Signs of Log Home Settling

Dawn SmithLog Homeowner Education

Settling is a common occurrence in log homes. It happens because logs, like humans, are also affected by time and compress over time. Settling is only sometimes a cause for alarm, as some amount of settling is natural and normal. However, there could be several factors that contribute to settling aside from compression. Therefore, if you notice any signs of settling in your log cabin, don’t panic. Instead, it’s best to get it checked by a professional to determine the cause and whether any action is needed.

Wait! Are you aware of the signs that indicate that your log house is settling? Does the idea of your log cabin settling make you anxious? If so, please know that you are not alone. Your concerns are valid, and this article will help you understand better and guide you in the right direction.

In this article, we will briefly discuss:

Settling Concerns

Signs of settling can be worrisome for new log home owners. It begs the following questions:

  • What do I look for?
  • Is my log home settling too much?
  • What causes log home settling?
  • What will the repairs cost?
  • Will my water lines break?
  • Is there a difference between settling, shrinkage, and compression?
  • Can settling be anticipated and managed during construction?

These are all great questions that I will address in this article. Let’s start with what to look for when checking for settling.

Visible Signs of Settling

Window Sill Gap Discovered Using Level
Using a level, you can determine how much your window has settled.

You can look for signs of settling, often seen in small cracks in trim around windows, doors, foundations, or in warped floors and roof lines. Most of us have walked over an upstairs warped floorboard. This could be poor flooring installation or a sign the home is settling unevenly. We highly recommend reading “Which Type of Foundation Cracks are More Serious?

Understanding Log Home Settling

To be clear, log home settling is used to describe the loss in log wall height over the life of your log cabin. Poor log home construction can lead to all kinds of settling hazards. Even with good construction, your walls may lose a quarter of an inch or more in the first few years.

Common Settling Factors

Settling can happen due to various factors. Some are due to poor construction, and others are due to environmental factors. Before starting your log home restoration, make sure you know what settling hazards you do or don’t have. Consider the following common factors that contribute to log home settling.

First, check for general settling issues unrelated to your cabin. Consider such things as poor drainage or ground problems like sinkholes and weak foundations. These factors can cause even well-built log homes to settle. It’s crucial to address these issues first, as they might need fixing before restoration work begins. Ignoring these problems can lead to ongoing damage and costly, potentially dangerous outcomes. Homeowners should thoroughly investigate these potential causes to understand why their log home is settling. For tips on preventive measures, we highly recommend our guide, Log Home Landscaping Wisdom.

Logs Shrink & Compress

Because of their high water content, building with green logs (recently cut from the forest) always causes settling issues as the logs dry out. Just to be clear, green and dry logs shrink. As you will learn, you should consider all contributing factors when diagnosing settling such as shrinkage and compression.

This is an excellent time to find out your regions Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC). Do you know what EMC means and how it affects the logs on your cabin? You can learn about it and more here.


Log homes experience shrinkage as the wood becomes dry and adjusts to reach what is known as the Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC). This EMC is affected by various factors, including the type of wood, the temperature, and the relative humidity of the surrounding air. As the logs dry out and reach EMC, their diameter decreases, which can be a significant issue when using green logs. Green logs contain a lot of moisture, and they are susceptible to warping and twisting as they dry, leading to considerable settling issues. Therefore, it is recommended to avoid using green logs in construction.

old man with cane

And then we have log compression. Compression is a process that occurs when the structure’s weight presses down on the wood fibers within the logs, compacting them. Unlike shrinkage, the effects of compression may not be noticeable right away and usually results in far less settling. Much like our aging bones, gradual wear and tear causes damage.

Conclusion Regarding Log Shrinkage and Compression

Both shrinkage and compression are common natural processes that can impact log homes. Shrinkage can cause noticeable changes in the logs due to moisture loss, while compression is a slower, more gradual force that alters the logs under the weight of the home. It’s important to understand these processes in order to plan and maintain a strong, durable log home.

Unseen Problems

Insect damage or hidden log rot can be a common unseen problem, especially on painted cabins. Log home stains and paints are not interchangeable. Paint is not recommended on your cabin, as it can hide underlying issues and can act as a veneer, masking problems and trapping moisture and log rot underneath. Eventually, log rot will lead to settling issues over time. To learn ways to discover log rot and insect infestation, read Checking for Log Rot and Insect Infestation.

Common Settling Factors Conclusion

The most common cause of settling is foundation issues. However, as you have read, one should consider other contributing factors when discovering signs of settling. To learn what other factors can contribute to settling, such as insects, visit our article “Contributing Factors of Log Home Settling.”

Anticipating and Managing Settling

While settling will occur in some fashion, it is a good idea to consider ways to mitigate settling issues. In our article, “Avoid Some Hazards of Log Home Settling,” you will be excited to know there are ways to avoid settling hazards. The article explores the impact of settling on pipes, chimneys and more.

Ways to Avoid Expensive Settling Adjustments

If you’re planning to build a new log home, you should go through all the articles mentioned to get all the necessary information to construct the best cabin that suits your present and future needs. There are excellent products and materials available that can enhance the performance of your cabin over time. For example, incorporating screw jacks or slip joints can facilitate natural settling and provide you with professional service at minimal settling adjustment expenses.

Slip Joints and/or Screw Jacks

Well-built log homes include Slip Joints and Screw Jacks. If you happen to have issues, please consult the original builder or a foundation professional. Promptly addressing issues is crucial for safety and longevity, but it can be costly. Log home repairs should not be done until settling issues are addressed.

What do slip joints do, you ask?

Log home builders, like Cowboy Log Homes, install slip joints or screw jacks to keep the log home’s frames straight as the house settles to avoid future settling problems. Slip joints allow sliding as the logs settle without compromising the structural integrity. This system, when used as intended, will help you avoid wall and ceiling cracks, busted pipes or torn electric lines.

How do screw jacks differ from slip joints?

Image of HDW0005-Security Settling Jack. You can purchase one at

Screw jacks are installed to support the main floor to support decks, columns, and roofs. The second and third floors can benefit from these supports to cause minimal settling to the main floor or interior walls. A conscience log home manufacturer or log cabin builder will often incorporate screw jacks to compensate for future settling. You will often find screw jacks hidden behind the upper and lower trim.

In the first two heating seasons, the screw jacks should be adjusted by a professional. The time frame for adjusting screw jacks can vary by the type of heat used in your home and the outside climate.

When to Seek a Professional

If any of the signs mentioned are present in your home, it would be wise to contact a professional log home inspector or log master for advice. Ask if they are certified log home inspectors. Log home inspectors must undergo additional training to receive a certification for log home inspection.

Using the Advanced Search, you can select the different certifications to ensure your Inspector is qualified in those areas.

Most home inspectors will advise you to seek a professional log home builder or certified log home inspector.

I hope this article has been helpful and that if you have any questions, please call or text us at 844-567-2329, OR you can just email us at [email protected]. If you would like a free estimate, go to our checklist, and we will gladly give you an estimated cost for restoration or maintenance.