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Licensed in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina

BUILDING RESTORATION ADVICE
 by Bill Wine

I have just purchased a great log home built around 1800.  The logs are not exposed either on the exterior or the interior.  Should I expose the logs both inside and outside?  How can I insulate? 

In general, I discourage a homeowner from exposing log walls if they were covered originally. To properly restore a home, I find it best to "stick" with the original architecture of the home. Many cases you will find wood wainscot in many varieties covering over log walls. Plaster was commonplace. On homes further down the architectural ladder, you will often find exposed log walls on the interior oftentimes covered with many layers of whitewash. It was simply unfashionable to have logs exposed. There are many reasons why. One reason is that log homes, like their contemporaries, were dimly lit. Whitewashing and/or plastering/paneling of house interiors was a must to reflect as much light as possible, whether it be natural light or light from a lamp or candle. Another reason log walls were covered was that the occupants needed to keep the place as warm as possible and free of drafts. Covering the log "structure" accomplished this.

The exteriors of most log homes were covered by siding upon their initial construction. This shatters most folks image of the cozy "log cabin" in the woods, like we'd see on a Currier & Ives print, but the fact remains the same: Logs needed the protection from the elements, and they were covered. One can find examples of log homes that never had siding applied to their exteriors, many of these homes were settlers cabins and were oftentimes whitewashed on their exteriors to disguise the fact that they were log structures. The whitewash also helped keep the bugs from destroying the logs and it helped seal out the harsh winter wind. Seldom will you find a large two-story log house that has always had exposed logs. They're as scarce as hen's teeth!

In dealing with any exposure of logs, I only recommend that interior walls be exposed, whenever a client wishes to do so. Exterior logs can be exposed under porches and facing away from the prevailing wind. I use conventional fiberglass for insulating between logs and I use a conventional system of lath and mortar for the chinking.

Again, I must reiterate: Restoring a home is preserving and/or recreating what the house was like originally, both in color, texture and patterns. To introduce something into a home that wasn't there before would change the original ambience of the home, thus loosing that "feeling" that once was there.

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