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Wood Treatment Options For Log Homes

A look at some of the no-fuss wood treatment options available for preserving your home's logs.

There's a myth floating around that log homes are somehow challenging to maintain and therefore consume hours upon hours of our time and even elbow grease. This is nonsense—and a notion that's probably perpetuated by someone selling condos or stick-built homes. The bottom line is that log homes require the same amount of time and care than any conventional home, and some might argue that they require even less. 
 
As you might guess, most of our focus revolves around preserving the wood. As soon as a tree is harvested, it runs up against forces such as water, sun, fungi, mildew and insects. Throw in seasonal temperature swings, which cause wood to swell and shrink, and you're left with issues that can impact the health of your logs. 
 
Now the good news: Manufacturers have created hundreds of protective wood treatment products that shield the wood on your castle from the elements. Designed to protect your new home, these wood treatments come in liquid, powder or solid form, and they serve different functions. Some seal out moisture, some block the sun, and some discourage bugs and fungi.

Laminate Roof Shingle Butt Pass Exterior Dowell Golden Eagle Log Homes

Treatment to protect your logs can begin before construction starts and should continue for the life of the home. Here are the most common techniques:

1. Air- and Kiln-Drying the Logs

Because water inside the wood can support a host of harmful organisms, the first step log home producers take is to reduce the moisture content of the logs. They may air-dry the wood for up to a year or more, heat the logs in huge kilns or use a combination of air- and kiln-drying.

Kilns remove excess moisture by circulating hot air around the logs. Some of the advantages of kiln-drying are:

  • The kiln-dried logs are more uniform, and will settle less. 
  • Kiln-drying cuts down on log checking (cracking). 
  • The heat from the kiln will eliminate insects, larvae, or fungi. 
  • Kiln-drying will crystallize pitch (sap) in the wood, preventing it from seeping to the surface years down the road. 
  • Logs that have been kiln-dried will be lighter and more manageable during construction. 

2. Borate Treatments

Some log home producers also protect the wood from insects and fungi by dipping logs in tanks filled with a borate-based solution or infusing them with a borate preservative through pressure treating. Borate is an eco-friendly and economical way to protect your logs. Borate powder is mined from the earth, and can be applied by either mixing with water to apply to large areas or dusted into cracks and crevices. Logs treated with Borate are resistant to termites carpenter ants, beetles,  and are considered fungi-resistant.  Borates are odorless, non-corrosive, and easy to apply. 

Learn more: Warding Off Log Home Pests

3. Cleaning the Logs

Once the logs are assembled at your home site, they should be treated with a cleaning solution to remove mill glaze, road grime, mud and dirt accumulated during construction. Each of these substances can prevent preservatives and finishes from adhering to the wood.

Learn more: How to Protect Your Log Home's Wood

4. Applying a Wood Preservative

The next treatment your logs will receive after cleaning will  likely be the application of a wood preservative. The most important role of a preservative is to repel your logs' primary enemy: water. 

Water promotes mold and mildew and attracts fungi and insects—all of which can break down the wood. Normally, preservatives are applied to your logs every three to five years. But the maintenance schedule varies, depending on factors such as the climate in the region you're building and the specific preservative you select. (Important: You need to apply preservatives that are specifically formulated for log homes.)

Learn more:  Take a look at Log Home Living's  guide to companies specializing in log home wood treatment products. 

5. Biocides

To protect against fungi, mold, mildew and insects, some manufacturers add chemicals called biocides to their wood preservatives. Although these agents are safe for humans and animals, they kill the organisms that feed on wood.

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This 2-coat wood stain from Permachink comes in 20 natural wood tones
and includes a UV Boost additive.

6. Pigmented Stains to Combat Damage from UV Rays

Manufacturers offer sunblock and pigmented preservatives to mitigate the damaging effects of the sun's ultraviolet rays.  Some tips for applying stains to your log home: 

  • Stains should be applied early in the construction process— usually once the roof is completed and the trim boards have been installed.   
  • Always apply stains before applying a clear topcoat. While the stain protects the wood from UV rays, the topcoat protects the stain. 
  • The darker the stain, the more it will protect your logs from UV rays. 

7. Topcoats and Finish Coatings

Depending on which product line you use, you may have to spread on a final finish coat after applying the wood preservative or stain. It's worth it: This finish coat will reflect ultraviolet rays and add another layer of water repellency.