Every time that I write a post, or create a video, on “How I Chink a Log Cabin” my inbox will quickly fill-up with emails telling me about how wrong I am in using cement for chinking, and then go on to inform me of the wonders of synthetic chinking (it seems there is only one… it moves).
I thought that I might create a video pointing out how well cement chinking works (and looks)… and, point out some of the downsides in using synthetic chinking products.
I further thought that perhaps if I didn’t use any of the brand names of those “goopy products”… and, if I made my presentation a bit on the fun side… that all those “faux cement enthusiasts” wouldn’t get all uptight about my favorite material for chinking.
Can’t we all just get along? 🙂
Now as you watch this episode you will quickly agree discover that I am no comedian… but I must admit that I did have a good time making this video (as you will plainly see in the last minute of the video 🙂 Hey, it is ok to talk about cabins and have a good time doing it, don’t you agree?
Even though this video is lighthearted there are some really good points made in it… One is that you should seriously consider what material you will use when it comes time to chink your log cabin… keep in mind that I’m not trying to sell you anything here on HandmadeHouses.com. We don’t sell cement! I’m just passing on to you my experience with chinking log cabins over the course of decades and in seeing (and often re-chinking) the work of hundreds of others that was installed incorrectly.
With regard to synthetic chinking… many of it’s problems are revealed before it is ever applied to a log cabin…
1. It’s expensive… often ten times as much, or more.
2. It looks fake… just like those plastic rocks that some folks will put in their yards.
Would you buy a plastic rock if it cost ten times as much as a real one?
I didn’t think so.
I just don’t get the desire to purchase something that tries to look like something else… whether it is plastic rocks, vinyl siding, or tofu bacon… if one builds a house of wood and of stone… a home that has been lovingly hand-crafted of such wonderful natural materials as these… why would anyone then coat about a fourth of their home in plastic?
And then, there is the durability issue…
My goal in building a home has always been to build one that will last for centuries…. at minimum… I believe that any house should be in great shape once a mortgage is paid off… and not be a home in need of major repairs.
If a person has to make mortgage payments for a large part of their life, then at that wonderful moment when they are finally free of that burden they should have something to be proud of… and durable.
It seems that so many modern building products are designed to fail… Take for instance the number-one form of roofing here in the US… asphalt shingles. It comes with a 20-year guarantee… whereas a copper roof should last 150 years. One roof will need to be replaced once it’s finally paid for, the other will be problem-free for our grandchildren… and their grandchildren.
So, when it comes time to chink our cabins… consider how long will cement last? what has your experience been with this product?
In many of my videos I show cabins that I chinked 30+ years ago. In every case it’s holding up, and looking good, with no problems. (I’ve never seen synthetic chinking of the same age on any cabin).
If you haven’t noticed there is an imbalance in information with regard to chinking choices…
The synthetic chinking industry is full of advertising brochures and a sales-force to promote their product…
The cement industry on the other has little interest in telling people that they ought to chink log cabins with their product. The use of cement for chinking is minuscule in comparison to the other uses of cement. Those in this industry are likely unaware of this particular use of their product.
It seems that so many basic “down-home” things in life are overlooked… like cement chinking… because so few step forward to share their knowledge and experience.
My grandmother (bless her soul) would dry her beans by hanging them on a string. My wife does hers using a high-dollar dehydrator… one that I see advertised in many magazines. The string industry just doesn’t do as good of job with marketing their string to folks who like to put away a little food for the winter. lol… likely for the same reason the cement industry isn’t pouring thousands into advertising in the small log-chinking market.
Now to be fair there are some advantages I see to synthetic chinking, but I feel overall these products pale in comparison to “plain old cement”…. here are a few that I can think of…
1) A person can open the bucket and go to work applying it… no mixing needed. (and they get a nice bucket when they are done)… so there is less physical work involved.
2) Synthetic chinking can be considered “wide caulking”. In the building trade the work of a sloppy carpenter can be made functional and more attractive with the aid of a good painter and his caulk gun. Cement makes excellent chinking, but it is not a caulking compound to fill vertical gaps in trim-work… so less care and skill are required when building a log home if we know gaps and holes from hastily done work will be covered over with GoopChink.
3) Contractors and log cabin supply companies earn their living by marking up the price of their materials to the homeowner. It’s a common business practice… 15% of $300 worth of cement is $45…. 15% of $3000 of GoopChink is $450 … so, a much bigger paycheck can be had at the end of the week.
4) In the first few years after synthetic chinking has been applied, while it is fresh, new, and sticky… while the home is under warranty… Goop Chink can be applied improperly and still do it’s job of keeping water out (but only for a while… eventually there will be problems). Whereas improperly installed cement chinking will let you know it was done wrong within days…. so there is less of a chance of receiving a call to come fix something during that mandatory one-year warranty that most home-builders must provide if synthetic chinking is used. Score one for the contractor!
Now am I saying those who use synthetic chinking are bad people and…
1) are trying to do less work?
2) or, are less skilled?
3) or, want to make more money?
4) or, don’t want to do free warranty work for clients a few months after the project ends?
Well, of course not… not at all… but… we do have to acknowledge that the motives to do so are there.
Again, let me repeat… there are a few log builders out there that I highly respect… one’s that use synthetic chinking… exactly why they use it… I don’t know.
For me though, in choosing between the two options, it all comes down to the fact that on each home that I build I try to do my best to build that home as well as I can…
I keep in mind two things…
I ask myself first… what is the most attractive option that I can use?
I like things to be attractive… it’s a weakness of mine… no matter what… for instance, I married the prettiest girl that I had ever seen. 🙂
Cement chinking looks great, plastic chinking (that is supposed to look like cement) does not.
And secondly…. what is proven to be the most durable and long lasting? … (that pretty girl I married has only gotten better… and durable? well… 34 years later she still puts up with me. 🙂
Synthetic chinking has been around for well over 30 years now… has anyone ever seen an image of a log cabin with 30 year old synthetic chinking on it? I haven’t. If you have one please send it to me.
To wrap all this up… if I get the same answer to both of these questions… attractive? and, proven durable?… then I’ve likely found what I will go with… other considerations often seem minor in comparison.