Stains and Finishes For Log Homes

Stains & Finishes FAQ
Avoid Peeling Finishes and Sunburned Logs
Clear Finishes? Know What To Expect
Considerations When Purchasing A Log Home Finish
Get The Most From Your Log Home Finish
How Much Log Stain Do I Need?

Avoid Peeling Finishes and Sunburned Logs
Sunburned logIn this photo you can see the finish has blistered, cracked, and is starting to peel. This has happened because the finish has lost its adhesion. (Notice the top area where the log has become sunburned and turned gray).
One of the factors for peeling is the moisture content of the logs when they were coated. If the logs were too wet (20% or higher), the logs will continue to dry out and as they dry the resident moisture will move from the center of the log outwards to the surface. The moisture will form on the surface of the log between the finish and the wood. If the finish is very thick and heavy, a blister will form because the moisture can't pass through the barrier of the finish. If your logs are still quite green, we suggest that you apply only one coat of finish. This will give the logs some protection while still allowing the moisture to escape out through the one coat of finish. Once the logs have dried out to 19% or less, then you can apply the remaining coats. You can test the moisture content of your logs with a Moisture Meter. Also, moisture can also occur from checks holding water. When heat from the sun reaches and heats the log’s surface, the moisture is pulled to the surface causing a break in the wood-to-finish adhesion.
Any type of finish, either oil or water based can peel. Remember, it is the amount of finish build up that will provide the potential for peeling. Penetrating finishes tend to peel less because instead of acting like a plastic coating on the logs, they don't build up into one thick coating (less "plastic") thus, allowing moisture to escape out through the thinner coating. They do tend to weather away over time and will need to be recoated periodically to maintain their protective qualities.
The gray, sunburned area on the top of the log shown in the picture is a result of prolonged, direct sunlight. This can be remedied by extending the eaves and overhangs to allow for more protection from the sun. Also, avoid using clear finishes because they provide less UV protection from the sun. You could also plant shade trees to help deflect the direct sunlight.
If your logs are sunburned you can typically get by with sanding down the sunburned areas with either a disc or an orbital sander and then reapplying your finish. You will need to reapply the same number of coats as the rest of the wall to match the color of the rest of the wall. Tip: When you are reapplying the finish to match the rest of the wall it is better to apply too much and make the sanded areas look darker then to not add enough so they look lighter. The darker areas will tend to look natural where lighter areas will stick out and look distinctively unnatural.

Clear Finishes? Know What To Expect

We receive a lot of phone calls from customers across the U.S. who have either applied a clear finish on their log home or they would like to have one on their home. They want to keep the natural look of the logs.

Those who have already tried a clear finish are reporting they have to keep re-applying a finish every year or two. The cost and time are tremendous. The clear finishes offer very little protection from the sun’s ultra-violet rays. It is like going out on a hot day with no sunscreen. You burn from the sun and your dead skin then peels off. That is why we use sunscreen to protect ourselves from the sun. Debarked logs are not the natural look of logs; the bark protects them from the weather. If you ever noticed alongside the road a tree without bark, it turns gray from the sun, absorbs moisture from rain, and eventually the insects will infest the wood as rot takes place, returning the wood back to Mother Nature in the form of fertilizer.

Yes, this process may take awhile, but the starting process does not take long at all. For example, the more the moisture, the faster the process. Pigmented stains offer you protection from the harmful UV rays that break down your finish. They will absorb the UV rays and deflect them. Usually the top portion of your logs receive the most sunlight. Sun, moisture and insects are the biggest hazards to your log home. The UV rays break down wood fibers along with moisture, contributing mold, mildew and fungi to breaking down wood fibers. Insects see wood as a birthing place for larvae and a food source by drilling holes and eating wood.

Considerations When Purchasing A Log Home Finish

1. Are your logs green or dry? (19% or less moisture content is considered dry).
2. Does your house have large eaves, or lots of trees protecting the walls from the sun?
3. Is your house sitting out in the open at high altitudes with the sun beating on it all day?
4. Is there a high amount of humidity in your area?
These are questions that should be asked of you when purchasing a finish for your log house. All finishes are not of the same quality and there is probably one best suited for your conditions that will last at least 3-5 years.

When purchasing a log home, most owners are aware that there will be some maintenance, but having to redo a finish every 1-2 years is not something anybody wants to have to do. Look for finishes that are made for the log home. Try to find a house in your area that has the finish you are looking at.

Beware of the 7 to 10 year warranties offered by companies. Read the fine print on how many coats of finish you need to apply to get the 7 to 10 year life out of a finish. Does the finish penetrate into the wood or lay on the surface, making it susceptible to peeling and cracking?

Remember that wood was a living organism and the cells react not much different than human skin. The finish should "breathe" to prevent a build-up of moisture under the finish. The surface needs to be protected as when you apply a sunscreen to your skin. Sunscreens with high UV inhibitors protect your skin better and the same is true with log stains.

Average Life Expectancy of Finish Types
  •  Clears 6 months - 2 years.
  •  *Semi-transparent - 3 to 7 years.
  •  Solid Pigment - 5 to 9 years.
  •  Paint 8+ years.
*The Life Expectancy of Finishes is directly proportional to the amount of direct sunlight the finish receives.
More Direct Sunlight = a Shorter Life Expectancy.

More Shade (less Direct Sunlight) = a Longer Life Expectancy.

Get The Most From Your Log Home Finish

If logs or lumber are very shiny, a barrier such as a milling glaze could exist, preventing absorption. Sand or pressure-wash surface before applying finish.

If you plan on using a preservative, apply it first, then apply the finish.

Clean the log surfaces of any dirt, oil, or bark, which can reduce absorption and shorten the life of the finish.

A pigmented finish will normally out-perform a clear one because pigment works as a sunscreen to keep the wood from graying.

Apply the recommended number of coats to increase UV protection.

If spraying the finish, back-brush for proper adhesion.

Apply the finish at temperatures in the range of 50° to 90° F. Surface temperatures below or above this range can hinder absorption and shorten the life of the finish. Wind and direct sunlight can also dry a finish too quickly.

Apply a new coat before the previous coat is totally broken down by the weather.

Caulk large upward facing checks so that water is not absorbed by wood. Retained moisture can interfere with the adhesion of the finish.

If you are doing log repair and adding half-log facing or crowns, think about using PeneTreat for spraying those new sections and notches. This will help prolong the life of these replacements. PeneTreat can also be applied in dry form when caulking upward facing checks.

Longer overhang of the eaves means less weather on the log walls and longer life for the finish.

Stains & Finishes FAQ

How much stain do I need?
See How Much Log Stain Do I Need? Flash Version | Mobile Version

How often do I have to refinish?
As a rule of thumb, if the stain is applied correctly, according to the product label or data sheet, semi-transparent stains can last 3-5 years, less if the house is subjected to major sun exposure, longer if the house has large overhangs and is shaded.
I want a natural finish; what do you recommend?
It depends on your definition of "natural": a fresh cut color or graying out of logs. All stains available have light colors to choose from for a fresh cut look. What would be recommended is how "natural" the customer wants to get i.e. a personal preference. Examples include: Capture Natural, Sansin Classic Natural or Light Natural, and WeatherSeal Natural Pine. LifeTime and Q8 Log Oil are available for the natural gray weathered look.
Can I just use a clear "finish"?
Clear finishes are generally not recommended for the exterior of the house. Because there is no pigment or "suntan lotion" to protect it. The pigment also holds longer and will not flake off in a short period of time. Using a "clear" finish means reapplying more often (may only last 6 months to a year under full sunlight). A lighter pigmented stain is an alternative to clear.
Can I mix stains?
Stains can be mixed if they are the same product. Mixing oil and water based stains will not work. Mixing is not recommended because of the difficulty of duplicating the same mixture for re-coating at a later date.

Which stains can I spray on?

Many of the stains we carry can be sprayed. Even the thickest one, WeatherSeal, can be sprayed by using a .015 to .017 nozzle. Back brushing is important. Back brushing the stain forces it into the wood to give a uniform finish and helps to ensure adhesion. A garden pump sprayer can be used only with Cascade, LifeTime (if strained first), Outlast Q-8 Log Oil, Woodguard, WR-5, and X-100. (A brass sprayer tip instead of a plastic tip is recommended for WR-5 due to its formulation.)
What do you recommend for decks?
See Deck Finishes.
What type of interior stains or finishes do you have available?
See Interior Finishes and Floor Finishes.
What do you recommend for an exterior log stain or finish?
All of our exterior stains and finishes are quality products. It is important that you choose the product that will work best for you. If you need assistance after looking through our products (See Exterior Finishes), give us a call and one of our customer service representatives will help you choose a product that is best for you. 1-800-359-6614.

Can I use an exterior log finish on the inside of my home?
We do not recommend using exterior finishes on the inside because most exterior finishes contain biocides or insecticides that do not affect personal health when used on the outside, but with today's tendency to have more air efficient homes those products could affect personal health when applied to the interior of the home.

Which is better, oil based or water based finish?
Both will work for log homes. Sometimes it is presumed that oil base stains are better. That is not necessarily so, if the stain is applied according to manufacturers directions and a good maintenance plan is implemented. Depending on sun exposure and humidity levels where you live, any of the stains can be recommended. If the house has a lot of sun exposure, Outlast Q8 Log Oil, Sansin Classic (water-borne), or WeatherSeal (oil-based) will work well. The amount of solids in a pigmented finish provide for longer lasting UV protection. WeatherSeal and Capture have more solids in their pigments, hence providing longer protection from UV rays. Color may also be a factor as to the choice of stain. All of the stains have different shades of different colors. Remember that if you have an oil base stain on the logs, in most cases you must stay with an oil base product, unless it is removed. Check with manufacturer's recommendation.
What can I use for outdoor log furniture?
Click here Log Furniture Finishes.
Will Bug Juice or PeneTreat change the color of my stain?
No, they will not change the color, though Bug Juice will significantly reduce the transparency and gloss of Lifeline Advance Topcoat.
What finishes do you have for cedar or pine siding?
All of our stains and finishes will work. For a natural cedar look we recommend Outlast Q8 Log Oil Medium Gold, Woodguard Honey or X-100 Cedar Tone Gold.
Can I stain before Caulking or Chinking?
Yes. However, if you are using WeatherSeal, or X-100, you should caulk first and then apply the finish or use Manus-bond caulking after you have finished. If using any other oil based stain, let the caulk or chink cure at least one week.
What does the temperature need to be for staining, caulking, or chinking?
The best average temperature should be 45-50° but check the Data Sheet for your product to be sure. If it is 50° for an hour or two a day in the Fall and 30° at night you probably should wait, the product won't cure properly.

I want a stain that fights insects?

Outlast Q8 Log Oil, WeatherSeal, Woodguard, WR-5, and X-100 have preservatives in them that insects don't like. You can also add Bug Juice to other stains and finishes to help fight insects.