Derek Franz

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February 8, 2012
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Gypsum business thrives in rotten logs

David Sante of Top Notch Logworks Inc. in Gypsum does not want to be "Doctor Doom."

His business is flourishing, however, because many people don't properly care for log homes.

"There are a lot of professionals, including architects, engineers, contractors and painters, who need the education," Sante said. "I usually find something wrong in every log home."

Those "wrong" things generally have to do with rotting wood caused by moisture and mold - things that can be prevented (cheaper) as well as repaired (expensive). Since Sante's business specializes in building log structures, it also expertly handles prevention and maintenance.

"Logs rot," Sante said. "Once (rot) is in a structure, it's like cancer," he said. "I've seen mushrooms growing out of a wall. People think a big piece of wood in a dry climate will last for a while."

Top Notch's website - - says that a log structure could have major problems within six years if it does not have proper care.

"There is a lot of info out there about the right things to do and it can make a difference during a time when people don't have a lot of cash for restoration," Sante said. He added that he is not worried about losing potential business through people learning how to care for their homes themselves. "There's enough out there that is screwed up and will keep us busy," he said.

Top Notch employs about 30 people. It started in 1999, building log structures, and started doing log restoration, maintenance and rot mitigation about seven years ago.

"We were having to hire and train people for a big job and then lay them off when it was finished," Sante said. "Well, that was basically training workers for our competition."

So he found another niche in the business that allowed him to retain his employees, keeping them busy.

"We've been slammed the last two years," he said.

Problems can stem from something as simple as watering plants against the house, in which case "you end up watering the logs, too," Sante said.

Mitigation and maintenance includes special paints and stains, flashing and caps for the ends of the logs, among other things. Restoring rotted logs can involve removing rotten fibers and replacing them with epoxy - like a dentist filling a cavity in a tooth. In one case, Top Notch used about 40 gallons of epoxy to restore a massive wood carving in Snowmass.

"Some decks in Cordillera have sunk 3 to 4 inches because of posts collapsing in on themselves," Sante said. "I would not want to have a party with 50 people on a deck like that. Some of these things are on the verge of collapse."

Sante offers basic information on these methods and materials quite freely. He can be reached at (970) 524-7323 or

"In Europe, there are log structures that are 700 years old because they were properly designed, so log homes can last a long time - I don't want people to think they won't," he said. "But they have to be done right."

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The VailDaily Updated Feb 8, 2012 12:48PM Published Feb 8, 2012 12:47PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.