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    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    Log Jam is the only chinking to hold a 1 hour UL fire rating when applied in accordance with the Fire Resistance Directory Design No. UL519. What does this mean and why is it important?

    What is UL?

    UL stands for "Underwriters Laboratory".

    UL develops standards and test procedures for products, materials, components, assemblies, tools and equipment, chiefly dealing with product safety.

    UL has developed more than 1,000 Standards for Safety, many of which are American National (ANSI) Standards, and evaluates nearly 20,000 types of products. A typica
    l standard for electronic products includes not only requirements for electrical safety, but also spread of fire and mechanical hazards. UL evaluates products for compliance with specific safety requirements. UL certification does not guarantee the product will perform acceptably or that it is safe under all conditions (such as product misuse).

    Why was a certification needed?

    The rebirth of the log industry in North America could be described in a number of terms. “Easy” would not be one of them.

    Log home companies and their product suppliers have constantly faced resistance from:

    • Architects
    • Building code inspectors
    • Loan officers
    • Governmental agencies steeped in the doctrines of conventional “stick” construction.

    The fledgling industry has often found itself in the frustrating position of being condemned not by facts but by biases.

    One such bias has been that water-based chinking materials used to seal the courses of log walls could never pass a one-hour fire test.

    The experts felt that since many of the compounds used to make water-based chinking decompose at temperature far below the 1700 degrees required by the test, a chinked log wall could not survive it.

    This belief persisted in spite of the fact that a one-hour fire test had never been attempted on any log wall system, chinked or otherwise.

    The end result of this widely shared view was that many log projects were held up or stopped completely since most major building codes required a one-hour fire rating in critical areas such as between the garage and house or in commercial structures.

    Often, log home customers were told that their log partitions would have to be covered by drywall in the critical areas.

    Certainly, this tended to dampen enthusiasms for solid timber walls.

    Now, a test conducted by Underwriters Laboratories has laid this belief to rest. Recently, it tested a complete chinked wall system which passed the one-hour fire test. The chinking compound under scrutiny was Sashco Sealants Log Jam Chinking compound.

    It cost Sashco, a Colorado-based company, about $10,000 and months of research and testing to perfect the formula for Log Jam Chinking. But the company believed an answer had to be found to the problem.

    Preliminary Research

    According to company officials Sashco began with a pragmatic “back yard” approach. A miniature log wall section was constructed out of 4” fence posts. In a crude simulation of the one-hour test, they exposed the section directly to flame from a propane torch for one hour.

    Researchers quickly discovered that they could not prevent decomposition of the chinking material. So, instead, they found a way to make the decomposition work in their favor. They reasoned that if they could not get the chinking to stay put and not melt away, the burned exterior might act as an insulator in much the same way as the charred surface of wood provides a thin barrier between the flames and the material behind it.

    They arrived at a formula which actually formed small “heat shields” as it charred. It gave an unexpected bonus in that it also expanded as temperatures increased. This further protected the integrity of the log joint.

    Funds were then made available for the Underwriters Laboratory test which essentially was to certify the results found by the Sashco researchers. Certification by UL meant that building inspection could be passed by log walls using Log Jam Chinking. Correspondingly, this would expand the availability of log structures for many commercial and residential applications where one-hour fire ratings were required.

    The Underwriters Testing Procedure

    The UL test involved the use of a giant furnace at the Underwriters Northbrook, Illinois laboratory.

    • A 10 foot high by 10 foot wide wall of 9 inch round lodge pole pine logs was constructed leaving one inch gaps between the logs.
    • Round backer rods were then fixed in the joints and Log Jam Chinking was tooled over the top to a minimum depth of ½ inch.
    • The wall was framed in brick and insulation to insure that no flames passed through the assembly which was not a result of wall failure.
    • Because it was felt that any residual water left might artificially aid the fire resistance of the chinking material, the assembly was left to stand for 30 days t allow all of the water to leave the Log Jam Chinking for a thorough cure.
    • The test wall was then rolled into the furnace where it was exposed to 68 gas jets throwing flames which raised the surface temperature to 1000 degrees F in 5 minutes, 1300 degrees F. in ten minutes and, ultimately 1700 degrees F. in one hour.
    • The unexposed side was left at room temperature.
    • After the test the wall was rolled out of a blast furnace and exposed immediately to a blast of water form a 2-1/2 inch fire hose, exposing it to “impact, erosion and cooling from a fire house stream” of 30 pounds per square inch of force. Of course, as UL officials explained, water could not be allowed to spray through the wall.

    Pass Requirements

    • The chinked joint obviously could not fail allowing fire to pass through the wall.
    • In order to pass the one-hour fire test, the unexposed side of the wall could only climb 250 degrees F. above its starting temperature.
    • Water could not be allowed to spray through the wall after the spray test.

    In other words, the Log Jam Chinking had to be a good insulator as well as being fire resistant.


    The investment Sashco made in time and money paid off. In July 1986 Sashco received the full UL test report. Not only did its Log Jam Chinking pass all aspects of the one-hour fire test, the unexposed side showed a rise in temperature of only 160 degrees F., qualifying it as an excellent insulator.

    Log Jam Chinking is now the only answer to a one-hour fire wall needed” said one Sashco official, “unless, of course, you’d like drywall over your logs”

    Information Courtesy of Sashco Inc.

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    by: Western Log Home Supply
    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    From Forest to Finished Residence, a Log Home is True Green Building Choice

    Mention the words “log home” in these environmentally aware times, and unfortunately the first thing likely to spring into the minds of many people is an image of lumberjacks clear-cutting entire forests and destroying habitats for spotted owls. At a time in this planet’s history when climate change, pollution, the destruction of the natural environment, and soaring fuel costs are truly legitimate concerns, the thought of a home made from trees can understandably cause an initially panicked reaction.

    That notion of log homes being anti-“green,” however, could not, however, be farther from the truth.

    Today’s log homes are, in fact, among the most environmentally friendly residential choices available, good both for the planet and for the people who live in them. Log homes can help restore, renew, and safeguard nature. The best-made log homes are manufactured with virtually zero waste. From every stage of their creation, from standing timber through construction to move-in, are responsibly built log home leaves one of the smallest carbon footprints of any residential choice.

    A Log Home Begins: Responsible Logging

    Every log home has its start when the logs from which it is built are first cut. Today, the most responsible builders of log homes become responsible stewards of the environment by carefully choosing the trees they cut for the most positive impact on the environment.

    Some trees may be harvested strategically for log homes with the goal of optimizing the well being of trees left behind. Done correctly, this can allow remaining trees more room to grow and more direct access to sunlight and rain.

    More importantly, however, is the fact that the smartest log homebuilders aim to use dead standing timber—trees that, at first glance, may look alive because they appear upright and strong, but have in fact died. One prime example of such trees are pines killed by beetle infestation, a major problem in America’s forests.

    Dead standing trees scattered throughout the forests are removed selectively by helicopter logging. In many cases entire tracts of woodlands may be composed of dead standing timber, which are most efficiently removed by clear cutting. Either way, such dead trees have drier wood that is much more prone to catching fire from lightning strikes, sparking power lines, or careless campers. Caught alight, one such dead standing tree can lead to the devastation of vast living forests and related ecosystems.

    Fortunately, most dead standing timber is prime material for log homes. Beetles, for example, attack only the cambium, the thin growing layer beneath the bark, leaving the rest of the timber unaffected. Since a tree destined for a log home will be milled down to its heartwood, any and all traces of infestation are eliminated long before construction.

    In these fundamental ways, logs are a sustainable resource. And that fact alone makes log homes a superb green building option. But there are more good reasons still why log homes make superb eco-friendly choices.

    Log Homes: Less “Embodied Energy”

    The term “embodied energy” is becoming more and more familiar among folks concerned about the environment. In brief and put as simply as possible, it refers to the sum total amount of energy expended to produce a product. For a brick wall, that would mean every bit of energy involved in digging up the clay, trucking it to the brickworks, building the moulds, firing it in the kiln, trucking it to the store or brickyard or building site, similar energy for the mortar, and assembling the wall, plus a share of the energy expended to make all the machines or equipment used in every step of the process.

    By this standard, the walls of a log home contain consume less energy than walls of brick and mortar, and also less than walls of milled boards. That makes logs a much more responsible building material choice for the wellbeing of our planet.

    Log Home Milling: Waste-Free Manufacturing

    Once they reach the mill, responsibly harvested timbers go through a milling process that is a model of environmentally responsible manufacturing. Virtually no part of the tree goes to waste.

    As mentioned, trees destined for log home construction are milled down to their heartwood and cut to length. But what, you may wonder, becomes of the parts that are milled or trimmed away?

    When a manufacture receives a log it is usually in the form of a "cant." A cant is a round log that has had slabs cut off of the sides to make it square.  These cants are ready to be run though the planner machine but before this happens they go through the first grading process.  Logs that have a large amount of cracks, bends, curves, bows, or other flaws are either rejected before they are even milled or are cut down to a smaller usable length and placed in a Grade B or Grade C pile. Logs that make it through this process are Grade A logs.  

    These Grade A logs are run through a large planner which mills the tongue-and-groove pattern into the top and bottom of the log and makes one face of the log round (the side that is on the outside of the home) and mills the inside face of the log flat.  This is done with tungsten carbide tipped cutter heads which makes for an extremely smooth finish. 

    After the logs are milled they are cut to length according to a log layout.  The log layout is a blueprint of the house and contains the exact length of every that is going to be used in the home.  

    When the log is cut to length it a small slab is cut off the front of the log to make it flat and smooth.  Sometimes if the log has a crack which was not seen in the first grading process that portion of the log will be cut off to assure that it meets Grade A standards. These small trimmings from logs are sold as firewood.

    Logs graded “B” or “C” because of cracks, bends, curves, bows, or other flaws that render them unsuitable for large-scale quality construction also may be turned into playhouses, sheds, or garages. 

    Logs which are below Grade B or C quality logs get cut up for dunnage, the strips of wood that secure bundles of logs for shipping or are used to make the borders for gardens. 

    Even the wood shavings from the planer machines that make the tongue-and-groove cuts that fit logs together are sold for horse bedding or to decorate and hold moisture in garden flowerbeds. 

    Believe it or not but even the finest particles of sawdust finds use with environmentally friendly composting toilets or to soak up oil on shop floors.

    Some enlightened log home manufacturers take the notion of waste-free sustainability one step further still. They become members of environmentally conscious industry organizations that actually fund the replanting of trees to keep forests well managed, healthy, and growing.

    Log Homes: An Ideal Choice for Sustainable Living

    Once a log home has been built, its value as a green living choice becomes all the greater. Especially when a log home is positioned on its site to take maximize direct sunlight during the colder months and to maximize shade during warmer months, logs are an ideal building material, absorbing heat effectively and releasing it slowly to reduce heating costs in winter, and keeping interiors well-insulated against exterior heat in the summer.

    Using dry wood to eliminate shrinkage and built following proper construction, sealing, and chinking procedures, log homes are also extremely airtight. This factor not only further reduces heating and cooling costs but also improves indoor air quality. The result is a far healthier interior environment.

    In such practical, everyday ways, log homes provide true benefits to those who build and live in them. From the ways in which the logs are harvested, through their milling process, to the construction of the finished home, they make an ideal choice for anyone who wants to reduce their carbon footprint and live a sustainable, environmentally responsible life.

    By Clyde and Jeff Cremer

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    by: Western Log Home Supply
    Saturday, December 20, 2008
    With its thick walls of solid wood, a log home is one of the best-insulated buildings in which you could choose to live. But the nature of a log home's construction also presents a unique challenge: the opportunity for air to pass through the gaps between the logs.

    Fortunately, air infiltration is a challenge that's easily met, thanks to caulking, the general term for the seals that are introduced between logs. With the right caulking method, or "caulk joint" as it is generally termed, a log home can achieve thermal efficiencies to rival those of any building method.

    Two key elements are essential to effective caulking. First, the caulk used must form a "wet" seal, one that adheres to the wood surfaces rather than just filling the gaps between them. And second, it needs to be elastic (a quality sometimes referred to as "memory"), either stretching or compressing as the shapes of the logs themselves subtly move through natural expansion or contraction.

    With those elements met, four principles govern the most efficient caulk joint design: caulk depth, points of adhesion, a caulk "well," and the conditions under which the caulk is applied. Each principle is fairly simple to grasp, and understanding them all will help anyone buying, building, or restoring a log home make the right energy-efficient decisions.

    Principle 1: Apply the Right Caulk Depth

    In general, the depth of caulk in a joint is more important than the width of the caulk's application. Why? Put as simply as possible, the most critical factor is that the caulk have enough mass at any given point to absorb any movement in the logs.
    As a rule, whatever its width, the depth of a caulk joint does not need to be any more than 1/2 inch or any less than 1/4 inch. (See figure 1, which illustrates how a thinner cross-section results in less stress on the joint.). Also, a deeper joint is preferable to one that is too thin.

    Principle 2: Provide Two Caulk Adhesion Points

    Caulk works best when it adheres only to two elements, namely the two logs between which it is applied, so that the seal will hold if and when any movement occurs in the logs. (See figure 2, which illustrates how this principle applies whether the joint is being stretched or compressed.)

    Adhesion to three or more points, by contrast, would cause the caulk to be pulled in multiple directions, thus increasing the likelihood that the seal will break away from one or more of the points of adhesion. (See figure 3, which illustrates how such ruptures can occur under three-point adhesion.) Placing a backing rod inside the well

    With this principle in mind, any backing materials included in a caulk joint should provide a surface to which the caulk does not adhere. Doing so allows the caulk to remain at its most elastic.

    Principle 3: Create a Caulk Well

    Superior caulks have enough elasticity to absorb 25 to 50 percent of the total movement in the joint they fill. To allow for that movement, caulk joints require "wells," spaces that allow the joint to absorb that movement.

    For a reliable seal, the caulk well should be two to four times larger than the movement that is anticipated for that joint, thus reflecting the 25 to 50 percent absorption properties of the caulk being used. (See figure 4, which illustrates how an anticipated 1/4-inch movement calls or a 1-inch caulk well.)

    Obviously, the greater the movement expected in a particular joint, the larger its caulk well should be. Log homeowners can also take comfort from the fact that high-quality caulks currently being sold are capable of absorbing far greater movement than that for which they are rated.

    Principle 4: Apply Caulk Under Optimum Conditions

    Because logs expand or contract in response to temperature and humidity, the climate conditions at the time caulk joints are applied will affect the seal formed. On a very hot, humid day, for example, a joint will be at its smallest, since wood expands under such conditions; so caulk applied at such a time will later be subject to the maximum stretching. By contrast, a joint will be at its largest on the coldest, driest of days; so caulk applied then will later be subject to the maximum compression. (See figure 5, which illustrates the tension on caulk joints under both extreme and average temperature conditions.)

    With this principle in mind, it is wise to select a caulk with properties that best suit the range of local climate conditions, and to apply it at the most stable, least extreme point in the climate cycle. But smart log home builders will also apply caulk at optimum times; for example, sealing caulk joints on the cooler side of a home will work most effectively on a warmer day, while those on the side of a home that gets more direct and prolonged exposure to sunlight would best be sealed on a cooler day.

    By aiming to apply all four principles described above, you'll maximize the effectiveness of your caulk joint seal. That may require you and your builder or contractor to implement sealing techniques that go beyond the most obvious and simple solutions. (Figures 6 and 7, for example, illustrate how two logs conventionally sealed with caulk applied at their meeting point lead to a triangular, three-point adhesion that can easily rupture; but adding a caulk well with a backing rod to the same log cross-section results in much more secure two-point adhesion.)

    Keep these guidelines in mind, and you'll thus enjoy the maximum benefits of log homes' superior insulation and energy-saving capabilities.

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    by: Western Log Home Supply
    Friday, December 12, 2008

    The term sapstain and blue stain is used in many articles concerning rot and wood preservation. One should understand this term as a first step in understanding wood degradation and rot.

    What is Sapstain?

    A tree consists of many parts, but for this short treatise two terms, heart wood (physiologically dead wood located near the center of the tree) and sap wood, which are located on the outer periphery of the tree (physiologically active) will suffice.  The sap wood carries water and nutrients up though the tree and thus is a perfect environment for sapstain growth.

    When a board or timber is cut from a log, mold spores can come in contact with the nutrient rich wood with its inherent high moisture content and they begin to multiply and spread over the face of the lumber.

    As they spread they create a stain which is normally blue, but can actually be different colors. Throughout the years I have seen not only blue, but also black, red and yellow.

    If this mold/stain is not checked, it can penetrate into the wood with tendrils and take the infection deep into the lumber or timbers. They will eventually emit enzymes which will break down the wood and then you have the start of serious decay.  We are talking about lumber which is wet (unseasoned) and in a nutrient rich environment. Many people talk of dry rot; but in reality there is no such thing. This is a misnomer. since wood needs to be between 30 and 60-percent moisture content for it to begin the decay cycle.

    Preventing Sapstain

    To prevent sapstain from discoloring the lumber and to prevent further degradation through decay, many mills will dip the product into a fungicide to deter mold from attacking the lumber. This is particularly important in the humid areas of the United States and its use is highly recommended for high quality, valuable lumber.  

    Lumber which has a high propensity of sapstain will not take a finish evenly. The area which has the sap- stain will absorb wood finishes more than unaffected areas. Thus, when finishing a piece of lumber so infected, one will have to use a number of wood finish coats to even out the look. For high quality products such as furniture or mouldings, the lumber infected with sapstain is discarded.  

    If one is installing wood which has mildew present, it should be washed thoroughly before applying any type of finish. We are talking about a surface coating of mildew, not a stain that has penetrated deep into the wood. Use a mixture of three quarts of water, one quart of household bleach, and 1/4 cup of liquid dishwasher detergent which does not contain ammonia. Never mix bleach and ammonia as it will give off hazardous fumes. This formulation can be sprayed on using a pump sprayer. After 15 to 30 minutes, it can be washed off using a power washer.

    Remember that once the stain goes deep into the wood, it cannot be removed with bleach or any other product. It is there to stay.  Always remember not to play chemist and experiment by mixing various chemicals as they could give off hazardous fumes...and more!

    Please check out our section of wood cleaners and brighteners and log home preservatives. As always you can contact Clyde at 719 547-2135 if with any questions regarding wood or log homes or visit our website at www.westernloghomesupply.com

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    by: Western Log Home Supply
    Sunday, November 30, 2008

    During construction the logs can become stained from rain hitting the logs and leaving water spots as well as having black stains develop from water hitting the spikes or lag screws used in construction and leaving unsightly black stains on the logs and other wood. This can be easily removed by using several methods:

    Oxalic Acid

    For black nail stains you can use oxalic acid and water. A cup of oxalic acid in a gallon of warm water is the best mixture for normal stains. If you have a few stains, just rub the solution on with a soft rag and presto..they are gone. If you have a lot of stains or want to brighten up the logs prior to staining the house, you can use a hand, pump sprayer for the job. This solution is poison so keep away from any living thing. Also use eye protection and a face mask to filter out any of the chemicals. This chemical can be obtained at most home centers and goes by the name of "wood bleach".

    Bleach and Water

    Another way to brighten up and clean up logs or deck prior to finishing is to use a mixture of half house hold bleach and half water. This can be sprayed on with a hand held pump sprayer and worked in with a brush on tough spots. Never ever try to make your own super stain remover and mix oxalic acid (wood bleach) and house hold bleach together. This will give off a tremendous volume of noxious fumes that can be damaging to your lungs.

    Sodium Percarbonate (CPR)

    CPR is used to clean and brighten uncoated wood that is dirty, faded or gray from UV exposure. Mix CPR to the brightening solution strength for use on new construction just prior to staining to remove dirt and grime from logs during the building process and to break down mill glaze. Mixed at the log cleaning solution strength—use for periodic cleaning of stained logs to extend the life of your stain. It can be applied eaisly by using a garden sprayer.

    Phosphoric Acid

    Phosphoric Acid is a liquid concentrate for cleaning log and wood surfaces. It commonly goes by the nameLog Wash. It can be used as maintenance cleaner or to prepare the surface of wood for a new coat of stain or topcoat.

    The exterior surfaces of a log home are a settling ground for dust, pollen and other airborne contaminants that dull the surface and encourage mold growth. A light cleaning once or twice a year will keep a home looking beautiful and helps prolong the life of the exterior wood finish.

    For preparing the surface of bare or finished wood or for a new coat of stain or topcoat, Log Wash removes dirt, grime, pollen and surface mold and mildew without harming the wood or the finish. As opposed to bleach solutions, Log Wash does not upset the natural pH balance of the wood, thus preventing wood fiber damage and iron tannate stains. It can be applied easily by using a garden sprayer. 

    To learn more about log home and wood cleaners please visit our website at www.westernloghomesupply.com  or give us a call at (719) 547-2135

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    by: Western Log Home Supply