Raspberry Ridge

Raspberry Ridge
Spring 2010

Come Share in My Dream

My adventure started in earnest during 2002 when I began building my handcrafted log lodge. I have always dreamed of having a bed and breakfast to pamper new and old friends in the process.

The hard work is underway. Please follow my progress and plan a stay to experience what I lovingly call "Raspberry Ridge Bed and Breakfast".

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Interior Log Finishing Underway

It's all about the logs... for us.  The single most important investment for us as do-it-yourself log home builders is the logs.  The logs are why we've invested all the time, money, and labor to build our log dream as compared to stick home construction.  After all, we would have been done years ago if we would have hired a builder and constructed a stick frame home.  So it comes as no surprise that when it was time to finish our logs, we took it very seriously.

Our situation is somewhat unique in the fact we wanted to build green as much as possible so we sought out dead fall trees from a blow down that hit the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) in 1999.  The trees had been down two years by the time we contracted a local logger to harvest them.  My husband hand peeled the logs, removed areas of dry rot, sprayed the logs with PermaChinks' SHELL-GUARD, and erected the 18" red pine logs.  We used a corn cob blaster on the exterior, sealed the exterior surface and put the roof on the lodge.  Then Jim faced and overcame four major surgeries in three years.  The year is now 2010 and we are just now closing up the home and finishing the interior logs. 

We started working on the interior logs with a plan (we thought) and soon realized the logs had deteriorated significantly with the delay in sealing the interior from the elements.  We have read how to books, talked to log home builders, poured over Internet articles and blogs, talked to other log home owners and compared all the methods of log preservation and restoration.  It has been one of the most challenging parts of our project to date.  We are now executing our "new" plan and achieving the results we are after.

The method we chose to strip the interior logs is hand grinding and sanding.  This method allows us to remove the thick layer of gray and black covering the log and it's tempting to ignore the powdery cambian layer but off it comes as well.  If dry rot is encountered, a chisel and hammer or grinder is used.  We've become very good at shaping cats eyes in the logs when encountering pockets of soft wood.

We experimented with using a 50%/50% mixture of bleach and water applied to the logs to reduce the blue stain on some of the logs.  It also bleaches any mold that remains on the surface of the logs but does not KILL the mold.  It will damage the wood fibers even if you rinse, rinse, rinse so after doing one wall with toxic bleach I see it is not worth the fumes or damage to the wood to completely coat the logs. Bleach is a neurotoxin and studies have shown when a child is exposed to bleach, they lose focus and concentration while trying to study or play.  It is a dangerous chemical that is best eliminated from the home.  So once again, I tried it and found there are better, safer alternatives to household bleach.

We purchased 35% hydrogen peroxide which when diluted to 10% will do a nice job of not only bleaching problem areas but will also kill mold and mildew.  I rinse the logs after bleaching and I'm done.  As a cautionary tale, Jim kicked over the gallon of 35% hydrogen peroxide and got it on his hands during clean up.  His hands immediately turned white and hurt, he flooded them with water and always warns me to be careful when handling full strength.  As a point of reference, the drug store hydrogen peroxide is 3%.  Hydrogen peroxide is used in organic gardening, food and water sanitation, green household cleaning recipes and I'm so much more comfortable using it.  No neurotoxins for our family and our guests thank you!

I searched the web and found a recipe for protecting the wood long term from dry rot at http://www.angelfire.com/nc3/davecarnell/rot.html from Navy specs which inspired confidence in me.  However, it used "Ethylene glycol as a carrier for borates so I kept looking.  I found a recipe at "Bearfort Lodge" website http://www.bearfortlodge.com/ and found that the same recipe was being employed as the Navy spec based recipe with two exceptions: 1)  Used the environmentally responsible propylene glycol instead of the TOXIC ethylene glycol 2) Used water at time of application to thin the recipe for application instead of anti-freeze as the Navy specs called for.

We ended up incorporating both recipes into our version as follows:

Propylene Glycol Solution of Borates:

50% glycol antifreeze (1 gallon)
28% borax (4 pounds)
22% boric acid (3 1/2 pounds)

Mix the ingredients and heat till boiling gently,  continue to boil the water out of the propylene glycol mixture while stirring thoroughly. Use a candy thermometer and remove from heat when the mixture reaches 260°F. This removes most of the water and is stable at 40°F with a borate content of 26%.

Once cool, pour back into the empty propylene glycol containers and refrigerate.  When I'm ready to treat the dry rot areas, I use 25% of this mixture to 75% propylene glycol and apply with a brush or garden hose sprayer.  I wash with soapy water if the borate crystallizes on top of the logs after drying.  We allow the logs to dry before applying epoxy as needed or the final finish sealer.

This recipe uses propylene glycol as the carrier to seek out and displace any water in the logs.  The propylene glycol pulls the borates deep into the wood and then the borates will crystallize creating a long term barrier against insects and fungi.

We had thought about using propylene glycol or RV antifreeze (not to be confused with it highly toxic cousin ethylene glycol antifreeze) to all the logs as an added measure to kill any mold spores that were embedded in the wood.  I wrote to Bearfort Lodge since it's such a wonderful resource and the owner promptly replied to me.  We talked on the phone and he steered me away from using such large quantities of propylene glycol on the logs.  Instead, I chose to use a great tip he shared of using 1 cup Cascade Dishwasher Detergent to 1 gallon water to brighten the logs.  The detergent has oxylic acid which is a bleaching agent for wood.  It will also restore the wood to the proper pH prior to staining or sealing the wood.  The wood should be slightly below neutral (acidic).  Mold does not thrive in acidic environments, so this is further insurance against leaving any spores in the wood.  Perfect!  Thank you Bearfort Lodge for the perfect solution.

We're working against the clock to chink before winter sets in so the next step is to apply our "green" Brazilian rosewood oil product from Penefin called 'Verde'. We chose the clear oil which has been harvested from fallen nuts of the brazilian rosewood tree.  This was important to us that no rain forests were harmed in the making of the product.  It's a renewable and sustainable product.  We will only be applying one layer of the brazilian rosewood oil in order to allow the logs to breath.  Mold and mildew can bloom under oil products so as an extra precaution, we are choosing not to wetsand the logs with the oil which would seal the pores while giving a warm glow to the logs.  Our test logs looked great without the extra work and mess that wetsanding with oil would create.  If we ever run into problems with mold or rot again, propylene glycol can be applied right over the oil and it will penetrate into the logs while not harming or discoloring the finish.  It will not penetrate plastic based sealers however.

We'll be applying the oil in the next couple of days to the bedroom walls and I can't wait to see the finish after all the 'not so fun' prep work.  We'll definitely post some pictures to document our first interior log room finish.

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