Why Don’t Log Cabins Rot?

There are log cabins which have stood for almost a hundred years which show no sign of rot. This can be confusing to the rest of us because it almost defies our logic. The trick in this is not that these cabins are magic or anything like that, but that they have been built following a certain standard and pattern. This pattern prevents them from rotting and allows them to last longer than they normally would.

It’s not that they can’t rot either. Log cabins can, and will, rot in more moist areas if they are not constructed properly. Log cabins are not invincible to water and other mold-inducing particles. With the proper construction guidelines – and a little bit of logic – you can end up with a rot-free cabin. Below are some things you should know that can help prevent mold and rot and will help your log cabin last a bit longer.

Rot Zone (Splash Zone)

When building a log cabin you must take care to be aware of where the ‘splash/rot zone’ is. The rot zone is an area that is more susceptible to rot because moisture from the earth seeps into the wood and makes it rot quickly. Although it may be tempting to create a log cabin like the ones from forever ago, it’s not very practical. A good foundation of unrottable material as big as the rot zone will help.

Materials such as:

  • Concrete
  • Pressure treated timber
  • Stone
  • Posts locked in concrete or sonotubes
  • Prefabricated concrete blocks

All of this materials will make for a good foundation that will not rot.


One method to prevent rot is large eaves which extend beyond the outer walls of your cabin. The eaves need to be long enough to stop rainwater from touching or dripping down the sides of the cabin. This doesn’t mean that if your cabin gets water on it that it’s doomed. However, you want to take extra care in stopping as much water as possible from consistently wetting the outside walls of your log cabin.

It doesn’t make too much difference what these eaves are made of. (Obviously, you don’t want them to be made of wood because you would be faced with a similar dilemma.) You just need to make sure they are the right length, and that they keep the water at bay.

Rain gutters are also important to have. These go hand in hand with the eaves. They make for an efficient way to direct the water away from the cabin. Together, the eaves and rain gutters will do a nice job of preventing rot. To top it all off, if you have a slanted roof, this will push the water away even faster.

UV Rays and Water

Log cabins are going to see a lot of weathering. Together, water and UV rays from the sun create the perfect environment for your rot to grow. It is important to place your cabin strategically so it will get an even amount of water and sun. (as even as you can get) The eaves and gutters will help prevent the water from reaching your cabin, but it also makes some areas a bit shadier.

In the more sunless areas, you are in danger of rot as well. In the hotter times of the year, there is no sun to dry out the water, there is only heat. this heat, together with the water, will create rot. That is why you need to find a good balance between the two of them.

How Do Plants Effect Rot?

Nearby plants won’t effect rot unless they are in darker areas. If you have a really moist plant that sits right up against your log cabin, you may want to consider moving it. Most log cabins don’t have any sort of plant or object right up close to it. Behind those objects, there isn’t much sun which means when it rains or gets wet it won’t dry quickly enough. (And it may not even dry at all.)

If you are going to plant any plants, leave enough space for the sun to come through and dry the wood if it gets wet. In fact, that is true with any object, just keep it at a reasonable distance.

How Do I Clear Away Rot?

There are a couple actions you can take to clear away rot if it has already spread. First, consider how large the problem is. If it’s just a small space and is not a supporting foundation, just replace the wood with something fresh. You can also dig out rotted areas and fill them with epoxy. What is epoxy? Epoxy is a synthetic adhesive that is not organic so it won’t rot. It will fill in space and still look nice.

If your cabin is overloaded with rot, you will have to completely rebuild what has been damaged. Clearing rot can take a while so I hope you are a patient person.  It’s important to do rot-prevention before you build because the process to fix the growing of rot can be quite extensive in some cases. Plus, it can also be very expensive. You may be paying more than you originally built it for, but that’s not super common. If you’ve taken the necessary precaution, you shouldn’t have to be too worried about it.

If you have wood that has just cracked in some areas and is rotting, there isn’t a need to rebuild. It would only be necessary to rebuild if your whole foundation is compromised. Log cabin foundations are very different from your run-of-the-mill houses you are used to seeing these days.

Are There Ways of Preventing Rot Chemically?

Mildewcide and Penetreat are some good options for rot control and prevention. Below is a description of both chemicals:

  • Mildewcide– Mildewcide is a chemical with an active ingredient which will target mold forming fungus. It is also commonly used inside summer cabins and moist homes because of the mold and rot that can penetrate inside. It is not harmful but very helpful.
  • PeneTreat– PeneTreat is a borate-based wood treatment. It fights insect and wood rot. (Borate is a salt made of boron and oxygen- if you were wondering.) To use it you must dig away rotted areas until you reach the good, healthy wood, and then you spread/spray the PeneTreat on the fresh areas. This will prevent rot from formulating as quickly.

There are other chemicals you can use to prevent and eliminate rot, but these two are the most commonly used methods. Both are pretty effective and can help you at least get a handle on any kind of rot situation you may find yourself in.

These chemicals really aren’t as necessary if you take the previously mentioned precautions when building your log cabin. It’s all about maintenance and staying ahead of the moisture. You’re really not in too much danger in the more hot and dry areas of the country. You really will only find yourself with a problem if the area in which you build is moister. If that is the case then be sure to follow the previous guidelines. (If you are hiring someone to build, make sure the foundation is built with those unrottable materials and that they do it as big as the rot zone. Although, I’m sure they will know what they are doing.)

Related Questions…

Where can I purchase mildewcide? You can find mildewcide in as common a place as Amazon. It is relatively inexpensive and can be a helpful and quick fix to small rotting areas.

How do I stop the inside of my cabin from being too moist? Moisture inside the cabin is not as big of a worry as outside. It won’t turn into rot, but it will take up more energy. The best method of preventing too much moisture is to select moisture resistant materials when you build the cabin. There are also some things you can do to maintain moisture control with just wiping things down and regulated the temperature.

How do I ventilate a log cabin? The simplest method to ventilate a log cabin is to open the windows and doors for a couple of hours consistently during the month or year to circulate the air. This may be very cold during the winter months, but it is the simplest methods you can use to ventilate your log cabin.

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