Mortar (Cement) Chinking vs Synthetic Chinking

Up until the early 1980s, log cabins were often chinked with mortar. Nowadays, the majority of chinking used is synthetic. Although mortar chink is less common and comes with some drawbacks, it still has its use cases.

What is Mortar Chink?

Before we dive in, let’s clarify what mortar chinking is. Mortar chinking, also known as cement chink, was popular from the 1950s to the 1980s. It is made from a mixture of clay, lime, silt, sand, ash, cement, dirt, and other materials. Another name for this type of chink is “Portland cement,” and there are various recipes to create it.

What are the Disadvantages of Mortar (Cement) Chink?

Mortar chink was widely used before synthetic chinking was developed. However, mortar or cement chinking has some downsides. It does not seal properly between logs, leading to moisture retention and potential rot. Additionally, mortar chink has a relatively shorter lifespan and is prone to chipping. Repairing, removing, and replacing mortar chink is also a challenging task. Due to these reasons, most people have switched to synthetic chinking, as it is more cost-effective in the long run.

When to Use Mortar Chinking?

While most professionals advise against using mortar chinking, there are still some situations where it can be suitable. Hobbyists and those building homemade cabins often opt for mortar chink. This type of chinking should only be used when logs have been locally felled and dried. In such cases, the logs will be less prone to flexing compared to their original climate. Mortar chinking is also a more affordable option and is suitable for sport or small hunting cabins. If you are considering using mortar chinking, here are a few recipes for you:

Homemade (Mortar) Chinking Recipes

If you have decided that mortar chinking is the right choice for you, here are some popular homemade recipes:

  • Cement and Sand:

    • 1 Part Pre-Dyed Cement
    • 1 Part Fine Sand
  • Clay, Sand, and Lime:

    • 1 Part Clay
    • 1 Part Coarse Sand
    • 1 Part Lime
  • Clay, Ash, and Salt:

    • 4 Parts Clay
    • 2 Parts Wood Ashes
    • 1 Part Salt
  • Cement, Sand, and Lime:

    • 6 Parts Sand
    • 2 Parts Portland Cement
    • 1 Part Lime

A useful tip is to make one bucket of mixture and then divide it equally into two buckets. This method helps maintain consistency in your chinking. Remember not to change your mixture once you start, as it may result in failed chinking and chipping.

What is Synthetic Chinking?

If you own a cabin and want to avoid the potential damage associated with mortar chinking, synthetic chinking is your best bet. Synthetic chinking is a water-based elastomeric material designed to resemble traditional mortar chinking. It offers greater flexibility and is easier to apply. Once dried, it maintains its elasticity.

What are the Disadvantages of Synthetic Chinking?

There are not many disadvantages to using synthetic chinking. The only drawback is that it may have a higher upfront cost compared to mortar chinking. However, it proves to be more cost-effective in the long run. Synthetic chinking is superior to mortar chinking in various aspects, with the few disadvantages being mostly a matter of preference and price.

When to Use Synthetic Chinking?

If you prioritize your cabin’s health, synthetic chinking is highly recommended. It offers better protection for logs when compared to traditional mortar chinking. Unless you are building a homemade cabin and aim for a completely traditional approach, synthetic chinking is the way to go. Now, you might wonder about the benefits of using synthetic chinking and why it is better. Here are a few advantages:

  • It seals more efficiently to the log, preventing rot.
  • It is less prone to cracking or checking.
  • It flexes with the logs, allowing the use of logs from various locations.
  • It comes in a variety of colors.
  • It has a longer lifespan compared to traditional chinking.
  • It is easier to repair.

Recommended Chinking Brands

As a log cabin company, we have collaborated with many contractors and received feedback on various chinking brands. The two brands that consistently receive praise are Log Jam and Perma Chinking. These recommendations stem from our years of experience in the log cabin industry and the expertise of our extensive contractor network.

Log Jam Chinking Overview

Log Jam is a synthetic chinking that can handle joint movement up to 100% on joints up to 4 inches while maintaining its original appearance. It is the only chinking with a UL one-hour fire rating, which helps slow down fire spread between rooms. Log Jam is an excellent choice for new log cabins.

Perma-Chink Chinking Overview

Perma-Chink is known for its easy application to both interior and exterior sealing. It has a low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) formula, making it safer to work with and reducing fumes. Perma-Chink also comes with a 10-year warranty.

If you want to learn more about Log Jam and Perma-Chink, visit their respective websites.

Mortar Chinking or Synthetic Chinking: Which One to Choose?

There is no definitive answer; it ultimately depends on personal preference. Mortar chinking appeals to those who have hobby projects or desire a completely traditional log cabin. However, in most cases, synthetic chinking is the recommended choice for ensuring the longevity of your log home. If you have any questions or want to share your chinking experience, feel free to reach out to us or leave a comment below!

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