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Can someone help me with the age old question...Oil or Latex stain for our log home? I purchased in 2006 a 2 story Shawnee log home. The house is 20 yrs old andhas been stained about 5 yrs ago. The problem is the stain has all but disappeared. The logs are in fine shape and so is the chinking. I would like to know can i apply my stain over the existing condition of the logs and is an oil base better than latex? I live in a mountain area of Virginia and I have alot of sun and high winds. I seem to lean towards a walnut color, can someone really help me with my choices. Also is brushing better than spraying? and does one start at the bottom and go up or just the opposite?

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Comment by Lee Denman on April 25, 2010 at 7:49pm
I will have to go with Sashco and Perma-Chink on this topic. As my company has been in the log home restoration industry for over 20 years and have a combined 31 years of experience I can say we have seen our fair share of problems that arise with using an oil based finish. Most oil based finishes don't let the logs breathe and don't hold up to the sun as well as a good latex finish such as Sashcos Cascade series or Perma-Chinks Lifeline Ultra series. Latex based products are also much much easier to maintain in the future and if you have bare wood showing an oil based finish will not have as good of color-matching abilities as a latex based finish will. For anymore information please visit our website.
Comment by Matt Riner on January 16, 2010 at 2:49pm
I stained the house in the attached photo as close as I could to a walnut color per the owner's request (if the picture doesn't come through, feel free to visit my website. I recommend you remove all of what remains of the existing finish and then clean and stabilize the logs before re-staining. I've been in the business of maintaining and restoring log homes for 13 years and in my opinion a quality oil-based stain is best. If you have any more questions, I'd be happy to help you further.

Comment by Kevin Piatz on January 14, 2010 at 3:25pm
My thought's on the matter;
A quality log home finish should:
- Be environmentally friendly.
- Keep liquid water (rain) from penetrating the wood.
- Breathe to allow water vapor to escape from the wood.
- Be flexible in order to stretch and contract without cracking.
- Withstand extreme temperatures, both hot and cold.
- Provide UV or ultraviolet light protection.
- Slow down the natural aging or possible yellowing that can occur.
- Be able to withstand damage from the wind, rain, snow, ice, ect.
- Prevent the formation of mold on the surface.
- Be easy to apply and maintain.
- Look beautiful and maintain it's appearance for many years.

With those things said it is my belief that one or two coat oil-based stains are of the lowest quality. While they are cheap to produce and inexpensive to purchase they are not nescessarily the best choice. Sometimes companies will call these penetrating stains and since they do penetrate into the wood this can leave the surface without very much protection. That may be why those companies recommend maintainence coats every year or two. Oil based products also tend to have low coverage rates, another thing that can make the cost over time quite high.

There are also products that are film-forming solvent based finishes. These products are not very environmentally friendly and are often not very breathable. What happen's when a finish is not breathable and water vapor tries to escape from the wood? Sometimes the finish will peel right off!

My number one pic for log or wood finishes would have to be water based film-forming finishes that include a water based clear topcoat for protection. The last few years most new coating technology has been in water-based systems. The most recent advances in polymers, UV light inhibitors and mildwecides really make these finishes stand out as far as beauty, longevity, ease of use, and low maintainence costs. The film-forming water based finishes have higher coverage rates and provide protection on the surface of the wood where it is needed the most.

You should probably take the time to do a lot of research and try samples from multiple companies, attend some workshops or seminars. Consider covergae rates, mainainence costs, warranties, environmental friendliness. Take a considerable amount of time and make an informed choice.

Good luck with your project!
- Kevin Piatz / Perma-Chink Systems, Inc.
Comment by CharisB on January 14, 2010 at 12:03pm
Wow - lots of questions! Let me start here:

There are advantages and disadvantages to both oil and latex stains, but let me tell you now that there are really 3 types of stains: surface stains, shallow penetrating stains, and deep penetrating stains. All have their place in the world.

Surface stains are latex stains they don't really penetrate the wood much at all. These stains are a great choice on log homes, so long as proper prep is done. Those with quality pigments and other raw materials will give great UV protection and tend to be very elastic, which is nice in high wind areas. The elaticity helps the stain withstand the dust and debris that the wind might pick up.

Shallow penetrating stains can be either water/oil emulsions or oil stains. They penetrate anywhere from 1-3 cells deep while most also leave a film on the surface like latex stains. These, too, are a great choice on log homes and can be the better choice on homes where the type of stain previously applied is not known. (If the stain is unknown, it's safest to assume it was an oil-based stain. As such, going over with another oil-base is going to be best. There are occasions when going over an oil-base with a water-base will work fine....lots more details to go into with that one...let me know if you want those details.)

Deep penetrating stains will penetrate 1/4" or more. They leave no film on the surface. These are usually best on decks, shingles and the like. They give little UV protection so aren't the best choice for vertical log walls.

Now - as far as the shape of your logs go & where to go from here: be sure the logs are free of any unsound, loose wood fibers. If they've turned a dark, amber yellow or gray (or anywhere between), you have a lot of unsound wood that will need to be removed via blasting of some kind - dry or power washing - prior to applying any sort of stain. All of that wood will eventually fall off. If you stain over top of it, your stain will fall off with it. If none of that is present, you most likely can do a light pressure wash to remove dust, bird droppings, etc. and go forward with staining. Just make sure the stain you choose is compatible with whatever might be on there now.

In general, spraying followed by vigorous back brushing is best, working top to bottom and in sections. The back brushing acts like a "stain pump", pumping as much stain into the wood as possible, giving you greater adhesion and longevity; however, every stain manufacturer will have different instructions. Be sure to follow their instructions carefully.

We've posted some videos on general log home prep, staining, etc. You can view them from our website at or on our YouTube channel at The videos are educational in nature - not a sales pitch.

I hope that helps answer some of your questions. Feel free to email me with more questions or respond here.

Happy finishing!

Charis w/ Sashco -

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