Buffing logs

 

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I know you guys are all excited for me to finish the house, but we are low on funds at this point, so we are working on projects that don’t take a lot of money, but do take a lot of time. Hang with me, I’ll get there……

Now that we are under roof, the logs will stay nearly dry forever (we hardly ever get sideways rain here in the South), which means we need to borate them one last time. We’ve only done two things to the logs since we cut them down- peel them and borate them. I’ve written about the peeling and borating in the past. According to Skip, the man behind the LHBA Butt & Pass method, that’s all that needs to be done. Gray weathered logs are not a problem with the LHBA style, due to the large roof overhangs and the borate. But gray logs are ugly in my opinion, and my wife and neighbors agree. So, in anticipation of borating and staining the logs one last time, I pressure washed them. Some still had bark that I missed while peeling, and all of them had chunks of dirt from being dragged over to the building site. They really needed a good cleaning.

There are actually two ways to clean the logs- wet (pressure washing), or dry (corn cob blasting or with sand or glass media). The dry method involves renting a machine, buying a bunch of crushed corncobs, and spraying the thing. That costs lots of money. The pressure washing just requires a pressure washer, and about “4,000 gallons of water”, according to a frantic call from our utility company, ha ha…!

The problem with pressure washing, I found out, is the fuzz that is left over afterwards. It’s a gloppy paper-like residue that sticks to the logs- really, it’s just the sun-burnt or bleached  outermost layer of logs I sprayed off. You need to get it off the logs before borating or staining – otherwise, it will soak up the stain and borate and waste your money. And it looks ugly anyway.

Sigh.

Fuzzy logs = More work.

It’s surprising (not surprising) that there aren’t better methods to get the fuzz off (I know- corncob blasting is the method)….But seriously- you’d think there would be a cheap attachment that you can stick on a drill and brush the logs with. (Sorry, I’m not doing this by hand). But no – there are expensive attachments, but I couldn’t find cheap ones. And a drill is not made for cleaning the fuzz off of 6400 sq ft+ of logs. In defense of the expensive attachments, Slamasha reports it working very well, and he’s happy with the results from his $99 nylon cup brush that attaches to a power buffer, like the kind of buffer you use to wax your car.

I kept researching and found a nylon bristle brush for $20. That sounded much better.

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Why nylon? Why not sandpaper or wire brushes? Well, I tried sandpaper on an inconspicuous part of a log – and it scratched up the logs. The wire brush was worse.

I also tried green scrubber scotchbrite pads – the kind you use on that 9×13 lasagna baking dish. mmmm….Lasagna….Sorry- the scotchbrite pads hold up well- except when you get close to a knot or a sliver- then they get destroyed.

Plus the idea is to buff the logs, not sand them- they are already pretty smooth.

After buffing, I can then borate, and then stain the logs. I’m so glad the staining part only has to be done once in a while, and the buffing and borating only has to be done once.

Bee holes

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Unfortunately, our logs sitting out on racks for a year attracted carpenter bees. The borate doesn’t help in that situation because the bees don’t actually ingest the wood, therefore, the poison doesn’t hurt them. However, I found a few helpful websites that claim to know how to get rid of the bees. Here are some of the suggestions:

  1. Fill in the holes with caulk (or dust and then caulk), then cover with wood filler, and sand smooth. The bees are attracted to previously used nests, so this covers the holes.
  2. Get plenty of bee traps- a 4×4 with a mason jar screwed to the bottom. Bees go in, but they don’t come out. Some folks are complaining about killing the bees, but I’m a fan of the Bible, where man was designated as lord over the whole Earth. Dominion means being in charge. I don’t mind carpenter bees- but they do not belong in my house. And I’d like to meet a naysayer who has a more ‘environmentally friendly house’ than mine, that is of a similar value. Trust me- I like nature, but I also value order. The two can co-exist.
  3. Stain the logs. Carpenter bees are apparently very attracted to a log in the early stages of decay- I mean, they aren’t attacking standing trees. Staining the logs preserves the wood, and is less attractive to bees.
  4. Not mentioned on any articles I found, but bees don’t seem to like to burrow into wood that is shaded. It’s curious, but I found when working out there in the spring that the bees would be busy on the sunny side of the house, but not in the shadows. As the sun moved throughout the day, so did the bees. They would even leave if I waved my arm and caused a shadow over a place where they were trying to land. I think our wrap around porch will help in this area.

It is a very time consuming, but necessary step. And with the sudden cold weather blast we just had, this is putting a lot of our progress on hold, as we can’t apply stain if the temperature is less than 50.

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On the left: done. On the right: in progress.

Staining

Lots of debate here. But what I found was stain is made for specific things- you shouldn’t use deck stain on a log house, according to most manufacturers – something about stretching and peeling. Some folks think that is bunk, but I think I’ll go with the specialized product on this one.  There is also oil based and water based stains. We like the idea of an odor-free home that isn’t off-gassing dangerous smells, so we looked at water based stains, which have come a long way in the last 20 years.

We settled on a company called Sashco. I checked their website for dealers in my area, and found one nearby. I called them for samples, and received them the very next day. We read the literature, which was mostly advice for kit log home owners, and went outside and stained a log to see if we liked the colors.

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I can’t tell the difference between the two colors, but it does look nicer stained.

On the inside, Sashco doesn’t recommend staining the logs, but instead recommends just putting a nice clear coat on them. From what I’ve heard from other LHBA members, the natural look on the inside makes the build go faster, but dust tends to settle on the logs and is really hard to remove- you can’t just wipe them down. The clear coat helps with dusting.

That’s all for now!

 

Pressure washing

I’d love to say I’m installing the 1st floor, which will mean installing ledger boards around the inside perimeter of the house. But I’m not. They rest on the piers, and are lag screwed to the 1st layer of logs. Two 2×12’s are bolted together and run the length of the inner piers. Floor joists are hung from the ledger boards, and butt into the two 2×12’s – like this:

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Thin vertical lines are joists, thick horizontal lines are the 2×12 sandwich. 90 joists needed.

I need about 90 joists. I’d like to use the “I-Joist” engineered beams because they are stronger than 2×12’s, and they don’t bow. I called around- looks like Discount Builders almost has the best price- $2340. The craigslist “recycled materials” guys say $1500. And $800 shipping, so $2300. I’ll pay $40 extra because Discount has treated me right every step of the way. And they are local.

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Nordic engineered I-Joists

I also asked about just regular 2×12’s, and Discount said that would be $1700. Much cheaper. But again- they bow. And I would really, really like the floor to be perfectly flat, so $2300 seems worth it.

Preparation for the task

Installing the subfloor gives us something for the scaffolding to roll around on so I can (more) easily work on things like electrical, chinking, windows, and frame in the gables- the open triangle on both ends of the house near the roof.

While thinking about it, I realized there are other tasks I should do before this- such as pressure washing the house. I figure it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pressure wash the house after I install the subfloor, since the pressure washing will get the subfloor all wet, so I decided to pressure wash the house before I put the subfloor in. And then since it will be clean, I should borate it. And then probably stain it.

Which means I needed water at the house to connect the pressure washer.

Installing a water line

Which means I needed to dig a trench to install the water line. Luckily, Alabama has no real “frost line”. Code says the water line should be minimum twelve inches below grade. I borrowed my late neighbor’s trencher attachment, and easily got the job done, after sweating and working hard doing about 30 feet with a pick and a trenching shovel. On a side note, the sewer line will have to wait- it has to go down five feet, and the trencher might go two feet, if I work at it. But that can happen later. I got the water trench dug:

Trenching a Water line

I talked to the city, and they recommended 3/4″ PVC pipe for the main. Their connection is 3/4″. Seemed to make sense, so I installed 200 feet of 3/4″ PVC for about $60 and got the water line up to the house. Then I talked to my fellow LHBA friends, who informed me I’d never be happy with 3/4″- and I should go with 1″ or larger. You wouldn’t believe the amount of math that goes into determining what size of water line to install. I went to Lowe’s and bumped into a plumber who worked there and told him my dilemma.

He said, “no, 3/4″ will be fine, it’ll be fine, don’t worry about it.  How many bathrooms did you say you had?”

“Three.”

“Three, huh…..Ok….well…….maybe you should put in one inch pipe….”

I guess the theory is that even though the flow is constricted to 3/4″ at the road, the fact that I’m 200 feet from that connection means the line has time to build up pressure over a long enough run, so a larger size pipe can be used. I ended up ripping it out and replacing it with a larger pipe. I can still use the 200 feet of 3/4″ to reach the back of the property, I guess. The goal is, after all, to turn the whole thing into a small farm, so….

I stuck a faucet on the house. And one by the blueberries, just because. I’m not sure why I think it’s amazing to drink out of a faucet next to the house, but I’m tickled that I can now do this.

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Started pressure washing the house

And then I decided instead of borrowing a pressure washer, I should buy one- it’s going to get a lot of use. Craigslist to the rescue….

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I broke the “new” pressure washer after using it for 3 days- I didn’t notice when I bought it that it was missing one of three bolts on the pump head intake manifold. Bolt #2 broke while using it the other day, and water game gushing out of the thing. When I looked closer, the 3rd bolt had sheared off years ago. I bought an “easy out” bit and drilled the sheared bolt out of the hole. Then I replaced with new bolts, refilled the water pump with the recommended gear oil, and tested it at home. Seems to work pretty well.

I think we’re going to need to stain the house – we like this straw-yellow color we discovered under the sun-bleached gray logs, but it will eventually fade if we don’t protect it.

Water based or oil based stain? I was guessing oil was probably better, but it stinks forever, and smells are something we just don’t want. But then I talked to several suppliers of both types, and all of them agree- water based stains have come a long way, they don’t stink; they are better for the environment, clean up easier and are similar in cost.  I’m sure we could have a lively debate between which is really better, but it comes down to the smell for us, and ease of clean up.

We looked into it- looks like a 5 gallon bucket will run us about $260, and will cover just the outside of one wall. Protecting the outside of the house is going to run us around $1000. Wow!

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Next steps

The weather has been hot and dry- perfect for pressure washing. I can’t imagine pressure washing while soaking wet in January. Shiver! The cool thing is that the other day, it was 95+ degrees, but I was actually cold working inside spraying. I came out of the cabin to take a break- and noticed the temperature went up about 10 degrees. Even with all the air gaps, the inside of this thing is much cooler than outside.

Hopefully, this heat wave will hold out long enough for me to get done pressure washing and then sanding, and then cool off some so we can start staining, but not freeze. And then we’ll either do some chinking or get the 1st floor installed. Haven’t decided if rain is blowing in from the outside through the cracks yet.