Interior Design FAIL
October 10, 2009 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Can the interior walls of a log home be plastered smooth? Fairly simply?

After a frustrating six month search for a country home in my semi-modest price range, I found a real possibility. The location is a dream, the price is great. Yes, it needs a lot of work, but having searched this long, I am realistic about the options available to me.

There's just one thing. It's a log home, something I had not even considered. I adore the country setting but when it comes to interior decorating, I am the farthest thing from "rustic".

The living room-- UGH.

None of my furniture belongs in a room like this, nor do I want it to. The only way I could be happy with it would be to somehow cover over the interior loggage and make them look like "normal" walls.

So that's what I'm wondering... Can you just trowel on a good layer of plaster to fill in and smooth over the logs... or would it take a complete drywalling project... and what the heck would I do with the vaulted ceiling?

Voices of both experience and/or creative ideas are welcome!

For what it's worth, I'm a fairly handy person who could likely handle a plaster-and-paint job herself if given instructions to follow. Never attempted dry wall or the like, though, and would definitely leave something like that to a professional.

I've seen the place from the outside and peered through the windows. I'm touring the inside with the realtor on Monday.

Oh, and yup I know that if I don't really *like* log houses then it's sort of silly to consider buying a log house. I hear ya. But again, I've been searching for SIX MONTHS and if I have to be willing to compromise, that's what I'm going to do! Thanks, all!

(PS- sorry about the link, it wasn't showing up in Preview so I assumed I was doing something wrong and just skipped it.)
posted by GuffProof to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
Drywalling would be much, much less work and simpler than plastering all that, and would give you a simpler, flatter surface when you're done. Plaster that deep would take many coats to dry, and it's quite a smoothing project to get a flat wall from all that.

I'd drywall for sure, and if you were considering plaster you can definitely do it yourself. It's just screwing some flat pieces on the wall, cutting them to size when necessary with an x-acto knife, and then plastering the seams and cracks and such. Much less plastering than trying to do the whole wall, ugh!

You have to work around and keep the open vaulted ceiling and wood beams there, I think. They look very cool, and will look just as good, if not better, with plain white walls.
posted by rokusan at 2:03 PM on October 10, 2009

I grew up in this house! Well, not this house, but most of these were sold as kits and so there are a lot of similarities.

We lived with the logs until my Dad's wife decided that she had had enough of the dust and snagged fabrics.

Plastering over the walls is not the best idea. The logs will move and you will end up with lots of horizontal cracks. Not to mention the depth of the plaster you would need to make the finished wall smooth.

What they did, and what I have seen done for other log homes with finished walls:
Shim up 1x2's to get a level wall.
Drywall over this.

This will deepen the window wells and doorways, but looks good. And it turns what is already an insulated dream into a super R-value wall. It is really nice how it holds heat.

But you may lose more space than you think - it kind of depends on how careful they were when building it and keeping walls plumb. If a contractor built it, they are usually pretty good. If a guy like my Dad assembled his own kit when it arrived, you may have walls that are way off - still stable, but off.
posted by Tchad at 2:08 PM on October 10, 2009

Seconding drywall. A friend and I put up 100 feet of drywall in one afternoon, if that gives you any indication how easy it is, and we're not Bob Vila types either. Trimming around the windows and openings is easy... just take a jigsaw to it once for a rough opening then once more to fine tune the edges. Then you can put trim, baseboards, and whatever you like.

Also if you're selling the place, you or the buyer can take down the drywall and the log wall will still be there intact, whereas with plastering it's kind of a permanent deal.
posted by crapmatic at 2:10 PM on October 10, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you both for the quick answers!

I should add, the realty website (where I got this picture from) also posted a picture of the kitchen (another ugh) and it is NOT logged! So you're right, it can be done... I'll see if I can get a picture up of that, maybe someone can identify what was done there.
posted by GuffProof at 2:12 PM on October 10, 2009

Response by poster: Here's how they did the kitchen.

posted by GuffProof at 2:15 PM on October 10, 2009

My sister lives in a log home and only the actual outside walls are log. All of the interior walls are drywalled. There might not be as much drywall to hang as you'd think, maybe only one or two walls per room.
posted by tamitang at 2:35 PM on October 10, 2009

Yup - shimmed thin studs over logs.

If you wanted plaster, you could have a plasterer come in and skim coat the drywall. It is a nice surface, you just don't want to try to fill the crevices between the logs with it.

And crapmatic's resale suggestion is right on.

Just don't try to screw the drywall directly to the logs.

This is VERY doable. If I can find some pics of our place I will post them, but am not sure if I have digital ones.
posted by Tchad at 2:37 PM on October 10, 2009

I believe the kitchen has been finished in drywall, and the drywall has been carried up to the roof line. One issue with drywalling a log cabin interior is that, sooner or later (and you really hope later), you have to get to the inside surface of the log wall to chink, and to check/treat for insects. Modern chinking is usually done mainly from the outside of the log walls with foam strips and sealant products, or expanding foam, which can last up to 15 or 20 years, depending on climate and sun exposure, but because of the abrasion that is created when the logs expand and contract slightly in temperature, sooner or later, all chinking must be redone. And even with these systems, each interior joint between logs also needs a bead of sealant, too.

If the interior surfaces of the logs are not too rough, you might consider just painting the interior, to lighten and brighten it, while keeping the texture of the logs, and leaving the walls accessible.
posted by paulsc at 2:49 PM on October 10, 2009

Tchad writes "it turns what is already an insulated dream into a super R-value wall. It is really nice how it holds heat."

Conventional log homes (IE: those made from whole logs not a log veneer/XPS sandwich) have relatively poor wall thermal performance relative to their thickness. They have quite a bit of mass so they can work wellish in high daytime/low night time temperature climates. However in pure heating or cooling climates log walls have average performance because solid wood has an R-Value of at best ~1.5 a log home with 8" logs is going to have about the same insulation properties as a 4" fibreglass stick framed wall. To match the Canadian code minimum you need 12"+ logs. A true super insulated wall (like the 10" fibreglass insulated offset double stud wall in my new shop) would only be approached with 20" logs. A layer of gyproc over the relatively large and unsealed dead space of a log wall isn't going to change that much unless the wall currently has a serious air infiltration problem.

To address the OPs question. Plastering a log wall is twice as much work as gyproc. Gyprocing the wall could be as simple as screwing the sheet rock to directly to the walls if the walls are straight and the logs were milled to uniform size. If not you'd need to fur the wall out with strapping and blocks until you have a flat surface for the gyproc to attach too. Flattening the wall isn't really difficult but it is tedious and therefor is a perfect project for the do it yourselfer. Especially now that quality laser levels are available for only a couple hundred dollars. The most time consuming part for amateurs is the taping and mudding but you can hire teams to do just that part at fairly reasonable prices most places.

The ceiling can also be gyproced. Personally I would leave the beams open and gyproc just in between them screwing the sheets directly to the plank ceiling. I wouldn't tape the seams instead using wood mouldings to cover the seams and the area where the sheet butts up against the beams. It would keep the ceiling in character while giving it a more conventionally modern look. If there is no insulation above the planks you could also take this opportunity to add rigid insulation under the gyproc.

paulsc has a good point on the maintenance though it is possible with a combination of double tongue and groove construction and specialty foam plates to permanently avoid the need for inside maintenance of the log seal.
posted by Mitheral at 3:12 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all, and thank you Mitheral for the technical stuff!

Insulation and heating/cooling will definitely be factors. This is northern Wisconsin.

The first picture shows that handsome woodstove in the corner. Having walked all around the outside of the house this afternoon, I'm not entirely sure that the place has any other furnace. I grew up in a wood heated home so I know they throw heat- but they're so much work!

I love your idea of accenting the ceiling with wood moulding. If I ever get that far, I'm going to steal it!

Oh, also, with regards to your comments about the uniformity of the logs... I don't know anything about log homes, so when I was checking it out today I was surprised how identical they all looked. I tapped on a few to make sure they were wood. I'm still not 100% sure there wasn't some sort of composite thing happening there, I can find out more from the realtor on Monday.

Thanks again all!
posted by GuffProof at 4:33 PM on October 10, 2009

Given that you're a bit of a construction noob (no offense), can I suggest you invest $200 or whatever in a home inspection / engineer to check the place out before you make a formal offer?

That way a neutral guy can come out and check all your questions (foundation? furnace? structure sound? signs of mould or water damage?) in a couple of hours, giving you huge piece of mind and making your offer price reasonable.
posted by rokusan at 5:39 PM on October 10, 2009

Response by poster: That is great advice and no offense taken, thanks. In case there was any confusion when I posted my original question about a "country home", this wouldn't be a second house / weekend getaway. It would be my one and only primary residence. And as a single woman with, as you guessed, no heavy construction experience (I've installed crown moulding, things like that), I am seriously wondering if this house is too much of a project for me. But a long search has turned up little else, and so I appreciate all of the input!
posted by GuffProof at 6:20 PM on October 10, 2009

Other thoughts: chinking (sometimes looks rustic but can also be more modern looking if done cleanly, lightens up a dark interior, works well with scandanavian or mid-century modern interiors), panels (chinked and paneled in this pic , paneled with painted vaulted ceiling, wainscotting), paint (!).
posted by oneirodynia at 4:14 PM on October 12, 2009

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