What’s The Difference? Checks vs. Cracks in Your Logs

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What’s The Difference? Checks vs. Cracks in Your Logs

log with a checkWe’ve all seen them: small cracks in logs and heavy wood furniture, light poles, and barns. These small cracks occur in log homes, too. They’re known as “checks,” and they occur naturally in logs. While most homeowners see these checks as part of their home’s unique appearance and charm, many wonder if the checks are worrisome. Most are not; but, before we discuss that, let’s take a look at the difference between small checks and large cracks or splits.

A check is a crack in the surface of the log, which does not go through the diameter of the log. Checks are small and do not present a structural problem in the home. A crack, also often called a split, is larger and more severe, often passing through the diameter of the log. These cracks are often due to damage to the log itself, improper drying techniques, or structural loading.

Repairing Cracks in LogsChecks are a natural occurrence in log homes. They can appear in logs before, during, or after the construction of a log home. Checks can be quite small or they can be rather long and noticeable. They can face upward or downward, and can appear on either the interior or exterior surface of the log.

While checks are not a problem structurally, they should be monitored, especially upward-facing checks. Over time, as the logs cure and shrink, these checks may allow water into the interior of the log, allowing rot or water damage to occur. Checks that occur near windows and doors can allow air or water to leak into your home. Insects could also become a nuisance if larger checks are not repaired.

A check that begins to present issues should be repaired. This is an easy process. First, stuff flexible backer rod into the check. Next, apply a good quality latex caulk into the check. Finally, skim off any excess caulking with a putty knife, making sure there is caulk on both the top and bottom of the check. If you have never repaired a check, or simply want to make certain the job is done correctly, contact your builder for assistance.

bad log

A Competitor Log System

A crack, or split, typically results either from a damaged log or because the log was forced to carry too much weight. These large cracks render the log structurally unsound. If you suspect a large crack or split in your log home, contact your builder immediately! Logs or beams containing severe cracks (as the picture to the right would indicate) should be replaced, or additional support should be installed, depending on the severity of the crack and its location in your home.

As with any home, routine maintenance and inspection are key to monitoring your log home’s checks. It is important to understand that, like a person’s freckles or beauty marks, checks are natural and bring a special beauty to every log home. So, embrace your home’s “uniqueness.” There is none other like it!

About the Author:

Chris Sparks is an architectural designer specializing in residential log and timber homes. Practically growing up on job sites, he has been around construction and on sites since the age of seven (shhh! don't tell OSHA, it was okay back then). After graduating from the University of Tennessee, he began putting his construction knowledge and love of computers to use in the field of computer aided design. Chris specializes in ArchiCAD. Chris lives in the Knoxville, TN area with his wife and two children.

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