How To Eco Stain A Log Home


Whether you’re staining a new build log house or revitalizing an old one we’ll show you how to protect and keep your log house looking beautiful for years to come.

Staining a Log house comprises:

  • cleaning by hand with soap and water, with a corn blaster or water pressure cleaner.
  • Stripping by hand with sandpaper and water or with a cup and palm sander.
  • Repairing cracked and loose logs.
  • Caulking and chinking with Water-Based products
  • Staining with acrylic water-based stains

Why You Should Eco Stain Instead Of Paint Log Cabins

Are you about to paint your log home instead of staining? I have one word for you: DON’T. If you’ve just purchased a log home or yous’re about to sell one maybe you feel tempted to slap on a fresh coat of “Little Greene”. But did you know that your log home needs to breathe? That’s right because log houses are built from natural untreated wood.

Unlike weatherboard timber which is dried (seasoned) before being painted, logs retain water and need to breathe. Painting logs restrict the wood from breathing and cause moisture to be trapped inside making them rot from the inside out.

Staining logs with acrylic water-based stains will retain the timber’s natural colors and character. Staining also protects the wood.

What Tools Do I Need To Stain?

Corn Blaster Hammer and Nails (If Boards are Loose) Two (2) Step Ladders
Planks Brushes Paint Stirrer
Drop Sheets Painters Tape Newspaper
Face Mask Water Bucket Palm Sander
Water Pressure Machine Caulk Chink
Large (5” to 6”) wide long-handled stain brushes Utility knife
Bulk Loading Gun for Chinking Putty knife
Wide edge synthetic stain brush

How To Prepare Logs For Eco Staining.

Step 1.

Cover up plants, windows, doors, fixtures and all trim. Consider removing large plants and trees that are touching the house because they foster mildew and moisture retention.

Use a handheld masking machine like the 3M handheld masker to quickly and easily protect trim, windows and doors.

Step 2.

Clean the timber surface as close to original wood as possible because a clean, slightly roughened surface will allow the stain to penetrate more deeply.

Newly milled logs may have a hard layer created during the milling process called “mill glaze”, water-soluble extracts that have been brought to the surface forming a hard coating. Mill glaze has to be removed.

Clean the newly milled wood with:

  • Cob Blaster (Lightly)

Pros:

  • Cob blasting is the most effective method to clean logs
  • The blasting medium is all-natural and biodegradable: the residue can be left on the ground to become garden mulch
  • You don’t have to wait for the timber to dry.
  • No run off to potentially pollute nearby water sources
  • No chemicals
  • Less abrasive than sandblasting and won’t pit the timber

Cons:

  • Cob blasting is new and there are not so many professionals around offering the service.
  • Expensive equipment.
  • Cob blasting will raise the grain of the timber requiring you to lightly palm sand the timber to finish.

Alternatively, you can prepare timber with:

  • Sand Blaster
  • Palm Sander
  • *Trisodium Phosphate E (E for Environmentally friendly) TSP E
  • Remove mold or mildew with a light application (spray) of hydrogen peroxide. Allow to sit for ten-minutes then scrub with a soft-bristled brush. Follow up with a sponged application of distilled white vinegar. This kills mold better than bleach.
  • A wood cleaner followed by a pressure water washer. (the most common method)

*Trisodium Phosphate is safe for humans and animals but the phosphate component causes algae blooms in waterways. TSP E has zero phosphate and is environmentally safe.

KleenStart Wood Cleaner is biodegradable and non-toxic. CPR log cleaner won’t harm plants and is safe to use around children and animals.

Apply cleaners with a garden sprayer. Always wear goggles, gloves, head cover and protective cover-all clothing. Keep children and animals away and protect plants from overspray.

  • Bleach* ** and water (1 part bleach to 5 parts water) Bleach is more likely to blond the wood and may adversely affect the paint: Use advisably.

*Bleach is a corrosive chemical irritant that can damage skin and fabric. Never mix bleach and ammonia for any reason, the results can be fatal. Do not mix bleach with other household cleaners that may contain ammonia or to mix bleach with vinegar. Vinegar and bleach will create a chlorine gas that is an extremely toxic health risk.

** Do not use household chlorine bleach on lumber pressure treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA); together forming highly toxic chromium and arsenic compounds. Use an oxygen bleach like Kleen Start Wood Cleaner on CCA treated wood.

Apply one of these from the ground up to avoid streaking using a power washer at about 500 psi or a hand-pump garden sprayer then allow to sit for about 10 to 15 minutes.

(In order to avoid streaks in general, we recommend our full guide here.)

Step 2.

Power wash at 1000 to 1500 psi but be sure to stand back at least 2 to 3 feet until you can gauge what effect the pressure is going to have on the timber, then move closer slowly. Allow to dry for 2 or 3 days depending on the weather. Follow up with an orbital sander, angle grinder or car buffer with a buffing brush to remove the raised grain generated by the pressure wash.

How To Eco Stain Logs

Always start with clean wood.

Complete one wall at a time. If you don’t have enough stain complete one wall so that variations in batch colors won’t be so obvious. If you have different batch numbers on the pails of stain blend them together.

The moisture content of the timber should be no more than 20%. Allow for good drying weather to be sure. Protect newly stained timber from rain for at least twenty-four hours.

Choose the stain color carefully because changing colors later is very difficult. Look for properties in the stain that are relevant to your needs such as UV protection, water-resistance and rot prevention.

Different types of timber take colors differently so always test the actual timber from your home, either an offcut or a small section that won’t be seen. Apply the stain in the same way you intend to cover the house: Brushed on stain will appear different to sprayed stain.

Oil-based stains have given way to less toxic options.

Most stain systems require two coats of stain and one coat of sealant with a twenty-four-hour dry-time between each coat. It’s a good policy to use all products from the same company including chinking, caulk, stains and clear coats because they will be designed to work together.

Be sure to follow the instructions for the product you choose; there are two types of spray application stains: one requiring a pump-up spray gun and the other an airless sprayer. Using the wrong equipment may cause a mess.

Stir the stain constantly while using it so that pigments don’t settle to the bottom.

Wear protective clothing, goggles, gloves and a breathing mask.

Clean up drips and spills as you go with soap and water or mineral spirits; it will be much easier than if you let them dry.

Fix checks* and cracks** with caulk. Apply caulk after the first coat of stain so that caulk spills will be easy to clean off. Raw timber will not accept stain if the caulk is already on that patch. Use the backing rod to fill the check or crack then apply a high-quality latex caulk.

Checks* Small splits in timber that may be unsightly but have no structural significance. Checks should be sealed with caulk to prevent water from entering and bugs nesting.

Cracks** are larger than checks and maybe be structurally significant. They may have formed because of excess structural load or damage during transport. Consult your builder if you’re concerned.

Water-based stains outperform oil-based stains in the following respects:

  • Non-toxic, Zero VOC’s, Safe for the Environment
  • Long-Lasting, Deep Penetrating Bond Protects Against Mold & Mildew Stains
  • For All Exterior and Interior Wood Surfaces
  • UV Stable
  • Water-Based, Odorless, Non-Flammable, Non-Combustible and Will Not Burn Skin
  • Will Not Harm Pets, Plants or Livestock
  • Paintable, Stainable, Breathable
  • Penetrates and Absorbs to Form a Flexible Polymer Becoming Part of the Cellular Structure of the Wood
  • Helps Prevent Wood from Cracking, Splitting and Warping
  • Clear Formula and Semi-Transparent Tints Add Color Without Hiding Wood Grain
  • Easy Soap & Water Clean Up

Coverage: Approximate coverage is 200-300 square feet per gallon per coat. Actual coverage will vary across different types of timber doe to varying porosity.

Step1.

Really drench the stain because the more stain the more penetration into the wood. Use a paint sprayer or a broad synthetic purpose stain brush.

Step2.

Have a helper immediately back brush to really push it into the wood and smooth out the application for all three coats: two (2) stain and one clear. Use a purpose synthetic stain brush to ensure smooth application.

How To Chink Logs

Chinking is the sealant between the logs that prevents weather from getting into the cabin and insects from getting into the logs.

Chinking once comprised a mixture of clay and straw then later a mixture of mortar and cement. However, these mixtures would perform poorly and often pull away from the logs when it dried.

(Thank you Timeless Wood Care Products)

Step 1.

Insert Grip Strip Backer Rod between the logs. This product has a flat working surface that the Chinking will sit upon. Chinking won’t adhere to the backer rod which is important because the chinking needs to contract and expand with the logs themselves as they expand and contract.

Grip Strip Backer Rod:

  • Quickest and easiest backer rod to work with
  • Grips the wood and stays in place
  • Repels moisture
  • Requires no tools to install
  • Adds insulation
  • Compresses allowing easy fit to different size gaps

The chinking joint width of your logs should be between 1/4″ and 2″ and four times the anticipated movement. For chink joints 1″ or more, the depth of the joint should be 3/8″ to 1/2″. The depth of chinking joints less than 1″ wide should be half the width but no less than 1/4″. Chinking joint depth should be 1/4″-1/2″.

Logs should be between 40 and 90 degrees F temperature for the chinking to adhere properly.

Step 2.

Apply the chinking with a bulk loading gun or a purpose pump system.

Step 3.

Apply in short lengths then smooth down with a spatula or a foam brush spraying with clean water as you go. Be sure to act quickly after applying because chinking skims over quickly.

Related Questions:

What if I have an oil-stained home but I want to change to a water-based stain? You will have to strip the timber completely. Cob blasting would be best for that.

Can I use spray foam instead of chinking? No. Spray foam is not flexible, will dry out then fall out or, worse, stay in place and allow water to get trapped against the timber and rot the timber.

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