What You Should Know Before Staining Your Log Home
For those of us that enjoy living in a log home, it's not only the true American dream but, there is something fulfilling about waking up with the natural smell of the wood. The massive logs and beams give a sense of safety and security. And just the rustic nature takes you away from the hustle and bustle of the busy lifestyle many live today.
With all the advantages of log home living, like everything else, there are trade-offs. Most log home owners, by no fault of their own, are not fully aware of all that is required to properly maintain their homes. Sun, wind, water and insects are a constant threat to the integrity of the home. While most log homes are finished with semi transparent stains to reveal the beauty of the wood, compared to semi solid and solid stains, they offer the least protection from the elements.
It must be taken into consideration when choosing a new finish what is important to the homeowner. If the log home is the permanent residence, then the owner has the ability to perform routine inspections of the logs, trim, caulking and chinking and overall appearance from time to time. This will allow more options when deciding what type of sealer to apply. If the property is a vacation or rental home and only visited a few times a year, the options are less.
It's all about the finish. Latex vs. Oil. Latex and many oil based stains are "film-forming stains". They actually form a film on the wood. They usually have a sheen or gloss, and can be detected by the drip and lap marks left from sloppy workers. They often peel, blister and flake leaving traffic patterns where people walk. Some require 2 to 3 coats depending on the type and many require maintenance coats every year to 18 months. They do hold up well when properly applied and maintained and when the wood is prepped correctly. However, poor wood preparation is the leading cause of most premature finish failures. Wood prep and proper application is critical!
Oil stains are generally linseed or paraffin based oils. Some linseed oil stains can be film forming having the same characteristics as latex stains. They can peel and blister and show lap marks and traffic patterns. They tend to be the big box store products aimed at the do-it-yourselfer and generally last around a year then begin to darken, peel and blister. They offer some protection, but are hard to maintain and usually require recoats as often as within six months to keep the wood looking fresh. Because of the film, most can not be recoated (because of penetrating issues) and require chemical stripping to prep the wood for a new coat. Linseed oil stains feed mildew. Being a vegetable based product the mildew actually grows on the organic fillers in the oil causing the mildew to spread. They are widely used but do not perform well enough to be applied to an expensive log home.
Paraffin oil based stains are true penetrating stains and are not "film forming". The oil is of a thinner consistency than linseed oil and therefore absorbs deeper into the grain of the wood. Depending on the age and condition of the wood, the absorption rate per square foot can double compared to linseed oils. Being petroleum based, it does not feed or attract mildew, although this is not to say that mildew will not be found especially in shaded areas. In the Southeastern states, mildew can appear most anywhere. But it is more resistant than linseed oil which actually feeds the mildew.
Being a penetrating stain, rather than leaving traffic wear patterns, drips, and lap marks, it completely absorbs into the wood leaving nothing to blister or peel. It simply just wears away over time. Depending on location and weather conditions a typical application should last 4 to 5 years on vertical surfaces (walls and railings) and 2 to 3 years on horizontal surfaces (roofs and decks). If the homeowner wants a longer lasting finish, consideration should be given to semi- solid and solid stains. They will last longer but you loose the beautiful wood grain showing through. And they too are "film forming stains". The trade off is if you enjoy the natural wood grain look, the home will need more attention. If the wood grain look is not as important and a more solid finish is acceptable, the home can be attended to less frequently. Whether semi-transparent, semi-solid or solid, log homes require more attention than a conventional home. What finish you choose depends on personal preference and knowing what to expect from different types of stains and how they perform.