Cabin Restoration Glossary

This cabin restoration glossary provides a lexicon of terms used in log home repair, cabin rehab and log home preservation to help you understand the concepts of cabin restoration.

For more information, see our pages on log repair, the causes for cabin repair and cabin restoration techniques.

Log homes and cabin construction have their own language, an explanation of which can be found in our cabin glossary. Listed below are some of the common terms used in log home restoration.


ALGAE -- Algae produces its food from sunlight as opposed to fungi, which feed on the wood. Algae are typically green and are an indication of the high moisture content in the log.

BACK BRUSH -- Forcing a finish into the log pores by vigorous brushing in both directions.

Backer rod.

BACKER ROD -- Foam strips inserted into open joints to provide expansion/contraction and to provide a surface to which a sealant or caulk will stick to provide two-point adhesion. Can be closed cell foam which repels moisture and is typically used on external log joints. Closed cell foam is firmer and may require a blunt tool to push it deeper into the joint. Open cell foam is very soft and flexible, easy to compress into smaller cracks and joints. Being breathable, it allows for faster cure times and is best used in the interior of a cabin.

BORATE -- A chemical preservative applied to logs to protect them from decay and insect infestations.

BORATE RODS -- Borate rods are inserted into logs to protect against fungal growth and for rot repair.

If you have other words or phrases you would like to have defined please contact us directly and we will add them to this cabin restoration glossary.

CHECKING -- Cracks in the wood that appear as moisture in the log is released. Although not structurally damaging, they can open up the logs to further damage from moisture. Any checks over about over ¼” should be sealed.

CHEMICAL STRIPPING -- The use of a chemical stripper as opposed to mechanical sanding or blasting to loosen finish on a log surface.

CHLORINE BLEACH -- Regular household bleach will kill mildew and mold but it won’t clean the logs. You must be sure to rinse off the bleach completely or it can inhibit stain adhesion and damage wood fibers.

CORN COB BLASTING -- Using cob grit to remove the existing finish on a log surface, similar to sand blasting except corn cob is lighter than sand and not as abrasive. It is also easier on the surrounding landscape when finished.

If you have other words or phrases you would like to have defined please contact us directly and we will add them to this cabin restoration glossary.

EXPOSED LOG ENDS -- Can refer to the log ends that extend beyond roof overhang and are exposed to the elements, or to the flat, cut ends of logs that need extra sealing or stain as protection from absorbing moisture. The natural capillary action of the wood fibers can wick in moisture through the ends. These are of particular concern when restoring a cabin as they are often more weathered or damaged and may need to be cut back.

EXTERIOR FINISHES -- There are many choices for exterior finishes for log homes. It’s very important that these finishes keep out liquid water while allowing moisture in the form of vapor to pass through to prevent rot.

Two general divisions of log stains are water-based and oil-based finishes:

  • Oil-based finishes are usually penetrating and require solvent to clean up.
  • Water-based finishes are more environmentally-friendly and can be cleaned up with water, but don’t penetrate into the log surface and generally don’t last as long.

There is a new technology known as oil-based/water-borne. It is an oil-based penetrating stain that cleans up with water. Finishes are also further classified as semi-transparent (which possess a certain amount of solids to provide protection against the damaging UV rays of the sun) and translucent (which is a clear finish that shows the grain in the wood but has limited UV protection). The darker the finish, the more UV protection it provides.

If you have other words or phrases you would like to have defined please contact us directly and we will add them to this cabin restoration glossary.

FLASHING -- A protective material installed in or around wall terminations, doors, windows, chimneys, deck ledger boards and slabs. Helps prevent air infiltration and keeps out insects and water.

FUNGUS -- Organisms that destroy wood by feeding on it. The three most common are:

  1. Mold/Mildew: A dark or black discoloration on the wood surface, not structurally harmful.
  2. Sap Stain: A greenish blue discoloration, not harmful and preferred by some people.
  3. Decay: Type of fungus that can cause serious damage because they feed on the structural components of the wood cells of the logs.

GROUND CLEARANCE -- The vertical distance between grade or the ground and the first course of logs. Recommended ground clearances from ILBA (International Log Builders Association) call for a minimum of 3’ of ground clearance to protect lower log courses from backsplash.

If you have other words or phrases you would like to have defined please contact us directly and we will add them to this cabin restoration glossary.

MICROCHECKING -- Many small checks in a log that occur typically in sunny spots where the moisture in the log is released quickly.

Osborn brush.

OSBORN BRUSH -- Cleaning brush used on a variable speed angle grinder to remove fuzzing, dirt, rough texture and loose finish. Learn more on our cabin repair page.

OXALIC ACID -- Removes stains due to iron, rust and tannins, does not kill mildew.

POWER-WASHING OR PRESSURE WASHING -- Pressurized water directed through a fan nozzle on a pressure washer. It can be used to remove dirt, cobwebs and some weathered finishes. Care must be used not to damage the wood fibers with excessive pressure or direct, close-up water blasting. The fuzzy texture that may be left on a log surface after power-washing can be removed by light sanding or with an Osborne Brush.

PRESERVATIVE -- A chemical applied to logs or timbers to protect them from decay and weathering. Preservatives may contain a mixture of chemicals designed to protect against UV rays, mold, or mildew.

ROOF OVERHANGS -- That part of the roof that extends over or beyond the log wall. This can refer to eave (side wall) or gable (end wall) overhangs.

SODIUM PERCARBONATE BLEACH -- AKA Oxygen Bleach, more environmentally-friendly than chlorine bleach. It kills mold and mildew without harming the wood fibers.

SPLASH BACK OR BACKSPLASH -- Water splashing back onto wood from hitting decks, stone walls, or cabin landscaping placed too close to the log wall.

If you have other words or phrases you would like to have defined please contact us directly and we will add them to this cabin restoration glossary.

TERMITES -- White-winged insects that eat cellulose and thrive in damp, soft wood. Wood must be kept separated from the ground and a termite shield (copper flashing) installed beneath the sill plate.

TRISODIUM PHOSPHATE -- also known as TSP. Used as an additive for safely cleaning dirt, wax, or grease from wood.

TWO-POINT AND THREE-POINT ADHESION -- Three-point adhesion is when the log caulk in a crack or joint adheres to three surfaces, typically top, bottom, and back of a joint. This reduces the ability of the caulk to stretch and maintain coverage. Best practices dictate using backer rod in a large, open joint to separate the back of the opening from sticking to the caulk, resulting in two-point adhesion.

UV DAMAGE -- Old weathered wood can appear blackened as a result of UV damage from the sun which breaks down the cell walls in the wood. Stain with good UV protection acts like a skin sun block for your logs.

Hopefully this cabin restoration glossary will acquaint you with some of the terms and concepts of cabin repair and rehab. For more information check out our log cabin glossary for general terms and definitions of log home building techniques and tools.

 More Cabin Restoration Pages:

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Cabin Maintenance & Restoration

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Cabin Restoration Tips
Cabin Repair - An Introduction
Cabin Restoration Glossary
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