We asked Sashco, one of the leading log and timber home stain producers, to share some key points about maintaining and protecting your log or timber home.
Since it is a combination of water and sun (UV rays) that does the most damage to finishing products, it is wise to incorporate long eave overhangs, and, when possible, porches into your home design. Another design element that will extend the life of stain is a good gutter system. This system will keep water from sheeting down the logs and direct the water away from your home. And, do not forget the log ends; make certain that log corners and purlins are well under the eaves. By incorporating these design elements into your plans, you will positively influence the longevity of the stain on your home.
Another factor to consider is the style of log that you choose. If you prefer the look of rounded logs, be prepared for more maintenance. The upper curvature of rounded logs takes the full force of the sun, whereas the lower curvature has less exposure to damaging UV rays. This type of log requires that a coat of stain be applied to the upper curvature of the log periodically. This will keep an equal appearance between the upper and lower curvature of the logs. This step may be necessary only on portions of walls that are receiving extreme and constant sun.
Prior to staining, the single most critical factor in preventing premature stain maintenance is proper prep work of the logs. There are five words that sum up the best in proper wood surface prep: clean, sound, warm, dry, and textured.
Clean wood is free from mill glaze, dirt, pollen, wax, mold, bird droppings, etc. A buildup of these elements prevents stains from penetrating and bonding to the wood surface. The cleaner the logs, the better the stain can anchor into the wood.
Sound wood is wood that has not suffered surface damage from UV exposure. Surface damage is apparent when the natural color of the logs starts to turn a progressively deepening yellow color that then turns to gray. Depending on the location of your home, this process can happen in a matter of weeks. As the UV degradation continues, the wood fibers loosen and detach from the bulk of the wood substrate. If you stain over this fragile and damaged surface, the stain can lose adhesion along with the deteriorating wood fibers. Therefore, you should sand, media blast, or aggressively power wash any wood left unprotected for an extended period of time. This will remove the damaged surface wood fibers prior to applying any coating.
Warm wood is ideal for stain application. If the wood surface is too hot, the coating may start to dry before proper wetting, penetration, and adhesion can occur. If the wood surface is too cold, the wood cells in their contracted state can prevent penetration and anchoring of oil-based stains. Water-based stains can start to freeze before they adhere to the wood. The perfect warm wood surface temperature is between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (4-32 degrees Celsius). Remember, we are talking surface temperature of the logs, not ambient air temperature.
Dry wood, as defined by the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, contains 19% or less moisture. Coatings can blister and peel if applied to logs with a 20%+ moisture content. Before applying any coating, you should rent or borrow a moisture meter to check the moisture content of your logs. If the reading is 20% or greater, do not stain. It is better to wait than to have to repair blistering, peeling stain.
Textured wood has had its surface roughened up by sanding, a light cob blasting, or any other, similar abrasive methods. This roughening will greatly enhance stain penetration, improve adhesion, and provide more stain durability than application to a highly smooth surface. This is particularly true on the upper curvature of logs.
The first year after the initial stain application, you want to carefully inspect the overall appearance of the stain. Check if there are areas that did not receive an initially adequate amount of stain. This can happen in localized areas when the stain is first applied. If you locate such areas, simply clean the surfaces with damp rags or bristle brushes to remove dirt, pollen, etc. Then apply a light coat of stain, feathering it into adjoining areas.
Once you have inspected your home and addressed any areas that may have needed another light coat of stain, you should consider applying a compatible clear topcoat on the entire structure. Clear topcoats are extremely easy to apply and can extend the life of the pigmented coats of stain underneath. The clear topcoats are sacrificial coats that take the brunt of weathering, protecting, and thus, extend the life of the pigmented coats. They are very easy to apply, and because they are clear, the color of your logs does not darken as it would if you applied repeated coats of pigmented stain. Eventually, however, you will need to decide when to apply more pigmented stain for the best overall appearance and protection.
While you are inspecting the stain, also look for any checks that may have opened up on the upper curvature of the logs. Checks on the upper curvature can take in water from rain and snow. Therefore, it is important to pay close attention to these openings, and prep and seal them properly.
Finally, walk around and inspect your home every fall and spring. Look for the obvious:
- bushes that have overgrown and are scraping the home,
- trees that have matured and the canopy is now dripping water down the logs,
- gutters that need repair,
- sprinklers that need adjusting because they are spraying water on the logs,
- and “stuff” that is being stacked against the logs.
These are simple things to correct, but doing them can prolong the life of your stain, allowing you time to enjoy your home instead of working on maintaining it.