Re-staining a Log Home

Re-staining a log home can seem like a daunting project. So understanding what stain is and how to choose the right type for your log home, cabin, panabode or cedar siding house is important to get the best value and longevity when refinishing your wood structure. With over 20 years of experience, we are the experts when it comes to restoring your home back to it’s former glory.

All you need to know about stain for your log home restoration project

Logs and wood need to be shielded from the long term effects of exposure to the sun and the elements. Applying the correct stain is vital to ensuring your home, cabin or resort is properly protected.  

Re-staining logs and wood not only protects your investment, it also brings the wood back to its  original condition. Understanding what stain is, how it works and choosing the right one is very important when seeking the best value and longevity for your wood structure.

With over 20 years of experience, we are the experts That are leading the industry   when it comes to restoring your  structure back to its former condition and protecting it in the future.

In this article we will answer the most commonly asked questions when clients are considering re-staining their log homes, cabins or resorts.

What is wood stain?

Wood stain is a semi-transparent coating that penetrates the wood to provide colour whilst allowing features of the wood, such as colour and grain to remain visible.

Stain works by soaking pigment into wood fiber with a solvent and then having it set and bind into the wood.

Wood stain is an important barrier that protects the wood from sunlight, dirt, and moisture. Choosing the right stain and applying it properly makes all the difference to ensuring the longevity of your wood.

Stain differs from paint in that it  protects and preserves the beauty of your wood compared to paint which covers and hides it. Stain does wear away gradually over time and can require periodic re-coating . Some wood stains are opaque, with a solid colour that sits on top of the wood. Other wood stains are transparent so that the original colour of the wood can be seen. For maximum, long-term performance, log homes and wood structures require specialized stains that contain additives not typically found in your average wood stains and sealants. The best log stain is formulated to prevent moisture from entering the fiber of your logs and has the right amount of pigment to prevent sun damage.

What is the difference between oil-based and water-based stains?

There are many different stain options available on the market. The two main  stains that are used on exterior wood are oil-based and water-based stains.

Oil-based wood stain

Oil-based wood stains are the most popular choice when it comes to choosing a stain, due to their durability and the fact that they penetrate deep within the wood. Oil-based stains tend to have a slower drying time than other wood stains, but it  makes it easier to get an even finish. Oil based stains are excellent moisture repellants and UV blocker.

Water-based wood stain

This type of stain doesn’t penetrate the wood as deeply as oil-based stains and dries very fast so it can be difficult to apply and large surface areas must be  split into sections to allow even application.

Wood preparation

How do I prepare my logs for re-staining?

If your logs do not require the old stain to be removed and only require a maintenance coat, we recommend cleaning the logs or wood with a cloth or light brush and mild soap or TSP and water

Do not use a pressure washer as it will tear up the soft grain raising the hairs of the grain, creating a very inconsistent profile. It will also inject water unnecessarily into the wood and possibly your home, leading to further build up of mold, mildew or rot.

How do I remove old stain from a log house?

The two main ways of removing existing stain from the logs or wood from the exterior of a structure is to either sanding/grinding or blasting with a fine media, no coarser that 50/100 grit. Do not use a coarse medium like walnut shells, as it leaves an oily residue, or heavy grit such as 30/60.

We recommend removing the old coatings and UV damage  by blasting the logs or wood surfaces with crushed glass. This media is as fine as table salt, silica free and 100% environmentally friendly. Once the old coatings are removed and the logs are brought down to bare wood, a new stain can be applied. This blasting prep method leaves a slight profile on the wood surface, allowing the wood to absorb three times the stain product when compared to a sanded surface. The more stain that is absorbed the better and long lasting the protection. Blasting is also effective on siding and soffits without damaging them.

Stain Colour

How do I choose a stain colour?

Generally speaking the darker the stain, the more pigments there are in the stain. The more pigments there are in the stain, the more protection the logs will receive from UV rays and weather. Each log home stain manufacturer  has its own formulation, all of them working hard to produce  the best product that will last for the longest period of time, and for the most reasonable price. This has created a multitude of systems across the log home industry. The type of wood, the environmental conditions and the age of the home all play a role in the decision making, as do time and price.

We recommend that a number of test samples in different colours from different manufactures are tested before applying the stain to the entire building. it is a good idea to test it on a small, inconspicuous area to make sure you are happy with the color and finish.

Can you change the stain colour on a log home?

Yes, but you cannot apply a new stain colour over an old stain or coating. We recommend removing the old stain or coating by blasting the logs or wood with crushed glass before re-staining a log home. This medium is as fine as table salt, silica free and 100% environmentally friendly. 

Once the old coatings are removed and the logs are brought down to bare wood, a new stain colour can be applied.

Stain Application

Man in protective suit applying stain to a log home with a pressure sprayer

What is the proper application method for staining a log home?

We recommend that the stain be applied with a high quality pressure sprayer that is back brushed in the direction of the wood grain immediately after being applied, to achieve a nice, clean and uniform finish.

What is the best temperature for applying stain?

The best conditions for applying stain are on days when it is not raining heavily and the temperature  is between 10 degrees celsius/ 50 degrees fahrenheit and 22 degrees celsius/72 degrees fahrenheit.  However, slightly higher or lower temperatures are also acceptable..

How long does it take for stain to dry?

Many manufacturers suggest that a stain dry for up to 24 hours. This is based on wood that has not been sanded with 60 to 80 grit sand paper which leaves the wood with a glass like non-porous finish.

Stain dries much quicker on a log that has been blasted, as blasting slightly profiles the substrate surface, opening up the pores of the logs and wood, allows allowing stain to penetrate deep into the woods cell structure, drying very quickly and ultimately providing long term superior protection from the elements.

Stain and log maintenance

How often should I clean my logs?

The following maintenance should be done annually, or when there are signs of dirt and dust accumulating on the logs, especially if the building is close to a gravel or dusty driveway. This can break down the wood finish prematurely,  especially on the sun bearing walls. Leaving dust to accumulate for several years may result in the stain failing to protect the wood. If this occurs, it may require the need to re-blast.

Lightly scrub dirt and dust from logs with a damp cloth, agitating the surface. You can also use an RV wash brush attached to the end of a garden hose.

·      Rinse the dirt and dust with low pressure water such as a garden hose and spray nozzle. Do not use a pressure washer.

·      Cleaning should be done during warm weather to ensure water evaporates from the checks and cracks.

·      Keep sprinklers and all other water sources away from the logs. Leaky gutters, down pipes or faucets should be addressed immediately to ensure wood rot doesn’t set in.

·      If there are signs of the finish fading due to high UV exposure, it will most likely occur on the south facing walls where there is more sun. Applying a maintenance coat, where required, will keep the wood surfaces protected from UV and water damage.

How often do I need to re-stain my log home or cabin?

As a general rule, you will need to stain your log home every 4 to 6 years, depending on the elements. Factors such as exposure to rain, sunlight, hail, wind, climate etc. will affect how often you home needs to be re-stained. South and West facing walls may require re-staining every 2 to 3 years.

How do you re-stain a log home?

In most cases, we recommend removing the old stain or coating by blasting the logs or wood with crushed glass. This media is as fine as table salt, silica free and 100% environmentally friendly. 

Once the old coatings are removed and the logs are brought down to bare wood, a new stain can be applied.

How do I choose a log stain?

Low prices and convenience make it tempting to buy your stain at a home improvement store, but there could be an unseen cost. For maximum, long-term performance, log homes and wood structures require specialized stains that contain additives not typically found in your average wood stains and sealants. The best log stain is formulated to prevent moisture from entering the fiber of your logs and has the right amount of pigment to prevent sun damage. Generally speaking the darker the stain, the more protection the logs will receive from UV rays and weather.

Each log home stain company has its own formulation, all of them working hard to produce  the best product that will last for the longest period of time, and for the most reasonable price. This has created a multitude of systems across the log home industry. The type of wood, the environmental conditions and the age of the home all play a role in the decision making, as do time and price. We recommend that a number of test samples in different colours from different manufactures are applied to find the most suitable stain for your structure.

How much does it cost to re-stain a log home?

There is no simple answer. It will depend on the state of the existing stain, age and condition of the logs, the extent of any weather or UV damage as well as possible mold, mildew or rotting wood. 

We provide you an estimate free of charge. In many cases this can be done by submitting high quality photos of the building or structure.

Is preservative and stain the same thing?

Most stains are not registered as wood preservatives, even though they are designed to protect wood surfaces. Stains protect the wood surface primarily by improving water repellency. Other qualities, such as UV and mildew resistance, are typically formulated to protect the stain itself, rather than the wood. 

Two basic types of finishes or treatments are used to protect wood surfaces from weathering: those that form or coating on the wood (film-forming finishes) and those that penetrate the wood surface. Film-forming materials include paints, solid-color stains, and varnishes. Penetrating finishes include preservatives, water repellents, and pigmented semitransparent stains.

A good acrylic latex outdoor house paint will generally outlast a good oil-based house paint. Latex paints are also more porous than oil-based paints; they can “breathe” while they shed water. This characteristic may contribute to their longevity. However, if water enters the wall from an interior source, it’s more likely to get trapped in the wood beneath an oil- based finish, and it can cause the paint to blister and encourage decay. Moreover, oil-based paints tend to become brittle. 

Acrylic polymers are more resistant to sunlight than oil-based paints and therefore do not weather as quickly. However, woods like redwood and cedar have water-soluble extractives that can bleed through latex paints. The best way to prevent this is to seal the wood with an oil-based stain.

Lifespan of various log home finishes

FinishesLifespan
Water repellents6-12 months
Clear water repellent1-2 years
Pigmented water 2-3 years
Varnish2-3 years
Solid-color stains3-7 years
Semi-transparent stains3-8 years

Note: the life span of water repellent and semi-transparent stains can be extended by applying a maintenance coat and re-finishing if dis-coloration caused by mildew or other factors is a problem. 

We will assist you to select the finish that best suits the application.

What is the best log home stain?

For maximum, long-term performance, log homes and wood structures require specialized stains that contain additives not typically found in your average wood stains and sealants. The best log stain when re-staining a log home is formulated to prevent moisture from entering the fiber of your logs and has the right amount of pigment to prevent sun damage. Generally speaking the darker the stain, the more protection the logs will receive from UV rays and weather.

Each log home stain company has its own formulation, all of them working hard to produce  the best product that will last for the longest period of time, and for the most reasonable price. This has created a multitude of systems across the log home industry. The type of wood, the environmental conditions and the age of the home all play a role in the decision making, as do time and price. 

We recommend that a number of test samples in different colours from different manufactures are applied to find the most suitable stain for your structure.

Final Thoughts on re-staining a log home

Many log homes and wood structures lose their finish and deteriorate due to the lack of proper maintenance. It doesn’t take long for UV damage to set in. The thought of restoring or refinishing a log home can be a daunting task, but home owners need not panic as log and wood  structures can go from looking worn-down and past their prime to beautiful and glorious again

Understanding what stain and how to choose the right type for your log home, cabin, pan abode or cedar siding is important to ensure you get the best value and longevity when refinishing your wood structure. 

The key is finding a professional with the experience, equipment  and skills to achieve the outcome you deserve.

How do I find a professional with experience in staining log homes?

It is recommended to work with a professional who has experience in staining log homes. They will know the best techniques and products to use to ensure a quality finish that will last for many years. They should possess/provide the following:

  • At  least 15 years of experience restoring and refinishing wood structures
  • Proper configuration of equipment
  • An  honest assessment of the condition your home and buildings
  • Explain the process to ensuring you have an easy, straightforward experience,  making sure you are 100% satisfied
  • Only use equipment is state-of-the-art and efficient
  • Quotes are all inclusive with no hidden costs, and include:
    • Initial inspection of the building, when possible
      • Advice on options and best course of action
    • Exterior site preparation
    • Interior site preparation, if required
    • All blast medium and equipment
    • Man lift and scaffolding, if required
    • All non-residue tape and polypropylene
    • Blowing and cleaning the logs after blasting
    • Preservative treatment, if required
    • Recommendation on the most suitable stain
    • Applying the stain
    • Site cleanup
    •  Warranty on coating
    • Providing a maintenance sheet on how to prolong the finish
    • Transportation and fuel costs to and from the site
    • Food and accommodation for the crew, if required
  • Products are environmentally friendly
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest techniques
  • Are fully certified and insured
  • Have an excellent track record – Check and follow up on their reviews!

Updated: January 27, 2023

Saleem Khan

Owner and expert log home restoration specialist

Sal has owned and operated Ocean Pacific Log Home Restoration for over 20 years. His experience and expertise in restoration and re-staining work has been relied upon for small cabins to one of the largest log buildings in the world. Sal and his crew are fully certified and insured to provide you with a top notch, finished product that he stands behind. All of his previous clients have appreciated his trustworthiness and the pride he takes in the work.


Call 1-855-297-3337

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