General Question

Yellowdog's avatar

How did so many untreated half-timber houses and log houses survive to modern times?

Asked by Yellowdog (9794points) 1 month ago

My grandparents on both sides, who were born around 1920, tell about how there used to be a lot more log houses on the landscape. Whereas ordinary timber houses survived, yeah. there is a dearth of the familiar log houses built over a century ago.

And, books about building log- and half-timber houses ALWAYS tell about necessary wood treatments.

But that aside, there ARE log houses around (and water mills, etc etc) and half-timber houses built in the mid 19th century to much before, that are still around. They may have been preserved from rot and insects starting fifty years ago, maybe, but how did they survive 100 years or more from rot, weathering, and termites?

Storage sheds built in the 1980s sometimes aren’t even around. How did log houses and half-timbered houses survive untreated for so many years?

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4 Answers

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I am amazed by this as well.
Even more so by daub – usually made of some combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw. Wikipedia-
How does that withstand moisture?

kritiper's avatar

Good foundations!

seawulf575's avatar

I lived in a house a decade ago that had been built around 1860. It wasn’t all raw timber, but there were supports and beams that were basically logs and there were some of the old rough hewn boards still in use. Some of the beams still had bark on them. The foundation was rocks piled up with dirt in between. So I know they are around. I suspect the thing that killed many raw wood buildings was a combination of termites and moisture. Once the logs are cut and put into a structure to be lived in, the normal impact of nature changes somewhat. We heat the inside which changes how moisture moves through the wood. Sometimes they used tar to seal between the logs which is a petroleum product. This likely allowed oils to seep into the wood, further protecting them. As for termites, not all areas have termites to the same degree. And as you clear forested areas around your home, you are moving food the termites can get, driving them back to better pickins elsewhere.

zenvelo's avatar

Part of the reason some have lasted is the type of wood. Redwood is very resistant to things that age wood. Cedar is too. And log cabins were also treated even 100+ years ago with things like tar, linseed oil, and creosote.

Also, houses and other structures needed regular maintenance even when they were relatively new.

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