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Expert Advice: How to Restore and Repair Log Walls

An expert's insights into four common log home concerns:

Log Restoration Before and After
Photo: Nelson Log Restoration

As the owner of Nelson Log Restoration, LLC and a former builder, Mark Nelson has witnessed the spectrum of log home fixes, from stain touch-ups to full log repairs and restorations.
Mark’s background gives him a complete picture of the log home ownership cycle, and while he admits that people can be fearful of perceived problems with exposed-wood homes, they shouldn’t be.  Proper design and basic upkeep will prevent issues from arising, and, if damage should occur, it can be fixed. Mark addresses four common log home concerns.

Re-treating Exterior Stain.

“About 95 percent of our business is media blasting, staining and chinking repair,” says Mark. The key to success is proper wood preparation.

“A rough log texture allows stain to bond better and last longer. Media blasting holds stain better than any other surface prep,” he explains. But choose your media wisely. Corncob and crushed walnut have been popular methods in the past, but aren’t recommended.

“Corn and walnut are organic, so particles left on the wood can decay and cause a failure beneath the stain. Plus, they’re inefficient. Using corn is like using a dull knife; it beats on the log until the stain lets go,” Mark says. “We use crushed recycled glass, which cuts like a very sharp knife, stripping the stain and removing unsound wood underneath it.” The glass particles turn to dust and blow away, and because glass is inorganic, you don’t run the risk of bacteria infiltration.
After the logs are prepped, it’s essential to use a high-quality stain designed specifically for log homes. Mark is fully vested in Sashco’s products. He’s been using their Capture and Cascade lines for nearly two decades.
“It’s not the easiest product to apply. An oil-based stain is easier and more forgiving,” admits Mark. “But if you prep the surface properly, their film-forming, water-based products really last. My customers are seeing five to six years before they have to reapply a clear coat, and many only have to re-stain the ‘weather walls’ that get the most sun exposure.”

Repairing Chinking.

“Most chinking failures are caused by the material being applied too thin,” Mark says. “There’s no good way to patch it, so if we see a cohesion (split down the middle) or an adhesion (pulling away from the logs) failure, we strip it out, blast and stain the logs, then reapply the chinking. This also affords protection behind the chinking, which creates a better seal.”

Fixing Water Damage.

Maintaining the integrity of your sealant is crucial to preventing water damage; however, if a breach escapes your attention, there are several approaches you can take to remedy it, depending on the severity of the setback.

The first sign of a water-related problem is surface mold, often identified by black residue or log discoloration. If caught early, you can brush it off and apply a borate solution to kill stubborn spores. If left untreated, it could lead to bigger issues, such as rot.
“Rot can require removing decayed areas from the log,” Mark says. “We use a variety of fantastic epoxy products to rebuild the spots that are removed. In extreme cases, we have to cut out a large portion of the log and re-face it. The worst-case scenario is full log replacement, which is difficult and can be quite expensive. Preventing that is always our goal.” 

Stopping Insect Issues.

As with mold, a borate salt treatment will deter wood-boring insects, like carpenter bees or termites, from living in your logs, which, in turn, discourages woodpeckers and other birds from poking holes in your home in search of a meal.

“We also fill checks with textured caulk to prevent both bugs and water from settling in,” Mark says. “The more prevention you can apply, the better off you are.”
With proper exterior sealing, routine inspections and periodic touch-ups, you can stop the majority of major log home-related issues from happening in the first place.
Learn more about log home maintenance here!

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