Frequently Asked Questions Related to Log Home Restoration & Protection

What are the differences between oil (solvent) based stains and water (latex / acrylic) based stains ?
Not many years ago oil based stains were the majority of what was used on log homes. Things have changedÖand drastically. While the oil stains have changed (and improved) a bit over the years, the technological advances they have made pale in comparison to the improvements that water based stains have demonstrated. We can apply either one.

Regarding the differences, there are many. Latex easily cleans up with soap and water while oils require a solvent based cleaner. There are no lingering odors (that some are very sensitive to) with latex stains which can be very apparent with oils. Water based stains dry much, much faster (often drying to the touch in 2 hours). While some oils dry relatively quickly (in a day or so), some will remain tacky for weeks, and in some cases, years, at which time they are prone to attract pollens, dust and dirt until they dry. One needs to wait a longer period of time before chinking over oils than they do over latex. You wouldnít want to chink over a sticky, greasy log, which obviously could inhibit adhesion. Independent University studies have been done that show oils can be an attractant to insects as some thrive living off the sugars in some oils.

Some oils will soak in a bit deeper than water based stains, although this isnít noticeable with the naked eye. An acrylic is more of a protective film forming finish and keeps the surface area of the log protected, where protection is most needed. Labels of some oil based stains require 3 coats, which triple the cost when comparing dollars vs. 1-coat waterborne stains.

If pressure washing, youíll need to wait a longer period of time to apply an oil based stain while an acrylic can often be applied to logs 24 hours after theyíve been washed. If applying an acrylic, you can often stain with 24 hours after pressure washing, depending on the temperature and how quickly the logs dry.

How often do I need to replace my stain ?
Welcome to the question that has no answerÖor at least no uniform answer. One might ask, ďHow often do you WANT to replace your stain?Ē There are well too many factors that will determine the longevity of stain including but not limited to: brand of stain, application technique, moisture content of wood when applied, wall exposure, temperature during application, how long one waits after they clean their home until they stain, how often (and how) your log walls are cleaned and species of wood. If youíre reapplying your stain every year youíre either using the wrong product or you should consider altering your application method, or pay more attention to some of the above factors.

If Iíve applied an oil based stain on my logs in the past, does my new stain application need to be an oil as well ?
In most cases the answer is no. Remember, you can apply a water based stain over oil easier than you can apply oil over a water based stain, which is the opposite of what many think. With an oil penetrating deeper into the wood and leaving less protection on the surface, this allows for the waterborne stains to attach to the fibers of the wood and create a film forming finish. On the other hand, applying oil over a film forming acrylic finish, the oils wonít penetrate in order to get to the wood; it will just lie on top.

Can I put my stain on now and apply my clear coat finish in a few months, or next year ?
You can, but itís not recommended. Remember, the longer you wait the more your increase the probability dust, pollens, mildew, etc. may settle on your logs. If you do need to wait a few months to apply your clear coat finish, itís always a good idea to give your home a light washing with a mild log detergent and rinsing; not enough to take off the stain, but enough to remove dirt, dust, pollens and any early stages of mildew. Check out this amazing picture of what a difference wiping your dirty logs with water can make.

What does the temperature need to be for stain or chinking to be applied ?
49-90 degrees Fahrenheit is a safe temperature. You might be able to go a bit cooler. The most important thing to remember is to not apply any stain or sealant on wood that may have a fine layer of frost or ice which will cause interference when adhering to the wood.

I donít want to ďstainĒ my logs; I just want to use a clear sealer. What do I use ?
Some log homeowners choose to go simply with a clear sealer and no stain (pigment). If you do this, your logs are guaranteed to darken much quicker. For the most part, clear sealers do not offer UV protection. Pigment is what offers UV protection. Although recommended with all waterborne stains, UV-Boost should be automatic if going strictly with a clear.

Can I put the exterior clear coat on the interior of my home ?
You may, and while an interior clear coat is recommended, interior products are different than the exterior clear coat which is applied over the stain. Applying an interior grade acrylic gloss or satin will allow for light reflection and keep the logs much cleaner. When they do get dusty, they can be wiped clean with a damp towel or sponge much easier than with no clear coat. This application will also do a good job at preventing odors (pet, smoke, cooking) from absorbing into the logs. You can apply this product on bare wood or over a stain. Remember to make sure you like the color of your wood before application as the gloss or satin clear coat will not ever wear off, and brushing on a colored stain on top will be very, very difficult, if not impossible. Remember, clear coat finishes designed for logs should NEVER be applied to decks or interior hardwood floors.

How do I determine how much stain or chinking I need if my house is 1,800 square feet ?
Perhaps 6-7 gallons of a 1-coat stain. Generally speaking, your exterior log wall surface area youíll be staining should be less than your living square footage area. For example, if your 1 story house is 36í x 48í, your living area will be close to 1,700 square feet. Using these dimensions, assuming 10 foot high walls, your wall square footage is approximately 1,500 square feet.

Add a few feet for the log ends and square footage area where logs intersect in the corner and perhaps youíre at 1,600. However, perhaps your wall area is 20% window. This now puts your staining area at 1,280 square feet. Perhaps you can add on a few hundred feet for your exterior garage walls that arenít taken into consideration when calculating living square footage. Also, the curvature of your logs will add a few more square feet. Depending on these factors, living square footage will be close to the square footage youíll be staining (but a little less). Water based stains will yield an average of 300 square feet per gallon while the clear coat finish coverage will be MUCH greater.

My log home was just completed. Do I need to stain now or can I wait until Spring ?
The sooner you stain after your home is built, the less you need to be concerned with cleaning it. Itís not at all unusual for clean, new logs to discolor a bit once exposed to the elements in just a few weeks. Certainly if you wait several months (including either a damp, cool winter which could cause mildew or a sun exposed summer which will allow for UV graying) after the home is built, youíll end up cleaning it prior to staining. Keep in mind that UV ďdamageĒ, or the graying effect sun has on wood, does not damage your logs, itís simply considered unsightly by most.

Can I use a roller to apply my stain ?
NEVER apply any stain on a log with a roller. More than likely youíll been inconsistent with your uniform coating. Spraying (with back brushing) or brush applications always work the best. Unlike dyes, log home stains are also not applied then wiped off with a rag.

Can I stain over my chinking ?
Yes, although it will absorb stain quite a bit different than the wood will.

staining over chinking

Why is my stain weathered (faded, peeling, dirty, etc.) on just one or two walls ?
This is not unusual at all. The Western and Southern walls take a beating from the elements much quicker than the Eastern and Northern walls. You may find more mildew, however, on the Eastern and Northern areas (including your deck).

My stain is supposed to have a mildewcide in it, so why is there mold/mildew on my logs ?
No stain known to man (or woman) will prevent mildew or mold growth, regardless whether they have a mildewcide mixed in or not. Dry wood is what prevents mildew. Certainly, an additional dose of mildewcide which can be added to the stain will make it that much more difficult for mildew to thrive. But itís no guarantee it wonít ever appear. There are 4 mandated conditions needed to allow for the growth of mildew. They are: the presence of food, moisture, oxygen and temperature. If any of these 4 conditions are eliminated, so will the conditions needed for mildew to grow. The wood is the food source. We have no control over the temperature and we need oxygen.

A piece of wood kept submerged in water wonít accumulate mildew (no oxygen). The only condition we can alter is moisture. If you keep your wood dry, mildew shouldnít be a problem (how often do you find mildew on the INSIDE of your home?). A quality stain AND clear coat finish will help eliminate your logs from absorbing moisture. The magic number for moisture content in your logs is 19%. At 20% or higher, mildew can accumulate. Mildew is not damaging to woodÖitís only unsightly and in most cases, can be cleaned off with relative ease.

Can I add pigment to my clearcoat finish ?
No. Pigments donít mix properly in a clear coat finish. Simply put, the pigments in the stain protects the wood while the clear coat finish does a good job at protecting the pigments from Mother Nature.

Will a pressure washing cause water to leak into my house ? Chances are yes, but not always. It depends on how tight your seams and joints are. Pressure washing can be a very cost-effective method to clean your logs without needing to go to the more expensive (yet effective) corncob blasting. Itís always best to have someone inside the house when pressure washing the exterior to notice any water infiltration. If youíre going to chink your home as well, you can always plug in the foam backing rod prior to pressure washing which will help eliminate most of the water leaking through, since in most cases youíll be installing backing rod anyway. Wait a period of 2-4 months between when you chink and when you pressure wash.

What do I put on first, Perma-Chink or stain ?
Technically, it doesnít matter. There arenít many stains Perma-Chink wonít stick to. Keep in mind, some oil based stains can remain sticky and greasy for weeks, or longer. This increases the chances of an adhesion challenge. Most will stain first and chink second. With water based stains, chinking can often be done in a matter of hours after staining. Some (although not many) will choose to chink first then stain on top.

This eliminates the chance of the stain interfering with the chinking adhering to the wood (when an oil is used) and will also allow for the chinking to blend in a little better having been stained. While chinking will accept a stain, youíll be left with a chink joint that simply doesnít look as clean and crisp as most homeowners prefer. If you chink first, while you donít need to wait for the chinking to cure prior to staining, you do need to wait for it to skin over enough so that when brushing the stain, you wonít create a mess with your chink joint.

What do I do with the butt ends (exposed) of my logs ?
Log End Seal, a product specifically designed to seal the porous ends of logs should be applied. Itís brush applied somewhat heavily (itís a VERY thick product) over the stain, it dries clear and can be applied on smooth ends or rough cut. If rough, the Log End Seal will take a bit longer to dry clear, perhaps as much as a day.

I need to clean my logs. What do I use ?
There are many techniques and products that can be used to return that ďnew log lookĒ to your home. corn cob blasting, chemical strippers, pressure washing, sanding, grinding, log cleaners, bleach and buffers are all used, depending on precisely the condition of your logs, what stain has been applied, how log itís been since it was last coated, how many coats are applied, how much mildew has accumulated and how much of the original stain is still on the logs. Combine these variables with the results you want.

Perhaps you want to strip everything off and get down to clean, light, bare wood. Perhaps a little soap and water will give you the results you can live with. Keep in mind, donít stain over mildew as it will more than likely continue to spread either underneath the stain or within the stain itself. On an older home that hasnít been cared for in several years, itís not unusual to spend more time prepping the logs for stain than the time spent staining. Donít take shortcuts !

I have mold/mildew on my logs, what do I do ?
Definitely remove it, ESPECIALLY if applying a new stain. Mildew can and will continue to grow under a stain. Plus, if itís excessive growth, it can inhibit the adhesion of your new stain to your logs. A strongly diluted bleach/water solution (4:1) may do the trick. Oxalic acid, a very inexpensive wood brightener also usually works and wonít damage the top fibers of the wood like bleach can do. Sanding also works and while sanding your logs always gives you the best results, itís also the most time consuming and most expensive technique (if youíre having a contractor do the work).

How long will Perma-Chink last (either on the wall or in the pail) ?
In most cases, chinking has very little maintenance once applied. It certainly isnít something that you have to redo every 5-10 years. When properly applied, it should last the life of your home.

There have been many reports that Perma-Chink longevity in a pail surpasses any other sealant. Iíve heard of it still being very workable after 7-10 years, or longer. If your intent is to keep a pail for a long period of time, keep it out of direct sunlight and it would be best if it doesnít freeze. When storing a partially used pail, throw in a wet rag or towel and make sure the lid is on airtight.

Should I wait a year for my new house to settle a year before chinking it?
There are different thoughts on this. Most homeowners do not wait a year, particularly on a chink style log home. In doing so youíll have an enormous amount of air (and possibly water) infiltration. If you have a chinkless style home, your logs are quite a bit tighter fit and it may not be as critical. If you chink a newly stacked log home and chink right away to cut down on infiltration, you may observe some splits in the chinking the following year. It's usually very easy to repair and seldom happens a second time.

Splits are often caused by not using enough chinking (width or thickness). Remember, on round logs the rule of thumb is to apply a band 1 inch wide for every 6 inches of log diameter. If you have 18 inch logs and chink them with a 3/8Ē wide chink joint, splitting is almost guaranteed. The larger the logs the more strength they possess when contracting, expanding, twisting, etc. Regardless of the width of the chink joint, the thickness should always be the sameÖ.3/8Ē to ĹĒ (max).

I have log siding, Will chinking work?
Perma-Chink not only will work, but it some cases it could be more important to chink log siding than a true log wall. Log siding (or half logs) are mechanically attached to plywood or OSB sheathing. If water finds a way between the logs it more than likely wonít get to the inside of your home. With a traditional log wall, in most cases youíll at least know you have a moisture infiltration problem by signs of interior water stains. With log siding, the moisture can be trapped between the sheathing and backside of the log, with no indication of a problem, so youíll have no reason to act on itÖ.until itís too late. (i.e. potential wood rot).

I have a Swedish cope, tongue in groove, notched log or my logs had a piece of foam or caulk applied between them as it was stacked. Do I still need chinking?
In many cases your logs still need to be sealed. In some cases, they donít. While a good sealant (foam tape, caulk or backing rod) applied between the logs when stacked will help cut down on moisture and drafts, it canít take the place of what an exterior sealant will do. Without this sealant, moisture could possibly still get to the internal gasket and while it may not reach your living room carpet, it could sit there and cause the early stages of rot, or possibly filter down into a crack.

An exterior sealant will prevent water from even getting to that point. If you have a chinkless style home, keep an eye on it. Iíve seem some I can stick my hand through after 6 months, and Iíve seen some stay weather tight after several years.

My logs are already chinked. Can I apply Perma-Chink over it or does the old chinking need to be removed ?
You can usually go either way. Thereís no doubt that chinking over foam backing rod vs. existing mortar will leave you with a much cleaner, crisper, newer look. It can be very difficult and time consuming chinking over rough mortar. The decision usually depends on how pristine or rustic of a chink joint you want. Old mortar often can be pulled out in chucks very easily. At times you may need to chisel it out. When removing mortar, youíll probably find thousands of staples or small nails within the concrete that youíll need to pull out. Youíll also usually have (depending on the log radius) a much smaller chink joint if the mortar is removed. If keeping it in place, your new chink joint will be wider than what you have now considering youíll need to apply your Perma-Chink beyond whatís already there to make sure you get new adhesion on the log.

What type of caulk should I use around my windows and doors?
Stick with the caulk to seal your bathtub and go with a sealant designed for wood to seal up windows and doors. For more information on different caulks see the table. Energy Seal is my product of choice, which is designed for wood and always retains its flexibility. It can also be stained. Perma-Chink also can be used . Hardware grade caulks simply arenít used on log homes.

Can I use Perma-Chink or Energy Seal for my checks since I have some left over ?
You may but there is also a product specifically designed for filling cracks (or checks). Homeowners often want a contrast with texture and color when using chinking, but usually want the checks in the logs to blend in a little more. When filling checks, particularly on wide ones stuff some soft foam backing rod 3/8Ē below the surface of the logs, then fill and smooth out. It doesnít hurt to pour in some Shell-Guard first. If your checks have been exposed to the weather, chances are some water has gotten in and the possibility exists some rot may be growing. Shell-Guard will help kill the rot and help prevent it from getting any worse.

Will Shell-Guard eliminate all pests?
Yes and no. Shell-Guard (probably the most popular glycol based log preservative in the industry) will kill any carpenter ants, termites or beetles that bite into treated wood. After the Shell-Guard and stain have dried, small critters wonít be effected if there are cracks or open seams that allow them access. Once they bite into the wood, the borate solution disrupts their digestive system, causing them to starve to death.

Unlike powder based powder / water mixtures which are topical (yet effective) treatments, Shell-Guard penetrates very deep into the wood. This isnít a process you need to repeat. Once treated, your log is protected for good as long as you keep it sealed and stained. Shell-Guard only effects critters that chew into the wood. It is not effective against carpenter bees or woodpeckers. It will, however, help kill fungus and dry rot which are wood ingesting parasites.

Why do I still have bugs in my home or newly formed termite holes in my logs since I applied a borate preservative last year ?
There could be a few reasons for this. Keep in mind, once the Shell-Guard soaks in and cures, it only effects critters that chew into the wood. Itís not a contact killer (unless itís still wet). Even though carpenter ants donít eat wood, they do chew through it in order to make their tunnels, so they too are effected. If you have gaps allowing bugs to get inside your home, borates wonít stop them. Also, it could take years for beetle larvae to hatch and chew their way out of your logs so even though you may see some new holes, the culprits will die after doing so.

If you find carpenter ants in your home within a few days of the first warm, sunny weather in March or April, this will suggest they are coming from a nest which exists in or very near your home. If you donít observe carpenter ants until weeks or possibly months after the start of spring weather, chances are they are migrating in simply looking for food. Finding large swarms of winged ants indoors is a sure sign than an indoor next exists. Carpenter ants prefer damp wood, but will infest dry wood as wellÖalthough this is not as common.

I have some wood rot and log deterioration. What do I do ?
If the rot seems severe and if youíre concerned with what true damage can result from it, have it looked at by a structural engineer. Small areas of rot can be very easily fixed with epoxy and wood fillers. There may be cases where logs need to be replaced, but these are rare and generally only take place on homes that have been totally neglected for many, many years. When patching areas of rot, itís always a good idea to apply some Shell-Guard, especially if the rot is still wet and active.

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