Why Log Cabin Chinking Material Needs to be Elastic and Durable

Posted on May 21 2019 - 5:02am by Ella


What is Chinking?

Chinking is the material that fills the gap between logs in a log home.

A properly built Scandinavian ‘Chinkless’ style of log home will have no chinking at all (thus the name ‘Scandinavian Chinkless’ rather than “Scandinavian Chinked”).

The Saddle Notch, Butt and Pass, and Dovetail (or Appalachian style) will all have chinking.

The most common chinking materials are:

  • Synthetic, petrochemical based, log caulk
  • Mortar chinking

Do all Log Homes get Chinking?

Truth be told, all true log cabins can be chinked. All houses built with wood need some amount of chinking just like caulking. Moreover, chinking is necessary for those log cabins whose log courses are designed with a horizontal gap between the logs. However, whether a home needs chinking can depend on the building system, and the log profile that house owners choose.

Even ‘chinkless’ log homes, whether they are finished cabins or built on site, usually have some form of chinking. That’s because it’s hard to find a craftsman using the old tradition of real form-fitting notch work. And rarely do commercial builders properly air season their logs due to time constraints. So it’s common for little gaps to develop over time that require chinking, and often they are just chinked from the start.

Most full-scribe cabin homes and the ones that are constructed with the help of Log Cabin Kits tend to use a synthetic chinking product. It would be hard to use mortar on those styles of construction due to such things as chink zone height, log movement, and settling. Some styles of log construction were designed to accept chinking, such as a saddle notch, dovetail or Skip style Butt and Pass.

Traditional chinking material was used to form a weather tight joint so the wind, rain, snow, bugs and other elements stayed on the outside of your log home. Today’s chinking products are designed to look like the old time mortar but have much higher performance characteristics. Most chinking products are designed to stand out from your wood which is why they have a heavy texture pattern and are typically installed in 1”- 4” joints. Installation is very common on western log homes but can be found in the east as well. The most common colour is STONE because it resembles the look of old time cement. Finally, some chinking products can expand up to seventy-five percent of their original size but it is critical to apply stain and backer rod prior to application because it helps to ensure proper adhesion and elongation.

Which is Best, Mortar or Synthetic?

That’s hard to say – any answer to that question would only be an opinion. At our log home building class we share all the pros and cons of the different materials and really explain the differences. We also give our time tested mortar recipe and installation tips.

There are some concrete reasons why mortar will actually last longer than synthetic chinking (no pun intended). It’s easier to apply, minimizes potential water damage, requiresno specialty tools to apply, and so on.

The Importance of Elasticity.

Chinking fills and seals the gaps between the logs, protecting the log cabin from water leaking in and insect invasions. This is particularly important in the case of leaks, because if you can control them, you can look forward to many years of service from you home. Because buildings shift and settle over time, expanding when hot, contracting when cold, shifting if the ground moves and so on, the chinking needs to elastic in order to move with the building and maintain the seal.