Reducing Log Home Maintenance Part 1by Hochstetler Log Homes on 2019-04-09 15:25:30
The purpose of this article is to help you, the log home owner, minimize your maintenance. In fact, when you count all the wrong things a person could do, it could easily add up to 75% less maintenance! Applying the wrong kind of finish by itself could save 50% or even more.
Whatever you do, if you want it to last, you will have to put a good foundation under it. It’s no different when you go to put finish on your home for the first time.
To achieve a good foundation for your finish, start with well-dried logs. Quality finish can’t adhere to wood if it isn’t dry. For your peace of mind buy kiln dried logs, preferably from a reputable company that has their own kilns.
Removing the mill-glaze is the next most important consideration. Mill-glaze is the glossy appearance on the surface of all milled lumber that is created from the rapid rotation of planer blades during the manufacturing process. The planer blades, literally, pound the wood continually as they cut, not a lot different than if you would pound on the surface of the wood with a hammer. If you don’t remove it, your finish won’t adhere to the wood as well and the longevity of the finish will suffer.
The third thing to remember is to remove all dirt, mildew and, of course, the discoloration from weathering. Imagine trying to stick tape on a dirty surface – it wouldn’t stick and neither will the finish.
Removing mill-glaze and dirt
Mix 4 oz. of Tri-Sodium Phosphate (TSP) with one quart household bleach and 3 quarts water. Apply the solution to your home’s surface using a garden-style pump sprayer. Allow the solution to soak for up to 10-20 minutes; however, do not let it dry. After soaking, pressure wash the area (at max 500 psi) with water to remove the TSP solution and dirt particles. Always remember to keep your nozzle away from seams. You don’t want to blow your gasket!
To apply the cleaner solution, start at the bottom of the wall and work your way up. For pressure washing start at top and work your way down. It’s also possible to remove mill-glaze and dirt with sanding but this is time consuming and not very practical on the exterior of your home.
After you’re done with pressure washing, we recommend putting on borates such as Penetreat, a wood preservative made by Sashco. Borates are similar to the common house hold cleaner grandmother used to use, called Borax. This product had lots of uses besides cleaning, like sprinkling it around the outside walls to kill ants. Borates will kill most insects that eat and digest it, plus it helps prevent decay.
While the surface is still wet from pressure washing, (borates need moisture in order to migrate into the wood) mix and apply borates per manufacturer’s specification. Apply as heavy as possible while preventing runs and/or streaking. Ensure that all checks, especially upward checks, are saturated. Start on one end; go around once and then twice.
Allow 3 drying days before applying the finish of your choice, per the manufactures specifications. Make sure the finish you choose is compatible with the borates.
Selecting the finish
When selecting your finish remember it doesn’t take any more labor to apply a high quality finish than it does a lessor quality one. And often the low quality lasts only half as long.
We manufacture and sell 100 plus log homes per year where clients will also buy their finish. Most clients will continue to apply what was originally put on, making us a sizable market for wood finishes. Thus, we have lots of different finish companies knocking on our door wanting to sell us their product. Naturally, all claim theirs is the best; to the point where we were confused. On top of all this, there are lots of powerful marketing ploys out there that are quite convincing. Like the one company who had a marketing firm contact the builders that use their product, asking them, “what product they would recommend?” Naturally, it came back positive for them so now according to
an independent survey of builders, their product is the, “#1 recommended finish.” Another company uses wax as an ingredient in their finish to make it, “bead up” when it gets wet. They marketed
it so well that soon other companies had to follow in order to sell their products. It doesn’t take a chemist to know that wax won’t last long against the elements. Finally, we decided to do our own testing.
We bought 40 different finishes from 30 different companies and put them on test boards. Each product was put on two different pieces using the exact same prepared white pine wood – all dried to 15%. It was very important for us to do a fair test so we would know which product to recommend to our clients. Having our clients use the best product available is to our best interest, for obvious reasons, as this enhances the log home so that you, our client, can enjoy them more and hopefully your friends will see them and want one for themselves.
After 3 years in a typical log home environment, with semi-shaded southwest exposure, some of the products failed and most of the others looked pretty sad. A few however, really did shine. Sikkens 2-coat Log and Siding and their 3 coat Cetol 1&23 plus fared the best, but on the other hand their water-base 1-coat SRD failed miserably. This convinced us that you can’t always depend on the brand. The next best was, 2-coat Lifeline, a Perma-chink product; however, their 2-coat Ultra 7 didn’t fare so well.
Color can make a big difference in the finishes performances. The darker the finish the longer it will last because the pigments gives it more UV protection. Also, most finish will last longer on a rough surface such as on rough-sawn wood.
Most pigmented semi-transparent finishes will need to be applied with a brush, because with colors it’s very difficult to keep from getting visible overlaps with a sprayer. Some contractors will spray and then back-brush.
After 2 years, go back through and caulk only the upturned checks that are exposed to the rain. By caulking these checks, you will prevent moisture penetration and extent the life of your home’s finish. All the checks that are turned down, under an overhang, porch or where they aren’t exposed to rain don’t need to be caulked. The reason for waiting 2 years is so that the logs have had time to acclimate (settling, movement, etc.) Otherwise, there may be enough movement to break the caulking, requiring you to caulk again.
The caulking should be a water-base product that stays flexible and sticks like glue. Conceal made by Sashco works very good for this application. Conceal can be color matched.
Fill the check completely, then take a wet rag and wipe all the excess caulking, leaving only the caulk that is inside the check. This will make a nice clean look. No need to have caulking smeared all over.
Sometimes, when the window bucks or the log butt-joints aren’t properly caulked during construction, water can seep in. Another common area for leakage is where a roof, such as a garage roof, is built against a log home. What often happens is the builder didn’t cut deep enough into the logs with flashing allowing water to siphon in behind the flashing. Both areas can normally be fixed by drilling a 1/4” hole right at the edge of the flashing or at windows. Drill the hole at the edge of the trim or when at a joint, drill the hole at the top of the joint. Finally, fill hole with Conceal caulking, making sure that the caulking goes all the way back beyond the tongue.
Wood boring bees are the #1 problem insect in a log home. Fortunately, they don’t do a lot of damage but they can be a nuisance. The best prevention is to mix a chemical in with the finish when applying it. The best product that we have found is NBS 30, which is available here at Hochstetler Milling. It won’t totally eliminate the bees but will greatly reduce the problem, plus, it will help with other insects as well. For the established bees, put Seven dust in a squeezable bottle, hold it up to their hole and give it 2 good puffs, they should instantly start dropping out. Fill the entrance hole with caulking after several weeks. For other insects it’s no different than any other home. Simply have an exterminator come once per year and do his normal thing. The beauty of a log home is the fact that when there is a problem you can see it. Whereas, in a conventional stick home where there is a cavity it can be bug infested for years before the home owner or even the exterminator becomes aware of the problem and extensive damage has been done.
One insect that hates log homes is the yellow jacket! Why? Because there is no cavity! Yellow Jackets need a cavity to build their nests.