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Proven Products & Proven Solutions
Proven Products & Proven Solutions

10 Mistakes Log Home Owners Cannot Afford to Make

1Fail to understand the basics of log home maintenance. The most important thing that log home owners can do to care for their homes is gain a basic understanding of log homes and their needs. Taking the time to learn the basics of log home care will allow you to understand when maintenance is needed and how to choose the right solution, which will provide the best protection at the lowest cost.

2Fail to inspect the exterior of your log home at least annually. A thorough exterior log home inspection, performed at least annually, ensures that log home issues will be discovered before they become major problems. Proper and timely maintenance for your log home is the best way to keep your log home protected and maintenance costs low. Postponing maintenance can cause a minor issue to become a costly one. For more information, see Log Home Inspection

3Fail to apply a maintenance coat of stain and/or clear topcoat if there is any question about whether it is needed. The decision of whether to add a maintenance coat is the most important decision of the maintenance inspection of the log home exterior. A maintenance coat must be applied while the existing stain is in good condition. On one hand, applying a maintenance coat too soon can make the stain too thick and hurt stain breathability. However, after the existing stain fails, it is too late for a maintenance coat, because stain or clear coat applied over failed stain will not adhere to the logs. In areas where stain has failed, the owner will need to remove the stain and other log products down to bare wood, and then go through the clean, prep, and log product application process to protect the logs.

The Bottom Line: Since the consequences of waiting too long to apply a maintenance coat are so costly, if there is any question about whether the stain can last another year, apply a maintenance coat of stain and/or clear topcoat now. 

Stain is OK. Stain has lost its sheen. Needs a maintenance coat.

Stain is OK. Stain has lost its sheen, and begun to fail. Needs a maintenance coat.

Stain is OK. Stain has lost its sheen, and begun to fail. Needs a maintenance coat.

Stain is OK. Stain has lost its sheen, and begun to fail. Needs a maintenance coat.

Failed stain - Peeling

Failed stain - Deteriorating

Stain on the upper curvature of these logs has failed.

While the stain looks like it may have just lost its sheen, scratch test shows that the stain has failed due to loss of adhesion to the logs.

4Apply log home products without first properly cleaning and prepping the logs. Failure to properly clean and prep logs can be a costly mistake.

The cleaning and preparation step is the most important step in the log product application process. Cleaning of exterior log and wood surfaces should be done using a chemical cleaner to remove dirt, dust, pollen, loose wood fibers, and insects, as well as kill mold, mildew, and algae, which are not always visible. A pressure washer at a low pressure setting should be used to thoroughly remove the chemical cleaner from the wood. Always follow the procedures recommended by the log cleaner manufacturer.

In areas where logs are not properly cleaned or the log cleaner is not thoroughly removed from the logs, log products will not adhere properly to the logs, causing the log products to fail. Failure of log products results in the need to remove the stain and other log products down to bare wood, and then go through the clean, prep, and log product application process to protect the logs.

Prep: Pressure washing

Prep: Sanding

Prep: Protection for staining

Prep: Protection for staining

5Staining logs or other wood with furring on the wood surface. Stain removal using media blasting or chemical stain removers causes some furring (i.e. fuzzing) of the wood surface. Even pressure washing of logs often causes some degree of furring of the wood surface. The higher the pressure, the more furring is caused. When old stain is removed from logs, the cleaned logs often look so much better than they did with the old, failed stain that furring of the log surface is often overlooked, and new stain is applied over the furring. It is important to understand how furring can affect the new stain.

When stain is applied over a furred wood surface, even if the furring is minimal, the furring, which is raised above the wood surface, will hold more stain and look darker than the “un-furred” wood surface. This will give the wood an uneven, blotchy appearance. Over time, some of the furring will detach from the wood surface, removing the darker furring, but often revealing unstained spots that had been under the furring that fell off. Even if all of the furring falls off, the wood surface can continue to look bad and blotchy. Avoiding this mistake is another benefit of testing stain samples prior to staining, which is discussed below in Mistake Number 6.

After all of the other work to prepare logs for staining, it is important to not overlook the simple step of removing furring from the wood either by sanding or using buffing brushes before staining. The photos below show the different look of the furred left end of the log compared to the sanded right end of the log—both before and after staining. 

Log prior to staining and clear coat:
1. Started with an entire log with old, dark brown stain.
2. Both ends were pressure washed to remove old stain.
3. Extra work on right end only: Sanded right end to remove the furring.    

The same log after the following additional work was done to both ends:
1. Applied two coats of stain (in Mahogany color).
2. Applied one clear coat.     

6Purchase and apply a stain without first testing it on your logs. Do not make the common mistake of choosing a stain color based on its appearance on a stain color chart or a website. The appearance of a stain varies widely depending upon the species, texture and porosity of logs or wood. Furthermore, as logs age, the effects of exposure to the elements can significantly change the appearance of logs. You can be certain that the appearance of any stain color will look different on your logs compared to its appearance on a stain color chart or a website. Samples of stain colors are normally available for little or no cost. Testing different stain colors on your logs will take minimal time and effort, and will take the guesswork out of stain color selection by showing you how the stain will actually look on your logs. Realizing that the stain color is not what you wanted after it has been applied is not a mistake that you want to make.

Recommendations for testing stain colors:

A. Stain sample location: Apply stain samples to an area of the exterior wall where the old stain has looked the worst (which will likely be the wall with the most exposure to the elements, especially UV rays).

B. Preparation for stain: Prep the logs in the stain sample test area with the same steps planned for all of the logs of your home.

C. Stain samples: Apply each stain color being considered to a full log with each stain color sample between 6 and 12 inches wide.

D. For Restoration Projects: If your stain sample test is for a log home undergoing a restoration from bare wood, unless the log being used for the stain samples is sanded, we recommend that you sand a log next to the log planned for the stain sample test, and apply the same stain colors on both the sanded and non-sanded logs for a comparison.

The photo below shows an example of how dramatically different the same stain colors can appear on sanded logs compared to non-sanded logs.

Comparison of stain samples on sanded vs. non-sanded wood in above photo.
1. Started with an entire wall with deteriorated stain in the condition of the logs above the stain samples.
2. On both of the two lower courses of logs, the old stain was removed with a chemical stain remover, after which the wood was lightly pressure washed.
3. The second course of logs from the bottom was then sanded in the area of the stain color test. Sanding was the only difference between the two bottom rows of stain samples.
4. Two coats of each stain color were then applied to both of the two lower courses of logs. Each upper stain sample is the same stain and color as the stain sample below it.
5. One clear topcoat was then applied to both rows of stain samples.  

7Apply an inferior stain on your log home. The selection of stain for your log home is the most important product decision for your home. You depend on your stain to provide years of water repellency and UV protection. Your stain must also have superior elasticity to move with your logs without cracking or peeling, and excellent breathability to allow moisture vapor to escape from your logs. While there are a number of premium log home stains made specifically for log homes, there are many other inferior, cheaper stains that will not provide the protection needed for log homes. Even though quality log home stains may cost a little more, they are a bargain compared to the costs resulting from the use of inferior stains.

8Fail to chink or caulk all log joints of your log home. Some log home companies claim that sealing the log joints in their homes is unnecessary due to the tight fit of their logs. However, due to shrinkage and twisting of logs as they age, it is not possible to ensure that all log joints in a log home will remain airtight and watertight over time without sealing them with either chink or caulk.

All log joints, including (1) log corner joints, (2) joints between log walls and the foundation, and (3) joints between log walls and the roof structure, should be sealed for several reasons, including energy efficiency, elimination of drafts, and elimination of insect infiltration. But the most important reason for sealing log joints is to keep water out of the log joints for protection against log rot. When chinking or caulking log joints, in order to allow chink and caulk to stretch properly with log movement, backer material should be used in the rear of the joint so that the chink or caulk only adheres to the two sides of the joint. 

Log joints need to be caulked.

Caulk being applied during restoration.

Chinking being applied during restoration.

Chinking being applied to a new log home.

9Install the base of an exterior log or timber post directly to the ground or a solid surface such as concrete, rock, etc. The end grains of logs and timbers absorb much more water than other log or timber surfaces. When the base of a post is mounted directly to the ground, concrete, rock, or similar surface, water will pool around the base of the post. This will cause the post base end to stay wet and absorb significant amounts of water, leading to rot in the base of the post. This is a very common problem that is easy to avoid or correct. An exterior log or timber post should always be mounted on a screw jack and raised above the surface beneath the base of the post. When a post is mounted on a screw jack, a metal covering, such as copper, is typically wrapped around the base of the post to cover the screw jack, provide a decorative look, and provide easy access to the screw jack. Mounting posts on screw jacks ensures a much longer life for posts. For log home owners, another advantage of mounting posts on screw jacks is that as logs in the walls settle, a screw jack can be easily adjusted to compensate for any settling.  

Rot in the base of a log post.

Rot in the base of a log post. Note that even though the exterior of the post base had minimal signs of rot, the rot was so extensive that the post had lost its structural stability.

Replacement log post is mounted on a screw jack to keep the base raised above the porch surface to protect it from water.

Replacement log post is mounted on a screw jack with a decorative copper cover, which provides easy access to the screw jack.

10Replace only the exterior half of a rotten log. While some prefer half-log replacement to avoid disturbing the interior of a log wall, we recommend full-log replacements in most cases. The main reasons for not using partial-log replacements are (1) attaching a new half-log to the remaining half of the original log will not be as structurally sound as using a full-log replacement, (2) since a void will always exist between a new half-log and the original half-log, there is a good chance that water will find a way into this cavity, causing log decay that over time can spread to adjacent logs, and (3) half-log replacements will not last as long as full-log replacements.

11BONUS MISTAKE TO AVOID: Making a significant repair or replacement without determining the cause, and considering ways to avoid the same damage and expense in the future. If you need to make a significant repair or replacement on your log home, you should always determine if there is a solution that will allow you to avoid that problem in the future. A good example of one of the higher costs that a log home owner is likely to face is replacement of rotten logs. A significant number of log replacements are caused by the design flaw of having eaves that do not extend far enough to adequately protect a log wall. If you must replace a significant number of rotten logs, it is wise to consider providing better protection for the logs by either (1) extending the eaves further from the log wall, or (2) adding a covered porch. If you choose to add a covered porch, not only will it likely eliminate the need for and cost of future rotten log replacements in the protected wall, but the new covered porch will also add livability and value to your home.

RECOMMENDATIONS – To enhance your log home living experience and avoid the above mistakes:
• Educate yourself on log home care. A basic understanding of these relatively simple concepts will give you confidence, and allow you to make intelligent decisions, such as when maintenance is needed, which log products to use, how to properly prep logs and apply log products, and whether a contractor’s recommendations make sense.
• Set up a schedule for annual cleaning and thorough inspection of the exterior surfaces of your log home.
• Perform any needed maintenance in a timely manner to keep your costs low.
• If you find rot, do not panic—it can be repaired or replaced. But do not put it off. Rot will spread.
• Find one or more independent, experienced log home professionals whom you trust. They will help you learn about caring for your log home, and answer questions that come up from time to time.

For the RIGHT SOLUTION for your log home concern,
call Log Home Resource Center at 800-441-1564.