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Friday, 06 January 2012 14:42

Wood Cleaning Options

Cleaning Log Home Logs

Just as you wouldn't wax your car prior to waxing it, you shouldn't stain your log home prior to removing all mildew, dirt, dust, pollens and other contaminants. It's not that unusual to spend as much time (or more) prepping your logs to be stained as on the staining itself. Don't take shortcuts.

Log Cleaner & Water

If an inexpensive log cleaner (soap) and water cleans your logs to your satisfaction, you won't need any of the below methods. When determining what cleaning methods to use, start out with the easiest, least expensive system first. For example, why assume your home needs to be cob blasted when a soap scrubbing and rinsing will give you what you want? If your first choice doesn't give you your results, proceed to a more aggressive method. Some cleaners may work by spraying a log surface then either pressure washing or hosing off. At times, hand scrubbing may be necessary.

Note: Bleach will not remove a stain or dirt, but will often remove some mildew, and in doing so, will also brighten your logs. Bleach should never be used at full strength. A dilution of 1 part bleach to 4 parts water often works well.


Pressure Washing

You'll hear different recommendations on whether you should have your home pressure washed or not. Theres no uniform answer to this. If pressure washing can be the quickest method with stellar results, it should at least be considered before employing the cob blasting (below) method. It could be much quicker, easier and definitely is more cost effective. One fallacy is that you're saturating your logs with water as a result of pressure washing. This isn't necessarily true. On hard, sound, rot-free logs, you're only introducing water into the top fibers of the wood. Your decision should be dependant on the results you want and whether or not your gaps are conducive to allowing water in your home. If you choose to go with a pressure washing, and your home has numerous gaps that will allow water to infiltrate, foam backing rod (the same as a what is used prior to chinking) can be plugged in place beforehand. Because the interior of your home doesn't face the elements of Mother Nature, pressure washing generally isn't necessary except for on the exterior. The one exception could be if after your walls are stacked, a long period of time goes by before the roof is erected. This exposure could cause some mold and mildew to form, particularly in a damp or humid environment. Remember, mildew does not damage or weaken wood, it's just unsightly.

The amount of pressure used will vary tremendously. A low setting of 500 - 1000 psi could be sufficient to simply remove UV graying that's taken place over a few months.  Something closer to 2500 - 3000 psi may be necessary on some logs. Remember, the higher psi used, the higher the probability that some fuzzing of the wood could take place. If you choose, this end effect can be buffed or sanded off.

Depending on temperature, humidity and your logs, they can be stained as early as a day after pressure washing. At times a week or more may be necessary to wait.


Chemical Stripping

While solvents aren't as popular as they once were, they could be the necessary means depending on the type and amount of finish you're removing without going to the more expensive cob blasting method. Since a potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide or methylene chloride based strippers are generally used, protective gear (including eye-wear) should always be used. After applying the stripper, let it stay in place as long as recommended by the manufacturer, then pressure wash off.  Generally a lower pressure setting can be used (1000 - 1500 psi) to remove the chemical than with pressure washing alone. In addition, a rinsing with an oxalic acid following a high pH level stripper should be done in order to return the pH level of the wood back to where it needs to be to properly accept a stain. Proper care should be given to surrounding grass and foliage as well. Wetting down the areas you want to protect, covering with plastic tarps and rinsing again after the project with water normally does a good job of protecting your plants.

Remember: ALWAYS apply a stripper (or any cleaner) from the bottom and work up then rinse starting with the top. This process will help eliminate any spotting effect caused by upper logs dripping on lower ones. In addition, when pressure washing off a stripper, make sure not to spray the water on the logs that have not yet had the stripper applied.   Strippers always work best on dry wood, and usually work better (and quicker) in warm weather.

Media Blasting

While one wouldn't use a sand blaster on a log home due to the potentially severe damage it can do to your surface, media blasting over the years has evolved into a very popular, solvent free finish removal system. A modified sand blaster and a large air compressor (125 CFM or greater) is used to blast your surface with blasting media at a very high velocity and relatively low volume.  Coverage one can expect from a 40-pound bag of can vary from 40-50 square feet up to 150+ square feet. Factors include amount of pressure (psi), size and effectiveness of compressor, hardness of your logs, moisture content, experience of the applicator and most important, the type and amount of finish you're removing. While the media won't rough up your log surface to the extent a sand blaster will, it also won't leave your home with a “hand-sanded" finish. You can always choose to buff or sand your log surface lightly after a cob blasting to minimize the effect of the pitted texture blasting may leave. This blasting media is biodegradable and won't harm your plants. Blasting media should not be recycled through the blaster. Re-introducing the media back into the equipment could also add small rocks and bark which could damage it.



Hand sanding or by mechanical means (planer, angle grinder, orbital, etc.) gives you the best results but also is (by far) the most time consuming. A good sanding or grinding of your logs will provide a very smooth finish which means your logs will stain substantially lighter since the stain (oil or latex) won't soak in as deep. Your coverage will also substantially increase from 200 - 300 SF per gallon to as much as 450 SF per gallon. After a sanding, make sure to brush or sweep off any dust particles prior to staining so it doesn't interfere with adhesion. For log ends we use a 36 grip aluminum oxide grinding disk.

Published in Maintaining Log Homes
Friday, 06 January 2012 13:11

Log Home Inspection Tips

Inspection Tips for Log Homes


Prior to repairing, preserving, maintaining or protecting, it's always best to take some time walking around the house twice per year, looking for areas that need attention.  Drawing a simple diagram of your house and marking areas of concern is also a good idea; this way you won't miss any of the areas when it comes time to fix them.  Things to look for include:

Open Checks or Gaps Between Logs

If you have a chinkless style house, make sure it remains chinkless. As tight as the house was when it was built, at times you'll notice separation between the logs. Perhaps your home doesn't need to have all joints chinked, but make sure the areas where air infiltration exists are attended to.

Cracks in Chinking (or separation)

If you're seeing hairline cracks on your chinking either it was applied too thin (thickness) or the application wasn't wide enough to absorb log movement.  These are easily repaired.  Apply some Perma-Chink over the area that needs repair and feather in with a proper stainless steel trowel.  Unlike stain, which is difficult to match up, blending in Perma-Chink is quite easy.  If you have areas where the chinking has come loose from the wood, this can only mean there was something on the log (mill glaze, dirt, oil, etc.) that prevented it from permanently sticking when it was applied, or enough pressure wasn't used when tooling the chinking after it was applied.

Water Stains (Interior or Exterior)

A good wood cleaner (or blonding agent) can remove water marks.  But more importantly, find out where the water is coming from and resolve the problem so there are no long-term effects.

Faded Finish

It isn't unusual for the top half of the logs to be a bit more weathered and sunburned than the bottom half since the upper half is exposed longer to the sun while the bottom half gets some shade.  Faded finish is caused by the sun.  This isn't causing damage to your lobs, it's just unsightly.

 Loss of Water Repellency in Stain

Faded finish doesn't mean it lost its water repellency although it may have.  Simply splash some water on the area.  If it beads up and trickles off, you still have protection.  If it seems to soak into the wood, the water protection is gone.  Pretty basic stuff, but important. If you like the color of your wood 12-18 months after staining them, it's always a good idea to put on another protective clear coat.

Dusty / Dirty Logs (including mildew)

The picture below is a good example of how unsightly pollens and dust can make your logs look in 6 months.  Luckily these logs had a clear coat finish over the stain making it very, very easy to wipe clean (using only water) with a sponge.   Simply using Log Wash and hosing down your home once or twice a year will help keep it clean and won't give the contaminants a chance to embed themselves in the stain, which will mean more work later. At times, a mild log cleaner may be needed, but make sure it isn't so abrasive that it removes the stain.

 Soft & Rotted Wood

Rotted wood is only caused by moisture.  Remove all saturated, spongy wood and treat with liquid epoxy and wood filler to build the log back up.  Use your judgment (or the judgement of a professional) if the log needs to be replaced.  99% of the time, it doesn't unless your home has been a victim of total neglect.

Small Holes in Logs

You'll normally find a small sawdust pile directly under these holes which are normally caused by carpenter ants or beetles.  Noticing a few small holes does not necessarily mean you have a major infestation or that your logs are about to loss structural integrity. Isolate the problem and treat with borates.

Snow Drifts

After a significant snowfall you should shovel it off your deck and make sure it's not drifted up against your log wall.   Keeping them continually wet is only welcoming potential mildew and loss of stain protection.

Other Observations

In addition, make sure your gutters are secure and in good operating working order. The lack of gutters, or downspouts or those working improperly can cause long term concerns with leaks and overflows causing damage to your logs (or deck) by keeping them continually wet.

It's best to keep your firewood pile a short distance from your home.  Especially if you keep your firewood uncovered (keeping it damp), making it a prime target for termites, beetles and carpenter ants. Leaning your wet firewood up against your house makes it that much shorter of a distance the pests need to travel.

Keep brush and foliage off your logs.  Keeping landscaping trimmed back and not in constant contact with your logs will keep water off your walls during rain or when watering. is accepting log home maintenance articles from our subscribers and from log home owners. Contact us for details.

Published in Maintaining Log Homes
Thursday, 25 August 2011 16:34

Pressure Washing Logs


Perma-Chink Technical Tips. 2008

Pressure Washing Tips:


By Jeff Kyger, Northwest Log Home Care Bellevue, Washington.


Pressure washing (also referred to power washing) is the function of using highly pressurized water to remove mildew, mold, dirt, pollens, UV graying, etc. You'll hear different recommendations whether or not pressure washing your logs is the best cleansing method. Generally speaking, pressure washing is the quickest and least expensive choice.


A combination of the amount of pressure and amount of water the equipment is designed to use will determine the result, along with other factors. One fallacy is that you are saturating and “damaging" your logs with water as a result of pressure washing. This simply isn't true. On hard, sound, rot-free logs, you are only introducing water into the top fibers of the wood. Your decision should be dependent on the results you want and whether or not your gaps are conducive to allowing water in your home.


If you choose to go with a pressure washing, and your home has numerous gaps that will allow water to infiltrate, foam backing rod (the same product which is used prior to chinking) can easily be used which can be plugged in place before water is introduced. Results will vary tremendously depending on the following conditions:


  • The strength of the pressure used (also known as PSI/pounds per square inch).
  • The GPM (gallons per minute) the machine discharges.
  • Type and amount of product (previously applied stain/sealer) being removed.
  • Age of the logs (often relative to surface hardness).
  • Experience of the operator.
  • Angle at which the wall is sprayed.
  • Distance the tip is kept from the wood.
  • hether a chemical stripper is first applied.


Both PSI & GPM are the important factors for the optimum performance when pressure washing. The pressure washer's PSI rating is the maximum amount of force (pressure) discharged by the pressure washer. Pressure washers range from 1,000 psi up to 4,000 psi. A low setting of 1000 - 1500 psi could be sufficient to simply remove minor UV graying that's taken place. However, this isn't enough to remove an existing stain or sealer, in most cases. Something closer to 2500 - 3200 psi, or higher, is necessary on many homes. Often the 3,800 psi setting is reserved for driveways, concrete walkways, etc. although this can be used on logs as well, and with great success; just be careful not to get the tip too close to the wood in order to eliminate any fuzzing. For comparison purposes, a typical household faucet will generally create 40-60 psi. The GPM (the machine water flow during one minute of operation) is also vitally important.


Product Being Removed
The time it takes to pressure wash and the results generated are often directly associated with the type of finish being removed as well as how many coats have been applied. While some older, obsolete linseed based oil stains are more difficult to remove than newer products, practically everything can be removed with proper pressure washing techniques. Some of these older type products will often need a chemical stripper applied first in order to soften the bond to the wood.


Condition of Wood Surface Traditionally, newer, recently peeled logs have a greater surface hardness and can withstand highly aggressive pressure washing (if needed) easier than a wall which has been fully exposed to direct sun for 20 years. On older/softer logs, less psi is often used in order to help eliminate any fuzzing of the wood that otherwise can be caused by improper pressure washing. The effective psi can be adjusted simply by moving closer or standing back a bit further from the surface. You might notice your upper and lower fascia boards have aged and darkened at an accelerated rate compared to your logs. Because these areas are often made from softer (i.e. pine) wood, they are more likely to absorb water leading to more prominent mildew growth. These areas are also washed and can easily resemble new wood once cleaned.


Experience of Operator
One key element of this process is the speed (whether slow or fast) at which the tip moves along the wood surface. Take a tremendous amount of care and precautions to leave your logs in the best condition possible. A key element is to always “keep the wand moving". Keeping the tip stationary, or even slowing down too much can leave "fan lines" or marks in the wood left by the water pressure. When conditions are necessary, change the angle at which the pressure washing wand is held and the distance it is held from the log in order to achieve optimum results.


New Construction
Pressure washing of new constructions can also easily remove the UV graying of the logs that can start occurring just weeks after the logs are stacked, particularly if exposed to direct sunlight. The interior of these projects are often pressure washed as well, particularly if the walls are standing for a lengthy period of time prior to the roof being installed. This exposure could cause some mold, mildew as well as UV graying to form, particularly in a damp or humid environment.


Drying Time
Depending on temperature, humidity and the condition of your logs, they can be stained as early as a day after pressure washing. There will be some cases when the stain can be applied the same day they've been pressure washed (but don't rush the process). For this to happen, very high temperatures are needed (usually over 80 degrees). At times a week or more may be necessary to wait. You'll need to wait until the wood is dry enough to accept the stain since excessive moisture can inhibit the saturation of the stain into the wood or its bonding requirements to the wood fibers.


Other Notes
In addition to log and wood sided structures, other areas where pressure washing can be utilized include driveways, stone walkways, pool decking, stone walls, fencing, gutters, downspouts, roofing and other areas. Concrete slowly builds up a browning/green appearance over time which usually consists of grease, dirt, mildew and algae which can easily be cleansed. This is often not so recognizable (until its cleaned) since it builds up slowly over a period of time.


Pressure washing can be done in practically any temperature and weather conditions. Its application isn't isolated to warm, dry conditions as other segments of the restoration process is although chemical strippers, which are often applied prior to cleaning, work much better in warmer weather. Whether you hire a professional or undertake the project yourself, pressure washing can bring back the beauty of your logs, preparing them for a fresh coat of stain and protective clear coat finish.

Northwest Log Home Care Bellevue, Washington.

Published in Maintaining Log Homes