Project Guides

Sealing With Log Gap Caps and Energy Seal

LOG GAP CAP AND ENERGY SEAL TO SEAL WINDOWS AND DOORS

A lot of wasted energy is released through poor sealing of windows and doors. Luckily we at Perma-Chink Systems have a solution to solve these air leaks.

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How to Seal Step-by-Step:

1. Use masking tape around the window or door seam.

2. Insert Log Gap Cap into the crevice using trowel. Log Gap Cap provides an even surface for sealant application and makes it easier to apply a uniform thickness across the gap.

3. Apply Energy Seal™ and tool smooth.

4. Remove masking tape as soon as tooling is complete.

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How to Seal Checks in Logs and Log Siding

SEALING CHECKS IN LOGS AND LOG SIDING

Do checks need to be sealed?

It is virtually impossible to prevent logs from developing cracks and checks as they age and dry. That’s because as a large piece of wood seasons, mechanical stresses build up until the surface stress becomes so great that the wood cracks. We call these stress cracks “checks.”

Do checks need to be sealed? Upward facing checks can collect water, increasing the interior moisture content of the log. If they continue to collect water and the wood remains damp, they can eventually result in internal wood decay as well as provide nesting sites for carpenter ants and other insects. It is not necessary to seal checks on the bottom half of round logs since they do not collect water, but for a uniform appearance you may want to seal them, too. It is not usually necessary to seal checks or fissures that are less than 1/4” wide, since they cannot accumulate that much water.

If your home is new and the logs or siding are green, it may be best to wait a year or so before addressing the checks. This allows the wood to reach an equilibrium with its environment and by then most of the larger checks will have opened. On seasoned wood or an older home that’s in the process of being refinished you can seal the checks either before or after applying a stain.

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CHECK MATE 2

Checks and splits in logs present a different set of dynamics than those typically addressed by a caulk. They open and close as the log’s moisture content varies throughout the year. The opening width of a check may change as much as 50% from summer to winter. Most sealants are designed to cope with a different set of conditions and are ill suited for sealing checks. Check Mate 2™ is specifically formulated to meet the particular requirements for sealing checks that appear in logs and log siding.

When initially applied 3/8” thick in a check the Check Mate 2 bonds to the sides of the check. As the check opens, the Check Mate 2 stretches to maintain a water-tight seal. The role the Backer Rod plays is to maintain a Check Mate 2 thickness of 3/8” during the application and two point contact with the wood. Two point adhesion enables Check Mate 2 to elongate and contract.

APPLICATION DIRECTIONS

Step 1: Begin by cleaning any dust, dirt, oil, solvent or previous sealer out of the check. Previously applied caulks can usually be easily pulled or scraped out with a hook knife. If the check is upward-facing and has allowed water penetration, pour some Shell-Guard RTU into it. This will kill any decay fungi present and prevent further deterioration of the log due to rot. If the wood within the check is damp from cleaning, rain, or a borate treatment, make sure the check has time to dry before applying Check Mate 2. You can speed up the drying process by blowing the water out of the check with a leaf blower. The last thing you want to do is to trap any water within the check.

Step 2: For sealing checks 1/4” wide or larger, Check Mate 2 should be always used in conjunction with Backer Rod. Insert the Backer Rod into the check and use a trowel or other implement to push the Backer Rod about 3/8” to 1/2” deep (Pictures A & B). If you push it deeper than 1/2”, the cured Check Mate 2 will be too thick and may rip away from the sides of the check. If the Backer Rod is placed too close to the surface the Check Mate 2 may end up too thin and split.

Step 3: For a neat, clean appearance you can use masking tape to mask off the wood on either side of the check (Picture C). Be sure to remove the masking tape right after you tool the Check Mate 2 smooth. If you remove the masking tape after the Check Mate 2 has begun to dry, you will pull the top layer of Check Mate 2 off along with the masking tape.

Step 4: Cut the tip of the Check Mate 2 tube to about the same diameter as the checks you plan to fill (a little smaller diameter is better than one too large). Fill the space between the Backer Rod and log surface with Check Mate 2 using a standard caulk gun. Check Mate 2 must have good contact with wood on either side of the check and be sure the crack or check is completely sealed from end to end (Picture D).

Step 5: Tool the surface smooth with a trowel, spatula or wet finger and remove overflow immediately with a damp cloth (Picture E). Don’t forget that the masking tape must be removed while the Check Mate 2 is still wet.

Step 6: Check Mate 2 will dry to the touch in about one hour, but complete curing may take several days, depending on application thickness, temperature, and weather conditions. The color of Check Mate 2 as it comes out of the tube is always lighter than the final cured color.

Note: Newly applied Check Mate 2 Clear is white but turns clear when cured.

Step 7: Clean tools and hands with soap and water.

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Backing Materials

Backing Materials

Is there something special about our sealants that require backing materials, whereas most general purpose caulks never mention the use of backing materials on their labels?

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WHY USE BACKING MATERIALS

The fact is when applied to wood, any type of sealant, be it a high quality Perma-Chink Systems’ sealant, or a cheap construction caulk will perform better if a backing material is used in joints that are 1/4” or greater wide. The difference is that we want our customers to know the proper and best way to seal a joint so it does not fail, whereas most caulk manufactures don’t care. Their prime objective is to sell product and if repairs are frequently needed it means that they will potentially sell even more product.

The use of backing material behind a sealant serves two purposes; one, to assure the proper thickness of the sealant so that it can stretch and contract without breaking; and two, to provide a surface that the sealant will not bond to so that it can stretch without tearing away from the wood. The dynamics of sealing an exterior joint or crack in wood is the same regardless of the width of the gap or the product being used.

If the wood is unseasoned at the time a sealant is applied, the wood will shrink with time and in order to compensate for the shrinkage, the sealant must be applied in a manner that will allow it to stretch. When a sealant is applied too thick, once it cures it won’t be able to stretch enough to compensate for the wood’s shrinkage and may rip apart. When applied too thin it becomes too weak to stretch without breaking.

Think of it like a rubber band. A thick rubber band cannot stretch as far as a thin one. However if the rubber band is too thin, it will break when it is stretched. The same concept applies to sealants. If applied too thick, it can’t stretch without tearing and if too thin, it will be weak and will tear when pulled apart. In the case of sealants manufactured by Perma-Chink Systems, the magic number is an applied wet thickness of 3/8”. This results in a cured sealant with excellent elongation and maximum strength.

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BACKING MATERIALS

Backing materials serve little purpose other than providing a suitable sealant thickness and surface for the proper application and performance of the sealant. A variety of materials can be successfully used. Some important features of a good backing material include:

  • It must be inert and not outgas or react with the sealant.
  • The sealant itself should not bond tightly to it.
  • It should not wrinkle or deform when the sealant is applied over it.
  • It needs to be able to withstand temperatures of at least 190ºF without warping or distorting.

There are a number of products specifically designed for use as backing materials for sealants. For smaller gaps, joints, and cracks, the most commonly used material is round backer rod. It comes in a range of sizes and is relatively inexpensive. Since it is flexible, it can be pushed into a crevice without needing to be nailed or stapled.

Grip Strip is designed for sealing larger gaps. Similar in composition to backer rod, it is shaped like a trapezoid so it can be squeezed in between round logs, although it can be used for a variety of situations. It provides a flat surface for chinking or sealing. 

For wide chink joints between squared logs, we typically recommend the use of polyisocyanurate board (polyiso or R Max) or expanded polystyrene (EPS) beadboard. However, one side of the beadboard should be covered with a foil to help reflect the heat. If plain beadboard is used, you run the risk of the beadboard deforming on sunny areas where wall temperatures can reach over 180 degrees. When using foil covered beadboard, the chinking needs to be applied over the foil side.

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Materials that should never be used as backing include Blueboard, or any other colored beadboard (they outgas and create blisters in the sealant), open cell foams (they absorb water), extruded polystyrene (causes blisters), Polyurethane foam (Pur Fill, Great Stuff, Styrofoam) or anything that you’re not sure about. If you are unsure or need some assistance with selecting the proper backing material to use for your job, give us a call and one of our technical people will give you an answer as to its appropriateness as a backing material.

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What about joints that are too narrow to insert even the smallest diameter backer rod? In these situations a narrow strip of water-resistant masking tape works quite well. You don’t want to use masking tape that wrinkles when it gets wet since the wrinkles may show through the sealant. An excellent option is to use pinstripe tape, available at most automotive supply stores. The tape is vinyl, so it’s waterproof and our sealants won’t adhere to it. Pinstripe tape is available in widths down to 1/8”.

 

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Cleaning Guidelines

GUIDELINES FOR CLEANING BARE WOOD PRIOR TO APPLYING LIFELINE STAINS

NEW LOG HOMES

1. If the wood has not grayed, wash the surface with a two (2) cups per gallon Log Wash™ solution and a pressure washer no more than seven (7) days prior to staining. Smooth log siding should be washed using Wood ReNew™. Rinse well and allow the wood to dry.

2. If you are finishing Western Red Cedar, Redwood, Walnut, or Mahogany, use Cedar Wash™, a ready-to-use cleaner, instead of Log Wash for better surface preparation and finish longevity on these specific wood substrates.

3. If there are signs of grayed wood, use Wood ReNew according to the label along with a pressure washer. Rinse well and allow wood surfaces to dry before staining. If more than seven (7) days pass before the home is ready for staining, wash the surface with a two (2) cups per gallon of water Log Wash solution, rinse well with a garden hose, and allow wood surface to dry.

4. If, after steps one or two, there are still dark streaks or discolorations on the surface, use a solution of Oxcon™, which contains oxalic acid, on the entire wall according to the directions for use. Rinse well and allow the wood to dry before staining.

OLDER LOG HOMES THAT HAVE HAD A PREVIOUS FINISH REMOVED

1. If there are no signs of gray surface wood, wash the surface with a two (2) cups per gallon Log Wash solution no more than seven (7) days prior to staining. Rinse well and allow the wood to dry.

2. If you are finishing Western Red Cedar, Redwood, Walnut, or Mahogany, use Cedar Wash, a ready-to-use cleaner, instead of Log Wash for better surface preparation and finish longevity on these specific wood substrates.

3. If there are areas where grayed wood is still evident or if the wood has darkened after the finish was removed, use Wood ReNew according to the label along with a pressure washer. Rinse well and allow the wood to dry before staining. If the wood has darkened or more than seven days has passed before the home is ready for staining, wash the surface with a two (2) cups per gallon of water Log Wash solution, rinse well with a garden hose, and allow the wood surface dry.

4. If, after steps #1 or #2, there are still dark streaks or discolorations on the surface, use Oxcon, an aqueous oxalic acid solution, on the entire wall according to the directions for use. Rinse well and allow the wood to dry before staining.

LOG HOMES WITH AN EXISTING FINISH THAT IS STILL IN GOOD CONDITION

1. If a maintenance coat of Lifeline stain or topcoat is going to be applied over an existing Lifeline finish, wash the coating surface with a two (2) cups per gallon Log Wash solution no more than seven (7) days prior to staining. Pressure washing is not recommended. Rinse well and allow the wood to dry. For maintenance cleaning of finished surfaces that are not going to be stained or top-coated, use a one (1) cup per gallon Log Wash solution.

A NOTE ABOUT RINSING

No matter what product you use to clean bare wood, nothing is more important than making sure you have adequately rinsed the surface. Any chemical residue remaining on the surface can have serious consequences later on. We always recommend using pH Strips to make sure that the surface of the wood has been sufficiently rinsed, preferably to a pH of between 6.5 and 7.5. You can find pH Strips at most pool supply dealers, aquarium supply shops, and Perma-Chink Systems, Inc. They are not expensive, very easy to use, and a great tool to ensure adequate rinsing.

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Wildlife Damage

Wildlife Damage

If you live in or near the woods, you probably have a variety of rodents that also occupies your surrounding area.

About Wildlife Damage

If you live in or near the woods, you probably have a variety of rodents that also occupies your surrounding area. Most rodents like to gnaw on wood and if your log home is accessible to them it may become the target of their gnawing activity. Although field mice occasionally work on the exterior of a home, most of their effort is devoted to finding a warm place to spend the winter. If you seal up all of the potential entrance points, especially around the foundation, you will prevent their taking up residence inside your home. Just remember that they can squeeze through unbelievable small openings so you need to do a thorough job.

SQUIRRELS AND PORCUPINES

Almost all of the log home wildlife damage we see is the result of gray squirrels. However, flying squirrels are commonly found in many parts of the country, and they, too, can cause wood damage. But since flying squirrels are extremely shy and nocturnal, they are rarely seen. Squirrels chew on wood for two basic reasons, they are attempting to get inside where it's nice and warm, or they are trying to extract salts that may be contained in the wood. This problem is most common on wood that has been bleached or borate treated since the sodium salts contained in bleach and borates provide essential nutrients to these animals. If this is the case, in addition to trapping or elimination, there is another method that may help prevent them from damaging your home. Go to your local co-op store, buy a salt lick and place it where it is accessible to these animals. The salt lick will supply the mineral nutrients they require, and it is a lot easier for them to obtain what they need from the lick than it is by chewing on your home. Porcupines too have a ravenous appetite for salt and this method may work for them as well.

Some people have reported success in preventing animals from chewing on their wood by coating it with a repellent containing Bitrex, a very bitter substance added to many household products to prevent small children from drinking them. One product specifically designed for this purpose is Ropel® available from Nixalite of America, Inc. Information is available online at www.nixalite.com/ropel.aspx or call them at 888-624-1189. Never attempt to add any of these type products to a stain or topcoat, they are not compatible with many types of finishes. They are made to be applied on top of a dried finish, not mixed in with it.

Occasionally animals will gnaw on a home just for the fun of it. In these cases, trapping and relocation may be the best and only solution.

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Wood Boring Beetles

Wood Boring Beetles

There are literally hundreds of wood boring beetle species that infest live trees, but only a few that commonly create problems in log homes.

About Wood Boring Beetle

There are literally hundreds of wood boring beetle species that infest live trees, but only a few that commonly create problems in log homes. Occasionally a beetle larva that was in a tree when it was harvested will later emerge as an adult out of a log in a home but since these beetles can't reinfest dead wood, these types of infestations end within a few years. It's the beetles that specialize in consuming seasoned wood that present problems in log homes.

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The life cycles of most wood boring beetles are similar. It starts with an adult female depositing her eggs in the wood. The eggs hatch and a small grub-like larva emerges. It's the beetle larvae that feed on wood, and they may continue eating the wood for several months or, in some cases, up to 20 years depending on the species. These beetles go through a transition just like a caterpillar changes into a moth or butterfly. There comes a time in its life cycle when it's getting ready to make the change that the larva makes a hole to the outside of the log, so it can get out of the wood as an adult beetle. That's why the holes are called “emergence holes.” Typically this is the first sign that beetles are present in the wood. Once the hole is complete and the tunnel is cleared of the sawdust or frass, the larva creates a pupa case and makes the transition to an adult beetle. The adult beetle eventually emerges from the hole, feeds on pollen and nectar and looks for a mate. Once impregnated, the female beetle can start the cycle all over again.

Borate treatments are quite effective in preventing and eliminating wood boring beetles by making the wood toxic to beetle eggs and young larvae. However, once larvae start making their emergence holes they no longer consume wood and will probably complete their life cycle. That's why signs of beetle activity may continue for several months after a borate treatment. But since the borate kills the eggs and younger larvae, eventually the infestation will end and the wood will be protected from future infestations.

There are two types of beetles that commonly infest log homes, powderpost beetles and old house borers. We'll address each individually.

POWDERPOST BEETLES

Although we've characterized them as powderpost beetles, there are actually two beetle species that are commonly referred to as powderpost beetles, lyctic beetles and anobiid beetles. Both species make small round emergence holes and have similar life cycles. Lyctid beetles are true powderpost beetles but they only infest hardwood species like oak, poplar, maple, walnut, etc. We occasionally run into a log home made from hardwood trees, but it's not very frequent. However, lyctid beetle infestations in oak flooring and hardwood cabinets and trim are quite common.

Although anobiid beetles are not true powderpost beetles, that's what they are commonly called. They infest both hardwoods and softwood species like spruce, pine, cedar and fir. They are also one of the few beetles that infest really old wood. Anobiid beetles are very small insects, the larva is a tiny white grub and the adult looks like a dark miniature ladybug. Typically you'll find their small, round emergence holes grouped in a one or two foot area on a single log. Their galleries rarely extend more than an inch or so deep into the wood, one reason they are so easy to control with a borate treatment. Anobiid beetles prefer damp wood, which is why you usually find them on exterior surfaces that have not been stained or maintained for several years. On rare occasions they can emerge from interior surfaces in newer homes. But in most of these cases the infestation started before or during the construction process. Anobiid beetles typically complete their life cycle in two to three years.

Old House Borers

Old house borers are large insects with a life cycle that can extend to 12 or more years. The old house borer attacks only softwoods and the initial infestation typically occurs while the logs are being stored or during transit. Although called the old house borer, the first emergence of these beetles in a home usually appears within five to seven years after construction. The larva is a large white grub an inch or so in length. The adult beetle is brownish black with two long, thin antennae which is why they are also called “longhorn” beetles. Since old house borers infestations are usually scattered around the home they are considered more of a nuisance pest than a structurally damaging insect.

The earliest indication of an old house borer infestation is usually the chewing noise made by older larvae in the wood. This can be very disconcerting, especially in the middle of the night when the larvae are most active. The appearance of oval emergence holes is the next step in the process. The frass consists of fine powder and small tightly packed pellets. The adult eventually emerges from the hole and the process can start all over again. Old house borers burrow quite deep into the wood and it is not unusual for an infestation to start on the outside surface with emergence occurring on the inside wall.

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Treating a home for old house borers takes some patience. The only quick remedy is a structural fumigation. However the cost of fumigation and the inconvenience of leaving your home for a few days is more than most people are willing to tolerate. Borate treatments work, but they take time, sometimes lots of time before total control is achieved. It is not uncommon for old house borer activity to continue for up to two years after a borate treatment.

Additional borate treatments will not speed the control process. Since older beetle larvae are large insects and at that stage of their lives eat little wood, their tolerance to borates is quite high. They will probably complete their life cycle and emerge as adult beetles. The presence of borate in the wood does two things; first it kills younger beetle larvae that are feeding in the wood, and second it prevents any old house borer eggs from hatching. The borate treatment interrupts the beetle's life cycle and eventually the infestation will end.

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Carpenter Bees

Carpenter Bees

Although carpenter bees prefer softwoods such as cedar, redwood, or cypress, they happily attack pine and most other species of wood.

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About Carpenter Bees

Every spring we get lots of calls about carpenter bees drilling into logs, fascia boards, eaves, decks and other unpainted wood surfaces. Carpenter bees are big, black solitary bees that look similar to bumblebees but have bare, shiny backs whereas a bumblebee's back is hairy. Unlike honey bees that reproduce in hives, carpenter bees drill into wood in order to lay their eggs. Their holes can be identified easily as they are perfectly round and about 1/4 inch in diameter.

Although carpenter bees prefer softwoods such as cedar, redwood, or cypress, they happily attack pine and most other species of wood. Even pressure treated wood is not immune from carpenter bee attack. As the bee drills into the wood, coarse sawdust may be seen coming out of the hole and piling up beneath the hole. Since it only takes a couple of hours for a carpenter bee to drill a hole a few inches deep, lots of holes can appear over a fairly short period of time.

Most carpenter bee activity occurs in early spring when male and female bees emerge after spending the winter in old nest tunnels. Once they have paired and mated, the female bee drills into a suitable site while the male stays nearby to ward off intruders. Male carpenter bees often frighten people with their aggressive behavior but since they have no stinger they are essentially harmless. Females have a stinger but only use it if molested.

Once the initial hole is drilled through the surface, the bee will make a turn and excavate a tunnel along the grain of the wood. This tunnel, which may run for several inches, becomes the cavity where the female deposits her eggs. Several eggs are laid in individual chambers separated by plugs of pollen on which the larvae feed until they emerge as adults during the summer months. In addition to making new holes, carpenter bees also enlarge old tunnels. If left unattended for several years, serious damage to a wood member may result.

In late fall, activity may again be seen as both male and female carpenter bees clean out old nest cavities where they stay over winter. Since carpenter bees tend to migrate back to the same area from which they emerged, it is important to implement some control measures in order to prevent logs and wood members from becoming riddled by these bees.

TREATING CARPENTER BEE HOLES

Any carpenter bee holes you can reach should be treated and plugged since existing holes attract more carpenter bees. The way to treat an existing hole and tunnel depends on the time of year, and if bees are present at the time of treatment. If the female is drilling away when you find a hole (you can see sawdust coming out or hear her working inside) spray a contact pesticide like wasp and hornet spray into the hole. She will quickly back out and die. Immediately fill the hole with wood putty or Energy Seal. You need to treat the hole even if it appears empty since the bee may be resting and, if left alive, will drill back through the plug you’ve just inserted.

If you find carpenter bee holes in late spring or early summer it's difficult to tell if there are bee larvae developing in the tunnels. The best thing to do is to run a length of flexible wire into the tunnels in order to break through the pollen plugs separating the chambers. Then spray a pesticide into the hole and seal it up. The same thing should be done on holes found in the fall or winter to kill any bees that may be over-wintering in the holes. Just remember to plug the holes since they will attract more carpenter bees come spring.

Several people told us that although they sprayed a pesticide into the holes, carpenter bees later emerged, in some cases even after the holes were plugged. How can this happen?

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If we take a look at a cross section diagram of a carpenter bee gallery we can see how. After drilling out a four to five inch long gallery, the female carpenter bee lays an egg in back of the gallery then places a plug of pollen she has gathered to form a chamber (A). She continues doing this until there are four to six egg chambers in place. After a few days the egg hatches and a small white grub emerges (B). The grub feeds on the pollen plug for a few weeks (C) until it is ready to pupate (D) and change into an adult bee (E).

If you look at the way the gallery is constructed you can see why spraying a pesticide in the hole may not kill all of the developing bee larvae. The pollen plugs prevent the pesticide from getting to the rear chambers. So before you spray any pesticide into a carpenter bee hole be sure to run a stiff wire all the way to the back of the gallery to break through any pollen plugs. That way all of the larval chambers will be exposed to the pesticide.

A few years ago we requested information about the effect of our gloss topcoat on reducing carpenter bee activity via survey. Out of over 20 responses by letter, phone and e-mail only two reported any penetration of the gloss topcoat by carpenter bees. One home went from 20 to 30 holes the previous year down to 2 this past year and the other went from over 20 holes to 4 holes. This confirms our suspicion that the Lifeline Advance Gloss exterior topcoat appears to provide a finish to the wood that carpenter bees do not find very attractive. That is not saying that the gloss finish repels carpenter bees. It does not. Although bees would occasionally land on the gloss topcoat, they just did not drill through it. So why is it? Well, let's be clear that the Lifeline Advance Gloss topcoat is not a pesticide nor does it have any pesticide properties. It appears to form a coating on the surface of the wood that carpenter bees are reluctant to drill through. Why? It could be the glossy look or that the hard, slick finish does not appeal to them.

PREVENTION

Although carpenter bees prefer bare wood they will attack wood that is stained. Painted wood surfaces, on the other hand, are rarely attacked since the bees must see or feel the grain of the wood in order to recognize it as wood. One of the most effective measures for preventing extensive carpenter bee damage is to fill old or empty holes with Energy Seal. Carpenter bees are attracted to existing holes. Be sure to treat the hole before you fill it since live adult bees will drill right through the caulk on their way out.

One way to keep carpenter bees from drilling into wood is by spraying pesticides that contain either cypermethrin, deltamethrin, or bifenthrin (Ortho Home Defense Max) onto wood surfaces. When it comes to carpenter bees, these products act more as repellants than contact poisons. However, the effectiveness of these applications is only about three to four weeks, so the treatment will have to be repeated every so often. Pesticides should only be used during the periods of peak activity in the spring and perhaps again in late fall. Be sure to follow label directions and read and understand any precautions that must be taken when using these products.

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Carpenter Ants

Carpenter Ants

If you live around trees, and many people do, you probably have carpenter ants around your home.

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About Carpenter Ants

If you live around trees, and many people do, you probably have carpenter ants around your home. Carpenter ants are typically large ants, although the size of the workers can vary in a single colony. Finding a few carpenter ants in your home each week is not necessarily a sign that you have an infestation. Foraging ants roam far and wide looking for food and an occasional ant trapped in a sink or bathtub is quite common. If there are trees close to your home, ants can fall or be blown off the trees onto your roof. They may end up trapped within your home during their journey back to their nest.

Carpenter ants do not eat wood. They get their name from their habit of hollowing out wood in order to make a suitable nesting site. In addition to wood, carpenter ants will happily nest in Styrofoam (EPS) panels and other types of insulation. A good indication of a carpenter ant infestation within a home is the presence of numerous foraging ants, especially in the kitchen or bathroom. Water attracts carpenter ants as much as food and moist wood around leaky pipes and drains provides an ideal environment for nesting ants. Another sign of an infestation is the presence of large winged ants in late spring and early summer.

Most carpenter ant colonies start outdoors in a tree cavity. After a few years, the colony grows and expands its foraging territory. If suitable conditions are found within a nearby home, satellite colonies can become established in voids, moist wood or foam panels within the home. These satellite colonies contain workers, older larvae, pupae, and when conditions are right, some winged reproductive ants. Once a satellite colony has become established within a structure the potential for additional satellite colonies dramatically increases.

Control of a carpenter ant infestation starts with a complete and thorough inspection. Useful inspection tools include a flashlight, a thin bladed screwdriver for probing the wood and a stethoscope, if you have one. Since carpenter ants are most active at night, the best time to perform an inspection is after dusk. Two things to keep in mind during your inspection, find the voids and follow the water. Although carpenter ants are usually found in wood, any dark, damp cavity can provide a suitable nesting site. Carpenter ants make a noise like crinkling cellophane as they move about and a stethoscope makes them much easier to hear and locate. Tapping a suspected nest site excites the ants and you should be able to hear their movement.

When carpenter ants burrow into wood they generate sawdust, or frass, that can pile up beneath the site of their activity. Carpenter ant frass looks like tiny wood shavings and will often contain bits and pieces of dead insects. Look closely at all of the wood directly above any frass piles for signs of any openings. Probing the wood with a thin bladed screwdriver can reveal hollowed out nesting sites.

In addition to food and a nesting site, carpenter ants require water. That’s one reason they prefer to nest in damp wood. A moisture meter is a great tool to have for discovering actual and potential carpenter ant nesting sites as well as finding decay prone areas. Some pretty good moisture meters can be found on eBay or Amazon.com for less than $30. A moisture reading of over 20% is an indication of some type of water problem that needs to be corrected.

CONTROLLING CARPENTER ANTS

Correcting roof leaks, faulty plumbing, and water penetration into log walls are the most important steps for long-term carpenter ant control. Even after the leaks have been repaired, enough moisture may remain to sustain a carpenter ant infestation for many months. The application of a contact pesticide directly to the nest is not the best way to control carpenter ants. Most contact pesticides are highly repellent which causes the ants to scatter. This creates the potential for additional satellite colonies to become established in other areas of the home. In addition, contact pesticides do not impart any long term residual protection to the wood.

After a few months the carpenter ants may return to the site of their original nest. A better way to control a carpenter ant infestation is to treat the infested area and those areas subject to infestations with a borate such as Shell-Guard®, Shell-Guard RTU or Armor-Guard®. They are all effective pesticides for preventing carpenter ant infestations. Armor-Guard is best used as a dust in wall voids and other areas as preventative measure. Along with the use of a borate, you can try using a granular bait such as Amdro Ant Block around your home. It will help reduce the population of carpenter ants as well as other ants. Carpenter ants are not easily eliminated and you may wish to call a professional in to take care of the problem.

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Woodpeckers

Woodpeckers

Many people attribute home damage to woodpeckers pecking for grubs in the wood, but that is not always the case.

About Woodpeckers

There are three main reasons that woodpeckers peck on wood; one, they're looking for something to eat, two, they're defining their territory and three, they are making a nest. It's usually the second reason that creates the most damage.

Woodpeckers are very territorial. In order to let other woodpeckers know that this is his (or in some cases her) territory, it flies around the perimeter of its territory, usually in the morning, and initiates a series of raps on hollow trees or other wood members that have the “right” sound. This behavior is called “drumming” and consists of two or three long brrrrrrrrrrrps. The woodpecker will typically drum in one spot for a minute or so, day after day. It does not take long before a large, irregular hole appears at the drumming site. If the site is a log or siding of a home, it can become a real eye sore.

When a woodpecker pecks for grubs in wood it acts differently and makes smaller cone shaped holes or a long gallery. If you have ever seen a woodpecker searching for grubs it will constantly turn its head as if looking for something on the wood. It is actuality listening for grubs feeding in the wood. All it needs to do is make a hole large enough for its

tongue. A woodpecker's tongue is long and thin and that's what it uses to catch a grub in a gallery. The holes woodpeckers make searching for grubs are usually no more than an inch or so in diameter. Occasionally a woodpecker will attempt to excavate out a round nesting hole in a log, but it's rare and if the wood is sound it will usually give up after a few days. However, they will make a hole in synthetic chinking to establish a nesting site.

Solving the Problem

One thing you can try to discourage drumming woodpeckers is to put a piece of metal window screen over the area where the woodpecker drums. This often discourages it enough that it will go elsewhere. Fake owls, snakes and other scare devices may work for a little while but it does not take very long for the woodpecker to discover that if it just ignores it, nothing happens. Trapping and releasing woodpeckers does not do much good either. They can fly and unless you release them many miles away, they'll return to their home territory within a few days.

For woodpeckers feeding on beetle grubs, the best solution is to kill the grubs in the wood and the way to do that is to treat the wood with a borate. This will kill the beetle larvae and if there are no grubs for the woodpecker to search for, it will move on to better feeding sites. However, borates are not effective for eliminating or preventing carpenter bees so other methods of control must be used.

Three types of woodpeckers that occasionally damage log homes

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How to Repair Large Voids in Logs

Repairing Large Voids in Logs

Neglected log homes occasionally develop sections of logs that have medium or deep pockets of decayed wood that is either very soft, or loose and crumbly.

REPAIRING LARGE VOIDS

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Step 1: Dig as much loose, friable wood fibers as you can out of the void or decayed zone.

Step 2: If the damage was caused by rot or insects (it usually is) the inner surfaces of the void should be saturated with Shell-Guard RTU. It is also a good idea to spray, or if there is an intact finish still in place, inject Shell-Guard RTU into the area surrounding the damage. This will kill any active fungi and/or insects and prevent the return of an infestation to the treated area. Allow a couple days for the Shell-Guard RTU to dry.

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Step 3: Coat the inner surfaces of the void with M-Balm. You can use a brush or squeeze bottle to apply it, but the wood must be dry for it to work. You don’t have to wait until the M-Balm cures before proceeding to the next step since E-Wood bonds better to uncured M-Balm.

Step 4: You can start filling the void with E-Wood. If the void is large enough you can insert lengths of pressure treated 2x4s into it and pack the E-Wood around them. Just make sure that you don’t leave any large air pockets in the void. Cured E-Wood is structurally stronger than the wood itself. Don’t bring the surface of the E-Wood all the way out to the surface of the log, leave about 1/8” to 1/4” inch depressed in from the surface of the wood. Allow the E-Wood to harden.

Step 5: If the log has a stain on it sand the entire affected log down to bare wood. This will help prevent the repaired areas from standing out compared to the rest of the wall and will also remove any M-Balm or E-Wood that may have inadvertently adhered to the exterior surface of the logs.

Step 6: Fill in the 1/8” to 1/4” depression with a layer of Energy Seal. Choosing the right color is critical in order for the repaired area to blend in with the rest of the wall. If you are artistically creative you can texture the Energy Seal to match the surrounding wood and even use a different color Energy Seal to create wood grain and simulated knots.

Step 7: Allow the Energy Seal to dry for a few days then apply a matching Lifeline stain and topcoat to the entire sanded log. For repairing a log that does not carry any weight on it, such as a log end, a low-expansion urethane foam like our Pur Fill 1G foam may be used in place of the E-Wood to fill the void. Sections of 2x4s can still be used to help fill the void. Again, leave about 1/8” from the surface empty to later fill with Energy Seal. Never leave the urethane foam exposed to the environment for more than a few days. Direct sunlight degrades it fairly rapidly.

One thing to keep in mind about these types of repairs is that the repaired areas will weather differently than the rest of the wall and may take some special attention when it comes time to refinish the wall.

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