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A bad corner

In my previous posts and daily pictures there have been mentions about renovating my house. So maybe it is time to take a look at the whole process for this year. I've been doing number of things in the previous years, but for now I'll skip them and focus on the current project.

It all started with a bad corner. For couple of years I didn't think that much about it - I just knew that there is a hole or two in that corner, and I had stuffed old woolen socks into the holes. A temporary solution which made me through some pretty cold winters. To get a better picture I'll attach a quick drawing of my house. Generally speaking, my house consists of two sections. The main section is made of logs, and has two rooms. And then the entrance hall is made of boards and insulation material. The entrance hall was already in rather bad condition, most of the insulation materials destroyed by ants, mice and birds. Oh, and the door - yes I could close it, but there was always a strong current of cold air running in between the door and its frame. Then, the bad corner was in between the smaller room and the entrance hall. So, I knew that to properly fix it I first have to tear down some structures of the entrance hall. It was some point in the spring when I finally decided that this year I'm going to work with it.

I thought that if I have to tear down a part of the entrance hall, I might as well tear down nearly everything, leaving just the supporting structure. Then I could fix the bad corner first, and then rebuild the entrance hall with new materials. Thinking of this, in the early summer I realized that there are electric cables running inside the walls of the entrance hall. So, I wanted to be sure that all the cables are dead before I start to tear down anything. I called the electric company, and asked them to unplug all the cables that go into the house. As a side-effect I was left without an electric stove. Then the summer went, mostly relaxing, eating, drinking, dancing and meeting friends. That was extremely good, as it washed away a lot of chronical stress I've been carrying. Towards the autumn I slowly started to get serious about renovating.

I started to tear down the old materials of the entrance hall. I installed a wood burning stove. And finally when I got the bad corner properly inspected, I realized that it was worse than I thought. First, some logs were nearly completely destroyed. Then, the ceiling rests on two wooden beams, and the other of those beams was resting on bad log. So, it was not enough to just fix the corner, I had also think about how to secure the beam. Luckily I have some books about renovating an old log house. I browsed through the books but when they were talking about replacing bad logs, it was always about the lowest pieces of a wall - that I've already done with my friend. But I found some instructions about working with logs higher in the wall. It said: "Generally speaking the procedure is the same as with the lower logs, it just becomes far more difficult with higher ones. Therefore it is advisable to just secure the wall in any other way and then fix the bad parts in other ways." - Yes, now that is a good advice!

So there I was. Wind blowing in through the holes in the wall, the ceiling about to collapse down. And outdoor temperatures already below freezing. Apparently, I really have to do something about this - I don't quite know what, but maybe I'll figure out something. No they didn't teach this kind of stuff at the university. When I was kid, we did some simple wood works, but I didn't learn anything about renovating a log house. After the university I spent nine years living in kind of a hippie collective in the countryside, and there I got more experience about traditional building. Oh, and I especially remember one spring - I was all the time heavily depressed and felt that anything I try to do will fail. I went to therapy for that, and we tried hypnosis. The therapist guided my journey, first suggesting me to imagine a place which is all for myself, all private, all safe. Well, there were some obstacles in getting there, but the therapist found ways to guide me over those obstacles. Finally I saw an image of an old log house on a tiny island. As guided, I went in and took a look at all the stuff there was. The therapist suggested me to pick one object and bring it with me to my waking consciousness. I chose a necklace - still in my hypnosis journey I wore the necklace and felt like light shining inside my chest. After the hypnosis I felt confident - after that I just wielded an axe and a hammer and started to learn building by doing. Well, later on I fell back into the depression, but at least I had learned a lot, and had a good experience that it indeed is possible to recover.

This autumn I've been rather peaceful. I know that any rational house owner would first inspect everything, gather all the materials and information needed and then work in a well planned manner. But I'm not like that. I just throw myself into the action and see what comes out of it. Each and every day when I get to renovate my house I'm also learning how to do it. So, it was one morning I sat on my sofa sipping strong black coffee and slowly thinking about ways to fix the bad corner. I already had a general idea in my mind, but I knew that a general idea is never enough - I also need to figure out all the details. I drank two mugs of coffee, and a detailed plan was ready: I'll need two pairs of planks; one goes to the inner side of the wall, the other to the outer side. And one pair goes to the south wall, and the other pair goes to east wall. Then I'll drill holes through the planks and the log wall, and put threaded rods through those holes. Fastening nuts on the rods I'll practically have both walls secured in between a pair of planks. And the inner plank on the south wall will also be supporting the beam which carries the ceiling. As the planks inside the room will be next to each other, I can also connect them with some L-shaped pieces of metal, that way making the structure even more solid.

Well, for the weekend I'd like to go meet Sami, and I wanted to get that corner fixed before that. So, thursday after my work I continued with renovation. It was 4 AM when I got the last nut fastened. At that point I thought that I'm anyway going to be tired the coming day, so instead of collapsing to bed I decided to write this blog entry. And now I only have one more thing to say; the entrance hall still need to be done, but that can wait for later. And then, generally speaking, the logs of the main part are rather thin - only something like 12,5 centimetres, which means that they offer only sub-medium insulation. I'd like to add an extra layer of insulation, at least on the outer side of the log walls. It will be two layers; first fiberboard and then outer panelling. But maybe I can do that only the next summer. Getting the entrance hall rebuilt seems like enough work for the rest of this year.

EDIT: I just added the daily picture for today which shows the bad corner from outer side.

a floor plan of my house
a floor plan of my house
The bad corner nearly fixed
The bad corner nearly fixed
tags: 
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Comments

Really hope that corner will take you through the winter. Also, when you do get around to repairing those log walls, I'd definitely be interested in hearing about it.

Wow, good bodge-job! :)
I never get tired of telling people you live in a house in the middle of the woods that was sold to you as 'unliveable,' lol. Though actually, when ever I see pictures of it, it looks quite cozy! ^_^

Have you ever heard of the 'Foxfire Book'? It was collected in the 60s by ethnographers in the Appalachian mountains who were concerned that a lot of the techniques that were part of the traditional 'hillbilly' lifestyle were dying out. Its got *loads* of information on log-cabins, building traditional stone & cob fireplaces, making moonshine.... amazing book!

I wonder about your bad log... if it is damp and rotten it might be because it is in the corner - I think I read somewhere that corners and angles in rooms are often where condensation gathers first and starts to cause rot. Well, as long as its not spreading through the log, I guess its okay!

So do you just have the frame of the entrance hall exposed to the weather? Have you covered it with tarpaulins or something? Or did you just decide to tear the whole extension down and replace it from scratch?

I haven't heard of that 'Foxfire Book' - sounds rather interesting! What does the name refer to? Just asking, because in Finnish we call Northern Lights by name "Foxes' Fires", the story being that their origin is a flaming tail of a mystical fox.

The people who sold this house to me, they were afraid that the chimney is broken. And the smaller room actually was in unlivable condition at that time. So they wanted to be sure, because Finnish legislation protects a house buyer. Even after several years, if it turns out that the house is in worse shape as the sellers say, the buyer can demand some of the money back. But selling a house in unlivable condition doesn't involve any risk for the seller.

I just posted the daily picture of today, which gives a good outside view of the said corner. As you can see, I the extension part still has outer boards left - from the inner side I've removed everything else, so there is just the supporting structure and a layer of boards. Also, I guess that at some point in the history of the house the roof has been leaking - pouring water right into this corner. And as you say, moisture makes logs rot. Luckily, when I bought the house it already had metal coating plates on the roof, and they are in good condition.

http://www.enormouselk.com/?q=erkkasblog/images/21st-november-2014

Hello, Erkka. I am one of the Appalachian mountain people of whom the Foxfire books were written. Sadly, only the oldest members of our culture still live as described in those books, but there are some of us of the less-old generation who are trying to get back to those basics and preserve our culture.

They really are pretty good books, especially the first ones. I think there are perhaps seven or eight in the entire series. I also highly recommend them. There is wonderful information on building log homes, timber framing, making lye soap, tanning hides, etc.

When I was very young, we lived in a very old log house. It used the dovetail construction that allowed the house to stay together without any rods drilled and driven down through the corners. I vaguely remember my father repairing some corner damage similar to what you describe (though perhaps not as advanced a state of decay). What he did was to frame up the good sections of wall on either side, so as to hold the house together. Then he cut out the rotten sections with a chainsaw. He then cut new wood pieces to replace the old, carved out the dovetails with wood chisels, and made a lap joint with the existing wood and fastened it with large bolts in the lower logs and wooden pegs in the upper logs. He then filled in all of the spaces where things didn't fit back together quite right with grout.

We eventually sold the house to a wealthy person who wanted to restore it in California, to pay for some of my grandmother's medical bills. But that fix was still holding strong when the came and took the old house apart.

Hope that helps, and best of luck with your repairs. It is wonderful that you are restoring that old house instead of letting it rot away until it is torn down. I think that these old homes have much more soul than the newer ones, despite being so drafty!

Hello, and warm thanks for your comment. It is great to see internet working, ie. connecting people around the globe =)

My house also has dovetail corners. At first I was also thinking about replacing bad parts with new ones, log by log. With my friend I've been doing that kind of work, but as said in my books, it is easier with the lower part of the wall. Working this way it is necessary to lift the rest of the building, and it is easier near the ground. Actually, here's a picture of from this summer, we were renovating an old house my neighbour has. http://www.enormouselk.com/?q=erkkasblog/images/8th-june-2014

Things would have been easier for me if I started working with this bad corner already in May. But now the winter is already coming, and I had to find a quick solution. But what makes it easier for me is that I'm anyway planning to add extra insulation on the walls. This means that it is not necessary to fix every rotten part of the logs in this corner - if the structure is supported and secured by those planks, then I can just carve the rotten parts away, fill the holes with natural plant fibre which works for thermal insulation, and then cover it with fibreboard and panelling.

When I was younger I didn't like fibreboards nor panels - I wanted to have a traditional log house just as it is, with logs visible both outside and indoors. But to have that I would need a house built of thicker logs. I'm afraid that my house has logs too thin to properly keep warmth in and cold out. So I allow myself to think about adding extra layers of insulation. And after all, both fibreboard and panels are natural wood with no chemicals added, so it is good enough for me.

Still, some day it would be great to build a traditional smoke sauna, using proper logs and dovetail corners =)

Well, yeah, but Appalachian mountains and Foxfire books sounds really inspiring and interesting. I'll try to find some of the series!

Also, I'm glad to hear that there are some people of younger generation still willing to preserve the traditional culture, the way of life and skills. I guess this is happening everywhere. And yes, for me it is very much a question of soul and atmosphere.

'Foxfire Book' ordered :3 Never heard of it, searched and found it amazing. I love internet, thanks for sharing :D

Erkka, I see you are having a busy week. If we were neighbours I would gladly help, but since there is a lot of distance I just wish you all the best, you are doing a great job. Your idea was practical and very good.

My father was carpenter. I remember that there was a technique called "mão de amigo" (in portuguese, in english I don't know), used in that cases, to repair main logs of roofs. Here some photos I found on google:
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-IfjaFE-qEL0/U5sOWXHOwOI/AAAAAAAAAos/3Us2foDGpY...

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_wyaH2yzwhZ4/SJTcvvvNtKI/AAAAAAAAAAc/a1N4dYwyUW...

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-wMJjvcGuXJw/U78SM5Wv3ZI/AAAAAAAAA4I/ZfaUzMiLVF...

This site has more photos of a repair work:
http://www.ct.ceci-br.org/ceci/publicacoes/96/656-boas-praticas-da-conse...

And here it is a video of someone doing it:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRdBROSw-tc

But it may require some experience, it is not easy to do it at first try. Like other people have said, if the main log is just rotten in the corner, it is easier, you could just lift the roof and insert a log as a pillar under the good part of the damaged one, or something like that.
These are only vague ideas, hopping to give some inspiration.

I admire you, from Philosophy Studies to Videogame Programming, to construction, agriculture, mushrooms and plants knowledge, music, etc.. You are a Finnish version of Leonardo da Vinci :D
All the best for this reparation project.

Here are some pictures from the second summer of living in my house. I was working together with my friend who has more experience in repairing a log house.

Inspecting the damage on the lower part of the norther wall. This is the smaller room, floor completely removed:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1213466542699&set=a.121346578268...

The north wall, all the bad parts removed:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1238869737763&set=a.121346578268...

We couldn't find a long enough log to replace the lowest log. So we had to join two pieces together:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1238871417805&set=a.121346578268...

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Oh, and I'm far from being da Vinci =) He was extremely talented in many areas, but I'm just about average in everything I do. Well, then, I knew I was not that bad at studying Philosophy, and the University staff kind of a encouraged me to continue my studies further. But spending most of the time reading books and writing articles about books? Oh no - sometimes I like to read and to write, but I don't want it to eat a lot of time away from other activities.

Also, living in the countryside I see that many people here are multitalented. Just the ordinary dairy farmer has to know a wide range of skills. At the nearby farm they fix, weld and repair the machines they use, they take care of the animals, they maintain the local roads, whenever they need a new building they build it, and then the whole farm is so big that running it requires skills of a business manager. Or the family running the nearby mill - they do everything from driving a tractor to managing the sales of the company. Somehow I feel at home living in countryside neighbourhood =)

I smiled a lot when I opened the 3rd image :D In portuese there is a saying: "Não tentes ensinar a missa ao vigário" translation (roughly): Don't try to teach a Pope how to celebrate mass... You are two steps ahead my friend, I never done that joint, you did, so nothing to teach here kind master :D

I work at a university at the moment, and feel exactly as you relating to writing about other books all the time, I can't stand the idea of doing it forever, I feel like I am negating life itself. That’s why a year ago I started planning my escape to countryside also, I agree entirely with you :)

Actually, it was a friend of mine who did that joint in my picture. I was helping him, so theoretically speaking I know how to make one - and I feel that if I had a lot of time, I could manage to make one all by myself. But now the situation at hand is that winter is already creeping in, and replacing logs upper in wall is rather timeconsuming procedure, so I had to take an alternative route - more like "quick and dirty but still it will do the trick" =)

This also happens often on UnReal World forums - people come up suggesting ideas what Sami and me have been talking about for years. But we feel it like "OK, we are going into the right direction - many of they players have similar ideas what we've been thinking of". And same here - it feels nice to see you suggesting something I was also considering myself. A nice kind of synchronization in thoughts and ideas =)

Oh, yes. Personally I think I'm never going to return to the academic world, but sometimes I think that it would be nice to find a good combination of living in the countryside and then doing smaller amounts of reading and writing - and at the moment I feel that this blog serves well for this purpose =)

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