Very few homes provide the “back to nature” feel like a wood home. However, living with nature requires planning and protection to keep rain, snow, wind, insects, and the sun's negative effects from damaging your home's exterior. Fortunately, today’s chemists have created many new products that can help keep nature at bay and with proper application will guarantee a great defense.
Keep in mind that although the wood finish is a small percentage of the total cost of a log home, it is one of the most critical elements to maintaining the integrity and appearance of your home for year’s to come.
1. Clean. A clean surface ensures the application stick to the logs, so it’s critical to take the time to do it right. Surface dust, pollen, or dirt left over from construction will prevent the proper adhesion of these products.
There are many ways to clean and prep your logs. One way is to simply hose it down with water and hand-wash the more embedded areas. A close inspection of your home at this time will provide you with a base with which to work in the future and will help you track any ongoing changes in your logs.
For a larger home you may want to utilize a power washer. Caution: Too strong a stream or keeping the stream in one place too long could do more harm than good. The strong blast of water could damage any seals or chinking that were made while possibly raising the wood grain so much that it creates more work by having to sand it back down. Pressure washers with lower power settings and larger nozzles will disperse the stream to an acceptable level.
2. Prepare. As you inspect your logs, you may find they have “mill glaze.” It’s the glossy finish caused by the mill’s hard-cutting, overheated blades, bringing water-soluble resins to the surface to create a hard, varnish-like glaze. The glossy surface can hinder adherence of the finish, so removing this glaze should be on your to-do list at this time.
The best way to remove it is by letting the logs “age” a few weeks or by sanding lightly to open the grain to allow the other products to be absorbed. If you sand, clean the logs to remove any sawdust or particles.
There are also products that chemically clean the wood of dirt and remove glaze. After the prep work is complete, allow for three non-humid days for proper drying of the wood before proceeding. Too much moisture on the surface will cause adhesion failure and could make the finish blister.
The next three steps will involve a series of important applications and will be most effective if they are from the same manufacturer. The companies have chemists that specifically formulate their products to be used with each other and combine to create the best possible seal. Using mismatched products may save money now, but will cost you more time and money down the road if it fails to adhere properly. The manufacturer you choose will need to know what species of wood you have, the soil conditions that are surrounding the home, and the area of the country in which you live. They will then steer you to the best products.
3. Apply insecticide/fungicide. After your logs have properly dried comes the first round of protection: borate preservatives. Borate is a naturally occurring mineral containing boron that when mixed with water or other compounds prevents fungal decay in wood. It is also deadly to termites, carpenter ants and roaches – but is safe for people, pets and the environment.
It is applied by brush or spray and then allowed to soak into all surfaces, especially the lower logs (where most of the moisture and insects enter the walls and begin their damage).
Borates come in a variety of mixtures; some are teamed up with additional fungicides, insecticides and termiticides that combat your area’s worst enemies. Re-apply if logs require restoration and before applying new finish.
4. Top Coat. The stain is then finished with a complimentary clear coat that tops off all the layers of protections you have provided. It will give your home the gloss or matte finish you desire and enhance the color of the stain.
Today’s topcoats are stronger, more elastic, and breathe; allowing internal log moisture to escape. This topcoat will repel water and dirt and will provide a smooth surface, making your annual log cleaning fast and easy. Two coats of this finish are recommended, and this layer can be re-applied every couple of years to extend the life of the stain. An added bonus is that many of these products can be cleaned up with soap and water.
5. Sealing. Chinked or chink-less walls benefit from today’s flexible sealants and chinking that are formulated to seal gaps and to bond to stained wood. Backer rods and caulks are used in larger cracks to provide even greater protection from the elements. These products are available in a large variety of colors to match your exterior stain or in the case of chinking, may contrast with the color of the logs.
Special attention should to be paid to the log ends that are less protected than the rest of the home and allow the grain to be exposed. There are special sealant products that provide a barrier to the sun wind and rain that can easily degrade this area.