Getting Ready For Winter? All You Need Is 50 Cans Of Urethane Foam

Foam-Insulated Bus At Gakona Junction. (File Photo, Country Journal) Staying Warm In Your Alaska Abode Cabins in Alaska are made of sp...

Staying wrm in the Alaska wilds
Foam-Insulated Bus At Gakona Junction. (File Photo, Country Journal)

Staying Warm In Your Alaska Abode

Cabins in Alaska are made of spruce logs. In the Copper Valley, the logs have always been particularly irregular, permafrost-stunted, and tapered.

In this place, where the winter temperatures regularly dip to minus 20º and often to minus 40º and more, the gaps between these logs are icy conduits to the subarctic Alaskan outdoors.

"Chinking" is the time-honored solution of putting something between the cracks to block the flow of incoming air. In Gold Rush Alaska, the original chinking material was sphagnum moss. 

Early gold miners, who brought a tarred rope like hemp fiber called "oakum" north with them to caulk their homemade spruce boats, also used oakum in their cabins.

Unconventional modern method of keeping log cabin warm in winter
Log Cabin Sprayed With Foam Insulation. Tolsona Lake. (File Photo, Country Journal)
The most desperate chinking was in the middle of winter, from inside the dwelling. As the temperature dipped, Alaskans rummaged around inside, finding anything to block the cold. They jammed ripped-up trousers, crumpled newspapers and magazines, burlap sacks and old socks into the holes.

With the coming of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, more "modern" solutions were looked for by settlers. That's about when the outside world invented urethane foam. The foam pours out of its little can like whipped cream, and quickly blossoms into what look like a huge, loopy mass of orange, half chewed Cheetos.  Yet, foam worked. At Tolsona Lake, an entire log cabin was completely covered with urethane foam. And at Gakona Junction, a foam-covered bus still sits back in the thicket. In Alaska, as in marriage, beauty isn't everything.

Old burlap sacks fill cracks in an Alaskan log cabin
Burlap Sacks With Printing Still Visible, Stuffed Into The Crack Of A Fairbanks Cabin. (File Photo, Country Journal)

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