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).
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