Log Home Restoration: Two Of The Most Asked Questions from New Log Home Owners
The following log home restoration questions are two of the most often asked by new log home owners. By new I mean, new to them and may or may not be a newly constructed log home. Oftentimes the owner or future owner knows very little about a log home except they love the look, they want one and what they have read in a log home magazine. Then comes REALITY!
This is not meant to scare people from buying a log home but to the contrary, educate them so they know what to expect when they have owned one for a few years and are starting to see signs of maintenance. Knowing what you are getting is much better than getting something you know little about and then finding out, "nobody told me about this or that."
These answers have been condensed. If the question is not answered to your satisfaction, please consult a professional that can go into more detail.
Can you power wash my log home and apply another coat of stain?
The answer is "yes" but is it the recommended way to maintain a log home finish? The answer is no. Power washing is only needed if the home has to be stripped meaning taking off the old stain. Depending on the type of stain on the home will dictate the proper procedure for preparing and re-applying a new sealer. If it is a latex stain or paint and is intact, then a mild detergent with a small amount of bleach to kill any mildew spores applied with low or no pressure will work fine. A garden sprayer or a bucket and brush can be used to apply the solution. Working from the bottom to the top and in sections (to prevent streaking) a light brushing should remove any dirt, pollen, mildew or other contaminants. Once cleaned a garden hose is all that is needed to rinse the debris from the logs and other woodwork. If any existing stain comes off while cleaning in this manner, there is a good possibility the home needs to be stripped. If the stain comes off that easy with a brush, it must have poor adhesion and a new stain should not be applied on top of a stain that is coming off. If the stain is intact then a new stain can be applied after the wood has had sufficient drying time. If it is an oil based stain, consult a professional.
My log home is only two years old and the honey colored stain is fading badly and it also has black stuff that some will come off and some will not. With it being only two years old, what's the problem?
There are several things going on at once in this situation. With the home being only two years old indicates that more likely than not the logs were not cleaned properly prior to sealing. With new construction homes the best method for sealing is first to do nothing. This usually don't happen, but if the homeowner knew what was being done to their brand new home, they probably would think twice before staining as soon as the logs go up or shortly after.
The problem begins before the first log is laid. New logs have oftentimes been freshly cut down and are "green" or wet from water and tree sap. Some log home manufactures "kiln dry" their logs and that takes care of this problem. But most log home manufactures don't have expensive oven kilns.
The next problem is "Mill Glaze." This is the bi-product of the milling process in which the logs are run through fast turning blades that shape the logs and cuts the tongue and groove. These fast turning blades heat the wood and in turn draw the sap to the surface. After the sap cools, it forms a film or "glazes" on the surface and prevents any stain from penetrating.
Finally, there is a good possibility the logs were not cleaned properly to remove not only dirt but more importantly mold and mildew. Too many times I have gone to a customer's log home and found the same thing over and over again; logs that were not properly cleaned and prepped for sealing.
What has happened is the logs were sealed shortly after construction, sometimes not being washed at all. Just because a log looks bright and clean does not necessarily mean it is. Usually it is not clean upon close inspection.
The result is a wet log that has mill glaze and most likely mold and mildew, (even though it is not visible by the eye,) and has been sealed. Any wood should have no more than a 20% moisture content before any type of finish is applied. The reason is because the finish will not adhere properly and the wood is a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Moreover, all this is being sealed in. So you have a log that has moisture, mold and mildew and it is sealed. Is it any wonder the finish is fading and turning black?
All of this is can be easily avoided if the logs are allowed to "weather" for a short period of time. A good rule of thumb is to wait until the logs start to turn slightly gray. Then do a thorough cleaning using a chlorine and TSP solution. The chlorine will kill any mold and mildew and the TSP cleans the wood and also removes any remaining mill glaze. Of course this is not the fastest or cheapest way to have the home sealed, but if all the time and money has been poured into building the home, it seems logical to spend a bit more to make sure the house is prepped and the finish applied correctly so to last more that a couple of years.
It's either spend a little more in the beginning and do it right or come back in a couple of years frustrated and spending much more to strip the entire home and do it all over again. Only this time RIGHT!
Taskmasters Wood Maintenance