Log Home Restoration: Is Your New Log Home Stain Looking Old
If you have recently built or bought a new log home, then you know the joy and excitement of finally stepping back in time to the rustic feel and the slower paced lifestyle that a log home offers. You may have even said, "this is the life"!
However, if you have had your home for a couple of years, you may have noticed the stain is not looking as good as it once did. You may notice on the sunny side of the home premature fading and, or blisters and peeling. You may see black spots and patches showing through the stain that seem to be growing larger. I am often asked if this stain performance is the normal progression and is it to be expected. My answer is "yes under the circumstances." However, the answer should be no if the log home is properly prepared to receive the stain. If any of this sounds familiar, there is a good possibility more is going on with your logs than you might imagine.
When logs are first milled they are left with what is known in the industry as "Mill Glaze" on the surface of the logs. Caused from the fast spinning hot blades in the saw mill, it draws the sap to the surface of the wood and dries forming a thin glaze or film on the logs.
Also, when first milled, the logs generally have a high level of moisture either from being freshly cut logs or being left outside in the rain or both.
When a log home is built using these "green" and "mill glazed" logs, you can expect to have finish problems sooner rather than later. Once the logs are erected and the roof dried in, most of the time the builder will have it stained to keep any more dirt from accumulating from the ongoing construction. Good for the builder, bad for the homeowner. When this is done, several things are occurring.
First, with "green" or wet logs, not only will the stain not soak in properly, but the stain will trap water inside the logs, especially if it is a "Film Forming" stain. The film acts as a barrier to keep moisture out. However, it also keeps moisture in. With poor stain penetration, moisture trapped in the wood and the presence of mill glaze, it can be concluded that any amount of stain that may have seeped into the logs, will not stand much of a chance of having a lasting effect or offer much protection.
Another problem with having green and/or mill glazed logs is the real possibility of the presence of mildew and wood fungus.
Logs are often stored outdoors. Some companies store them in shelters, some do not. Either way, they attract dust, dirt and if in the southeastern US. most likely mildew. They then are shipped to the job site where they sit for at least a few weeks to months before being erected. Still attracting dirt and mildew. Now once erected, if the stain is applied, it not only does not soak in properly, but it also seals in any dirt, dust, mildew or anything else that may have floated by.
Now, combine green logs with mill glaze, some dirt and mildew and (it is not unusual to see a footprint or two tracked on a few logs) and you have the ideal surface for certain stain and finish failure!
There are two ways to solve these problems.
First, the homeowner will _have to make certain_ that the logs are properly cleaned after the construction and before any stain, sealer or other finish is applied. This may not be as easy as it seems. Dealing with time constraints, banking personnel, inspectors and the GC. can pose their own challenges. However, if you have the time to keep an eye on the project (which often times is impossible) and can stress to all involved that you expect this cleaning procedure to be preformed before any stain is applied, and you stick to your guns, it may just happen.
The second way and also the most expensive as well as the least desirable is the dreaded chemical strip or cob blasting. Depending on the product used on the logs will dictate the removal process. The old stain will have to come off so that the mildew and other contaminants under the stain can be removed. Although the logs may look clean after stripping, we always do a chlorine wash to make sure any mildew spores left deep in the wood cells will be destroyed. Due to the microscopic size of the mildew spores, there is no way of knowing by looking to see if the wood is completely cleaned or not.
Once the stripping process is complete, the next and most important step is allowing the logs proper drying time. This is vital! Let me stress it again. This is VITAL! If the logs are not dry, you have not only wasted your time going through the stripping process, but you are right back where you were when you started.
Logs and wood in general should be as dry as possible. The dryer the wood the more the stain will be absorbed. (Just like a sponge.) Now the question becomes," how do you know when it is dry enough?" There is only one true way.Use a moisture meter.
The moisture meter has two probes that are inserted into the wood and records the moisture content. Remember, the dryer, the better. Depending on the location, humidity and weather conditions, the ideal moisture content for applying a sealer should be at least 18% or lower. A 12% reading is about as good as one can expect to get in the southeastern United States. If the sealer is applied within this range, you will get an acceptable absorption rate and proper adhesion resulting in maximum protection and performance.
No stain, sealer or any other finish will hold up if the logs are dirty, have mill glaze or are green and have high moisture content. Proper preparation is paramount. There is no other way to obtain proper absorption and adhesion of any sealer in order to provide a long lasting finish without first having a clean and dry log.
This is one log home restoration project that the homeowner could avoid if they are aware of this simple yet extremely important process. In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure.