Consider This When Sealing a Newly Constructed Log Home
Newly constructed log homes are usually stained and sealed as soon as the "dry in" is completed or shortly thereafter. Nothing wrong with that right? Well here are a few things that should be considered before applying a beautiful natural wood finish to your brand new log home.
First, newly constructed homes are often built with "green logs." Green logs are logs that have been cut and still have high moisture content. Many log home manufactures "kiln dry" their logs which eliminates this problem but many do not. Green or wet logs as they dry will shrink causing checks or cracks to appear, as well as twisting and warping. The biggest problem with this is it causes windows and doors to not operate properly, seams to pull apart and butt joints to separate creating air and water leaks as well as a way for insects to enter the home.
There is also a good chance the logs were recently milled or shaped. The milling process creates "mill glaze"- a thin waxy film that can keep penetrating stains from absorbing into the wood. What this means to the homeowner is, if the sealer does not soak into the logs properly, it will not last. Add to this the fact that the wood grain of new logs or any wood for that matter, is very tight also prohibiting the sealer from penetrating properly.
All of these will prevent the sealer from properly penetrating and result in premature finish failure. Oftentimes this is unavoidable due to the manufacture's building requirements or sometimes bank loan requirements.
That's the bad news. The good news is, properly cleaning the logs will eliminate two of the problems. Time is the only way to solve the "green" wet log problem.
To prepare a newly constructed log home for sealing, we generally use a 12% chlorine/TSP solution. The chlorine will kill and remove any mold and mildew while the TSP removes dirt, construction debris and opens the pores of the wood. The solution is applied with a sprayer starting from the bottom and working up. Always start at the bottom. If you start at the top and work down, you will end up with streaks in the logs that are hard to remove creating unnecessary work.
Once applied, the solution is allowed to dwell for a predetermined length of time. A light mist is applied to areas that begin to dry so as to keep the solution moist and working. If it dries on the wood, you will have unwanted problems that could and should be avoided. Working in small sections at a time is required.
Once the dwell time is met, a pressure washer is used to remove any mildew, mill glaze and dirt. It should be mentioned that the pressure washer is used more for water volume rather than water pressure. A pressure washer in untrained hands can do irreversible damage to the logs. Less than 1000 psi.... preferably 5oo to 600 is ideal. To give a comparison, the typical carwash is around 1500. Once the logs have been cleaned and rinsed, the job is NOT finished. I emphasize not because the next step is just as important as the cleaning but more often than not, it is overlooked or just plain ignored for financial reasons.
That step is neutralizing the wood. Chlorine, strippers and other types of cleaners, even dish washing liquid are caustic materials and raise the ph levels in the wood. This is evidenced by the wood turning dark after the chemical is applied. If caustic chemicals remain in the wood, it can and will react with the newly applied finish resulting in poor performance and premature finish failure.
A good example is if you have ever gotten bleach or even a dish detergent on your hands and found it very slippery and hard to rinse off, the same is true with the logs. No amount of water will remove all of the caustic chemical from the wood. Therefore it must be neutralized. Once neutralized, it still must be rinsed very well to be sure the ph balance is back to normal. The best way to know is to test the water run off with ph test strips like are found at a swimming pool supply store. If a neutral reading is obtained from the runoff, you have successfully removed all the caustic chemicals from the wood.
The neutralizing process is not hard however, it does take more time, but the benefits far out weigh any associated costs. Moreover, if it will cause the finish to last longer, surely it is well worth it.
Ideally, on a newly constructed log home, it is best to wait a few months to allow the logs to fully dry and to weather a bit. Then with the proper cleaning the logs will be ready to accept a quality sealer. Preparing the logs and applying a finishing in this fashion will ensure optimal sealer performance and keep your new log home looking beautiful for many years.