture at home.

Pine isn’t as dense as Spruce and therefore it does absorb water quicker. It’s the cheaper of the two types we can use in a log cabin. We use it very widely in the garden for fencing, posts, furniture, play equipment etc.

Because it is less dense, we will pressure treat it to guard against rotting in the long term. It also tends to have looser knots and more of them, it changes colour with sun light to a darker colour. It’s also not as structurally strong as spruce and has wider ring growth.

Pine tree

Pine tree

2. Spruce – Wikipedia Spruce Entry

Spruce is a white-wood, it doesn’t discolour any where near as much as pine so it is more aesthetically pleasing inside a log cabin.  It is more dense than pine as well, the knots are tighter and usually there are less of them than in pine. It is structurally stronger but is more expensive than pine. Tuindeco log cabins are entirely spruce including the roofs and floors.

Spruce tree.

Spruce tree.

Difference

The main difference between the two is the denseness of the timber and this makes a lot of difference in a log cabin. Because of this it stands to reason that they both behave differently and this is where the problem starts when we mix timbers.

I’m sure you’re aware of a Bi-metal strip that’s used in thermostats?  With this we take advantage of the different expansion and contraction properties of brass and copper, both of which are similar metals like spruce and pine are similar.  But, there is of course a difference between them.

With a log cabin do we really want to have different rates of expansion?

If we do have a mix It will mean that logs expand and contract at different rates, gaps can appear, splits and all sorts of horrible things could possibly happen over its life if we are not fully aware of it.

We also have the aesthetics of it, lovely white spruce contrasted with the red of the pine really doesn’t look very nice. We then also have to contend with pine’s tendency to rot quicker unless it has been pressure treated.

Some suppliers will also specify finger joints using a spruce / pine mix and then we have even more issues with different rates of expansion. It does make for a far cheaper log cabin though and we can still overcome it by remembering it and when we are building it.

Varying expansion rates is great for a Bi-metal strip, not so good in a log cabin unless you are aware!

Spruce / Pine Mix

So, it’s really not a good idea to make a log cabin from pine in my opinion and certainly that of Tuindeo if you find a cabin made of pine it’s not a good thing, but, if you do take it, it should be VERY cheap.

Of course some companies will do it as it saves a lot of money but please check what is being used and that the cost savings they have are properly passed on to you.

Far more popular though in the UK, thankfully, is adding a cheeky spruce / pine mix into a log cabin, it saves the supplier a LOT of money and should hopefully save you as a consumer as well.

Lots of mixes are out there and only really accepted in the UK,  mixes are not tolerated in Europe, I think they are better educated than here in this respect.

Please consider that you may have the following problems in the long term with a mix:

  • Different rates of expansion may cause splits, warps, gaps and long term problems.
  • Pine is less dense and absorbs more water than Spruce so make sure you treat it very well.
  • Pine is redder than Spruce and not as attractive inside your log cabin.
  • Knots are looser in pine, there are generally more of them and they are more likely to fall out so before you apply your treatment I would recommend ‘knotting’ the logs first before you treat them.

If you do have a log cabin that has a mix, when you install it try to keep the above in mind and grade your timbers remembering the expansion rates, try to keep it even. Also if you have mixed timber and finger joints try to stagger your logs and remember the expansion will make a difference to longevity and this needs to be thought about as you build and treat it to make it last as long as one would expect.

Timber Series

Following on from this I intend to write a short series on timber in log cabins, you really wouldn’t believe the differences and the ways we can play with wood to get to the prices you the consumer wants but, do you really want it in the long term?

The following will be added to this blog over time:

  1. How we can cut a timber log to make a cheap log cabin.
  2. Moisture content in timber, machining and the impact of the content.
  3. Timber calculation to cut costs you can work out yourself and see where you maybe opting for a bargain while adding to a companies profits.
  4. More expansion information for log cabins.
  5. The pitfalls of thinner logs, barge-boards, windows and doors.
  6. Drying processes – kiln dried versus natural drying.

A timber log in a log cabin is not always just a timber log, there can be HUGE differences and all of these comes down to prices for the consumer or of course the company profits.

Oh, also watch out for spruce in the logs and pine in the roof and floor. It doesn’t make a great deal of difference but it’s nice to know what you are getting for your money!

Depth of Treatment and Moisture Content in Wood

I’ve spoken about the treatment of your log cabin in a previous post and I wanted to explain a little more about the importance of the depth of treatment which we recommend as 80 – 120 microns.

I personally try to make it very clear to customers the importance of a good treatment but I still find customers treating their cabin with rubbish and then contacting me a year later showing me splits and cracks, shrunk logs, uneven logs and other horrible things.

I tell them every time – All of this is entirely down to the treatment you are using and especially the depth and quality of treatment.

This post will give the technical aspects why we advise this, honestly I’m not making it up, there’s very good reasons for it:

Moisture Content, Sponges and the UK

I was sent this picture this week, The customer has had this cabin for about 9 months. The picture is showing a warped door on one of our Ingrid corner log cabins:

Warped door on an Ingrid log cabin

Warped door on an Ingrid log cabin. Notice the bolt at the bottom they have applied, this is the correct thing to do if you are experiencing a warp but the correct treatment could have helped prevent this warp.

I get a few of these problems over a year and 99% of the time it comes down to the treatment that has been used, and not just the treatment brand but the way it has been applied. I’ll come back to the warp in a little bit, let’s look a little more at the wood in this door.

Wood is a Sponge

Wood does of course warp and move, it can’t be helped, it’s natural and we all know that. The annoying thing with wood is that it acts like a sponge, you have to view every piece of wood in the Log Cabin as a sponge.

In a building there are shorter and longer logs – shorter and longer sponges. There doors and windows, horizontal and vertical parts to the frames, all of which are sponges.

Each one of these sponges is trying to be the same as it’s environment, I talk about this in my post on Splits and Cracks in Timber and how wood is constantly trying to reach an equilibrium with its surroundings.

If we zoom into a piece of wood you’ll see exactly why it’s a sponge:

Wood is a sponge and is made up of straws all drawing water for the tree.

Wood is a sponge and is made up of straws all drawing water for the tree.

Layer upon layer of straws are all drawing water for the tree. Many now support the Cohesion method theory where a tree draws it’s water using the tension of water, very clever stuff wood.

You can easily see from these pictures that when we look closely wood is full of holes and it’s these little buggers that will be causing a problem as they all fill with water or, drain of water as seeing as we killed the poor thing there is no tension of water to rely on.

For an untreated piece of wood this is happening constantly, it’s trying to reach the same moisture content as the surrounding air. This is known a Relative Humidity and is a measurement of the amount of moisture in the air around us.

Relative Humidity in UK

There is a direct link between the relative humidity and the moisture content in wood. The UK has an average high humidity of 92% and a low of 69% and this also depends on where you live.

Average humidity levels and these change according to where you are in the UK.

Average humidity levels and these change according to where you are in the UK.

Relative humidity change

Relative humidity changes over the course of a month can be quite dramatic in its highs and lows.

Relative Humidity in the months of the year in the UK

Relative Humidity in the months of the year in the UK

You can see from these that there is a difference in humidity. Over the course of a year it is 21% which is huge. You can also see how it is higher – wetter in the winter and lower – drier in the summer.

If you look at the graph of September you will see a difference of 18%. All of this is making wood grow and then contract, it’s happening constantly.

Moisture Content vs Relative Humidity

There is a direct correlation of the untreated woods moisture content and the humidity in the air:

There is a direct correlation of the amount of moisture in wood according to the relative humidity in the air.

There is a direct correlation of the amount of moisture in wood according to the relative humidity in the air.

Moisture Content of our Log Cabins

You’ll see from the charts above that at 75% relative humidity the moisture content of wood is 14%. The average is about 75% and this is why we dry all our log cabins to 14%.

It means that when we machine the wood it is at its ‘average’ moisture content for its lifetime in its intended location of use. To get it to this level of 14% takes about three days in a kiln.

By the way these things aren’t cheap to run either and they contribute to some of the cost of your log cabin.

You will see some manufacturers / suppliers happily tell you their log cabins are dried to 20%. I’ve seen a very high profile supplier happily state this in a promotional video as if it is a good thing!

Using these charts you can blatantly see that the relative humidity would need to be considerably higher to maintain the moisture content at that level and the UK would need a severe weather shift if that was to happen.

The supplier of course saves a day’s worth of money in the kilns but it means once the cabin is built it will shrink more to the UK’s average of 14%. This is why if you buy a log cabin and find loose joints as you install or a month or two later you see gaps appear, this is all down to the moisture content of the timber at the time of milling and that it is now reaching the UK’s relative humidity.

One of our 45mm show buildings I measured today. As expected the moisture content of the wood is 14% using my moisture metre. My meter is a very handy tool when finding out what is wrong with a customers log cabin, every time it’s treatment! Wood by its very nature cannot be ‘defective’ or ‘faulty’

14% – 16% Moisture Content in your Timber

So, understanding this, look for log cabins and indeed any other timber for use outside in the garden and make sure it has a kiln dried moisture content of between 14% and 16%. If it’s not at that then it soon will be and that maybe a problem as the joints will become looser.

If it is above this it will need to shrink further to reach this level which is the UK average.

This is also a very good question to ask any prospective supplier as it makes a large difference. You’ll see why in the next paragraph.

Movement in your Log Cabin due to untreated wood.

Here’s a startling statement and one that should explain it all in a few words:

For every 4 % change in relative humidity there is a change in the wood of 1%. 

Take a log of 114mm. Don’t treat it. Don’t treat it properly. Leave it out all year. for every 4% change it will grow or shrink 1.14mm.

We’ve already seen a difference of 21% in the UK. That’s about five 4% blocks of growths.

Would you believe that means a theoretical movement of 5.98mm for each log. In reality it’s about 3mm per log as wood can’t move that quickly but it’s still a bloomin’ lot.

Put that across 15 logs on top of each other and you have a theoretical movement of 89.78mm. WOW!

Understand that this is not a good thing, we don’t want your cabin or indeed your doors and windows moving to these degrees, if it does you can see various problems start to happen over time:

  • Warps in doors and windows
  • Cracks and Splits
  • Gaps may appear in some logs when they shrink quicker than a larger log.

Even though we use an average of 14% this can still be a problem as when relative humidity drops below 75% the logs will also follow it and shrink. If your logs have not been treated properly and if the drop is sudden you can see the smaller sponges lose their water quicker than the bigger sponges in your walls and you could see gaps appearing on the small logs.

It makes sense when you think of them as sponges that haven’t been inhibited and when you see the figures above it’s quite obvious why it’s happening and why the cabin is up and down like yoyo.

I did actually have a complaint a while ago that our logs were tight to get in whereas a neighbours cabin from a different supplier had fallen into place. This is why, if it’s a humid day the logs in a cabin will be very tight as they have swollen. A less humid days and they will be looser. But if you started with a log with a moisture content of 20% that then shrinks down to UK average 14% it will fall in to place, handy for when you are fitting.

Imagine what happens though when that same log shrinks down to say 10% moisture content during a scorching hot summer – yup, nice loose logs and gaps in the corners.

This is a 'print screen' from a promotional video of a prevalent supplier on the internet

This is a ‘print screen’ I took from a promotional video of a log cabin I watched on youtube,  you can clearly see gaps between the logs and this is down to the wood not being dried to 14% before milling. This supplier states they dry to 20% as if it’s a good thing. With further shrinking to the UK average of 14 – 16% the wood becomes smaller and you will see this. Some manufacturers will dry to 20% as it saves a days cost of the kiln.

Wind and Water Tight Connections

As well as this promotional video cabin having moisture content issues it also does not have ‘Wind and Water Tight Connections’ They’re the subject of this post: Wind and Watertight Connections in log cabins this is something we do as standard that others obviously do not do. Here’s a quick overview, you should be able to see the difference in the picture below. It’s a feature we don’t shout about too much. Having seen this ‘promotional video’ from a heavily advertised manufacturer perhaps we should!

Wind and water tight connection on our walls logs. With a moisture content of 14% - 16% and good connections and good treatment it's rare you'll have a problem.

Wind and water tight connection on our walls logs. With a moisture content of 14% – 16% and good connections with proper treatment your cabin will last for years and years. Not having a stepped W&W connection is not helping in sealing the cabin from the weather or helping to give allowance for further shrinkage. Creating the extra cuts to make this connection costs money and machinery and is a good place for a manufacturer to save it along with less time in the kilns.

Inhibit the movement of wood with a Good Quality Treatment

Now we know all this it is becoming crystal clear that we need to do something about it and that is where treatment is so important.

There’s all the bits about UV light protection, water repellent, fungicides etc which are all really good but the biggest thing a good treatment is doing is stopping this moisture transfer. It’s basically bunging up all the holes in the wood.

Getting back to the door at the start of this post. We had several conversations over this door and one of them was:

‘What did you treat it with?’ the answer was a very satisfactory Ronseal product which is known to be very good and one we recommend. The next question was:

‘How many layers did you give it?’ The answer was ‘two’

This is part of the problem, the manufacturer states three coats in their instructions and there’s a reason for that, they don’t just make it up, they know you need the proper depth of treatment for it to be properly effective and bung up the pesky holes in the wood and to stop any come back on them.

I pointed this out to my customer and suggested he needed to treat it as per Ronseals instructions and should have done so from the outset and that this could have probably stopped the warp. His reply was:

‘A third coat will be applied when i see fit’

This was missing the point completely!  If three coats is suggested on the tin then please use three coats from the outset otherwise it will not be functioning as it should and you can still expect problems.

If you don’t use the treatment correctly it is not the woods fault it has moved, it’s not the fault of the supplier or the fault of the treatment manufacturer. Putting it on nine months later or when ‘you see fit’ really isn’t going to help.

Depth of Timber Treatment on your Log Cabin

I’ve been playing with some of our show buildings today. Wrongly, this year we only put one coat of treatment on them as we just didn’t have time at the start of the season and now we are suffering as some of them are looking less than good and starting to show all the faults I warn customers against. A false economy and one we’ve got to now fix and treat them properly.

In a sense though it was a good exercise and  it showed some interesting results and is the inspiration for an experiment I am going to be running over the coming year for another post.

I went around the buildings with my meters:

Two types of meters for establishing what is happening with timber, a moisture meter and a depth of covering meter.

Two types of meters for establishing what is happening with timber and log cabins; A moisture meter and a depth of treatment meter.

First of all I calibrate it against a test piece. This meter measure the depth of a surface treatment in microns

First of all I calibrate it against several test pieces of various thicknesses to make sure it is functioning properly. This meter measures the depth of a surface treatment that has been applied to wood in microns. Like my moisture meter this one is also used a lot in fault finding with log cabins. Yup, every single time it comes down to the treatment used and applied affecting the wood.

Remember we’re looking for a depth of 80 – 120 microns as I have mentioned in the Log Cabin Treatment post which is the equivalent of two to three coats of a high quality treatment. This is to fully ensure the treatment is going to be effective in inhibiting the constant transfer of moisture and to bung up all those holes in our wood making it a little less sponge like.

A reading of 72 microns.

A reading of 72 microns.

Only one coat and this one was using one of our stains. With just one coat this attained 72 microns, with two coats it would be pretty much there. Be aware though that it does vary according to the painters skills in keeping an even coat.

A reading of 55 microns

A reading of 55 microns

This one was interesting for me and confirmed what I knew in that clear or close to clear treatments cannot give the same depth of coverage in one go, this would take three coats to be effective.

This building is a shepherd hut we have on display using one of our paints. Still only one coat but done by a professional painter so it’s quite uniform and he applied it quite thick. Another coat is still needed but only just. Still not a bad coverage at 85 microns.

This last building really surprised me, it’s a bespoke 58mm log cabin that was made to fit an area, it’s been up for years and we used to use it as an office for some staff. We painted this with a treatment obtained locally, I know for a fact it has had four coats on it over it’s life of about 10 years as I painted two coats myself.

30-microns

This building has had four coats (of a treatment we don’t recommend), I was really surprised at the depth!

And the treatment that we used? Yup something cheap! We’ve still got the tin. If you visit our show site ask us about this cabin, it’s the big old one at the end.

Here’s another measurement at the door, slightly thicker but still very much down from where we need it to be.

Virtually the same depth on the door as well.

Virtually the same depth on the door as well.

I was actually quite shocked at the difference in the depth across the treatments. This one I know was one of the cheaper treatments you can get. Some of the really cheap ones will barely register on this meter and form playing in the past you’d need to apply 8 – 10 coats to get to the 80 – 120 microns needed. With this cabin we do have all the features that we don’t want, I’ll do a post dedicated to this cabin one day.

Keep an eye out for my experiment post where I am going to paint lots logs in lots of different treatments from various manufacturers and various coats applied. I’m then going to monitor and measure them over the course of a year for moisture content and expansion / contraction to prove all of this more.

It’s worth knowing that when you pay for a treatment much of the cost of it is for the depth of the application.

So, my advice is:

Buy a top quality treatment and follow exactly what it say on the tin to get a proper depth so it can do it’s thing. Don’t only put on two if it asks for three!

Just to finish, a customer will tell me ‘But I used it on my shed and it was fine’ A shed and a log cabin are two entirely different animals. A shed is held together by a frame and the cladding will be about 12mm. It does not behave at all the same as a slotted wall log which is not held at all.

Here’s a good example of a sponge in action with only one layer of a poor treatment:

Smaller logs shrinking quickly by the side of a window far quicker than the large ones elsewhere in the cabin.

Smaller logs shrinking quickly by the side of a window far quicker than the large ones elsewhere in the cabin will leave a gap. When all the others have shrunk to the same moisture content this gap then closes. It’s best though if we can inhibit this by properly treating the cabin with a good treatment and the proper depth from the outset. We really don’t want this happening!

This cabin only had one coat, the customer told me it was fine for his shed:

Fine for a shed perhaps but a shed is held together with nails on a timber frame with a thickness of about 12mm. A 45mm lump of wood is a bit different. Even so, notice the contraction of the boards, is it really fine for a shed as well,? Perhaps you should follow the same rules for all your garden timber as all of it is behaving in exactly the same way.

Also, all of the above applies whether a building is tanalised or not. All tanalised buildings behave in exactly the same way as an untreated one and STILL require all of the above.

Moisture Difference in the outside to the inside of a Log Cabin

For a future post I’m going to be showing one of our neglected show buildings, and whether a log cabin should be treated inside, after seeing these readings and for this specific building the answer is yes for several reasons.

This moisture content reading I showed you earlier of the 45mm building was 14%, this was an external reading of a log. Looking at the same log internally it is showing a very surprising 9% moisture content! This is due to it being sealed up most of the time, no ventilation, no damp proof membrane in the base and in constant sunlight with high temperatures inside compared to the outside.

Big heat build up inside an unventilated log cabin means the moisture content has dropped to 9%

Big heat build up inside an unventilated log cabin means the moisture content has dropped to 9% this cabin is a show building and has not been treated on the inside. It is un-vented and in direct heat all day with no damp proof membrane in the base or a timber floor.

This is why sometimes you can see a split in a wall log open up, the poor thing is bigger on the outside than the inside. We need to treat the inside of this cabin as well!

I think this explains it well so please also consider treating inside your cabin if some of the above conditions exist so the entire log is regulated and inhibited.

Further advise on Log Cabin Ventilation.

Please also see my other advice post on the Treatment of your Log Cabin which has other information you may well be interested in.

This post also forms part of my timber series which is still being completed:

  1. Types of Timber in your log cabin
  2. How we can cut a timber log to make a cheap log cabin.
  3. Moisture content in timber, machining and the impact of the content.
  4. Timber calculation to cut costs you can work out yourself and see where you maybe opting for a bargain while adding to a companies profits.
  5. More expansion information for log cabins.
  6. The pitfalls of thinner logs, barge-boards, windows and doors.
  7. Drying processes – kiln dried versus natural drying.

Log Cuts in Log Cabins

This short article is the second in my timber series which tries to explain the types of timber we can use in log cabins. In this post I will try to explain how we can muck about with the timber to give you a really good price, but is it really good quality? Do you really want it?

The first in the series is here: Types of Timber in your Log Cabin

Timber Mills

I’ve already spoken about Spruce and Pine and their differences, now we can look at the actual log.

Logs arriving at the mill

Logs arriving at the mill

When the felled logs arrive at the mill an assessment is carried out on the best way to cut them for what ever uses have been specified. There are numerous different cuts for various reasons. It not simply a case of slicing them up. Wood is very expensive and the various parts of a log are worth varying amounts of money.

Parts of a Log

So lets look at this log:

Parts of a tree trunk

Parts of a tree trunk

There’s a few parts to it, each has it’s own properties and of course monetary value. It makes sense that the most valued part of the tree is the heartwood, this is the strongest part. It’s far more dense, it has less knots in it and is where all the full ‘goodness’ of the wood is.

This is the bit we like and are most interested in. This is the part that we make all of the posts from in the gazebos so we can be sure of the full strength, of course it does cause a few problems sometimes. Please see this post about the inherent problems of using this heartwood that sometimes a customer may see as a defect: Crack and splits in timber. However if we didn’t use it, and we used a different section and make a higher profit, your gazebo would not be half as strong. We’d be laughing to the bank but would you want that?

The heartwood is also the part Tuindeco will use for the log cabins but more on that a little later, lets keep looking at the log.

Best Bit of the Log

Lets look at our log again, we now know that the best and most expensive part is going to be the heartwood.  So as a mill we might look at this log and think to ourselves how we can cut it to provide the strongest piece and of course make the most money giving the highest grade of timber. Perhaps we’ll cut this from it:

Best and strongest part of a tree trunk for logs

Best and strongest part of a tree trunk for logs

With this we can take the most expensive piece and sell it at a premium and meet the Swedish Timber Grade of I – IV. We still have the rest of the log to play with and we can cut it up for all sorts of different uses meeting lower Swedish timber grades, maybe we could cut it like this:

Cuts you could possibly apply to a log

Cuts you could possibly apply to a log

There’s lots of technical terms we can use, Flitches, Deck, Board Scantlings etc. I’ll not bore you even more than maybe I am now.

Basically it means we’re cutting up the log to make the very best use of it. We’re cutting it to grades and to what we can get for it according to the buyers requirements and maybe their budget.

I found these images very interesting on the various cuts that can be found within a tree for various purposes:

Various types of cuts available from a log

Various types of cuts available from a log

As you can see there are lots of different ways to cut it, it gets even more technical and in another post I can blabber away about how we cut it to ensure knots do not fall out (Re-Sawn). Or how we ensure the very heart is cut to remain totally straight throughout the length of the final log cabin log.

Log Cabin Differences

I’ve seen another supplier of log cabins talk about differences in various log cabins. They are however completely missing the point. Double glazing and locks, roofing materials and sizes really are not the point when it comes to the buildings.

The ONLY thing that matters is the type of timber used, the quality of it, where it is from and where it is cut from within a log. And of course the moisture content (another post will deal with this) Moisture content makes a HUGE difference to the timber used in a log cabin.

Windows and doors, fancy locks, glazing, roofing etc is very superfluous and will not have any bearing on the quality or longevity. The timber is the important part and in my opinion the only part to worry about when you are researching or buying a log cabin.

The Log Cabin Cut

OK, lets assume you’re out to buy a log cabin, you’ve got cash to spend and maybe you can go direct to the timber mills and maybe even you can go direct to the factory. First I suspect you want the best timber, we’ve already talked about timber before: Types of Timber in a log cabin. and maybe you can get to the forest to select the best trees in the right location.

BUT now you can make it even cheaper and really get the price to where you want it. Maybe you are a UK supplier out to blast the market with you super duper best price log cabin

So why not use these cuts from a log and ask them to make the logs from them? This would be super cheap, probably about 20 – 40% cheaper :

Logs you could take from a tree trunk

Logs you could take from a tree trunk

Blimey, you’d make a killing! Your Log cabin would be way cheaper than anyone else, You’d sell LOADS

This is exactly what some suppliers will do, the outside of a tree is about 20% less weight than the inside, it makes for a cheaper building and certainly looks right on paper. You can even quote a Swedish log quality (above V but would you know the difference?). Kiln dried, really super duper! All the customers would think they have the UK’s best deal! WOOHOO!

By the way, I heard a quote recently from a very good friend in the industry. He said: “I can make a log cabin to any price you want. You want cheap? You will sell hundreds in the first few weeks but never answer the phone again!”

We would like to answer the phone this year and next and the year after……

But really what do you want? If you were at the mill and knew all of the above what would you really want?  Maybe this cut or are you not that bothered?

Inside cuts for a log cabin

Inside cuts for a log cabin

Timber Series

Following on from this I intend to write a short series on timber in log cabins, you really wouldn’t believe the differences and the ways we can play with wood to get to the prices you the consumer wants but, do you really want it in the long term?

The first in the series is here: Types of Timber in your Log Cabin

The following will be added to this blog over time:

  1. How we can cut a timber log to make a cheap log cabin.
  2. Moisture content in timber, machining and the impact of the content.
  3. Timber calculation to cut costs you can work out yourself and see where you maybe opting for a bargain while adding to a companies profits.
  4. More expansion information for log cabins.
  5. The pitfalls of thinner logs, barge-boards, windows and doors.
  6. Drying processes – kiln dried versus natural drying.

Log Cabin Treatment Panic

You’ve got your brand new log cabin.  It’s up and it’s chucking it down, it’s January with record rainfall, floods everywhere and your poor log cabin is bare wood, soaked, you’ve got to treat it haven’t you? – PANIC!

NO you haven’t.  There is no panic whatsoever!  So wait a little while, relax, stop worrying about her, she’ll be fine for years – sort of!

This log cabin belongs to a friend of mine I supplied from Tuindeco years ago, apparently, after 12 years she’s still deciding on the right colour!  Girls!

Look at the state of the poor old thing, very neglected and unloved it would seem but it’s home to chickens on the veranda and guinea pigs inside during the winter and very much loved and used so she tells me.

I do despair, just look at it!  But the point of this is that it is not rotting and it’s still a very solid untreated log cabin.

A log cabin that has never been treated in it's twelve year life span.

A log cabin that has never been treated in it’s twelve year life span.

I’ve asked her to keep leaving the choice of colour until later just so I can see what happens, I hope to post again in ten years when it’s still standing and knowing her she’ll still be pondering the right colour!

Yes the poor ol’ thing has her problems.  You can see in this picture how dry the timber is, it’s cracking and shrinking.  These pictures were taken last summer so she will look different now.  See a post on cracking and splitting in timber for a little more insight into what is going on with timber cracks.

Cracking and splitting of log cabin logs

Cracking and splitting of log cabin logs

She’s got one or two more problems as well.  Nothing insurmountable though, for instance, this log cabin has a few friends:

This log cabin is suffering with mould and fungus.

This log cabin is suffering with mould and fungus.

Yup, it does have a little fungus on it.  It’s not dry rot as it is way below a moisture content of 20% and never at a steady temperature of 23 degrees which both conditions needs to exist for dry rot to occur.  It’s just good friends and they like each other, no harm done.

Here’s another friend:

Another friend attaching itself to an old log cabin

Another friend attaching itself to an old log cabin

The back wall of this log cabin is covered by a hedge, it’s never been cut and now Ivy is growing over it.  Goodness know’s the out come of this but the old girl is still going strong and fully in-contact with a hedge and all sorts of undergrowth.

Overall though she’s jolly good.  For a log cabin of this age, no treatment ever, she’s still solid and displays no rot at all.  Here’s the doors and Roof Purlins:

Untreated purlins on a very old log cabin

Untreated purlins on a very old log cabin

Untreated doors on a log cabin

Untreated doors on a log cabin, they have warped a bit as have the windows which don’t open but not too bad.

We give a ten year guarantee on our logs cabins against rot. There’s conditions and they have to be treated regularly blah, blah.  If it was up to me I’d give a twenty year one and no treatment.  It’s impossible for timber to rot!

Ok, maybe that’s a stupid thing to say, I’ll add a note to it:  It’s impossible for timber to rot as long as it is always VENTILATED and allowed to DRY.

So I reckon our guarantee is safe.  If you get any rot in 20 years time please let me know and I’ll pay for your replacement out of my own wages.  It won’t happen though if she’s allowed to breathe, and, that’s the key with all timber products – ventilation.  If it gets wet and it’s allowed to dry out it will NEVER ROT and that’s an inherent property of timber.  Not just ours but any timber providing it is timber of a suitable quality for it’s intended use, especially for log cabins watch out for where the timber comes from, slow gown, cold climate etc.

Walter Segal

Just a quick note, I’m a fan of this chap. He’s done a lot for home building and one of his principles was that of timber ventilation with buildings on stilts.  If timber is ventilated it will never rot. It’s why I love timber frames as bases for log cabins and I’ve been involved with lots of log cabins on stilts and similar construction methods they all work and never have I had a customer complain of rot.

Log Cabin and Timber Treatment

Of course with all my above whittering and pictures I am not AT ALL advocating not treating your log cabin or any garden timber.  It needs it!  And you must treat it at some point, the sooner the better. We’re not actually treating it just to prevent rot we’re treating it for lots of other things.

All I’m saying is don’t worry or panic over it, you do have time to do it without worrying if you can’t do it straight way.

If you don’t treat your log cabin or timber you can have a few problems and rot is not one of them

  • Discolouration of the timber.  See the pictures above, she doesn’t look that great.
  • Warping and shrinkage of timber.  The timber will dry out, warp, distort and will allow the ingress of water either through seams of via moisture transfer and may be pushed out of shape. Doors and windows may well warp and splits may well appear.
  • Expansion, the bloomin’ thing wants to reach an equilibrium with it’s surroundings, it wants the same moisture content that is in the atmosphere. So when it’s moist it wants to be moist as well.  We can’t have that! The thing is up and down like a yoyo if we let it.  Each of part of the timber should be viewed as a sponge, each piece is absorbing and expelling water. We need to to stop behaving like a sponge really. See this article for more on Moisture Content
  • As well as the above external pictures, internally, water marks could become visible which is unsightly and can develop damp spores especially if internally it is not ventilated.  Pay attention to this if you are installing a hot tub. The Log Cabin pictured above is always ventilated for the guinea pigs sake and another reason that even though she is not treated she’s still going strong and NOT rotting.  This log cabin has a constant flow of fresh air. See this article for advise on Ventilation
  • This log cabin is fortunate but insects can attack timber and a good treatment will stop this.
  • Attack by UV light causing drying and further splitting.  This log cabin is relatively shaded from it with hedges and trees all around, yours may not be.
  • Filthy!  Yup, she’s a dirty girl, inside and out and this is not something we really want with our very expensive log cabin.
  • Weather ingress. Even though it may not rot it will still soak up water and this will percolate through to the inside especially at the corners, doors and windows in an exposed environment.

So, what if it is weeks before you treat your log cabin?

You can’t treat it straight away?  What’s the worst that can happen?

Dirty wall logs on the log cabin

Dirty wall logs on the log cabin

Yup, the poor log cabin gets filthy with rain muck thrown up all over it.  When, and if this happens all you need to do is use a pressure washer or a good jet attached to a hose pipe, it comes up like new – honest.

Also, if you find darker marks on it which are a damp fungus forming all you need to do is apply a dilute bleach solution and it will all go and bring the timber back to normal ready for treatment. This will often happen if you’ve left a cabin out in the rain and covered it with plastic while waiting to install it for a month or two.  The humidity created is great for a fungus but it’s very easy to remove with a bleach spray and then a wash.  Our Sauna display cabin had this after being stacked outside for months, a quick spray and a wash and it’s all gone.

Pressure Washer

Just staying on a pressure washer:  I’ve installed log cabins in tempest, storms, gales, snow,hail, in fact every weather condition imaginable.  You can’t help to get it dirty inside and out sometimes especially big installs.  Just before you hand over to a customer (or yourself) give it a good jet wash or hose down, it’s like new regardless of how messy you’ve made it during the installation.

Water ingress

Timber won’t rot if it’s not treated but it will let in and soak up water by way of moisture transference.  This is regardless whether it has been tanalised or not. Even a tanalised log cabin still needs full weatherproof treatment other wise it will still behave in the same way.

To stop ingress and absorption by transference we must treat it.

Did you know on average a wall log which is untreated will move by up to 3mm over the course of the year as it absorbs and then expels moisture.

If You don’t treat it at all.

If we don’t treat it as well as it getting dirty (least of our problems) we can also have other problems as the logs, doors and windows will expand and contract due to moisture transfer happening too rapidly causing the timber to expanding and contract too quickly. It may also cause warps in doors and windows and splits. This article explains this a lot more – Moisture Content in Log Cabins and Wood.

Purpose of a log cabin timber treatment.

I’ve said what happens if we don’t treat a log cabin and that it really is a good idea. So now we are committed to doing it what are we looking for in a treatment?

  • UV protection – we need to protect it from the sun, and the sun and it’s light is a bugger, it’ll dry out timber, cause cracking, distortion and lots more, it’s a real bugger for wood.
  • Weather proofing.  Wood loves water, it soaks it up, it wants it, it’s a property but we’re meanies and need to keep it at steady 14%. We try to protect it from absorbing water. We try to protect the joints and stopping any water marks from coming through. This is also very important for the doors and windows. If we allow it to soak in water above 20% it will start to rot.
  • Reaching an Equilibrium … the bloomin’ thing keeps trying, see this post: Cracking and Splitting in timber.  We really don’t want this with our log cabin.  Stopping this will save us a lot of time and will make it last for years.  Stop the equilibrium I say! Moisture Content in Wood
  • Creature proofing … Pesky creatures, fungi, worms,etc.  A good treatment will stop the pesky critters.
  • Elasticity – As I’ve said the thing is moving a lot, even with a good treatment stopping the absorption and shedding of moisture, we need a treatment that can cope with this so high elasticity in also important.

What timber treatment should we use for our Log Cabin?

Hm, now this bit can be a hotbed of law suits.  Firstly anything expensive, we only recommend Sikkens, Kingfisher, Sadolins or our own European brands shown in our website or brochure such as Koopmans, Embadeco or Embalan and more recently the super treatment from Valvoline Max-Release Protectant – now known as ‘Carefree Protectant’ which is heralded as a revolution in timber treatment and from what I’ve seen the stuff is amazing

If it’s a cheap treatment we don’t recommend it especially ones designed for sheds or fences or which can be sprayed on.

Please don’t be tempted to use anything cheap! Any complaints we have had with cracking timber or mould algae, excessive shrinkage etc have always been found to be caused by a cheap treatment, use at your peril but we will not offer any guarantee if you have used it, I can always tell as well!

Please do NOT use a cheap treatment, all the problems that have been reported with a log cabin can often be traced back to this.

Expensive is the way forward, you get what you pay for and it’s certainly pertinent when regards to treatment. If you use treatment beginning with the third letter of the alphabet and only given it two coats and then complain in a few months time that you have splits I will tell you to apply five more coats of the same treatment or treat it again with something expensive.

If I was to get technical we need a depth of treatment of between 80 and 120 microns. This is the equivalent to two to three coats of an expensive treatment. To accomplish the same depth with a cheap one may take up to 10 coats and this is where the problem comes when customers use a cheaper treatment and give it two coats, you may as well not bother. It’s good on a shed perhaps but no good at all on a log cabin as we need to inhibit its movement. Anything less than 80 microns is not going to do anything.

When asking a treatment supplier always specify it’s for “Planned, smooth Spruce” and let them advise you on the best treatment for that style of timber.  Rough sawn treatment is not all compatible.

A great source of advice is Brewers, they’re a professional trade paint supplier and may have other ideas and I’ll always agree with them, they are the people who know treatments! Most of the time they will recommend two undercoats of preservative with two top coats of Sikkens.

My old log cabin was painted 15 years ago with Sikkens, all I do is give it a quick wash each year and that’s it, I do recommend it.

But, we have this new stuff:  CareFree Protectant.

It can dry in 15 minutes, be painted on wet, it’s clear and still provides UV protection.

I’ve even seen it coat grains of sugar in a glass of water and the sugar didn’t dissolve! Clever stuff and now I’ve used it it is amazing, I even tried painting it on wet timber in the rain and all the water wicked away as I was painting (I’m not going to formally recommend painting in the rain though).  Amazing! We’re now using this on everything on the show site including Larch and Hardwood furniture / fencing.

CareFree Protectant the new name for MaxRelease Protectant:

With our changing weather conditions our wood / concrete gets a lot to endure rain , sun, wind and frost . To keep your wood / concrete in optimum condition MaxRelease has developed the best protection . The water-borne coatings without organic solvent penetrates into the wood / concrete and thus provides a protective layer against moisture, sunlight , wind and rain for all types of wood and wood products , such as fences , decking , garden furniture , garden poles , log cabins , gazebos , larch and hardwoods , and concrete products such as garden poles and fence systems . It forms a thin layer on the substrate , so that the structure of the wood and the concrete remains pretty visible.

Benefits of Carefree Protectant :

  • Long-term protection against moisture
  • Low maintenance
  • Easy to apply and easy to clean
  • Excellent colour stability with minimal fading due to sunlight
  • Less fungal and algae
  • Impregnating
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Water resistant
  • Inhibits the natural transfer of moisture
  • Prevents kalkuitbloei in concrete

CareFree Wood Protectant is easy to use . Wood Protectant is a quick-drying material and will dry within 15 minutes ( depending on temperature , humidity, type of substrate ) . There is no primer or other type of primer is not necessary in order to bring . To Wood Protectant This makes the long-term protection of wood and concrete in a simple and quick job . MaxRelease Wood Protectant must be stored frost-free.

Having used this extensively now, I really do recommend it!

Damp Conditions

Regardless what log cabin you buy, from us or anyone the Carefree is excellent and one of its properties is protection against humidity.

Now this is clever stuff, it’s water soluble and goes on really well.  It will stop the formation of damp spores and is highly recommended for the inside of a log cabin if it is shut up for months on end or subjected to a damp atmosphere.

Just quickly note on hot tubs, Log Cabins are great as a hot tub enclosure but make sure you use a vent, this also applies if you are storing lots of damp tools.

Carefree Protectant Timber Treatment

When do I treat my Log Cabin?

Now this is something I’m asked all of the time.  My stock ‘official’ answer as within the brochure and literature is “Always paint / stain / treat your cabin BEFORE installation”

But, oh my goodness that is a real pain, you get paint in the grooves, on the corners and joints, it’s harder to install.  You get sticky patches that then get sticky on your fingers, that then leave finger marks on the inside of the logs.  It’s a nightmare!

So you’ve had the official answer, the unofficial and my opinion only is just build the cabin and paint it later. In all the years I’ve been doing this I haven’t had a comeback.

One hint I would give though is when you come to paint it, remove the top of the door and window fascias and paint behind them, otherwise when it expands, as it will in winter months, you’ll be left with a white line that’ll need painting again.  It will never match up so always do it first and beat the sneaky blighter creeping up on you with the annoying equilibrium thing timber does.

How much do I need?

Another question I’m always asked and this one is tricky.  It’s all down to the coverage recommended by your chosen brand.  But for instance our stain covers 14 – 15 sq.m and the the paint covers 5-8 sq.m. It does vary on the type and brand of paint or stain your are using.  It’s best to work out the log cabins dimensions and calculate it and then give this measurement to your supplier, or do what I do and guess and if you run out get some more.

Roof?

I’ve had customers ask about treating the roof. My answer is always why bother? If the final roof covering is applied properly there really is no need.

Summary of wood treatment for Log Cabins

So, in summary what have I said:

  • Don’t panic over getting treatment on your log cabin if it’s wet or raining when you unpack and install your cabin.
  • You have a little while before you need to worry, especially if you have a pressure washer or a jet hose so you can keep in clean
  • You do NEED to treat it to make sure it lasts and helps to inhibit the transfer of moisture.
  • Clean it with a bleach solution for spores or a jet of water for dirt.
  • ALWAYS keep it well ventilated.  Ventilation and allowing timber to dry if wet stops all Rot. Here is further information on Ventilation in a log cabin
  • ONLY use an expensive treatment so you know that you will be getting a depth of at least 80 microns.  The more expensive it is, the deeper it will be and the longer your log cabin will last and more importantly, if you’re lazy like me, you probably will not need to do it again for a good while. Do NOT use the lower end of the market to treat your log cabin I guarantee you will have problems as they do not inhibit the transfer of moisture which is important with log cabins. Please see this article for more on Moisture and inhibiting it in wood.
  • Watch out for the natural equilibrium of timber, inhibit this with a good treatment and make sure it is high in elasticity.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s advice. If it says three coats give it three coats. It is all about the depth attainable of the final finish.

Depth of Treatment and Moisture

Please see another post on the depth of timber treatment and the correct moisture content for log cabins.

Please see another post on the depth of timber treatment and the correct moisture content for log cabins.

More information on the Depths of Treatment and Moisture content of your Log Cabin

One final note, customers will often leave their cabin install until the ‘weather is better’ or look for a ‘weather window’. In my opinion it is always better to get it up and worry about treatment later, don’t let a bit of rain put you off!

The joy of a log cabin install in the wet. I remember this morning, we had to remove a layer of snow off the roof and then it rained all day while trying to install the insulation and roof shingles.

The joy of a log cabin install in the wet. I remember this morning, we had to remove a layer of snow off the roof and then it rained all day while trying to install the insulation and roof shingles. You too can have this much fun installing your cabin in the wet.

I have written another post on Treatment following a customer’s question that needed a little more advice: Treatment of a log cabin – A Customer’s Question you may find this interesting.

Please also see another post: Log Cabin Treatment Gone Wrong

If you leave it a little too long to treat your Log Cabin or it is starting to get dirty, this article may help you: Cleaning a Log Cabin

This post relates entirely to the Tuin range of Log Cabin Treatments and clarifies what and how we recommend they are used if you choose to use our range.

Cleaning a Log Cabin

This post title is ‘Cleaning a Log Cabin“, it could also read: “Cleaning a log cabin successfully, and then ruining it by cocking up badly!” which is what happened!

Things were going so well, until I got too keen …… and ….. really cocked up and I have possibly put a friendship in jeopardy.

The Exciting New Timber / Wood Cleaner:

It all started with some excitement, a new product had been sent to me to try out. It’s a cleaner for wood / timber and primarily designed for cleaning timber before the application of our Carefree Protect timber Treatment.

I had been sent a video showing its super powers which I didn’t entirely believe.

Pretty impressive stuff! So, when the box of six arrived I set about finding every bit of rubbish and stained wood I could find and started spraying everything to see what happens. I found on surface dirt, like in the video, it was very very quick indeed. I tried it on a larch gazebo that is at the office currently being used as a carport, it worked well but not as quickly, I think maybe the dirt was a lot more ingrained and had been driven in by passing traffic, It did though bring up the post well. It was squirted onto mouldy timber, rotten timber, wood with fungal spores caused by damp or resin and all of them came up clean, much of it came up like new wood.

It seemed to me it was like a magic potion, and then others joined in, people were all hunting in the yards, warehouses and workshops for wood to clean, it turned into a bit of a cleaning frenzy with my six bottles liberally spread across Tuin.

Then, I noticed somebody had cleaned my experiment log that I’ve used in a few blogs now:

No treatment at all on this poor Log – This made up display boards showing various levels of treatment on logs, This picture was taken January 2017 and it is now August 2017.

This experiment was going really well, a year and a half of being exposed to the elements, along with other logs of varying degrees of treatment to show customers what can happen. A Very useful and scientific experiment you’ll agree. But, some clever bugger thinks it would be really handy if it was half cleaned – unbelievable!

My year and a half experiment ruined! …. Just great, so thanks to whoever at Tuin thought that was a good idea!  It is clean though…. well a quarter of it is.

YES it did clean it really well and bang goes an update blog which I had planned to revisit in January 2018.

At this point, enough is enough, I confiscate the bottles from everyone, suggest they stop mucking about and get back to work. The cleaning fest was over and I decide a proper experiment is needed.

A colleague has a log cabin that I knew had never, ever been treated. I featured it a few years ago in another blog post, at the time it was being used for chickens, I have a little chat, casually mentioning her log cabin and a super duper new wood cleaner for log cabins.

A completely untreated log cabin the home of a group of chickens.

I’m told the chickens have now all but gone, but then it went through a phase as a Guinea Pig home and sanctuary. Lately it is simply a store for general “stuff” that cannot be thrown away … Girls!.

However, it still remains untreated, and is now about 15 – 17 years old.

The Serious Log Cabin Cleaning Experiment 

I offer my services with the new timber cleaning product, my time and effort and promised to transform the log cabin for her, in the name of a thoroughly useful experiment. This is the log cabin before I conducted the experiment. Chickens and Guinea Pigs gone, it is a blank canvas and perfect for a restoration project:

An old log cabin, still untreated and looking in need of some TLC. A perfect restoration project

I would show you a completed after shot of the experiment but we are not quite … ahem … there yet.

So, onto the experiment and at this point it’s best to show you the video I made and you’ll see the huge effect the cleaner had and that the experiment was a resounding success – it did clean the log cabin, really quite remarkably…. I find this video amazing!

Of course this cabin is ancient so it cannot be perfect, that would be expecting far too much but it did clean as the video shows, and it cleaned the logs amazingly quickly. The process can keep working over 24 hours and the label says for really heavy dirt to apply three coats, one hour apart. The video is only showing one coat, but, I think you’ll agree this is pretty impressive even with one coat.

The corner of the cabin has always fascinated me, on the short side the wind and rain bellows up into it, as it’s flanked by a wall and it receives all the very worst weather year round. I find the marking and weathering particularly incredible. And like all timber it never rots if allowed to dry naturally, No rot in this log cabin timber is evident at all.

Corner connections of an old log cabin, heavily discoloured and marked.

After some squirts of the Carefree Timber / Wood Cleaner and allowing it to settle for ten minutes of so the result in impressive.

Corner connection of the log cabin starts to come clean again.

Now I’m fascinated with this side wall as it is so exposed, this is what it looked like

A really dirty side wall of a log cabin that is exposed to the worst of the weather. You can see part of the corner that has cleaned up quite well despite its years of exposure.

Again, a bit of time squirting the cleaner and things are looking a lot better.

Yes there is still some dirt but I was expecting a lot. a damn site cleaner though!

This was just one coat and got to this stage within 10 – 15 minutes, it’s not perfect or as new wood but when you consider how old the log cabin is it is pretty amazing and all done with a few squirts ….. and the squirting is where the problem now starts ………

The Log Cabin Cleaning Cock Up

The squirting …. well quite frankly it is a bit tiresome, at this point I had finished the parts shown in the video, most of the front wall, the corner and the side wall, about two and a half bottles have been used and my hand and wrist is getting sore, in fact my wrist is now really painful.

I start to wonder if there is an alternative to this method. I had promised my colleague a clean log cabin that she could now, finally, choose her colours and treat it (I had asked her not to in the past as I had assured her it would not ever rot, and it makes for a great experiment for me and my blogging), but, now at last she can treat it and I suggested we use the Carefree timber treatment that is so good, afterwards.

I don’t think this stuff is overly cheap, I’m told the price is around £19.50 for the bottle, so far I’ve used nearly £60 worth on this Log Cabin. But it is really quick acting, great results and damn good, it hurts my wrist though which I’m getting a little fed up of – I am old!

I deal with complaints from customers sometimes and I start thinking what complaints can be made from people about this cleaner.

We have the expectations of people but I think that’s covered, I cannot see how anyone can moan about the performance if they are realistic about what timber / wood they are cleaning bearing in mind the age and dirt.

I think about the effort and yes, there is some with the spray trigger which people could moan about. I am told though this can be bought in drums so a powered sprayer maybe better for bigger jobs so that complaint is covered.

I think about the cost. I’ve done some research and cannot find anything like it, there’s lots of claims but nothing I can see with the speed of this product. No one seems to produce videos of it actually working. – Please send me some links if you have found any so I can compare. But, there is a cost implication, this whole log cabin might be close to £100 worth of treatment to get it clean. On top of that you have the proper treatment needed, it could get expensive and in a complaint situation I have to justify it.

It’s at this point i have a great idea, no costs involved, quick, easy, fun and not a lot of effort!

I fetch my pressure washer 🙂

Pressure washer being used on a log cabin – what a great idea!

And at this point please understand a few other cock ups I made before I get onto the main horrendous one. It turns out there is a really big red label on the bottle that should be read.

Big red warning label – A must read.

I hadn’t actually read this, please if you choose to use this product follow it’s guidance. When I saw the door handle I realised I should have!

The handle was very old and in hindsight I should have removed it before applying the cleaner. I should have also used gloves and a mask throughout.

Maybe because I’m 50 in a few weeks my brain is not working as it should, the label says it can cause  irritation, and to use gloves, a mask, protective clothing ….. Doh! … My self and my helper didn’t for most of the application, not good.

I should have also removed the handles before application of the cleaner, they were pretty bad before hand and now I have made them worse….. damn it.

If you use this cleaner, please follow the advice of the red label and protect yourself properly, also remove any metal work in case of it reacting badly with it.

Carrying on pressure washing the log cabin

So I’m now cracking on with the pressure washer, I’m having to get really, really close with the nozzle, as the dirt is so old and ingrained, I’ve even put on a special swirl nozzle and the logs are getting pretty clean. The dirt is lifting, it looks as good as the Carefree Timber / Wood Treatment and costs nothing is you already have a pressure washer.

The dirt is tough to get out though!

Several years ago I used a pressure washer to clean a huge cabin we had just built, it was only a bit of mud splats and we were really careful to keep our distance from the wood, and it worked really well to clean it up.

This time though, to get the dirt out I had to get in close and really go for it. At this stage in the above picture it looked pretty good, I was feeling pretty smug ….. and after £60 worth of treatment this was SOOOOO much better …. WoooooHooooo….. and cost nothing and my wrist didn’t hurt at all.

And then it went bad …. a few hours later it was dry …..

Too close and too higher pressure – ruined the log cabin!

And …. this is what I had done!  Bugger, too close, too high a pressure, too much dirt and I have destroyed the logs.

A Ruined Log Cabin

AND now I have a huge problem! A very old log cabin, never treated, it was doing fine. I could have stuck with the really impressive cleaner but now I have really destroyed the surface …… now I have a problem…..

My advice from now on …. Use the Carefree Timber / Wood cleaner if you have something similar, pressure washing is NOT a good idea!

More to follow, if i can get out of this predicament …….!

Use this stuff though if you want a clean log cabin which you have not treated properly, if at all, then, spend some money on some proper treatment so you never have to go through this.

Carefree Protect Timber Cleaner

Carefree Protect Timber cleaner.