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Log Home Articles

How To Preserve And Protect Your Log Home With Stain

By Jamie Fonder

The stain on your logs is the most important line of defense against the three main enemies of your logs. Those are the sun, (U.V. damage), moisture, and fungi. After proper preparation of the wood/logs, I believe it is one of the most important decision's that is made for their longevity and beauty; you should use the best stains available, and not cut corners on quality. There are many stain manufacturers out there. They all claim to be the best and do an excellent job of protecting your logs from the element's, etc. But from my experience, most of them do not. One of the most common area's of shortcoming I see is the U.V. protection provided by stains. I see many log homes where the sun is actually sun burning the wood, and turning it black right through the stain. Many times this happens in one to three year's after application of the stain. This is a prime example of the stain that was applied just not having enough U.V. inhibitors. It doesn't do any good to have a stain that provides good moisture protection, but allows the sun to damage and destroy the wood cells underneath the stain!!

I use what I feel are the best stain's available today. They are formulated to prevent the damaging effects of water, fungi, and U.V. radiation. They are a V.O.C. Compliant blend of natural and synthetic resins which penetrate wood pores to block out water and provide long-lasting protection. A unique feature is that these stains contain nutrient-free resins, instead of high levels of fungicide to prevent mold and mildew growth. There are many stains produced that have natural oils and minerals as key ingredients, that are actually food for mold and mildew spores. Staining your home with some of these products is like giving an invitation to all kinds of little critter's to make a meal of your log's! One example of this is Linseed oil based stain. I'm amazed at the number of stains that still exist out there that are linseed oil based. Obviously these stain manufacturers don't have a clue about what their stains do and how they react to certain factors like the sun.

The very first log home I ever worked on had an existing stain on it that was linseed oil based. The sides of the home that got the most U.V. exposure were quite black. This wasn't the typical sun damage concentrated on the upper curvature of the logs, but pretty much covered the whole log. I found out after doing some research about the fact that linseed oil has a photo-chemical reaction with ultraviolet rays that turns the wood black. This is on top of the fact that linseed oil is one of those natural oils that many organisms like to feed on. Like I mentioned before, its like candy-coating your house. I think that linseed may be fine to have in some stains if the amount is very minimal, but I still see no reason to have it in a stain at all. There are better ingredients to add as fillers to the stain.

The application method of the stain is the next most important step. First I mask off doors, windows, etc. Anything that we don't want stain on. I protect concrete, bushes, and so on, with canvas tarps. Then, I use airless sprayers to get a large volume of stain on an area of the logs. The stain is then back brushed by hand to work it into to pores of the wood and even it out. This step is then repeated a second time, with the end result being that the wood has absorbed as much of the stain as it can, and the stain is applied evenly. This method gives the most uniform look, with the greatest amount of protection for your logs. The result is value for you, the homeowner. Your log home will last the longest period of time in between re-staining, with NO damage to the wood cells of your logs.

By no fault of their own, many log home owners do not realize what a critical decision it is as far as what stain to apply to their home. And unfortunately, too many of them have gotten off on the wrong foot and have gotten into a vicious cycle with their homes of having all kinds of really unnecessary problems and issues concerning the stain. This is partially because first of all, there is a lack of information as a whole and secondly, there is much misinformation out there also. Some of the so-called "experts" that people are maybe dealing with don't always have their best interest in mind or just aren't taking the time to give the homeowners the proper information either. My goal is to provide log home owners with information that is useful to them in real world applications, because I have had the opportunity to see how most of the stains hold up in the real world and as far as I'm concerned, that speaks volumes more so than some company's slick sounding advertising pitch!

Jamie Fonder
Top-Coat Log Home Restoration LLC
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Corn-Cob Blasting-The Best Option For Stripping Log Home Finishes!

By Jamie Fonder

  • Generally, corn cob blasting is the best overall method of dealing with many log related problems. Some other method's for removal of failing finishes, sun-burned wood, mold and mildew issues, etc., are sand blasting or chemical stripping. Sand blasting is a method that is still commonly used, but this method is excessively damaging to the wood, blowing away too much good wood and profiling the logs! Chemical stripping requires the use of caustic chemical's, and the EPA has made illegal the most effective ones because of how harmful they are to not only the environment, but also the people applying them and the people in the surrounding area. There are many log home and deck restoration companies that still rely heavily on chemical stripping. There are still certain times that we feel some of the milder chemical stripper's are alright to use. Many of the log homes that we work on are in close proximity to lake and river system's, making cob blasting the most feasible option of preparing the logs as the chemicals for stripping are obviously very harmful to our lakes and rivers.
  • Cob blasting is similar to sand blasting in that you use a blasting pot, in combination with highly compressed air. Cob blasting machines use the compressed air together with the ground up corn cob. The corn cob is light, and work's very effectively to strip the wood. The air pressure and the amount of media (corn cob) can be adjusted very precisely to only remove as much of the log as is necessary to remove the failing finish, bad wood, etc. Corn cob that is used is bio-degradable, and actually work's as a good mulch. With chemical stripping, the chemical is applied, then allowed a "dwell" time. The dwell time varies, depending on the finish to be removed, etc. Then a pressure washer is used to remove the chemicals. This is another reason that we prefer cob blasting. It is a dry process. With many of the restoration jobs we work on, there are not only problems with the finish, but the sealants are usually in bad shape too. Many times there are gaps in between the logs, and the caulk or chinking. When you chemical strip, and then pressure wash, many times you would be blasting high pressure water into the home, and in the interior of many log homes today, there is drywall walls, etc. And that can get messy. Cob blasting is a dry process, and worst case scenario, the inside of the house gets a little dust and cob in it. Much easier to clean and less destructive than water. With chemical stripping, most strippers that are effective then need a neutralizer applied after the stripper. Then the neutralizer also needs to be pressure washed off. The fact of the matter is, there are some stains out there, usually the hard shell type stains, (Sikkens, etc.) that even the best legal chemical strippers made cannot effectively remove these finishes!
  • Cob blasting is the best way to prepare a log surface for stain, because it opens the surface grain. This makes it more porous, so the log will take and retain up to 50% more stain than a non-cob blasted log. This means 50% more pigment protection and U.V. protection for your logs, and this of course means not only properly prepared wood, but a longer lasting stain job!
  • Since cob blasting is a dry process, the log home can then be immediately stained without waiting for the drying process, as you would have to with chemical stripping. Preferably, the logs should be treated with a Liquid borate to make sure nothing grows under the new stain, and allowed to dry out before the re-staining is done, though!

These are just some of the reasons why we feel cob blasting is the preferred method. We are committed to best processes, and those that are healthy for our environment!

Jamie Fonder
Top-Coat Log Home Restoration LLC
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Log Home Borate Treatments - The Options And How And When To Use!

By Jamie Fonder

One of the most important ways to protect your investment, your home, is to use a wood preservative on your logs. There are only two times that you can effectively use these products on your logs. When the home is built, before it is stained, or after cob blasting a finish off of your logs, before you re-stain. The wood preservative must be applied to raw wood, so it can soak in and dry underneath the stain.

All wood faces the possibility of rot and insect infestation, even in dry climates. Fungi and insects actually consume the cells of dead wood, often causing severe structural damage that often requires log replacement-a costly repair. We use Penetreat to help protect your home from costly damage of rot and insect infestation. Penetreat is a borate based wood preservative. Borates are well known across the world for their protective qualities. Penetreat provides a protective "shell" coating which helps defend your home against dry, wet, and brown rot, as well as termites, house borers, powder post beetles, and carpenter ants, (to name a few).

Borate is not toxic to people and animals. It will not harm you or your pets. Borates do not affect the natural color or strength of wood. They are completely odorless, and are not corrosive to metal fasteners, nails or screws. When a "Penetreat" home is properly sealed against moisture, the borates can provide many years of effective protective.

Impel Rods are a highly concentrated solid form, water diffusible borate rod. They are ideal for both preventative treatments of high risk areas and remedial treatments in areas with existing decay. Because Impel Rods stop decay when properly used, there is no need to replace decay damaged, yet structurally sound logs! Decay prone and rot hot spot areas at greatest risk include: base logs, corner construction, exposed rafters or overhangs, and below windows, doors, and dormers.

Impel Rods depend on moisture to work. When moisture contents of wood reach levels suitable for decay attack, i.e. (around 25 percent) Impel Rods slowly dissolve and begin to diffuse throughout the moisture saturated wood. The preservative will migrate into the areas of highest moisture, which are at the highest risk from fungal decay. The diffused Impel Rod will adequately and effectively prevent the wood from rotting and decaying because it will not allow the fungus that causes rot to grow. When moisture levels drop below 25 percent, the preservative becomes dormant and provides a reserve, ready to reactivate should decay conducive conditions reoccur. We feel that Impel Rods are an essential part of the protection of your log home, and include them as part of our prevention and restoration system.

We hope this article has been helpful and look forward to giving you much more information in future articles to help you preserve your log home dream!

Jamie Fonder
Top-Coat Log Home Restoration LLC
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Log Home Maintenance And Inspection Guide

By Jamie Fonder

Are gutters and downspouts installed? If not, install. This is probably the single best investment you can make to help preserve your log home!

  • Are the gutters and downspouts in good shape and clear of debris? Are the downspouts depositing rain-water far enough away from the home?
  • Is the landscaping around the home set up properly so water drains away from the home?
  • Make sure any sprinkler systems are not set up to spray the logs or railings, etc. of the home.
  • Is there proper flashing installed over doors and windows, etc?
  • Make sure there are not any splash-up or splash-back issues around the whole home. (Most of these should be eliminated by having or installing gutters and downspouts)!
  • Is there good drainage off of decks and porches?
  • Make sure window sills are sloped for proper drainage of water.
  • Make sure any bushes or plants have a minimum of 18" clearance away from the logs. This will allow access to the home of air circulation and prevent mold and mildew issues from the plants holding moisture against the wood.
  • Make sure tree branches are trimmed back well away from the home. They can introduce the same detrimental issues to the logs as bushes and plants that are too close, and also the abrasion of the tree branches rubbing on the finish can wear that off.
  • Are the bottom courses of logs a minimum of 24" off of the ground? If not, you might want to install Impel Rods (borate) in the bottom courses to prevent rot from splash-up and check them every year or so.
  • Inspect all of the exterior logs for cracks (checks) on the upper curvature of the logs.

    *Important- Only caulk the cracks that are wide enough and deep enough to get the smallest backer rod into (1/4") and still have enough space to add a sufficient amount of caulk material on top of the backer rod! Do not caulk checks that are any smaller than this, as the caulk will fail anyway, and you will just be left with a big mess!

  • Inspect all caulking or chinking for any failure, or loss of adhesion or tearing.
  • Spray a little water onto the stain to test the water repellency of the stain. If it doesn't bead up well and much of it is absorbed, it is probably time to start thinking about re-staining.
  • Check for any signs of insect infestation.
  • Check for any visual signs of rot.
  • Check for any signs of mold or mildew.
  • Make sure nothing is stacked against or close to the home. Wood piles absolutely should not be stacked anywhere near the log home, especially since these will usually contain insects and other critters that you do not want to introduce to your logs!
  • Keep a very close eye on your finish on the exterior of your home. Take pictures when the finish is new, so you can remember what it looked like. Look for any slight signs of graying or discoloration on especially the upper curvature of the logs. This will be where failure typically starts, as the upper curvature of the logs can reach a temperature of 170 degrees and up in the warmer months. This part of the logs is on a more direct angle with the sun and can get U.V. sunburn quite quickly, especially if the current finish does not have enough U.V. inhibitors in it. (Most do not). This is the most common area for finish failure to start. As soon as you see these subtle changes beginning, plan on getting a re-stain done soon! What you don't want to do is wait too long, because then there will be too much wood cell damage to be able to re-stain over it, as you would then be staining over what constitutes unsound wood. If you do that, more that likely your new stain will fail! It is much better and much cheaper to stay on top of the maintenance of your log home.
  • Are there any logs protruding beyond the roof-line, such as purlins or support beams? If so, consider cutting these back to behind the roof-line, or installing borate rods to protect them from excessive moisture.
  • At least once or twice a year, go over all exterior areas of the home and re-caulk any areas where gaps have opened up, including around windows and doors and in-between log courses.
  • Inspect closely any dormer areas on your home. These are a typical problem area on many log homes. Many times the logs on the sides of these areas butt up to the roof. The rain-water runs along the sides of the dormers and is wicked right into the ends of the logs. This is a common area to see dis-coloration very quickly and rot issues not too long after that. The best way to address this is to install flashing along the sides of the dormers.
  • I hope this inspection and maintenance guide has been helpful, and I look forward to expanding on this guide further and in more detail in a future article, as well as providing you with many more articles that address a multitude of the unique issues concerning log homes.

Jamie Fonder
Top-Coat Log Home Restoration LLC
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