Choosing the Right Log Home Stain
Log homes are built for both comfort and style. To keep your log home looking new, you may choose to enhance the color of the wood or bring new life back to older wood, by applying a coat of stain. When choosing log home stains you have to consider what log stains perform the best, based on the surrounding environment, and why log home stains perform or fail. Selecting the right log home stain can make life easier but if the wrong materials are applied, it can become very costly to remove and start over.
Characteristics of a Quality Log Home Stain
While there is no one ‘best log home stain’, there are many great options available now. But a good log home stain will have some general characteristics like -
- Low Maintenance
- Not harsh on applicator
- Environmentally friendly
- Easy Clean-Up
- High UV Protection
The most important thing to remember is to never use paint on your log home. Paint does not allow the logs to “breathe” like latex stain does. There are many checks and cracks on the surface of the logs that allow water to find its way behind a log home stain. When a log home stain cannot breathe, mildew will form beneath the finish and this will eventually lead to rotten logs. Breathability also ensures low maintenance costs because the log home finish has a stable and dry surface to adhere to versus a constantly moist surface. When moisture finds it way behind a finish that cannot breathe the stain will crack, peel, or flake away. This means having to fix the problem by applying a log home borate preservative, and then allowing proper dry time before applying the finish again. These steps should not have to be taken every year, when a quality log home stain is purchased and applied properly.
Finally a good log home stain should be able to flex with the logs through the seasons for better protection of your logs. A good stain actually expands and contracts when the logs get warm and cold throughout the day and during the transition between seasons. This ability to flex reduces the amount of micro-checking in the logs which helps keep water infiltration at a minimum and also extends the life of the log home stain.
Important Factors to Consider When Selecting Log Stain
Old or New
An older stain establishes itself in the fibers of the material, having had a chance to soak into the wood. As it fades with time and weather, it leaves blotches of lighter and darker sections, which can be a challenge to re-stain. The thing to remember when choosing a stain color to go over an existing coat is that the more times you stain a piece of wood, the less of the original wood color and grain definition you retain. Stain used against bare wood is absorbed more evenly. Lighter-colored sections of wood on a re-stain project require additional coats of stain to bring them up to the same shade as darker sections.
The wood’s color and substrate texture will affect the appearance of stain products. Lighter woods are easier to color and the darker the wood, the less influence stain will have on it. Porous wood will absorb more stain and allow more of the substrate to show through. If you are looking to enhance the natural beauty of the wood as opposed to covering it up, go with a lighter color of stain. If you are looking to significantly darken a lighter wood, such as pine, use a darker-colored stain.
Oil or Latex
The natural expansion and shrinking of wood, due to environmental changes, causes cracking and peeling in low-quality oil-based seals. Oil adds stickiness to the logs, which attracts dirt and debris over time. Latex seals allow for elasticity, which keeps the stain from damaging over time.
Since stain is applied in layers you cannot go back to a lighter color with stain. Each additional layer adds more depth of color and masks the grain of the wood even further. So you have to start off with a stain that is two to three shades lighter than your final selection, as you may find that one or two coats is sufficient to reach the shade you desire.
Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind when selecting a log stain-
- The color samples that you see in your hardware store are only an approximation of the final color you may end up with
- The actual color will often look darker when applied to a large surface. So don’t go blindly with a small chip to determine your final color choice.
- Store-matched colors may not perfectly match a manufactured ready-mix color.
- For best results, apply a sample of the chosen color on the surface
- Colors change as they dry; therefore, no color decision should be made until the sample board is completely dry and top coated.
Hopefully this article will help you make an educated choice of stain or finish to use on your log home. For extra help or questions regarding any log home stain project, contact Performance Log Homes.