Chinking is the material that fills the gap between logs in a log home. A properly built Scandinavian Chinkless style of log home will have no chinking at all (thus the name ‘Scandinavian Chink-less’ rather than “Scandinavian Chinked”). The Saddle Notch, Butt and Pass, and Dovetail (or Appalachian style) will all have chinking.
Most log homes are chinked with either natural mortar chinking, or petrochemical based synthetic chinking. Synthetic chinking tends to be most popular with the kit log home builders, and mortar tends to be popular with owner builders. Some of our members use synthetic chinking, and some use mortar. Either material can work fine provided that things are done properly, it’s just that mortar offers some distinct advantages.
Let’s look at just one reason why mortar chinking is so popular with the DIY crowd:
You can save TONS of money if you use mortar rather than synthetic chinking.
One of our members recently posted in our members only forum that his neighbor spent $12,000 dollars on chinking his log home with a synthetic product. That same member is spending just $450 to chink his home with mortar (no, that is not a typo). Our member is saving about $11,550, simply by using the Association’s mortar chinking techniques.
It is worth nothing that there’s a lot of erroneous information about mortar chinking. First off, it is a myth that mortar chinking necessarily requires a lot of maintenance. It also isn’t true that mortar chinking fails after just a few years, or that it is very dusty, cold or drafty.
Here is an example of what mortar chinking will look like after about 50 years or so (if the right recipe and application techniques were used)…
Essentially, it looks just like it did right after it was applied. There is no visible or significant deterioration. There are no large gaps, cracks, or drafts. These logs are still sealed up tight, despite having experienced several earthquakes (the highest being a 6.8). Clearly mortar is an affordable, viable chinking material.
So if the choice is between mortar or synthetic chinking, then which is best? That’s hard to say — or at least any answer to that question would only be an arguable opinion. There are some pretty clear pros and cons that can be explored. At our log home building class we explain why mortar will actually last longer than synthetic chinking, be easier to apply, minimize potential water damage, requires no speciality tools to apply, et cetera. We delve into all the pros and cons of the different materials and really explain the differences. We also give our time tested mortar recipe and installation tips.
Bonus facts: In pioneer times chinking people often used Oakum (hemp fiber) or sphagnum moss as chinking. Sometimes wood itself was used as chinking in a log home – either small saplings were nailed into the gap, or small trees were quartered and nailed so the wedge was pointed into the gap between the logs.
You can read more about log home chinking on our forums: