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I recently purchased a log home in Western North Carolina and hired some folks who assured me they had experience with log homes and staining. The reason why I hired them is because the walls were extremely rough to the touch which meant they had not been cleaned in 20 years and could not be be cleaned until they were sanded first. I also wanted them to reseal the walls after sanding to look identical in color to the original walls, but unfortunately that is not what has happened.

After a test area was completed with the stain (Minwax Wood Finish Penetrating Stain, Natural 209) I brought up that I was concerned about the lighter areas and that some areas looked glossier than others. He assured me that the walls would need lots of time to cure and that the gloss would mellow out in that time. He also said that adding more stain to the lighter areas would solve the problem.

Days have gone by and now he's telling me, after 2 full coats of Minwax per their recommendation, that they had JUST read the instructions and found that the product requires a top coat of polyurethane which was never mentioned before as a requirement. They said this would resolve the issue of discoloration and areas of gloss; however, I do not trust this tactic as I had thought that all the polyurethane would do is add a layer of protection.

I also brought the local handyman that had referred these folks to me for a second opinion, and he assured me that the blotchy areas are completely normal, to buy a darker stain and apply to the lighter areas carefully blending them in with the other tones, and then to seal with poly.

I don't want to allow them to work any further until I find out what exactly caused these discolorations and how they should be corrected from here.

I have included before photos, after sanding, and the results with 1 or 2 coats of stain. If the label is on the left, then other photos with a left label means it is the same wall.

I am extremely nervous about what has happened and would greatly appreciate some advice. All I wanted were smoother walls to be able to clean with the same color and instead I'm getting completely different walls and I’m seriously regretting this decision!

Thank you so much!


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Hi there. Thanks for including pics. Sorry this is happening. 

I will first give you some details on how penetrating stains are designed to work to explain how this might have happened. As for a fix, you can try a couple different things and I'll include that below.

First, penetrating finishes are designed to dive into the pores of the wood, helping highlight the grain. The results you show above are fairly typical for a natural wood surface that has absorbed more stain in some places, while in others it is sitting more on the surface or just didn't penetrate as deeply. Surfaces that have been left uncoated for many years are already naturally more porous. The stain is going to dive in pretty deep and give you a darker look. When they're sanded, that can close the pores in some areas, creating some uneven penetration and uneven looks. It depends on the product used how drastic it will be. Sometimes multiple coats will help even that out, sometimes it won't. That's why, on the interior, if the whole thing isn't being sanded (and really, even when it is), it's a good idea to use a sanding sealer or some other sort of pre-finish base coat to help fill in the pores and create a more even, more predictable canvas. That said, you can't go back and do that now without removing what's on there.

I'd suggest trying that third coat somewhere inconspicuous to see if it'll help even things out. You may find that another coat of the Minwax color first will do the trick. Sometimes you just have to get enough on the surface to get an even appearance. Start with some experimentation with more of the Natural 209 and/or the finishing top coat to see if that will get you back to an even appearance.

If the experimenting won't help, you have a couple of options:

1) Sand everything down again. (Ugh.) You'd probably have to start with a larger grit (80 grit) and then follow with a finer grit (120 or 150) to get everything off the surface and get to the type of texture you want. Follow with a sanding sealer or pre-stain base coat of some kind to fill in the pores and create a more even canvas for the other finish to sit on top of. If you go this route, you'll have to make sure that whatever product used on top will be compatible with remnants of the Minwax product. Some oil-based finishes have waxes in them that will not allow something new applied over top to adhere or penetrate properly. So, you'll have to do some more experimentation. Reach out to me for details if this is the route you choose. I'm happy to walk you through it.

2) Stain everything with a color slightly darker than the color you used. It would probably take 2 coats to even everything out and it'll be darker than the natural wood. You'd need to test this to ensure it'd do the trick. Most stain companies (including the one I work for) provide samples free of charge for this testing. You'd have to ensure whatever you put over top is compatible, which means checking for both adhesion and wetting out the surface. Feel free to reach out to me directly if you want more details.

Hope that helps for now. Like I said, feel free to reach out directly. I'm happy to help walk you through the options you have.

Have a good afternoon.

--- Charis w/ Sashco - 720-322-8264 direct - -

Hello Charis,

Thank you so very much for taking the time to help me!

It sounds like a sanding sealer may have helped prevent some of the unwanted results and I know for a fact it was not used as I am purchasing the supplies based on what they recommend. Is using a sanding sealer a well known step taken by people who state that they have experience sanding and staining/sealing interior log walls?

I searched for a sanding sealer within the Minwax website and found this:

You had mentioned that using different brands may cause an adhesion problem so I thought this product would be the most ideal to use since it is from the same company.

Prior to choosing a stain, they told me to wipe and wet a spot on the wall to determine the color I may want since I had no idea how to achieve the same results as the original walls. When I did this the result of the color were what I wanted so I thought the Natural 209 would be the best option since they recommended using a Minwax stain and mentioned nothing else. If the spot test with water had been the desired color, should they have instead recommended a sanding sealant and then to use polyurethane coating?

It also sounds like the option I should try before considering sanding again is to apply more Natural 209 stain in the lighter areas as this may or may not help or to try 2 entire coats of a slightly darker shade and to use a compatible top coat after.

I am still waiting for a response from them in which I requested they come up with a resolution other than to just apply a polyurethane coating, but I wanted to do research first to ensure that what they have done so far was correct and that whatever they recommend from here jives with the research and advice from kind folks such as yourself. 

Thanks again and I may reach out directly for more clarification and if there are more specific questions.

Yes, it's possible a sanding sealer may have helped prevent some of that blotchiness, but it's not common practice with most, especially when using products that are specifically designed to penetrate the wood. The thought by many in the industry is that penetration is a good thing, so you'd not want to impede that. We can discuss that at a different time. :-) Sanding sealers are a relatively new thing for log walls but have been around for furniture finishing for a while. I don't know who your contractor is, but it's possible this is the first time they've encountered a reaction like this so, like you, they're baffled. 

The problem is that it can be difficult to know exactly what the outcome will be without a more thorough testing regimen. For instance, Sashco always recommends that folks test the stain on the wood after it's been prepped in the same way you plan to prep before actually staining/clear coating the entire project. That's really the only way to know how things will react. I'm not familiar with the "wipe and wet" method you mention above. Usually when folks just wet down an area and clean it with a rag or something, you simply see how dark the surface can get with a coating. It doesn't account for any differences in porosity or the penetration of the stain you're going to apply over top. Stain penetrates differently than water.

I agree that your first option is to test the additional coats or a slightly darker color to see if you can, essentially, cover up the blotchiness. Use anything with color before you apply a top coat that seals everything in and makes covering up more difficult.

Hope that helps. If more questions come up, I'm happy to help.

--- Charis


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