If you own or are working on a log cabin, “chinking” will definitely come up in a conversation. Chinking is a flexible sealant that fits between the imperfect joints of logs in order to create a seal from the external elements. It is very important to use chinking in log cabins because it eliminates heat loss and air infiltration, improving the home’s energy efficiency. Chinking also protects the logs from pooling water which can cause rotting. It also protects against insect infestation. Chinking should allow the logs to breathe while also protecting the cabin from external elements.

Most log home chinking today is a flexible elastic sealant that looks similar to the old portland cement that was traditionally used to seal logs together. Today, the main chinking materials are mortar and synthetic. Mortar is more traditional and is often used for do-it-yourself log cabins. Mortar chinking is typically cheaper than synthetic. Synthetic chinking is made from acrylic or petrochemical elastic compounds that can expand or contract with the logs. They are typically water-based. Normally, log cabin kits use synthetic chinking. Most chinking manufacturers also offer several color options, including hues that match your logs. It is also possible to make your own chinking. It can be more cost-effective, and will provide the same elasticity and stability as commercial chinking if made correctly.

Before chinking, the logs should be clean and at a temperature between 40℉ and 80℉. This will ensure that the chinking adheres properly. You should also take into account what type of stain you are using on the logs if any. If you use a water-based stain, you should stain before applying the chinking. If you are using an oil-based stain, chink first then apply the stain. A backing rod should also be used. A backing rod provides a non-adhering surface, so the chinking will only adhere to the logs above and below the chinking joint. This will allow for more elasticity, so the chinking can move with the logs. Homemade backing rods can be made from clear tape or fiberglass cut into one-inch strips. If you are using mortar chinking, you will need to use chinking nails instead.

There are four typical methods used to apply chinking:

  1. Trowel
  2. Chinking gun
  3. Grout bag with a nozzle
  4. Chinking pump

It is important to make sure that the chinking has good contact with the upper and lower logs. A foam brush can be used to flatten the chinking and clean up mistakes.

If done correctly, chinking can last about 40-50 years. Most chinking maintenance will be to seal small gaps or cracks in the logs. If any of these defects are over 2 inches, they should be filled. Older mortar-based chinking compounds were not elastic enough and often cracked as logs settled. Modern, flexible chinking compounds can be applied over old cracked mortar. Gaps in the mortar must be filled in with a backing rod so that the backing rod is level with the original chinking. Then, you can cover the joint with bond breaker tape and apply the new chinking.