Log Home Restoration: Defining Proper Stripping Techniques
If you have owned a log home for any length of time, I think it would be safe to say that you could conclude, log homes are fairly high maintenance. If you are thinking of buying a log home or just purchased one, you may be in for a surprise. Not necessarily a bad surprise, maybe more like an awakening.
Restoring a log home generally includes cleaning or stripping, repairing damaged wood, caulking and chinking and applying a new finish. At some point, because of stain failure or wanting to change the color of your log home, it will have to be stripped. Of all the maintenance procedures, stripping the old stain or paint off of your home is undoubtedly the most aggressive, labor intensive and expensive step.
With that being said, it is absolutely the most important, but oftentimes the most neglected step in the process.
The typical stripping procedure begins with an inspection of the logs and the existing coating. Once an assessment has been made, it will be determined which stripping application will be used. There are two methods generally used; chemical stripping and media blasting using crushed corn cob, glass or soda.
If it is determined that a latex paint or stain or certain types of "film forming" oil based stains have to be removed, media blasting is our preferred method. If it is determined that penetrating oil stains or sealers are present, chemical stripping is used.
Media blasting is similar to sand blasting, but is non-abrasive.
Compressed air mixed with blasting media (usually corn cob) is pushed through a hose at high velocity and directed at the log surface. When used properly, paint can be removed from glass without damaging the glass. In log home restoration, it is an effective means of removing the finish without damaging the substrate. Used improperly, you can quickly damage anything it may come in contact with.
When removing a finish, safety is of the utmost importance. Proper ear, face and body protection is necessary as well as proper staging to work from. The discharge hose is quite large and heavy so scaffolding works much better than ladders. At higher elevations, safety ropes and body harnesses are also needed.
Before the cob blasting begins certain precautions are taken. Because every log home leaks to some degree, (never worked on one that didn't) plastic is used to contain dust on the inside of the home. On the outside, vents, receptacles, heat & A/C units and other areas are covered. Also, porch and deck furniture will either be covered or removed to protect from dust infiltration. At this point the coating removal can begin.
Once the operator is in position, a ground man will load the machine with the media and engage the air compressor. The operator will begin stripping using a wide sweeping then lifting motion so as not to gouge the wood on the return pass. Starting at the top, one section at a time will be completely stripped before moving to the next section. When one side of the home if finished, staging will be moved and the process will start again until all coatings have been removed. Depending on the homeowner's preference and the final overall look, it may be necessary to sand the logs to reduce the profile to obtain the desired finish.
Once sanding is completed, the media blasting (stripping) process is finished and the next step in the log home restoration can begin.
The other method used, chemical stripping, involves applying a liquid stripping agent to the logs. Care must be taken on the interior of the home because of the possibility of water infiltration. Plastic tarps are placed around the inside perimeter of the home and cloth towels laid on top of the tarps. Furniture and wall hangings are removed and safely stored out of the work space area. Outside of the home all plants, shrubs, deck furniture, and other items are covered and protected from overspray. Porch lamps, ceiling fans, vents, receptacles and other items are covered or removed and stored in a safe location.
At this point the stripping process can begin. After determining a proper mix ratio, the chemical is applied spraying an even coat on the logs starting at the bottom and working up to prevent streaking. A predetermined dwell time is allotted to allow sufficient time to loosen and dissolve the coating. Once the coating has softened a pressure washer is used to dislodge and remove it from the surface. Starting at the top and working down, the pressure washer operator, just as in cob blasting, uses a long sweeping motion while raising the nozzle away from the wood at the end of each sweep. This prevents leaving stop marks and gouges on the logs. With each pass, the operator will slightly overlap the previous sweep assuring an efficient and clean strip. Special care is used around windows, doors, soffit vents and other sensitive spots so as not to push water in unwanted areas. While the stripping is taking place on the outside, my wife is monitoring the inside for water leaks.
If any are detected, they are wiped up immediately and tagged with a piece of tape. Later in the log home restoration, during the caulking or chinking process, the tagged leaking areas are identified and repaired as needed.
After all woodwork has been stripped, the house is rinsed to remove any remaining stain and wood fibers. Decks, porches, windows and doors, driveways and patios, foundations as well as plants and shrubs are washed and glass is dried streak free using squeegees. Tarps, plastic and towels are removed, furniture and other items are put in their proper places and stain residue and debris is swept up, bagged and disposed of.
The stripping is finished and the logs and woodwork are clean and free of any coatings. Most stain manufactures require that before applying any finish, the logs must be clean bare wood, free of previous coatings, oils, grease and mill glaze before any warranty will be honored.
Stripping is the only way to meet all of these requirements proving the importance of this process.
Preparation is one of the keys to sealer performance. Proper stripping technique is the first key to preparation. Log home restoration is a process and shortcuts lead to short comings. Do it right the first time by using proper maintenance procedures and quality products and you _WILL_ extend the life of your log home finish.