Properly Maintaining Your Log Cabin!

November 17, 2021

So you own a cabin, Congratulations! Log homes are some of the most beautiful pieces of real estate you can own. However, if not properly cared for, first by refinishing with a solid base of sealing and stain and next by a carefully planned maintenance roadmap, these homes will quickly start to show wear. So let’s take a minute and dive into what you should know as a log cabin owner.  

First, let’s break down having a solid base to begin your journey as a knowledgeable log homeowner. Log homes in Appalachia will face extremes on a yearly basis. From cold winters to very warm summers, energy savings on heating and cooling are top of the list for most homeowners. Factors here include, original stain procedure, correct caulking/chinking, and properly sealed transitions from log to windows, roofing, and footing material.

worn log cabin needs repair
Example of an incorrect log cabin
stain application after 2 years

Signs of Wear, Weather, and Damage on a Log Cabin

As with any investment, check-up inspections are vital to stay ahead of upkeep costs. Weathered logs are usually a sign of a light stain application or, worse yet, a home that has never kept up with proper stain maintenance. When interior distress signs such as water penetration, drafty windows, or unusually high energy bills are prevalent, we know the cabin was never sealed correctly to begin with. Also, if exterior foundation mold, roof separation or gapping is occurring, the proper measures, including weather and water proofing, were not taken to seamlessly transition from log to surface.  

Stripping the Logs with Media Blasting vs Pressure Washing

So let’s dive into getting a cabin that is showing these signs on the right track. Logs that are showing signs of “graying” or a cracked or splintery surface, need immediate attention. The best course of action is to blast the home and return the logs to their original condition. No, pressure washing is not a solution. Pressure washing tears into the logs with the number one killer of wood – water. This leaves marks and furring resulting in a splotchy looking stain finish and deep water penetration into your home. Log washing is a different story, and we will cover that shortly in the maintenance section of this blog. Media Blasting, on the other hand, uses recycled glass and garnet. Both are environmentally friendly and compliant with any health standards, from puppies to shrubs. Media Blasting is used to skim off the top layer of stain and weathered wood to expose the untouched beautiful logs underneath.

Sanding, Chinking, and Caulking a Log Cabin

If you have decided to blast your home, the process has really just begun. It is time to sand the logs down to a fine finish and begin filling any damaged spots with wood putty such as cracks, boring insect holes, and cleaning out any failing chinking and caulk. As the process moves along, we begin to add new chinking if the house is chinked and visit any and all windows and transitions on the exterior.  

Staining and Sealing a Log Home

The next step will be the initial coat of stain. This is where the rubber meets the road. Skimping on this step or speeding through it can catapult your home into another vicious cycle of breakdown. As for stain choice, there are many options. Some industry leaders are PPG Sikkens brand Proluxe stains, Perma-Chink, and Sashco. While some of these stains sit on the higher price per volume, the savings down the road are incomparable to cheaper alternatives. With every gallon of stain you spray, it is recommended to also use an additive containing an EPA friendly bug stop that will last the life of the stain. While nothing can fully protect your home from all insects, this additive can surely put up a great layer of defense. On walls facing direct sunlight that wear quickly, we also recommend UV boosters that can defend the stain against the constant beating from the sun. Some common methods of stain application are brushing or spraying. HVLP sprayers are highly efficient when doing a large project such as a home. Even if you are using a sprayer, you must back brush for thorough penetration into the wood and avoid unsightly runs. After this first coat is completed, it is time to repeat the process either with a sealant layer, or product, depending, another coat of the stain. When blasting logs or starting on a new construction project, always double coat. When the logs are hungry, feed them!

Protect Your Investment with Our Ongoing Log Home Maintenance

Now that your house is properly sealed and stained, it is time to discuss maintenance. First and foremost, this upkeep, if kept on track, will result in you saving thousands of dollars over the life of your home. Let’s say, for instance, we have just completed a full log restoration for you. Your home is properly sealed and stained and the home you love is once again rejuvenated. As we leave, we will tell you that in around two years time we will be back for a complimentary inspection of the house. After fresh logs are stained and sealed with an initial coat, the rule of thumb is to restain at year three and then every five years following. A two-year check-up will consist of looking at the entire stained surface, pointing out any and all issues to you, and finally asking you what you have seen. Are there any spots you still feel a draft? Has the stain begun to weather in any spots? After inspection, it will be easy to use your research, new knowledge, and come up with a comprehensive plan for the next course of action.

So what is included in the scope of a maintenance stain? Well, a lot less than a full restoration, so that translates into big savings for you when a proper schedule is followed. No need to blast the logs and sand. This is replaced by a log wash. Hold up now, didn’t you just preach about water in our logs?! Yes, however, a log wash is a low pressure solution that is used to remove any dirt, dust, pollen, or mildew from the surface of your home. A low pressure application means you are not cutting into the wood with pressure but simply bathing the exterior of your home. Once again, the product used by us is Environmentally Friendly and EPA Safe! Log Wash can be applied over chinking as well as all the sealants we use when preparing your home, without any adverse effects. Now that the surface is clean, you will simply double-check all areas of caulking or chinking for any signs of failure and fix them before a real issue arises. Next, it is time to topcoat the existing stain or throw another coat of stain onto the home, per the stain manufacturer’s recommendation.

refinished logs and log home chinking
A properly sealed and chinked log home

Summary of How to Care for a Log Home

Let’s review. First and foremost, a solid base is vital to a log home’s survival in the elements. We want to avoid high pressure water when working with any kind of wood as it will mar and break up the wood fibers. Stains and sealants should be recommended by a professional and with the understanding that what you put into quality will provide you with long-term savings. After a base is created, keep an eye on your home, now that you know what to look for. It is important to note with your contractor any problem areas you have seen in the home or around the exterior as soon as you see them.  

With this knowledge, you are now armed to begin properly caring for your cabin. As one of your prized investments, proper care and maintenance will not only extend the life of the home greatly but increase the value. So let us help you get started today! Thanks for reading!