Ask the Expert - Maintaining Your Dream Home

We've asked industry experts, Sascho Sealants to help us answer your questions on all things maintenance. Each month in our Cabin Life Newsletter we will feature our latest question.

Sponsored by Sashco Sealants

There are more stain types than just water and oil-based. Each has its advantages for maintaining your dream home. 
Each month in our Cabin Life Newsletter we will feature one question and answer. If you're not already receiving our weekly newsletter, you can sign up here.
We'll archive all the questions on this page for easy reference and if you've got a question please email Amanda at

Besides their shape, how are logs different than a normal 2x4 (and why should I care)?

You didn't choose a home make with 2x4's for a reason: any old wood just wouldn't do. Each and every log has its own unique grain pattern, knots, and history, just as your home has its own unique design and memories connected to it.

Here are just three of the (very technical) reasons why logs are special.

1.) Logs get really hot

From winter to summer and everywhere in between, the upper curvature of a round log is hit by the full force of the sun at a 90 angle through much of the day. In the summer months when ambient temperatures are in the low 90's, the upper curvature can exceed 170F!

Conventional lumber, on the other hand, is usually hit by the sun at a lesser angle that allows much of the sun's energy to be reflected away. That surface on the same summer day might only reach 110 -- much cooler than logs.

2.) Logs move . . . a lot

Wood of any kind undergoes significant movement in response to both moisture and temperature changes. In dimensional lumber like 2x4, this results in twisting, cupping, warping, and occasionally cracking and splitting. Logs endure these same forces, but because they're bigger, the effects are bigger, too. Logs aren't quite strong enough to undure these forces without breaking (something's gotta give, right?), so splits and checks develop to relieve the stress. The bigger the log, the bigger the internal stresses, which means more movement and larger check and cracks. And speak of . . .

Logs crack and check

The moisture that soaks in through cracks and checks usually finds its way underneath whatever stain or paint is on the logs. Much of this moisture exits back out of the wood through the cracks and checks. However, a good amount also exits (attempts to exit) through the stain or paint. Thing is, stains and paints are stubborn. They don't like the moisture trying t come. Pressure builds up under the pain or stain and, over time, this can lead to flaking and peeling.

So what?

Whew! That's a lot of technical stuff to simply say that it'ss important to use products formulated specifically for logs, able to handle the unique stresses and look great doing it. Fact is, your log home is the colmination of years of dreaming and planning, back by a bit (or maybe a lot!) of sweat equity. Don't try to protect your dream home with products from a company who doesn't know logs from a 2x4.

Published on: March 12th, 2018

How do I apply log home stain samples?

Read this article from Sashco to learn how proper application of log stain samples is the only way to make sure you get the color you want the first time. Click here to read How to Apply Log Home Stain Samples.

February 27th, 2018
I just took down some pictures from my log walls and the wood underneath is lighter than the wood around them. I knew this might happen, but how do I fix it? How do I avoid the same thing happening in the future?
Ah, picture frame effect. You’ll see the same effect if you remove the trim on clear-coated cabinets. The area underneath the trim will be a much brighter, whiter color than the rest of the cabinet. Wood turns yellow over time on its own, due to both UV exposure and natural oxidization. There’s no stopping this from happening (but you can slow it down and hide it…more on that later.) 
There are a couple of options for getting rid of picture frame effect after the fact:
1.) Stain
Stain those areas with a very light colored stain that would match the surrounding yellowed wood. It might mean you have to over the entire area with a clear coat to get a good match. This is going to be the easiest labor-wise, but the hardest to get a match.
2.) Sort of Sanding
Sand down those areas and feather them into surrounding wood so the delineation is harder to see. Again, a clear coat will hide things a big more. And again, getting a good match will be difficult.
Hardest but most effective would be sanding down all of the affected walls and applying a single coat of stain and a coat or two of a clear coat. This will ensure a good match and prevent the picture frame effect from happening again.
4.) Artful Cover-up Job
You may have to just continue hanging something there. The work to repair it may just be too much to do for some. Consider hanging something different for a change of pace. A tapestry, quilt, or wreath may be just the change you're looking for. Of course, we'd still recommend you stain and clear coat the wall to prevent even weirder picture fram effect from your new artwork, but you can avoid the sanding - which is the real work - by going this route.
So, how do you prevent this from happening in the future?
In short, you won't prevent it. But, you CAN slow it down and hide it. Apply a pigmented stain to the walls, followed by a coat or two of a clear coat. The pigmented stain will prevent UV degradation caused by the sun coming through windows, while also hiding the natural oxidization that will happen over time. No no to go crazy with a dark stain (unless you want that "Miss Scarlett in the Library with the Candlestick" kind of dark, brooding look to your logs). A lightly pigmented stain will do the trick. Plus, BONUS: a clear coat is going to make cleaning those logs much, much easier. Any dust that settles on the top curve of the logs can be easily wiped off with a microfiber dusting cloth. Yahoo! 
Published on: January 16th, 2018
HELP! My new log home is getting large checks and crack all over the interior and it was just built a few months ago. What's going on? What can I do to prevent the cracks from growing?
As your new logs are acclimating to their new environment, they’re going to give up any excess moisture, causing them to shrink and move beyond what they can handle. All of that pressure has to give somewhere, and it usually means checks and cracks form. You’ll probably notice more of it happening as you turn on the heat. All of that warm air speeds up the rate of evaporation. The wood is forced to move more quickly than normal. The pressures keep coming! 
The good news: you can slow down the rate of evaporation and, therefore, the rate of cracking (and often the size of the cracks) by doing a few things:
1.) Seal up those logs
Apply a quality clear coat that will allow the logs to let off moisture at a more steady rate. (Bonus: a clear coat is more friendly when it comes time to clean dust off.)
2.) Invest in a whole-home humidifier
Especially if you’re in a really dry climate, using a whole-home humidifier will ensure that the rate of evaporation is controlled and, thus, the movement happens at a more reasonable rate. Run the humidifier for the first couple of winters, until your home has done the majority of its shrinking and is at home in its new environment.
3.) Turn up the heat slowly
Don’t go from 60 during the week while you’re not at the cabin and then immediately crank it up to 72 when you arrive for your weekend. Use a programmable thermostat to slowly turn up the heat over 3-4 days before you arrive.
4.) Remember: Cracks & Checks Build Character
Or, rather, they ARE character and make your home unique. Some checks and cracks are normal and are part of the charm of living in a log home. On the interior, feel free to leave them open if you like the character. (We’d always recommend sealing them on the exterior to prevent rot and insect infestations.)
Published on: December 6th, 2017
What are the pros and cons of using a clear coat on my exterior logs and wood?
We hear it all the time: “I want to keep my logs looking natural. I don’t want a stain” Indeed, there’s nothing quite like that fresh, blonde wood. Is there an easy way to keep the natural look over time? And if you do use only a clear coat, what are the pros and cons of doing so?
Pros of a clear coat only:
  • Allows you to maintain the light blonde color of the wood for the first year or so
  • Proves water repellency
  • Great for interior wood that's not exposed to much UV light. Will maintain the fresh wood look for many years
Cons of clear coat only:
In a word: entropy. (We’re digging into our physics background here.) Entropy is the rule that states that all things tend to disorder. That includes clear coats.
  • Doesn’t protect wood from UV damage. Think of a clear coat as an SPF 8 sunscreen. Doesn’t work for long. That UV damage turns wood from amber yellow to gray over time, usually within the first year to 18 months
  • Inconsistent moisture protection. UV breaks down the clear coat. With no other protection, you have moisture repellency in some areas and not in others
  • Higher maintenance over time. A clear coat must be reapplied every year, if not sooner, to ensure proper protection from moisture
If you want to keep that fresh blonde wood look, or even if you prefer the weathered gray wood look (big trend right now!), you’ll be better off over the long run using a stain that delivers that color, along with the protection your wood needs, in one product. (Think of pigmented stains as an SPF 15 with long sleeves.) Get samples of the colors you like best and test them first to see what’s possible. Yes, traditional stains will have to be maintained over time, but not nearly as often as a clear coat, and they’ll protect your wood from rot, insects, and UV damage much better than a mere clear coat.
November 7th, 2017
How do I design my log home for lower maintenance?
Most of the time, that dream home picture in your mind’s eye doesn’t include details like a three-foot foundation, or vegetation that is at least five feet away from the home. But if you’re going to keep your log or timber home looking the same in year six as it did in year one, while also reducing the amount of maintenance it needs overall, you’ll want to keep these design tips in mind:
1.) Wider = Better
Wide eaves and overhangs will protect the walls from weather and sun better. UV damage is the “gateway drug” to deteriorated wood. It will break down your stain, exposing the bare wood to insect and moisture infiltration. Protect the walls from UV and you extend the life of your stain, lower your overall maintenance costs, and prevent potentially costly (and ugly) damage down the line. (Bonus points for a wrap-around porch!
2.) Keep 'em off the ground
We’ve all seen those rotten logs on the forest floor. They’re rotten for a reason: they’ve been sitting in everything a log needs to make it rot. Don’t allow that to happen to your wood. These days, 18” off the ground is a bare minimum for any wood structure. Three feet is even better! If water can run off the roof or splash back off the ground, it’s at risk.
3.) Landscaping is beautiful - from a distance
Keep all vegetation at least three feet from the home. This includes bushes, flowers, or other natural plant elements. They attract moisture, bugs, and a host of other things that love to damage wood. Cut trees back to prevent them from dripping (both moisture and bugs) onto the home. And speaking of vegetation, feel free to water your plants, but avoid watering your logs at the same time. Make sure sprinkler heads are pointed away from the logs and keep hose bibs well away from the wood, as well, in case of leaks.
4.) Gutters are NOT optional
You wouldn’t skip gutters and downspouts on a conventional home. They’re even more important on a wood home. Channeling water way from the wood is the name of the game. And don’t stop at gutters and downspouts! Flashing is important, too. Protect logs on a second story from sitting snow or cascading rain with proper flashing.
5.) Proper finishing of your home IS part of design
Sure, you know exactly what color you want your log home to be. But how do you get there, do it right so it lasts, and ensure you budget for it? By including it in the design phase. Too often, granite counter tops and copper sinks win out over a proper finishing job, which leaves you choosing the stain that is not made for logs and isn’t as durable. Researching the right stain – both the product itself and the way to apply it – should start early on.
For more information on proper finishing, download Sashco’s Keeping the Dream Alive book. It takes you through the steps of finishing a log home from beginning to end to help you know how to achieve that picture in your mind’s eye.
Published on: October 24th, 2017

How much prep do I have to do before I stain?
Perhaps the correct answer to this is not how much prep you’ll need to do, but that you need to do proper prep before staining, whether on a new log home or an existing one you’re re-staining. Proper means making sure these five pre-requisites are met before you apply stain:
1.) Clean wood
Seems simple, but you want to make sure the surface is free of dust, bird poo, pencil marks, pollen, and anything else making it dirty. A 10% bleach solution will accomplish this, as will cleaning with other wood-friendly cleaners. Thoroughly rinse afterwards! If you don’t, the cleaner remains behind and will damage wood fibers. Which leads to the next item on the list…
2.) Sound wood
Sound means removing all loose, sunburned wood fibers, along with failing stains. Loose wood fibers are present after just 10 days of exposure to the sun, so new homes and older homes alike will need work. Depending on exposure, bare wood can be an amber yellow color or gray. Failing stains means anything that’s significantly faded, cracking or peeling. All of these wood fibers will eventually fall off and take your stain with it. Removing them beforehand ensures your stain is adhering to and penetrating sound, solid wood. An aggressive power washing (sometimes with a chemical stripper to remove stubborn stains), hand sanding, or media blasting will all accomplish this. Remove any felting (wood fuzzing created during the process) with 80 grit sandpaper, Osborn® brushes, or non-woven buffing pads.
3.) Textured wood
That’s right: you don’t want smooth wood on your exterior wood. Why? Texture allows the stain to soak in a bit more, which translates into better longevity. Stick to no more than an 80 grit tool to get the right amount of texture.
4.) Warm wood
Stain won’t penetrate, adhere to, or dry properly when applied to surfaces that are too cold (below 40⁰), nor surfaces that are too hot (above 90⁰). Have a surface thermometer at the ready to check those temps. Work with the sun – start on the south side in the morning and work your way around the home clockwise to ensure you stay in the right range.
5.) Dry wood
What’s dry? Well, not just dry to the touch. It means dry as measured by a moisture meter and dry for your climate. In coastal Alaska, dry could mean 18% moisture content level. In the Arizona desert, dry means 7-8% moisture content level. Take a reading before you start any work. It will take your home a year to 18 months to acclimate to its new environment, so use a breathable stain that will allow moisture to escape, but never stain when the moisture content level is above 18%. You could trap moisture, which could lead to a host of problems (rot being the worst).
Published on: August 29th, 2017

Which stain is best? Is an oil-based stain better than a water-based stain?
We’re sure you’ve seen at least five different answers to the same question. That doesn’t clear things up at all. So, let’s first start with a moment of truth: there are more stain types than just water- and oil-based. Each has its advantages. We’ll talk about that in a minute.
Here’s a quick checklist when deciding which stain to use.
1.) Is the stain made for logs?
Logs move – a lot – and take a beating from the sun much more than conventional lumber. The budget stains and deck stains you’ll find at the local hardware and paint store are much too rigid and will quickly crack, peel, and fade on logs. Manufacturers who make stain specifically for logs formulate more flexibility into their products to accommodate that movement, which means the stain will last longer.
2.) Are the stain, caulking and chinking compatible with one another?
It’s important to keep bugs and weather where they belong – outside. But if your stain, chinking, and caulking aren’t compatible with one another, that bug and weather barrier is compromised. When you consider that an average size log home has over one mile of caulking joints, making sure the stain you use will work with the sealants is critical. It’s easy to find out if they’re compatible: use a system from a manufacturer who specifically formulates their stains and sealants to work together, and if it’s not a system from the same manufacturer, be sure to contact both the maker of the stain and the maker of the sealants. Chances are, they’ve tested their product with others and know the answer to that question.
3.) What look do I want?
That picture in your minds’ eye is probably pretty developed. So, go get it! Answer these questions before you choose a stain type and it’ll help you narrow down the type you choose.
  • What color do I want?
  • What sheen do I want? Flat? Glossy? Somewhere in between?
  • Am I going to do maintenance, or am I going to hire someone?
4. What stain type should I choose?
Not all stains are created equal, and how deep a stain penetrates doesn’t necessarily equate into better performance. See the charts below for the advantages of different stain types. Keep in mind: no matter what stain you choose, proper wood preparation is the most critical factor when it comes to longevity. So, don’t just consider the product, but also consider what kind of prep is necessary before you stain.
That said, on exposed logs and wood, it’s best to stick with either a surface stain or a shallow penetrating stain. Both will result in the best long-term durability and beauty you desire. 
Surface Stains:
General Information:
  • All are water-based
  • Rely on excellent adhesion to wood fibers for good performance
  • Leave behind a thin coating on the wood's surface
  • Great for using on vertical walls, handrails, tongue & groove ceilings
  • Not great for deck or roofs
  • Eggshell, Satin, or Gloss (depends on brand and system)
  • High-performance brands have excellent UV protection
  • High-performance brands have good to excellent elasticity, are able to handle log movement
  • Many are easy to maintain with clear maintenance coat
  • Breathable - will not trap moisture and allow moisture to escapeOf the three types, generally the most durable
  • Generally compatible with sealants
  • Will peel if proper wood prep is skipped
  • Lack of routine maintenance will lead to cracking and peeling
  • Cheaper/lower-quality formulas are rigid - will crack and peel quickly
Shallow Penetrating Stains:
General Information:
  • Cheaper/lower-quality formulas are rigid - will crack and peel quickly
  • Mostly hybrid (water-in-oil emulsions) and oil-based with drying oils
  • Penetrate up to 5 wood cells deepLeaves behind a thin firm on the wood's surface
  • Excellent for vertical walls, handrails, tongue & groove ceilings
  • Some are good on decks
  • Varies widely from flat to high gloss. Depends on type of raw materials used
  • High-performance brands have excellent UV protection
  • High-performance brands have good to excellent elasticity, are able to handle log movement
  • Easy to maintain with another coat of the same product, often in a lighter color
  • Breathable - will not trap moisture and allow moisture to escape
  • Breathable - will not trap moisture and allow moisture to escap
  • Oils are more rigid, which eventually leads to cracking and peelings
  • Without proper prep and routine maintenance, will peel and crack early 
Deep Penetrating Stains:
General Information:
  • All are oil-based & contain non-drying oils (wax, silicone, etc.)
  • Penetrate into wood 1/2" deep or more and stay for a long time
  • Good for shingles
  • High performance brands are good for deck surfaces
  • Starts out gloss, dulls over time with exposure
  • Excellent moisture repellency
  • Easy to apply and maintain
  • Will peel if proper wood prep is ski
  • Not compatible with sealants
  • Poor UV resistance - color shifts and fades within a few months
  • Appearance is short-lived, even with regular maintenance
5. How do I pick a color?
Color is a sensitive issue! Best way to get the color you want is to request samples and test several different stains. That said, stay away from clear stains. Why? A clear stain has very little UV protection in it. It’s like using an SPF 8 with no other sun protection. Your logs will get sunburned and discolored in very little time. Stick with high quality, UV absorbing stains loaded with pigments – which is where you get the majority of your UV protection – and follow these stain sampling procedures to make sure you get it right before you start.
Published on: August 15th, 2017

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