Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Log Burning for Dry Rot

Starting the burn with a propane torch.
If you own a house, you know how bad dry rot can be for the integrity of your structure. Imagine you live in a cabin built on a float of cedar logs. Cedar is the most durable wood for construction. It is slow to saturate, making it a perfect choice for float structures.

But all wood deteriorates over time, even cedar. On a cabin’s float, the most exposed logs are the ends of the brow logs. They are the cross members on top of the float logs which are partially submerged. If you lose a brow log, you weaken the steel cables that tie all of the logs together. So goes the foundation, so goes the home.

Monitoring the burn with water buckets and extinguisher handy.

Pinpointing the burn sites to remove all dry rot.
One end of our central brow log has been subject to dry rot. We need to catch it before it becomes too advanced. The solution is burning. It seems like an extremely dangerous solution, but it’s very effective. You burn out the rot much like a dentist drills out a cavity. Once you get down to good wood, you stop the burn. You can tell how much based on the intensity of the flame. The charred wood then acts like a natural sealant, protecting the good wood from further rot.

Our good friend John is what we call an “aquatic engineer.” He’s well versed in these things. John brought his propane torch up to the cabin ready for some log dentistry. Wayne readied buckets of water and a fire extinguisher, just like a good dental assistant.

Extinguishing the flames and watching for flare ups.
It was really scary to watch the flames lick high under the deck and for such a long time, but a combination of torch application and water splashing controlled the burn. Finally, it was done. Whew! Several applications of water and careful monitoring throughout the day allayed my fears of my home going up in smoke.

While he was at it, John took the torch to the ends of the other two brow logs as a preventive treatment. They are even more critical to the integrity of our foundation.

It’s always nice having John’s expertise to help us learn the skills needed for off-the-grid living. He’s been a great friend and mentor.

Wayne has written several books about our off-the-grid life in a float cabin. They are available in both print and e-book formats from most online booksellers.

Up the Lake – Our discovery of float cabin living.
Farther Up the Lake – More cabin life stories.
Off the Grid – How we live in a remote water access cabin.

If you have any questions, we invite you to leave a comment or use the email link in the profile. It’s not the life for everyone, but it isn’t as hard as you might think. -- Margy

12 comments:

  1. You guys are fortunate to have John for these kinds of repairs.

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    1. We sure are. Even though we have learned to do many things on our own over the years, some of the big jobs take more skill and muscle than we have. - Margy

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  2. Boy , you are a lot braver than me! I would be terrified to do something like that to my home. Glad it worked out!

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    1. This was the second burn on the same log. The last time it stayed clear of rot for about ten years. The east ends get the worst weather and sun, so those ends of the logs have deteriorated the most. John is covering the ends of his brow logs with 55-gallon plastic blue barrels to keep the sun and elements away. If we do it, I think I would look for black barrels to use. They are less common, but would look a lot better I think. - Margy

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  3. I'm also glad this worked out for you. I hope everything is now in good shape for many years to come.

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    1. We are hoping for ten more years before any more rot sinks in. Brow logs are the most important because they tie the whole structure together and are hard to replace. - Margy

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  4. I was very fascinated with the process of removing dry rot. It reminded me of how people used to close up wounds by cauterizing them. Goes to show that some healing processes are similar for all living things. Though, I suppose logs are no longer considered alive.
    Take 25 to Hollister

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    1. You are so right. I also thought of the dental cavity analogy. - Margy

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  5. Wow, amazing process. I am glad it is all done and you can sit back and enjoy for years to come.. Thanks for sharing your world. Have a happy day!

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    1. I have fun sharing my off the grid world. Not everyone likes that kind of life, but it sure suits me. - Margy

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