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Question:


I am restoring the log cabin my grandfather was born in (1886), in South GA. What would the original chinking (outside) have been and how would it have been made?

Answer:

Repair of chinking, whether it is finished on the exterior with wooden strips or with daubing, should not be done until all log repair or replacement, structural jacking and shoring is completed, and all replacement logs have seasoned. Historically, patching and replacing daubing on a routine basis was a seasonal chore. This was because environmental factors--building settlement, seasonal expansion and contraction of logs, and moisture infiltration followed by freeze thaw action--cracks and loosens daubing. If the exterior log walls are exposed, and the chinking or daubing requires repair, as much of the remaining inner blocking filler and daubing should be retained as possible. A daubing formula and tooled finish that matches the historic daubing, if known, should be used, or based on one of the mixes listed here. For the most part, modern commercially available chinking products are not suitable for use on historic log buildings, although an exception might be on the interior of a log building where it will be covered by plaster or wood, and will not be visible. These products tend to have a sandy appearance that may be compatible with some historic daubing, but the color, and other visual and physical characteristics are generally incompatible with historic log surfaces. Sections of wood chinking which are gone or cannot be made weather tight should be replaced with same sized species saplings or quarter poles cut to fit. Generally, unless bark was used originally, it should be removed before nailing the new wood chinking replacements tightly into place. Analysis of daubing can be done in much the same way as mortar analysis. If that is not feasible, by crushing a loose piece of daubing its constituent parts can be exposed, which may typically include lime, sand, clay, and, as binders, straw or animal hair. The color imparted by the sand or pigmented constituents should be noted, and any areas of original daubing should be recorded with color film for later reference. Daubing that is loose or is not adhered to the logs must first be cleaned out by hand. Blocking filler should be left intact, refitting only loose pieces. (Sometimes it may be difficult to obtain a good bond in which case it may be necessary to clean out the joint entirely.) If needed, soft filler should be added, such as jute or bits of fiberglass batt, pressed firmly into voids with a stick or blunt tool. Concealed reinforcement may sometimes be used, depending upon the authenticity of the restoration. This can include galvanized nails partially inserted only on the upper side of the log to allow for the daubing to move with the upper log and keep the top joint sealed, or galvanized wire mesh secured with galvanized nails (Fig. 23). Like repointing masonry, daubing should not be done in full sun, excessive heat or when freezing temperatures are expected. The daubing materials should be dry mixed, the chinking rechecked as being tight and secure, and the mix wetted and stirred to a stiff, paste like consistency. The mix dries quickly, so no more daubing should be prepared at a time than can be applied in about 30 minutes. A test patch of new daubing, either on the building, or in a mockup elsewhere, will help test the suitability of the formula's color and texture match. Before applying the daubing, the chinking area, including filler and log surfaces to be covered, should be sprayed with water to prevent the dry filler from too rapidly drawing off the daubing moisture which will result in hairline cracking. A trowel, ground to the width of the daubing, is used to press the daubing into the chinking space, and to smooth the filled areas. Wide or deep chinking spaces or joints may have to be daubed in layers, to prevent sagging and separation from the logs, by applying one or two scratch coats before finishing the surface. Portland cement was a part of the original daubing used in many late 19th and early 20th century log buildings, and is therefore appropriate to include in repairing buildings of this period. Although a small amount of portland cement may be added to a lime, clay and sand mix for workability, there should not be more than 1 part portland cement to 2 parts of lime in daubing mixes intended for most historic log buildings. Portland cement tends to shrink and develop hairline cracks, and retain moisture, all of which can be potentially damaging to the logs.

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