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Log Home Stains - Which is Best?

From the editor:  This post was originally published on this blog in 2008 and has been one of the most active threads on this blog. The reason is simple; the quest to find the best log home stain is something we all search for.  Nobody derives joy from stripping and staining a house. The less frequently we need to do it, the happier we’ll all be. The latest comment on this post arrived this morning, so I thought it might be a good idea to reopen this discussion and see if anyone has discovered that ‘perfect stain”.

Log Home Stains

A few days ago, a reader posted a question on this blog and I felt it was important enough to make my response a posting rather than just replying to her comment. Julie asked…

“What type of stain did you use on your logs that lasted 5 years? I can’t find one that lasts for more than 2 years on mine. I have a very sunny exposure and the sunny sides of the home are the worst. Any suggestions on what stain I should try next?”

DIY Maintenance - Re-staining Log ome

That is the million dollar question, and one you will see regularly on every log home forum or blog. In my case, I was like many other new log home owners in that I didn’t know – what I didn’t know. I assumed that if you buy a stain from a ‘name brand’ and you get a good quality product.

When we bought our home from the former owner who had built the house, it was in need of re-staining. I asked the owner what he used and followed his lead. He was using a popular brand name product available from Home Depot. I elected to use the same stain for two reasons. One, the former owner had used it and I was anxious about mixing products to avoid any adhesion or coloration issues. Secondly, I was swayed by the manufacturer’s “X-year” guarantee.

Julie and I share the same problem in that I cannot get more than two years on my horizontal surfaces, but the manufacturer “guarantees” five. In fairness, my verticals look great after five years, but decking, stairs and railing horizontals look terrible after only two years. I went so far as to ask the people at Home Depot about this when I did my first two-year re-staining. They told me I needed to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter, including stripping and pre-treating the wood with their “authorized” cleaning solution. I did – it didn’t.

Two years later, I had to re-stain all horizontals once again. To make matters more confusing, I attended a log home show last Spring and had a conversation with a representative of a major supplier of stains to the log home industry. This salesman told me that even with the “guarantees”, he knew of no product that would survive more than two years of our harsh Montana seasons. According to him, few people pursue such guarantees and can seldom prove that they followed the manufacturer’s directions as required, thus calling such guarantees into question.

It is NOT my intention to insult any manufacturers or start a ‘flame war’ on this blog, but like Julie, I would love to hear from stain manufacturers in this industry. I would like to know why their stain is better than others and can survive where other’s cannot. My experiences and Julie’s may be unique, or it may be more of what you have experienced. If you use a stain that you like or know a manufacturer that would be willing to add their two cents, I would welcome any input.

Manufacturers of log home stains…. Please feel free to use this blog to promote your products and make some converts. Julie and I would like to know which log home stain is best!

42 comments to Log Home Stains – Which is Best?

  • Tom, I hope a stain mfgr replies! Having just stained our newly built home, I’m curious as to what lies ahead! shelley

  • I’m with Sashco, a manufacturer of log home products, and appreciate the opportunity to address your log home maintenance questions – anytime! Here in customer service, we field hundreds of calls about these very issues. I would agree with the assessment you were given – unless completely protected from the elements there is probably not a product out there that will hold up on your horizontal surfaces much past 2 years.

    Reasons why:

    1) horizontal surfaces take on the full force of ALL elements – rain, snow, hail, sun, etc. Unless they are under a covered porch, they are going to sustain the maximum damage.

    2) One generally doesn’t walk on vertical surfaces (a funny way of saying it, but it’s true). Take something that is already suffering the full force of the elements and add foot traffic and/or handling (in the case of hand rails) to it and you increase the rate of wear.

    Below are some tips I can offer that may help add some longevity to whatever stain is used on those surfaces. It is highly doubtful that you will get five years out of whatever stain is used.

    1) On all wood, the longevity of the finish is directly related to the type and thoroughness of prep done. Simply staining over a surface that appears to be clean is rarely good enough. According to the US Forest Service, loose, sunburned wood fibers can build on the surface of logs in as little as 2 weeks. Most homes sit for much longer than that between the mill and shipment to the home site. As such, most log homes are delivered with a significant amount of unsound wood already present. Add to that the months under construction and the starting point is a surface that is already compromised. It will take a vigorous blasting of some kind to get one back to bare, sound, “original” wood. Sashco recommends dry blasting of some kind, be it corn cob, walnut shell or glass. Power washing is also an acceptable method if proper care is taken to ensure the home is dry prior to staining. This requires a moisture meter.

    2) On railings, drilling weep holes in both the top and bottom railings at the low point of cracks allows for water to escape, helping avoid pooling that can lead to premature failure of the stain.

    3) Filling in cracks that are ¼” wide or larger with a high-quality elastomeric caulk (like our Conceal or Log Builder) will keep moisture out of the wood, again increasing the life of the stain.

    4) Mid- or dark-tone stains tend to have longer life due to the additional pigments it takes to get them darker. Lighter colors are going to sunburn more quickly.

    5) We believe that, when it comes to log home stains, price does matter. In general, the higher the price, the higher quality the raw materials going into the product. Higher quality raw materials translates into higher performance and greater longevity. Note, however, that this should also translate into lower costs in the long run.

    Sashco has performed its own comparative test between our Transformation oil-based stain and several other stains. To download the report from our website, visit http://www.sashco.com/log. It very clearly shows how Transformation out-performed most all other stains on the market.

    We love to hear from people living their dream of log home ownership. We strive to help educate log home owners about finishing and maintaining their homes while providing the highest quality products for them to use in preserving that dream the right way from the start. As such, we stand ready and willing to answer any specific questions a homeowner might have about their home and situation, whether our products were used or not. We want to help instill the confidence you need to preserve that dream home for years to come.

    Charis for Sashco Customer Service

  • […] would like to thank Sashco for being such a responsive member of the log home community. Read the Sashco’s comments about Log Home Stains here… Tags: log home, log home stains, […]

  • […] yes, that’s yours truly driving that man-lift around my front yard. I talked about DIY maintenance and staining logs on this previous post. Tags: algaecides, caulk, DIY, log homes, log stains, Swedish […]

  • Sam

    Is there any independent testing lab out there who has tested various stains on vertical and Horizontal surfaces. How can we trust the proverbial “fox”?

  • K. Meide

    We built a log home in northern MN four years ago and already have peeling on south and west side of home. We found out our builder did Not follow rules for prepping wood as recommended. She simply applied Sikkens stain. We have found a refurbishing company called Interstate Log Home Refurbishing in Menahga, MN and he guarantees work for ten years. He glass bead blasts the wood; however it does leave grit marks in the wood and emphasizes the grains in the wood. Currently the wood is a beautiful smooth carved finish. Not sure what we will do. Just thought I would share.

  • D. White

    I have used Sikkens-Cape Cod and now they don`t make it. It was a washed out grey. Does anyone know where I can find this color again.

  • Lmarin

    Sikkens Have you tryed Ace hardware< We are getting ready to stain our deck how muxh does Sikkens run a gallon?

  • william goodman

    As a log home builder I can tell you for fact that No finish will last 10 years and anyone who tells you otherwise is attempting to sell you a dream. Do not wait 10 years to retreat your home, please! As you will find it is much much more expensive to fix it than to treat it. With proper preparation, annual cleaning with a high quality log home cleaner and a good quality latex stain your color should last approx 10 years depending on sunlight,etc howver you will still need to reapply a quality clear coat every 2-5 years.

  • Tom

    Great advice William, and right on the money.

  • When we first moved into our log-sided home, it was in horrible shape. I had to pressure wash it, sand it wherever snow collected. Had to use Simple Green and bleach combination because the mildew was a nightmare. Finally after letting it dry completely at 50 degrees and climbing, I applied extreme weather clear sold at Lowes. This stuff is fantastic. 3 really bad Alaskan winters later, and it still looks fantastic. Went back to the store the other day, and they no longer ship it up here. Oh no!!! If you can find it in the Lower 48, try it. Mildew resistant and looks more and more beautiful every year. Amazing stuff.

  • ray

    Thanks for posting this question. I bought a log home 3 years ago that had been coated with chevron shingle oil. Yikes, what a mess. I decided if I was going through the work of starting over with a new finish I wanted to get it right. I bought or got samples of every major log home product on the market. I ended up putting about 20, one foot squares of different products on the south side of my home. After 3 years of hot summer sun and sub freezing winters, there is no question which one I’m going with. I hate to spend the money, but the perma chink looks nearly as good as the day I put it on the wall. Sikkens looks next best, but doesn’t really look that great. Most of the others look terrible. So I’m going to bite the bullet and get out my wallet to call perma chink.

  • Deborah

    My log home is at a mile high in elevation with alot of sun. It is 27 years old, we have lived here for 22 years. The house started out with CWF/linseed oil combination and was in bad shape when we bought it. From there we stripped it with TSP power wash, then hand sanded the entire house. 3 coats of Sikkens later and it looked brand new. That lasted 3 years at which time the south and west exposure was pealing. Another power wash solution session, then more Sikkens. This time it lasted…you guessed it, 3 years. So I went on a search for the longest lasting product out there. Called multiple states over a couple months trying to find the perfect product. It doesn’t exist. Switched to a Sascho line since the company is on my doorstep. Price is about the same, and it last anywhere from 3-4 years. I’ve gone through this process 4 times in 22 years (they recommend 7 times in that time frame. But at a cost of over $20,000 (in 20 years) who can continue to outlay that expense indefinitely? I have gone from a light stain to the darkest Sascho makes to try and extend the longevity of their product. It just isn’t enough. I am again faced with restaining. My recent estimate yesterday for doing this (from a company specializing in log homes) was 30 grand, using the Sascho line of products. Anyone heard of the Boodge line? I am looking at some of their claims of 4-5 years. Has anyone used this product?

  • I am a dealer for Sansin Enviro Stain. Coatings for exteriors and interiors. Penetrates. Allows wood to breathe = reduces rot. Low VOC. No egg shell finish. Water clean up. 70 colors with matching color options. ENS is low VOC option to replace film-building products, micro porous and covers nearly anything. CLASSIC and SDF for log home exteriors. DEC for decks, porches and docks. PURITY for interiors. Contact Jack at 800 767-4916 or Jack@LogHomesByJack.com.

  • Tom

    Hey Jack, that sounds like a good alternative. What has been your experience with horizontals? I’m faced with re-staining my deck again this summer and it seems that no matter what I use, two years is about all I can get. Some of my verticals haven’t been touched in 7+ years.

    Thanks for the input,

    Tom

  • We used Sansin Classic on our log home [2 coats stain, 1 coat UV] and got five years. Maintenance coat last fall was 1 coat [50-50 mix of stain and UV]. Used Sansin DEC on decks. Started with 2 coats. Yields 2-3 years. Since I am a dealer, so we apply one coat to about ever other year. Both products get about 200 sf per gallon. Film building products on decks = slippery when wet. Film building products on log walls = can capture moisture. For best results on decks, all sides should be coated before screwed down. For older unstained decks, might need to be sanded down. Will accept stain best. … jack

  • Tom Williams

    The BEST stain by far for Cedar is Chevron Shingle oil – but it does leave a scent.
    I’ve tried all (most)of the others, and even Chevron won’t last more than 2 years on a flat surface cedar deck – mine’s 20+ years old with minimal rot – get over it. I’ve used it exclusively for the last 10 years. I live in MN and that’s extreme temp + water except I don’t have salt spray!
    PS — Get a good tint kit mix with the oil
    -T

  • I love water based stains, due to their low VOCs, and ease of handling. You clean all tools with water, the stain dried extremely fast.

    The product I used on my own log home is made in Canda: WoodPlus.
    http://www.woodpluscoatings.com

    Very reasonably priced, and so far it holds up very well.

    But the horizontal surfaces have the same problem as you all describe above: They only lasted 2 years before needing additional coats.

  • Jeff Epperly

    We use Weather Seal from Continental Products and HIGHLY recommend it! Our home is 12 years old and we frequently receive comments on how it still looks brand new. We clean and stain every 4 years. Most high quality stains are going to give you approximately 3 to 5 years of “good” protection depending on conditions. Proper maintenace and a light wash each year after the pollen season will go a long way in preserving the finish. The south and west sides of a home if fully exposed will always weather faster. In some cases you may only need to clean and stain those sides. The north and east sides may only need a good cleaning if the stain is still in good shape. It will vary from home to home. Check out Weatherseal and see the comparisions against the other top rated stains. I think you will be surprised.

    Happy WeatherSeal Customer –

    Jeff

  • Both Sikkens and Sashco make excellent products as I’ve witnessed in the mountains of Colorado working as a professional log home finisher. The key to using these high quality stains is proper surface preparation. Media blasting, hot water pressure washing with chemical, and sanding / buffing are sometimes all necessary before applying multiple coats of high quality finish.

  • […] Basic Home Decorating TechniquesHome Decorating Tips and Ideas – Tips and Ideas How To Decorate Your HomeChristmas Home DecorationsSimply Savvy Tips to Organize Under the SinkHome Design, Home Furniture, Interior Design – Home Ideas DesignLog Home Stains – Which is Best […]

  • Bailey

    Hi:
    I am in the process of trying to remove the stain from my cedar home. Right now we are using a pressure washer to remove the stain,..it seems to be working. But we may have to use a sander as well to even the wood surface? I have also heard that there some other way,..ie walnut shells to blast of the stain? If so does anyone know how I can order the product and where?

  • D. White

    May 24, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    I have used Sikkens-Cape Cod and now they don`t make it. It was a washed out grey. Does anyone know where I can find this color again.

    Hi D.White
    I have 7 gallons of ANTIQUE GREY # 014 – 23 Plus
    My location is Boise,Id

  • Bailey, sanding can sometimes make things un-even in a different direction. Walnut blasting may be way to aggressive for cedar siding. When you say pressure washing, are you using hot water? chemical? Hot water and chemical are usually enough to strip cedar siding prior to applying finish.

  • Martin

    I have built and lived in two log homes, one pine and one cedar. I struggled with the pine home until I went with Weather Seal. I sand blasted the entire hose and slowly applied Weather Seal (it is extremely thick). In short, it has been more than worth the time. A maintenance coat should be applied the second year. it goes on much more quickly and takes about 50% of the original amount. I fix log homes as a hobby and Sikkens is a common malady on many of the homes I fix. It doesn’t hold up well in sun. I’ve recommended Weather Seal to many folks and they have had equally good luck. Again, the maintenance coat the second year seems to be key. I will get 7 years from my last application (on cedar) here in Minnesota.

  • There was a question posted last month wondering about blasting off finish rather than power washing. We have been doing this type of work for over 30 years and we believe strongly that it is better to use the dry method of blasting to remove old finish.

    If you are interested in reading why, here is a link to our site that talks about this.
    http://www.restorelogs.com/Sand_and_Cob_Blasting.htm

  • steve gilles

    i live in tacoma washington. where can i purchase chevron shingle oil.

  • Lori

    Since day one, we have used Woodguard(it is on the thick side)in the honey tone and are looking to change to a new product as the absorption rate on the cedar logs was different on all four sides. There was an “old” Woodguard that was a little better than their “new” product line. We redid just the south side and the wood turned dark and has stayed much the same. I don’t know if our cabin’s exterior walls will ever all be the same color. Our home is subject to all temperatures, extremes in humidity, and weather conditions as we live in the Northeast.
    I think unless we place our log homes side by side in the exact same seasonal conditions to eliminate as many variables as possible, and each using our choice of log preserving products, we may never gain a conclusion satisfactory to any of us.

  • Ken

    I hit a snag staining my cedar sided home today. A half an hour into the job, the clear stain started turning white. I desperately grabbed the water hose and started spraying it off. It helped but now I’m faced with what could possibly be the problem ie. bad batch, not mixed quite well enough?

  • Dave Green

    Don’t get ripped off by all the industry bull. I found out from many old school farmers that they only use Chevron shingle oil that Tom previously recommended. I do my Cedar siding once every four years and it is now 32 years old and looks like new.
    I hate Chevron; but who else makes an oil that is comparable for less than $20 a gallon? The smell leaves quickly, if you don’t like the smell of just oil, without all the other chemicals they add to the crap that lasts 2 years. Been there.

    P.S. Don’t use it on a walking surface, cause it does get mighty slippery when wet.

  • Allan

    Has anyone had good luck with CFW of Flood company stains

  • Mike

    Here is the link to WeatherSeal’s MSDS. http://www.continentalprod.com/msds/weatherseal/82-4363-I-04.pdf

    47% Water
    16% Solvent
    5.6% Linseed Oil
    3% Disodium Octaborate Tetrahydrate (Borate)
    2.5% Talc, Soapstone
    2% Wax

    Why pay for half water? Make your own recipe with Linseed Oil, Gum Turpentine, and Wax. Prior to staining, pretreat with a Borate product. Recipes and valuable info can be learned at http://www.bearfortlodge.com

    Read the MSDS of the products you wish to buy. Learn the chemical, household, and trade names. A certain deck cleaner that sells for $10 a gallon at a big box store is just water and Sodium Hypochlorate (bleach). LCD cleaners like the ones sold in fancy packaging for $14.99 have ingredients of water and isopropyl alcohol. Paper Shredder oil is 99.99% vegetable oil. That is a 400% markup based on one gallon retail price for vegtable oil and a retail brand of shredder oil. Imagine the markup of these products when bulk pricing and water is considered! Do your homework. Read the product’s MSDS.

  • […] One chore that can be an annual project depending on where you live, is staining.  One of the most popular posts on this blog was an article from 2008 that discussed staining a log home. This year alone that same post has had about 15 new comments. If staining your home is on your To-Do list you may want to see, Log Home Stains – Which is Best? […]

  • Lisa

    I used Sansin stain on my home when it was built in 2003. It still looks great and I’ve not reapplied any stain. I do clean the logs every year with a mild bleach/ water solution and gently scrub away the built up dirt & pollen. I live in th Southern US where we have lots of heat and humidity not snow. I do have wide overhangs. Sansin staff were fantastic to work with.

  • Rick

    I have been blasting and staining log buildings for 36 yrs in northern Minnesota. The type of wood used,the type of log used {hand peeled,machined log,rough or plained timbers,log siding etec],is one of the biggest factors in the type of stain to use and how long it will last. The position of the building to the down falls of nature also is a factor in stain choice.Prep is also a very important step to assure a good lasting finish no matter what product you choose.What i am trying to say is that there is no best stain ,only the the right stain for your particular home. There are many factors to consider!!! 218-244-2568

  • Nancy Edwards

    I have a cedar log home that has not been restained in several years. It has wood guard now. The grain in the wood was raised by cleaning with a bleach based wood cleaner. Where do I go from here ? I’m wiling to clean and sand the exterior but I’m not sure on what to use for cleaning or stain. The home is in New Jersey and we get all weather extremes.

  • Sue Maahs

    We have a log home in Colorado that has always been treated with linseed oil. Built in 1985. We retreated with linseed oil 4 yrs ago and it needs some care. Can you put other stains over the oil? For example the Sikkens and will it stain the grey chinking?

  • Larry

    Has anyone tried the waterbased stains at Perma-Chink?

  • Greg

    Has anyone tried something like minwax helmsman urethane varnish?

  • Linda

    We previously used Woodguard and loved the look of our home. Recently after 3 years we decided to get the guys to come and clean, stain and caulk. The guys did an Excellent job, and the boss recommended Sashco and sent me color charts to match up with my log home. My husband and I did that Medium Brown Stain, brown tone caulk since we wanted the caulk darker than the stain. What I got from Sashco was Dark Brown Cherry High Gloss Stain with a Beige Caulk and I’m notbHappy at all.
    I can see the color being off a little but it is Way Off and after spending thousands of dollars and having a color you don’t love, I would go with a company that is not color blinded. NEVER HAD THIS PROBLEM WITH WOODGUARD ! The shine looks like fake logs. I only hope they can do something to get the color right before we finish caulking.. Not using what they sent us and Not Paying someone to go over it with an art brush and stain.

  • PJ

    Allan,
    We have used CWF on our cedar log home for 25 years now. It needs to be re done about every 5 years, where the sun hits probably every 3 to keep it looking good.
    Two coats.
    PJ

  • As the owner of Log Home a Finishing, a Colorado log home maintenance company I have tried many of the log home oil available on the market. We rarely use water based as it doesn’t last as long. Over the past 5 years of log home restoration we have primarily used Sashco Transformation ‘Log and Timber’ with fantastic results and satisfied homeowners.

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