Log Home Refinishing and Restoration
By Art Hoffman, Morningdale Log Homes, LLC.
This article appeared in the May 2015 issue of the Log Living Gazette[icon name=”copyright” class=””] and is being reprinted on our Blog for our Clients’ and readers’ convenience.
In this issue, we are going to depart from our usual new and near-new log home subject matter and talk about something else.
Although we specialize in new, high-quality log homes, we have people contact us on occasion who have bought very old log homes that have been neglected for many, many years. Their question to us is always the same: How can we make it look nice again?
In this article, we hope to shed some light (no pun intended) on the subject and offer suggestions to those faced with this daunting task.
The methods and products mentioned in this article are based on our own personal experiences and/or preferences, and there are many ways to refinish or restore and we do not proclaim that the methods below are the best or only ways. Additionally, we do know these methods may seem to be intensive but, from our experiences, they have yielded excellent results that have lasted many years when done correctly.
As in any home project, it is the responsibility of the reader to (a) determine if they are capable of doing this work, and (b) if these methods and materials are suitable for the reader’s particular situation. This can be done by thoroughly reading the manufacturer’s directions and/or testing the product or method first on an inconspicuous area on the home.
If the home shows signs of rot, we strongly recommend that you contact an exterminator or Log Home Restoration Contractor who is licensed in your area. An Internet search should help you find several to choose from.
If the home is just “aged” and does not show signs of rot, then this article will be very helpful in bringing your log home back to life!
1. CLEAN: If the logs have become severely weathered or grey in color, you will need to clean them before doing anything. By cleaning first, you can better assess the true condition of the logs and then establish what needs to be done and the materials needed.
There are several specialized chemical cleaners available to clean log homes as you should never use full-strength liquid bleach as it will damage the wood fibers! From our own experience, we have found two cleaners that yield very good results: Sashco’s CPR Log Cleaner and Brightener, and CTA’s Outlast KleenStart.
Just follow the manufacturer’s instructions, preferably using warm (not hot) water and a stiff nylon or bristle (not metallic) scrub brush.
If you use a pressure washer for application or rinsing, use a very wide angle nozzle (i.e. 40º), low pressure, and keep the nozzle at least 3-feet away from the wood. Failure to do this can result in damage to the logs that will make them “fuzzy,” and can also cause water to leak into the house at joints, causing damage to the interior of the home!
If you should have some areas that do become somewhat “fuzzy,” do not sand the log! Instead use an Osborne brush to gently remove the fuzz. Osborne brushes are available on-line and in specialty hardware stores.
2. VISUAL INSPECTION: After cleaning the logs, perform a visual inspection of the exterior of the home. Make a note of where you observe signs of Carpenter Bee entry points, evidence of termites and their mud tunnels, checks larger than ¼” wide and the condition of caulking around windows, etc.
If you observe any sign of termites, immediately contact a licensed exterminator for treatment before proceeding further.
3. CARPENTER BEE NESTS: Regardless of where you live or whether you live in a log home or a conventional sided home, you likely have experienced this dreaded insect at some time.
First, the “good news” – the Carpenter Bees that buzz around you in an aggressive manner are the males and they do not have stingers, so ignore them! (Easier said than done!)
Carpenter Bees generally prefer to drill their nesting holes in the fascia and soffit of houses as well as the underside of porch/deck handrails. The nesting holes are about 3/8” diameter and go into the wood about ¾” before making a 90-degree turn and continuing along for inches or feet, depending on the age of the nest. Within this “tunnel” are many, many egg chambers and (usually) the Queen (who can sting).
If you have a serious Carpenter Bee nest, you may also see chunks of wood at or along the hole. These are from woodpeckers, who are attracted to the nest by the bees “buzzing” and are “pecking for their next meal.” This is another reason that Carpenter Bees must be controlled!
Once you locate a hole, insert a length of nylon weed trimmer line into the hole as far as possible so that you puncture each chamber in the nest. Do this 2 or 3 times to ensure you have reached the furthest part of the nest and broken through each chamber. If you do not do this, the Carpenter Bees will not be stopped, merely deterred.
Next, while wearing a protective dust mask, fill the hole to the point of overflow with a safe, pyrethrin/pyrethrum-based insect deterrent such as Drione or Pyganic Dust. Each of these should be available from your local landscaping or garden supply store, if not they are available on-line.
After 2-3 days, you might see dead Carpenter Bees or pupae laying on the ground below the hole.
Continue with this step even if you do not see any bees or pupae, as the nest could still be active.
Next, repeat the trimmer line and insect deterrent step again to further ensure no activity is present in the nest and that all chambers have been punctured.
Wipe off any excess dust around the outside of the hole and about ½” into the hole. Using a suitable caulk that closely matches your stain color, such as Sashco’s Conceal, seal the hole with caulking using a foam brush dampened in water to smooth it even with the wood surface. Allow the caulking to dry for at least 24 hours before continuing to the next step.
Viola’, you have defeated these culprits!
4. CHECKS: Checks are “cracks” in the wood that are generally under 6” in length and ¼” in width.
Checks do not affect the strength of the log, but they do pose an opportunity for rot to start, especially those checks facing upwards.
At this point, we recommend the following step that is optional but is an excellent precautionary measure with minimal cost. This involves applying a liquid borate wood preservative, such as Shell-Guard RTU or Sashco’s PeneTreat, to the checks that are larger than ¼” wide.
Use either a small spray bottle set on “stream” or a bristle brush to apply sufficient preservative to wet the wood fibers in the check. This will stop or prevent any insect activity, or fungi/mildew growth in the check. Allow the liquid to dry at least 24 hours before continuing.
If the check is less than ¼” wide, backer rod is not needed. However, if the check is greater than ¼” wide and ½” deep, it is recommended you insert an appropriate diameter and length of backer rod fully into the check. This will provide a good 3-point bond for the caulking so it will last and resist cracking.
Next, apply a high-quality caulking, made specifically for log homes, in a color that closely approximates your stain color. We prefer Sashco’s Conceal caulk as it comes in a variety of colors and is easily cleaned up with water. Use a dampened foam brush to smooth it even with the wood surface. Allow the caulking to thoroughly cure before proceeding.
5. STAINING: This is the final step of your log home’s refinishing. There are hundreds of wood stains on the market today and all make claims as to their superiority. However, few of these stains are specifically formulated for log homes and, from our experience. We personally prefer either Sashco’s Transformation (which has a glossy finish) or CTA’s Outlast Q-8 Oil (which has a matte finish), each of which is available in a variety of colors and hues to choose from.
As an added deterrent to insects, we recommend adding Bug Juice to Transformation stain, or CTA’s NBS-30 to CTA Outlast Q8 Oil per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Additionally, we strongly urge the addition of CTA’s Mold Buster to the stain as New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania are prone to mold and mildew growth on the exterior of any home (vinyl, aluminum, brick, painted wood, etc.), especially on the North and West sides of a home.
Ensure that your logs are dry (consider using a Moisture Meter to be certain) and clean before starting, and that the coming weather conditions are within the stain manufacturer’s directions.
Apply the stain as instructed by the manufacturer, taking particular care not to apply stain in direct sun or on logs that are hot to the touch.
Once completed, you can sit back and enjoy your refinished log home and the sense of accomplishment.
6. PERIODIC CLEANING: Like any home, you should keep the exterior of your home clean and free of mildew or algae growth.
To do this, we suggest you wash the exterior of your log home at least once in the Spring and, if desirable, also in the Fall.
We prefer to use Sashco’s CPR Log Cleaner and Brightener or CTA’s Outlast KleenStart. Both of these products work well for cleaning the exterior of log homes when the manufacturer’s directions are followed and use extreme caution if using a pressure washer as too high a pressure will damage the logs!
7. INSECT DETERRENT: When cleaning the exterior during the Spring (before Memorial Day), we recommend applying an insect deterrent AFTER the final rinsing. Two products that we have personally used with excellent success are Cysmic CS and Lambda 9.7 CS, which can usually be found at your local landscaping supply store.
Just mix it with water per the instructions and heavily spray it on with a pump sprayer or a tractor sprayer.
This insect deterrent will prevent or minimize problems with spiders, Cluster Flies, Chinese Ladybugs and Carpenter Bees over the season.
Re-applying the insect deterrent in late Summer (before Labor Day) is recommended if insect activity is observed.
CONGRATULATIONS, you have now refinished your log home using tried and true materials and techniques that will keep it looking good for many years to come!
MATERIAL SUPPLY SOURCES:
The following products can be ordered from Morningdale Log Homes LLC.:
Sashco CPR Log Cleaner,
CTA NBS-30 Insect Deterrent,
Bug Juice Insect Deterrent,
CTA Outlast Q8 Log Oil: available in the following colors: Natural, Alder, Flemish Brown, Honey, Light Cypress, Light Red Maple, Light Pecan, Redwood, and Tamarack.
Sashco Transformation Stain: available in Natural, Gold Tone (Light, Medium or Dark), Red Tone (Light, Medium or Dark), Brown Tone (Light, Medium or Dark), and Redwood.
The following products can be purchased from their manufacturer or authorized sales outlets:
CTA KleenStart Log Cleaner,
Closed-Cell Backer Rod: available in the following diameters and sold by the foot: 1/4”, 3/8”, 1/2”, 3/4”, 1”, 1-1/2”, and 2”.
Sashco Conceal Caulk: available in the following colors: Frontier Gold, Harvest Wheat, Gold Tone (aka. Warm Honey), Brown Tone (aka. Golden Mesa), Red Tone (aka. Canyon Wall), Redwood (aka. Santa Fe Trail), and Grizzly Brown.
The following products should be available at your local garden and supply store or via the Internet:
Weed Trimmer Line
Lambda 9.7 CS
DISCLAIMER: The products, opinions and suggestions contained in The Log Living Gazette© are based on the independent, first hand experiences of the author(s) and are not meant to be product endorsements. It is recommended that the reader carefully read and understand the respective product manufacturer’s instructions and literature. It is also strongly recommended that the reader try any methods or materials contained herein on an inconspicuous area of the home to determine their suitability for use and if they yield the desired results.
The author(s) and Morningdale Log Homes LLC fully disclaim any and all responsibility for any damages or injuries resulting from the use of these suggestions or products or as a result of any omissions, typographical errors, grammatical errors, or misinterpretations.
Log Living Gazette[icon name=”copyright” class=””] is copyrighted by Morningdale Log Homes, LLC.