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Swedes "See Red"--Log Homes, That Is

January 20, 1985|Terence M. Green

Did you ever wonder why so many buildings in Sweden are painted red? (No, this isn't a game of Trivial Pursuit.)

Alternative Shelter The reason is that they are log houses and Sweden is the original home of a type of red paint that has been in use there since the early 1600s. And it's not trivial because the conventional wisdom is that log houses should not be painted--but hearken to Doris Muir, editor/publisher of the quarterly Log Home Guide for Builders & Buyers:

"After years spent warning log builders and log home owners never, repeat, NEVER to paint their logs, we were won over on our visit to Scandinavia by Sweden's Falun Red paint, which covers virtually every log or timber building in that country.

"Falun Red overcomes our previous objections because it allows the wood to breathe, it doesn't hide the grain, it is fire-resistant, it preserves the wood from its twin enemies, rot and insect pests, and it's so much like a stain rather than a paint that it can't crack or blister and thus lodge water."

That particular issue of the Guide (fall, 1984) has an extensive gallery of pictures of log buildings in Sweden, Norway and Finland, including the restored Holmenkollen Park Hotel in Oslo and an inn at Ornas, near Borlange, Sweden, that was raised in 1440 and is called the world's oldest commercial log building. Some of the logs date from the 10th Century and the inn is thought to have been the hiding place of King Gustav Vasa (reigned 1523-1560) from his Danish enemies.

The paint gets its name from Sweden's ancient copper mine of Falun, since its main ingredient was a byproduct of the metal production. Muir was told that the paint gets its color from iron oxide and its preservative qualities from salicic acid, while it is completely free of gypsum, which is present in many similar paints and is both useless and harmful.

In her article, Muir also reprints a do-it-yourself recipe for the paint that was printed in the Swedish magazine Household in 1762.

Muir Publishing Co. is a Canadian firm but it has a distribution office at P. O.Box 37, West Rutland, Vt. 05777. The guide's editorial office is in the new Log Home Guide Information Center, Exit 447, Interstate 40, Hartford, Tenn. 37753 (near Knoxville).

Editor Muir is an enthusiast on her subject. She estimates that about 30,000 log homes are built each year, from hand-built cabins to traditional and conventional homes, many in the luxury class; she says that 85% of log-home buyers are acquiring year-around homes, not vacation cabins, and she expects 10% of all single-family housing starts to be log homes by the end of this decade.

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