Log Cabin Chinking Materials and Tools

Log Cabin Chinking is a technique used to seal narrow openings between cabin logs and fill cracks or crevices within logs. Chinking helps to keep nature’s elements outside, maintain a comfortable environment inside, and reduce air and moisture intrusion. There are a variety of log chinking materials, products, chinking recipes, and log chinking techniques available.

log cabin chinking
log cabin chinking

Is Log Cabin Chinking Really Needed

Yes, all cabins likely will require a level of chinking at some point. Whether you apply chinking from the early stages of a cabin build or as a cabin ages, settles, and shifts. Over time, openings in the log joints can form, and logs tend to naturally check or crack as they expand and contract from moisture and drying out. Especially the lower log areas or log courses closest to the ground exposed to seasonal moisture variations.

In addition, log cabin chinking will help prevent heat loss in the interior of your home through open gaps in upper log exterior walls. Cabin chinking will also help reduce log movement or log walls slightly shifting in your cabin or house. Log cabin chinking will also help keep rodents and small insects out of log houses.

Log Home Maintenance Cost – Chinking $10,000 plus

Depending on materials and labor, Chinking can cost upwards of $10,000 or more. You can DIY (Do It Yourself) and reduce costs by supplying the labor. You may need to purchase a few additional log cabin tools. Another way to save on the cost to chink a log home is to use a non-synthetic chink such as mortar or a traditional log cabin chinking recipe using lower-cost material sources. However, be careful. Incorrectly mixing or applying log cabin chinking mortar and other materials could add time and money to your chinking project in the long run. We don’t recommend using spray foam as it likely will not stand up to nature’s elements long term.

Log Cabin Chinking Materials

What Is Log Cabin Chinking Made Of

What is chinking made of? Chinking can be created by mixing a combination of sand, a mixture of clay, salt, wood ash, straw, lime, water, and many other materials. For example, some individuals even mix in Portland cement or masonry mortar. In other words, you can purchase pre-mixed, synthetic chinking materials like Log Jam chinking or make your own from available resources around your property.

How To Chink A Log Cabin or Log Home

Chinking Tools or Chinking Caulking Tools

Backer Rod

A backer rod fills joints and cracks in between chinking logs. There are a variety of backer rods available, although they tend to be synthetic foam, flexible foam, and vary in diameter. A backer rod serves as a bond breaker that chinking material will not stick to. Allowing for the chinking material to move slightly with the logs.

Open Cell Backer Rods

Open Cell Backer Rods are generally for indoor use where there is a low presence of moisture.

Closed Cell Backer Rods

Closed Cell Backer Rods are denser and are popular for exterior and outdoor applications.

Grip Strip Backer Rod

A grip strip backer rod is a trapezoidal-shaped foam backer rod. This rod is used to form a tight seal and sits flush between courses of logs. Grip strip backer rods might be a little extra money but they have high product performance.

Using backer rod modern materials and finishing off with a cover layer of chinking material creates a waterproof and airtight seal for any style log homes or even old structures. Old cabins or old houses may have used items like grass, straw, corn cobs, and fiberglass insulation as backer rod material.

Chinking Gun

Manual, Electric, and Air bulk loading guns all do a great job applying chinking material. Which one you prefer depends on the size of the chinking job and your pocketbook. Chinking accessories for log cabin chinking guns include threaded nozzle attachments of different sizes and angles and options for easier loading of caulking materials into the chinking caulk tool or gun such as screw drive loaders, cartridge loaders, and chinking pump loaders.

Spatula or Scraping Tool

Look for a spatula tool with flexibility in the blade. You will want to apply pressure and bend the blade as you are manipulating and smoothing out the chinking. You should not need to apply much pressure. A spatula with a comfortable grip and a stainless steel blade to avoid rusting are best.

Trowel

A trowel can help you transfer chinking material between logs and joints. With a trowel, you will want to ensure that the chinking is worked into the area properly to allow for maximum coverage, adhesion, and a complete seal. A trowel can help you in a variety of ways including removing old mortar.

Wire Mesh

Wire Mesh can be used independently of a backer rod or in addition to the backer rod. The wire mesh serves to help hold the caulking material or mortar mix in place between one log and the next log. If using in combination with a backer rod, the wire mesh helps keep everything in place and allows for a tighter, strong seal in log buildings or an old log cabin. Wire mesh can help support and hold in place chinking around the largest log gaps.

Foam Brush

A foam brush used when chinking can help with smoothing out the chinking product or even cleaning. If you accidentally apply a little chinking in an area that you didn’t attend you can wet a foam brush to help wipe and clean away the material.

Grout Bag

A grout bag will come in handy if you have small jobs that do not require much chinking. Jobs such as repairing a a small damaged area. Perhaps you have a medium-sized chinking project. Or do you need to reach into tight spaces in your log cabin building that a chinking gun or sausage gun will not allow you to reach. Load the grout bag full of your chinking product. You will be able to squeeze the chink into the small cracks and crevices. Or you can just go the route of the old fashion way with a trowel or stick.

Isopropyl Alcohol

Keep chinking material from sticking to your tools using a fine mist of Isopropyl Alcohol or water. This allows you to spread, push, place, and position the chinking product into place without too much hassle with the material wanting to adhere to your tools. You will not need to use too much water or alcohol.

How Long Does Chinking Last

Chinking could potentially last the life of the structure but depends heavily on several factors. Shifting and settling of the cabin structure could impact the life of your chinking and introduce gaps and cracks. The make up of the chinking material and light or heavy exposure to elements will also play a part in determining the life span of the chinking.

Newer, synthetic chinking is an elastomer with elastic properties that allow it to stretch and flex with the structure. Synthetic chinking also does well with freeze and thaw cycles. At a minimum, traditional chinking materials should last you a couple of years. The new synthetic chinking used in today’s modern log cabin should last you even longer. You can even add a flexible sealant such as perma-chink log home sealant to extend the life of your chinking material.

Log Cabin Chinking Look and Feel

Log Cabin Chinking definitely can add to the aesthetic appeal of your log home. With products like chinking paint, the color combinations seem to be infinite. You can apply different textures to your chinking. Even paint your chinking a solid color such as light gray. You can even match the dark brown color of your logs, or vary the degree of transparency. In addition, you can even add ultraviolet protection to your chinking through paints and stains.

How To Load a Bulk Loading Gun

  1. First step, grab the ladder hook pull handle. Then, pull back on the steel rod and chinking plunger to release any built-up pressure in the bulk loading gun. You may have to twist the ladder hook pull handle 180 degrees to disengage the ratchet mechanism.
  2. Unscrew the front cap of the bulk loading gun. The front cap is the end with the chinking nozzle.
  3. Fill the empty bulk loading gun tube with new chinking material.
  4. Wipe and clean away any chinking material that didn’t make its way fully into the bulk loading gun tube. You can use a towel, trowel, and clean water for this step.
  5. Replace and screw back on the front bulk loading gun cap.
  6. Grab the ladder hook handle and slowly push the steel rod and chinking plunger back into bulk loading gun tube. You will want to point the bulk loading gun towards the sky. Aim up while pushing the plunger forward to remove any air pockets trapped within the new chinking material.

Different Methods Filling Bulk Loading Gun

There are a couple of different methods or techniques that you can use to fill a bulk loading gun with chinking product or material. Typically chinking is loaded from 5 gallon buckets.

  1. Trowel – Load the chinking bulk loading gun or sausage gun with a trowel. This involves scooping out a portion of your purchased modern chinking material or your DIY chinking mixture with a trowel. With each portion, use the trowel to carefully place the chink or mortar inside the sausage gun tube or chamber.
  2. Tight Seal Cone – Load by creating a tight seal between the bulk loading gun tube and the new log chinking material. You can use a towel to stack up the chinking product into somewhat of a cone shape. The next step is to place the chinking tube over and around this stacked material creating the tight seal. Then pull back on the ladder hook pull handle. This method creates somewhat of a vacuum and will pull chinking material directly into the bulk loading gun.
  3. Follow Plate – Use a follow plate that sits inside 5 gallon buckets and on top of the chinking material. This helps create a tight seal for loading chinking product into the bulk loading gun.

Using A Chinking 5 Gallon Follow Plate

A follow plate or follower plate is one of those great products that helps with loading new chinking material into a chinking gun. It also helps reduce the mess of bulk loading chinking mixture or flexible caulk. A follow plate can be either threaded or non-threaded allowing a tight seal with the chinking gun. This tight seal keeps the mess to a minimum.

The tight seal also helps prevent air leaks or air infiltration as you load the chinking product. This also reduces your chinking product reload times from taking a long time. Therefore, using a chinking or caulk follow plate is a good idea and we recommend it.

How To Apply Log Cabin Chinking

  1. Safety First, review the application, curing, and safety information of your chinking material. Use the appropriate protective eyewear and gloves. Make sure that you are working from a flat surface.
  2. Clean out each log joint, ensuring it is clean and dry.
  3. Place backer rod material and wire mesh (if using wire mesh) between log joints
  4. Apply chinking product using a bulk loading gun, trowel, or another application tool
  5. Spread the chinking material for an even thickness. Using a trowel, firmly push the material so it adheres to the top and bottom of the joint
  6. Smooth out the chinking material for a flat finish using a wet trowel or brush
  7. Wipe away any chinking drips from the log surface
  8. Clean up your work area and tools
  9. Stand back and admire your handy work. Great Stuff. Nicely done!

Where To Buy Chinking For Log Cabins

Another option is to buy chinking for log cabins versus making your own. Especially if you are in the market for synthetic chinking materials. Online retailers such as Permachink.com, Weatherall.com, westernloghomesupply.com and LogHomeStore.com are good options. You could even check out your local Lowes or Home Depot.

Log Cabin Chinking Final Thoughts

To sum up, log cabin chinking will help preserve your structure for many years to come. This is true whether you have a modern cabin in northern Minnesota or a sprawling Swedish cope style log cabin in southern Texas. The art of chinking is a project that even a weekend DIY’er can quickly master the ease of application. Chinking a log cabin can be a family project.

Therefore, stop into your local hardware store, lumber yard, or one of the big box stores. They can help you with any common question for log chinking supplies. Ask a questions such as which chinking material is best for chinking log cabin in your neck of the woods. They can also walk you through the tools and application methods best suited for your cabin and chinking application. Do you really need triple stretch chinking material and all the chinking accessories? They can help you answer that. Good Luck!

For those that are still in the planning phases of their cabin builds, check out our Log Cabin Kits post. A cabin kit provides quality construction and may help you build your cabin a little quicker.