Wood as a material is essentially everlasting; for instance, an 800-year-old wooden church in Norway serves as a living proof. In order to ensure that this living material serves well, one must understand it and know how to take care of a wooden house. Edgars tells about longevity of wooden houses and wood finishing solutions.
A house that has been built properly will serve longer
Historically the wood was not treated in any special way – all houses were functionally accurately designed to last many lifetimes. With this we conclude that the key element to the longevity of a house can be found in the correct usage of the wooden materials. It is essential to understand that the wood throughout its entire lifespan is a material that lives. The wood absorbs and releases moisture incessantly. Commonly wood is ruined by various fungus. Different types of fungus develop in wood when unfavourable moisture occurs during its maintenance, which often happens due to a fault in construction, causing higher moisture levels that cannot air out. The moisture is the main factor that facilitates fungus as well. Another mistake during construction work is to allow the wood come in contact with rainwater or snow, dampening the wood, which later starts growing fungus. If the moisture level of the wood is under 20%, most of the fungus cultures cannot grow there.
The area of exposure between soil and air is especially critical for wood. Wood that is dug in earth will serve for a long time both over and under the earth, but the middle point is where many bacterial elements that deteriorate the wood usually tend to develop. If the grass is not mowed around the perimeter of the house, the wooden planks or logs will start rotting over time. One can see this pattern with older buildings, noticing, that most of the decay is at the lower level of the house. Fighting the problem is quite simple – the foundation of the house should be constructed with a different type of materials instead of wood, and any board panels should be placed slightly above ground level. Regular lawn mowing is highly suggested.
The availability of wood finishing solutions of 50 or even 10 years ago is beyond comparison of the available assortment nowadays. These solutions offer another option how to protect a wooden building. But, as mentioned before, the longevity of the house is determined by the way it is built, not necessarily by the way it is being maintained during its lifetime. If it is desired to maintain the look of young wood or to maintain a certain shade of the wood, it is important to use materials and solutions that protect the wood from UV rays, which are one of the main factors that cause the aging of the wood. One should always keep in mind that no solution will ensure that in 5 years time the building will look just as it did when the wood was first treated. The wood aging process is inevitable. Aged wood has its charm, too; it is quite popular in France to locate old sheds in Latvia, dismantle their greyed wooden boards that have been ravaged by time, and reuse them in France. An unnatural yet effective method for protecting the wood against the external aggressors is the impregnation of the wood. Electric wire posts are commonly impregnated and therefore can stand for 40 years through sun, rain and wind, while being sunk in earth. A natural choice for treating the wood can be linseed oil – it is an ecological product that seeps into the wood, does not coat it and does not peel off over time as paint would. Unfortunately not all linseed oils are good – some can cultivate the growth of mould. One should avoid choosing mass-produced products that are so widely available at construction stores, for these items often do not meet their promoted benefits. It is wise to look into other options from professional suppliers. The finishing solutions in general are neutral and do not cause any chemical harm to the material itself. The wood does not require special treatment to last long. Provided that the building is properly constructed, it will last many years without finishing treatments. It all comes down to personal preferences – if the homeowners do not like the grey shades of the aged wood, chemical treatments will be their only choice. Every type of wood has its own different natural ability to fight biological decay; oak is especially hard as a material, whereas fir-tree deteriorates fairly fast; the pine is everlasting – the wooden church in Norway is built from pine, too.
Life is essential
The greatest calamity of any wooden house is being abandoned by people. We see decayed log houses in the countryside not because of the wood having reached the end of its lifespan, but because people have stopped living in these buildings. Life within the building gives life to building itself; the warm air exchange through walls regulates the humidity level and the indoor microclimate. The moment a building is abandoned, the moisture levels increase, fungus develops and the lifecycle of the wood comes to an end. The owners of summer homes should warm these houses at least once a week during wintertime; such maintenance is easy nowadays, and different heating systems that can maintain a low, set indoor temperature are widely available. Surely, the only real threat to the building is its complete abandonment, but it does not mean it should be forgotten during winter months.
Properly followed construction process and selfless and devoted care for the wooden house will bring joy to many generations to come.