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. You may have already known about how to get cheap log cabins.

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

Tuindeco International BV produce cabins from the heart, literally and in both senses of the word. I once wrote a post ages ago about questions to ask a log cabin supplierr. Please now also add this question: “Where is the cut of your logs from?”

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.

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.

Here’s an old post I wrote on how to get to a cheap log cabin, in the new series I will show you more, you wouldn’t believe it. 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!

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.

Timber Price Rises

You’ve seen it all over the net if you’ve been searching for log cabins, fencing, garden furniture, in fact anything made from timber. You will see banners and big shouts that timber prices are rising and rising sharply – They’re not wrong!

Timber Price Rises

BUT! We saw the writing on the wall and got our orders in for 2014 way before the rises. Ha!

It first happened in 2006 when the prices rocketed and that was a crazy time. They then stabilised and then in the Autumn of 2012 two price rises were posted. This never happens, most rises come in at the beginning of the year.  After 120 years at the top of the game one of the top five players put their prices up – twice!  A scary thing and one to worry about if you like timber.

The problem is the world is growing again. Demand is very high from the States, Canada is running out of timber, in 150 years of supply it is now struggling with demand and especially as it suffered terribly from a beetle attack.  Because of this China is ordering a lot more from Russia and Scandinavia, in fact China’s demand is up 23%.  Scandinavia itself has lost lots of money over recent years and has structurally reduced capacity and may even be doing a deal with Russia if the trucks I pass in that country are a clue.

The UK is demanding a lot more and especially if the talk of 180 000 new homes becomes a reality prices will go up again a lot.

India are up and ordering more, North Africa are up by 18% and the Middle East has doubled its demand since 2009, HUGE figures and a massive leap in demand for a limited product.

As well as the world growing and economy’s recovering three other factors exist which is effecting prices:

  • Inventory – Suppliers have to balance their inventory stock so that little downtime is associated with the supply of the logs.  Their inventories must be managed to meet demand and to keep everything running.  Price is an excellent way to manage the stock and they are using this as their main tool.
  • European Union Timber Regulation came into force in March 2012 which restricts the supply of illegal logging (WWF suggests this accounts for 40% of the timber) can you imagine how much is lost, it’s for the good of course but that’s a lot of wood!
  • Weather – This winter has been very warm, too warm. Yes all the timber has been felled but they can’t get onto the land to remove it, it’s just too wet. This has had a huge impact on the sheer amount available to buy and it’s not a lot in relative terms when compared to the demand.

So, we’re a little smug at the moment and are watching with interest what our competitors are going to do having put our orders in very early and before the rises.

Most competitors hang on to keep cash flow and won’t place orders until as late as possible. Most orders will have been placed in November, December, more will now be ordering but at what cost?  The rises have already taken place.  AND, that’s if they can get the timber at all, what if there is simply not enough? That bit of course is simple, they’ll buy the rubbish that suppliers need to get rid of. Maybe they will be making product from what would be destined as pallets, needs must!

I think we could see some prices of timber products rise as much as 15 – 20% this year and some competitors failing to supply the demand, or better still (for us) products with rubbish timber.

Update: There’s one competitors website we’ve just seen is actively advertising for timber suppliers already.

timber

Cracking and Splitting in Timber

Timber – A bit of a pain

Summer in general is a complete pain for our industry, 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 cracked post a few months on. This pictures is dated 29.10.13

The cracked post a few months on. This pictures is dated 29.10.13

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).”

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

 

Pressure Treated or Tanalised Log Cabin

These two terms are used a lot in the garden industry.  Timber is often described as ‘tanalised’ or ‘pressure treated’.  Options are given with garden buildings, including our log cabins for them to be tanalised, others give them options of pressure treatment.

Terms

The two terms used are describing exactly the same timber treatment:

  • Tanalised is actually a trademark, as is ‘Tanalith E’ which you will see sometimes.  These brands have been around since the 1940’s.
  • Pressure treatmentt is the process carried out using ‘Tanalith E’ or similar.

Process

The treatment process is carried out by placing the timber in a big tank.  The door is shut and a vacuum is created inside it.  Then the pressure treatment fluid is allowed to enter and is forced in the wood under the pressure.  It penetrates to a depth of a few millimeters.

Pressure Treatment process using 'tanalith' or similar

Pressure Treatment process using ‘tanalith’ or similar

Ingredients

The main ingredient is copper with other chemicals added.  Copper is excellent for protection against rot and insects.  The other chemicals (Biocides) protect against other rot that the copper can’t such as ‘brown rot fungi’.  These substances are not harmful at all and can be used around animals and children.  Fish may be sensitive to it.

Rot Proofing of Timber 

It does exactly what it says and protects the timber from rot really well, internally they say about 60 years and externally about 30 years against any form of rot.  It’s pretty good stuff!

Limitations with Log Cabins

For the treatment of rot there is no real limitations, it works and works really well.  The main problem with pressure treatment of our log cabins is:

  • It is NOT a weatherproof treatment

You can of course not bother treating it, the cabin is not going to rot, well, not for thirty years or so but because it is not a weatherproof treatment you can expect the logs to absorb water which will result in rings and marks just like your coffee table at home with a hot mug of hot chocolate.

  •  It will discolour, it fades to a honey brown and eventually to a silvery grey.

Overtime it will discolour.  We can pressure treat / tanalise your log cabin in green or brown but the same appearance will result.  Normally over about five years.

This cabin was provided with Green pressure treatment:

Green Pressure Treated Log Cabin

Green Pressure Treated Log Cabin featuring the Sten Log Cabin

This one is done in brown tanalised pressure treatment:

Brown pressure treated log cabin

Brown pressure treated log cabin Featuring the Halvar Log Cabin

There isn’t a great deal between them but both will end up looking the same in a few years.

  • All of the wood is treated.

And this may be a problem for you.  When the logs are put into the vacuum tank there is no way to cover one side, all of it gets treated so what you see on the outside is what you see on the inside.

Summary

If Holland read what I’m about to say I may well get ‘questioned’ on it, but, I really hate pressure treated log cabins.  I try and steer my customers away from it.

In my mind as it’s not weather proofed you will still have to give your cabin a proper treatment, preferably with something expensive so you rarely have to repeat it.  If you want it to stay looking good you have to treat it.

Most people love the bright airiness of the cabin, do you really want to be staring at green or brown walls and ceiling, we go out of our way to source white wood over red wood so you have exactly that, an almost white interior, to spoil it with tanalisation just isn’t on really.

However, with that being said, other customers I will positively encourage such as this one:

Tanalised Log Cabin Garage

Tanalised Log Cabin Garage

Now here is a prime example when tanalisation / pressure treatment is excellent, it has a damp car stuck in it, it’s open to the elements internally.  Rot treatment makes sense! Here’s another one when I strongly recommend it:

Highly recommended to pressure treat this log cabin

Highly recommended to pressure treat this log cabin

Another prime example, I’d suggest to this customer to pressure treat the log cabin.  It’s constantly open to the elements internally and externally.  It makes sense.

All my other cabins, hmm, I don’t think it’s necessary, you’ve got to treat it anyway so why not put the money you would have spent on tanalisation into your treatment such as Sadolin, Sikkens or our excellent range of log cabin Paints and Log Cabin Stains designed for smooth planed pine wall logs.

I think it’s a bit like marmite, love it or hate it ….. up to you!

Fingers

Finger Joints, Viewed  by some as unsightly and a sign of a cheap log cabin… A fair assumption but in truth not always accurate.

Finger jointing is a technique used by many log cabin manufacturers to re-use short lengths of timber / wall logs. The real benefit from using such a system is that there’s then less wastage so the impact on the environment is reduced.. and of course helping to reduce the overall cost of the building.

However some suppliers will take this too far and you can find log cabins in the UK with joints in wall logs at every 30cm or so, and in addition you will find some cabins even have a mixture of timber used which looks incredibly unsightly.

We do our best to be as economical with our log cuts as possible so the FJ are not even needed, However some of our cabins will feature them but the percentage is kept as low as possible, we will never use a mixture of species… Always Spruce.

If you’re considering buying a log cabin, always ask your supplier about finger joints and if they are used, then, more importantly, what percentage of joints are there within the wall log.

Please Note: Doors and windows are different, we do actually favour these type of joints in doors and windows and they are known as laminating, within a door or window these help to stop bowing of the frame of the door or window as the wood is not one continuous piece.

Finger joints in Log CabinsLog Cabins from Tuin