Log home Maintenance and Preservation

A well-designed log home has a good foundation with no less than 12'' clearance between the logs and the ground. The roof overhang should be at least 3' at the eaves and 4' on the gable end walls. With higher walls, or in exposed locations, wider overhangs are required to protect these walls. Eaves trough and downspouts will carry the water away from the building. This is especially important in areas subject to high winds and horizontal rains. Any log posts should have a moisture barrier between the wood and concrete support. The trick is to keep water moving away from the building from the time it lands on the roof until it drains from the site. This includes proper flashing at chimneys, windows, doors, gable end framing and between the sill logs and the foundation. The logs themselves should not have any flat areas where water can lay or flow into the building.

Our House Our House

Another source of moisture is the warm, moist air inside the home. Without a vapour barrier on the inside of most log home walls, the logs themselves absorb this moisture and it is important that the exterior finish allow this water to escape. A high quality, "breathable" finish will accomplish this. If the exterior logs are sealed with paint, varnish or other "non-breathing" finish, this moisture will be trapped within the log and this can cause rot.

The log walls should be periodically cleaned with a mild cleaner such as Logwash from Permachink Corp. This can help the finish to last longer. Pressure washing can easily damage a log wall.

In preparation for refinishing, I often use a mild bleach solution to kill mildew and brighten the wood. It is important to use lots of water to rinse residue from the wood. An oxalic acid based wood brightener will help to neutralize the caustic effect of the bleach. It is very important to follow the correct procedures when using these chemicals to prevent damage to your house, foliage and yourselves.

log home needing maintenance log home after maintenance
Before After

Borax-based preservatives such as Timbor, Shellguard or Borocal should be used prior to the application of any wood finish. This preservative can be soaked into checks even when the finish is reasonably intact on the exterior walls. The residue can be washed from the logs with a very mild solution of Logwash.

This is not, by any means, a complete description of how to use these products.

A good finish for your log home will shed water while still allowing moisture to escape from the wood — sort of like Gortex fabric does. It should look good, block ultraviolet rays, last for a reasonable amount of time and be easily reapplied as necessary.

Many finish manufacturers make these claims but they aren’t always true.

My finish of preference was TWP penetrating oil until it was no longer available in Canada as of Jan. 2012. I have used the Lifeline products successfully and I am currently using the red label Penofin Ultra Premium penetrating oil finish for refinishing homes previously stained with TWP. I have also used Penofin on new cedar with good results. I have seen good reviews for the Defy products but have not yet tried them

Surface preparation is very important with all wood finishes.

TWP finish Penofin finish
TWP Penofin

The life expectancy of log buildings is determined by many factors. These include site exposure, building design, log species, chosen preservatives and the effectiveness of their application. Most log homes will need more maintenance on the sides of the house that are most exposed to rainstorms and hot sun.