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Monthly Archives: April 2013

  • Maintenance Coats of Finish

    The most important thing that you can do to help maintain the finish of your log home is to keep it clean. A washing with Log Wash a couple times a year will help prevent airborne contaminates, dirt, bird droppings and sunlight from degrading the finish. How can keeping the surface clean prevent sunlight from injuring the finish? One of the features of our Advance clear topcoats is that they reflect UV radiation. If the surface is dirty and dull it reflects less sunlight and the absorbed UV light will eventually fade the color and gray the wood. So just like car finishes, the cleaner you keep your home the longer the finish will last.

    That being said, there will come a time when it may become necessary to do some touch-up work to the topcoat and perhaps the color coat, especially on the south and west walls. The question is, when and where should maintenance coats of finish be applied? The first thing to understand is more is not necessarily better. In other words, if the wall does not need another top coat of stain or topcoat, leave it alone. One of the features of Lifeline finishes is their ability to breathe. This allows water vapor to escape from the wood while preventing liquid water from penetrating through the finish. Technically we call this vapor permeability. If applied at the recommended application rates, two coats of stain and two coats of topcoat maintains enough vapor permeability to allow water that may enter the wood through cracks, checks, and fissures to evaporate through the finish. However, each coat of finish that's applied reduces the vapor permeability of the entire finish system by some percentage. The thicker that a coat is applied, the more it will reduce the vapor permeability. That's one reason why we always recommend applying thin coats.

    Multiple coats of finish can have the same effect as applying coats that are too thick, they can reduce the vapor permeability to the point where the finish can no longer breathe. The consequence of reducing the ability of a finish to breathe is the risk of the finish peeling if water gets behind it. So although occasional maintenance is an important factor in keeping your finish system in good shape, only apply additional coats where they are needed.

    So what's the best way to care for your home and extend the life of your finish system? If after a washing with Log Wash you see that the surface has dulled or shows signs if weathering feel free to apply another coat of stain, if needed, and/or Advance topcoat. The dull surface is a sign that the finish has eroded and one or two additional coats will not adversely affect the vapor permeability. But while you are at it you may be tempted to apply another coat of topcoat on those walls that still look good? Additional coats applied to unweathered walls are not necessary and can eventually lead to problems. If applied correctly the film thickness of the unweathered walls is still optimal and the application of additional coats can decrease the vapor permeability to a point where peeling could become an issue. In other words, leave it alone. As opposed to other manufactures' finishes, we do not recommend applying additional coats of stain or topcoat on a yearly schedule. If two coats of stain and two coats of topcoat have already been applied, we recommend applying additional coats only on an "as needed" basis. But we strongly recommend a good cleaning with Log Wash at least once or twice a year to keep your home looking great and add years to the life of your finish.

  • The Dynamics of Weathering

    Many log home owners are under the impression that the winter months are hard on their logs and finishes. To some extent that's true in cold climates where the exterior log surfaces may be covered with ice and snow for several months but even then the most damaging effects of weather on wood and coatings occur during the hot summer months. One component of sunlight is ultra-violet light, commonly referred to as UV. UV light is responsible for most damage to exposed wood because it changes or destroys the woods lignin, a component of wood that hardens and strengthens the cell walls. In more scientific terms this process is called photo-oxidation.

    LIFELINE finish systems help retard this photo-oxidation process through three distinct mechanisms; reflection, absorption and chemical reaction. Our Advance topcoats help reflect the suns rays thus reducing the amount of UV light hitting the color coats and the underlying wood. Glossy surfaces are better reflectors than dull surfaces which is why our Advance Gloss provides a bit more protection that Advance Satin. However, and accumulation of dirt on the finish will significantly reduce the reflective properties of the topcoat, one reason why a home should be routinely cleaned with Log Wash. Advance topcoats also help protects the color coats and wood from the abrading effects of wind, rain, ice and snow.

    The colorants contained in the color coats are responsible for absorbing UV light. The more colorant a finish contains the less UV light will get through to the wood itself. Opaque finishes like paint and solid body stains pretty well block all of UV light from hitting the wood. That's why when they peel off the freshly exposed wood may still look bright. On the other hand the objective of transparent stains like LIFELINE is to allow the character of the wood to show through the finish. In order to accomplish this transparency the pigment loading is significantly less than that contained in opaque finishes. So although some of the UV is blocked by the colorants, enough of it gets through to eventually photo-oxodize the wood. Since darker colors typically contain more colorant than lighter ones they tend to last longer. However some of our light colors like Butternut and Wheat also contain a high colorant loading which extends their life but they do five up some degree of transparency in return.

    High quality finishes like LIFELINE also contain components known as UV inhibitors that chemically protect both the finish itself and the underlying wood from the effects of sun exposure. The limitation of these constituents is that they are sacrificial. In other words, over time they get used up. The more sunlight that hits them the quicker they lose their effectiveness. In shaded areas of a home these UV inhibitors may continue to work for many, many years but in those highly exposed areas of a home like the South and West facing walls, they may only last a few years. That's why occasional maintenance on a home is so important.

    Round Logs The profile of the logs has a significant impact on the weathering characteristics of a wall. The effect of sunlight and the weather on round logs is altogether different than on squared logs or flat, vertical siding. The top third of a round log is subjected to much more intense weathering than the bottom third. In cold weather climates snow and ice can accumulate on the upper third while the bottom third remains somewhat protected. Upward facing checks that have formed in the top section of the log will funnel rainwater directly into the interior of the log where it can soak into the surrounding wood. But most damaging of all is the angle of the top third of a round log towards the sun.

    The top third of round logs catches many times more UV light than the bottom third. Besides exposing the wood to more UV rays, the UV inhibitors in the upper third may become used up whereas in the lower third they may still be active. Over time this can result in a noticeable difference in color and signs of weathering between the upper and lower sections of the logs. Providing some maintenance to the upper sections of round logs without creating lap marks or color differences can be accomplished but it may be a bit of a challenge. The key is to do the maintenance before the wood becomes gray due to photo-oxidation.

    Round Logs

    Squared Logs

    Squared logs and vertical flat siding are easier to maintain since the sun hits the logs at the same angle and the UV light is evenly distributed over the entire surface. In addition, the flat vertical surfaces cannot accumulate snow and ice and even upward facing checks are ot as prone to rainwater entering the logs. Although squared logs are subject to the same weathering parameters as round logs, since the weathering is mostly uniform over the entire exposed surface maintenance is easier to accomplish without worrying about lap marks and color differentiation.

    Log Siding

    Round log siding probably presents the greatest challenge to forestalling the effects of weathering.

    Typically used in high exposure locations such as dormers and gable ends, in addition to suffering the same weathering characteristics as round logs, log siding has some features which makes it even more difficult to protect from the effects of the weather. Siding is often manufactured from lower quality wood than logs, frequently using green wood. This makes it more susceptible to twisting, warping and cracking. Since siding does not have the high thermal mass of full logs, during the summer months their temperature can range from 80º F to 160º F or higher during the course of one day. This puts a lot of mechanical stress on both the siding and its finish system resulting in small fissures forming on the surface. Rainwater can then enter these fissures and get behind the finish. Fissuring of Log Siding

    Round log siding is typically milled quite smooth. The extreme smoothness presents a challenge applying the proper thickness of pigmented film necessary for adequate protection of the underlying wood. Smooth log siding should be coarse sanded or pressure washed using Wood ReNew before the application of the pigmented stain. Prelude Clear Primer should never be used on log siding unless it is unusually porous or has been media blasted.

    Protecting Your Home

    There are two basic ways to combat the effects of weathering. The most effective method is to keep log walls and siding in the shade by extending roof overhangs or constructing roofed porches around the home. The next best way is to apply a high quality finish system like LIFELINE and Advance Topcoat. But the overall performance of even the best finish system is dependent upon proper surface preparation and application technique. Avoiding the use of chlorine bleach and back-brushing all coats of finish to assure adequate film thickness is crucial for long term protection of the wood.

    Routine maintenance also plays a role in extending the life of your finish system. Our Advance Topcoats help reflect sunlight thus decreasing the amount of UV light that hits the surface of the wood. If the surface is dirty it diminishes the reflective properties of the topcoat so giving your home a good washing a couple times a year not only keeps your home looking attractive but helps retain the color of the stain and protects the underlying wood from UV damage.


    The above content provided by Perma Chink Systems.


    Carpenter Bees

    Carpenter bees are big black solitary bees that look similar to bumble bees but have bare, shiny backs whereas a bumble bee's back is hairy. Unlike honey bees that reproduce in hives, carpenter bees drill into wood in order to lay their eggs. Their holes are perfectly round and about 1/4 inch in diameter. Although carpenter bees prefer softwoods such as cedar, redwood, or cypress, they happily attack pine and most other species of wood. Even pressure treated wood is not immune from carpenter bee attack. As the bee drills into the wood, coarse sawdust may be seen coming out of the hole and piling up beneath. Since it only takes a couple of hours for a carpenter bee to drill a hole a few inches deep, lots of holes can appear over a fairly short period of time.

    Carpenter Bees

    Most carpenter bee activity occurs in early spring when male and female bees emerge after spending the winter in old nest tunnels. Once they have paired and mated, the female bee drills into a suitable site while the male stays nearby to ward off intruders. Male carpenter bees often frighten people with their aggressive behavior but since they have no stinger they are essentially harmless. Females have a stinger but only use it if molested. Once the initial hole is drilled through the surface, the bee will make a turn and excavate a tunnel along the grain of the wood. This tunnel, which may run for several inches, becomes the cavity where the female deposits her eggs. Several eggs are laid in individual chambers separated by plugs of sawdust and pollen on which the larvae feed until they emerge as adults during the summer months. In addition to making new holes, carpenter bees also enlarge old tunnels and if left unattended for several years, serious damage to a wood member may result. In late fall activity may again be seen as both male and female carpenter bees clean out old nest cavities where they over-winter. Since carpenter bees tend to migrate back to the same area from which they emerged, it is important to implement some control measures in order to prevent logs and wood members from becoming riddled by these bees.

    Treating Carpenter Bee Holes

    Any carpenter bee holes you can reach should be treated and plugged since existing holes attract more carpenter bees. The way to treat an existing hole and tunnel depends on the time of year and if bees are present at the time of treatment. If the female is drilling away when you find a hole (you can see sawdust coming out or hear her working inside) spray a contact pesticide like wasp and hornet spray or WD-40 into the hole. She will quickly back out and die. Immediately fill the hole with wood putty or Energy Seal. You need to treat the hole even if it appears empty since the bee may be resting and, if left alive, will drill back through the plug you've just inserted. If you find carpenter bee holes in late spring or early summer it's difficult to tell if there are bee larvae developing in the tunnels. The best thing to do is to run a length of flexible wire into the tunnels in order to break through the pollen plugs separating the chambers. Then spray a pesticide into the hole and seal it up. Another option is WD-40. It comes with a long, thin tube that's inserted into the nozzle. You need to push the tube into the hole as far as it will go to break through the chamber walls then spray as you pull it out. The same thing should be done on holes found in the fall or winter to kill any bees that may be over-wintering in the holes. Just remember to plug the holes since they will attract more carpenter bees come spring.

    Carpenter Bees

    Preventing Carpenter Bees

    Although carpenter bees prefer bare wood they will attack wood that is stained. Painted wood surfaces, on the other hand, are rarely attacked since the bees don't recognize it as wood. We've recently discovered that the presence of a gloss topcoat on top of a stain appears to act somewhat like a painted surface in that carpenter bees rarely drill through it. It could be that the slick, hard surface does not appeal to them. One way to keep carpenter bees from drilling into wood is by spraying pesticides that contain either cypermethrin, deltamethrin or bifenthrin (Ortho Home Defense Max) onto wood surfaces. When it comes to carpenter bees, these products act more as repellants than contact poisons. However, the effectiveness of these applications is only about three to four weeks so the treatment will have to be repeated every so often. Pesticides should only be used during the periods of peak activity in the spring and perhaps again in late fall. Be sure to follow label directions and read and understand any precautions that must be taken when using these products.

    Some content courtesy of Perma-Chink Systems

  • Clear Log Home Finishes

    Occasionally people with an older log home want to “seal and protect” their logs but do not wish to remove the gray patina that has built up over the years. Typically they think that some type of clear log home finish can be applied to their home which will keep water from penetrating into the wood and help retard wood erosion due to sun, wind and rain. The truth is that there is no clear exterior product that will meet their expectations. First and foremost we NEVER recommend the application of LIFELINE Advance or any other LIFELINE product on bare, grayed wood. The grayness is an indication that the surface fibers have oxidized and lost their integrity. They are like the rust particles on an old steel plate. If you paint over the rust with a latex paint it will soon peel off. The same thing happens when a coat of acrylic latex finish is applied onto grayed wood. Since it does not have an opportunity to bond to intact wood fibers, it too can peel off.

    Clear log home finishes

    On the other hand, penetrating oil or solvent products don't rely on surface adhesion so they can be applied to grayed wood without the risk of peeling off. The trouble is that these types of clear products last only a few months at best. For example, many clear water repellent products consist of paraffin wax dissolved in petroleum solvents. When first applied they may look like they are doing a great job repelling water since water beads up on the surface. However within a few months the solvents evaporate and the wax gets weathered off. So unless you are willing to treat your home every six months or so, they won't do much good.

    So what's the best advice we have for anyone who is not willing to remove the gray patina on their home? Our answer is to do nothing. Just like rust helps protect the underlying steel plate from further corrosion, a layer of grayed wood helps protect the wood beneath it from additional damage. Is this the best way to protect your home? Of course not, if you want your home gray you should use one of our gray colored stains. But if you are unwilling to do it correctly by removing all of the gray oxidized wood, applying any type of clear coat is a waste of your time and money. Sometimes less is best.

    Content courtesy of Perma-Chink Systems

  • Effects of pH on Bare Wood Surfaces

    Over the past few years we've developed a lot of information about the importance of pH as it relates to preparing a home for the application of a finish. Following are some of the reasons why pH is important and the consequences of bare wood being either too high or too low in pH and its impact on the appearance and performance of our finish systems.

    Wood has a natural pH of between 4 and 5. Any pH number lower than 7 is acidic and those above 7are alkaline so a pH of 4 to 5 is slightly acidic. That's because all wood contains some acidic components like tannic acid. However, most cleaning products like bleach, TSP (trisodium phosphate) and detergents have a high pH (alkaline or basic). Whenever something that is acidic comes in contact with something alkaline and water is present one thing that is certain is that a chemical reaction will occur. If we are dealing with only two or three inorganic compounds the reactions are fairly predictable but wood consists of a multitude of organic compounds which differ from species to species. Even within individual species the chemistry may be influenced by the nutrients in the soil where the tree was grown or it may vary from heartwood to sapwood in the same log. In other words, whenever the surface of wood is exposed to a substance with a high pH something is going to happen and it may not always be predictable.

    From prior experience we do know a few of the risks associated with the use of some types of high pH products like chlorine bleach and caustic strippers. Disregarding the damage that bleach can cause to the wood fibers one of the consequences of using bleach solutions is that if not completely rinsed off the wood, bleach solutions brings tannins to the surface and once there the tannins can react with microscopic particles of metal creating dark iron tannate discolorations. The most distressing aspect of this reactions is that the discolorations may not become visible for several months and the only way to remove them is to strip the finish off and treat the bare wood with Oxcon. Another consequence of using high pH products is that hey occasionally darken the wood. This can even happen when using our Wood ReNew which usually acts as a brightening agent. Again the problem is that it's impossible to predict if a solution of Wood ReNew is going to make the wood lighter or darker. That's why we always recommend first testing any product we sell on a small area of the home. Although it may work as expected 98% of the time, it's that 2% that ends up costing both time and money.

    One of the fallacies of using acidic solutions on wood is that they help "neutralize" any residue remaining after the use of an alkaline cleaner or stripper. Chemically it may be true that the application of an acid will reduce the alkalinity of the wood but is this in fact always beneficial to the cleaning process? the answer is no.The reaction between an acid and a base always results in the formation of a salt. In some cases the salt is water soluble and can be removed with washing but in other cases the salt can be quite insoluble and ends up being deposited within the wood's cellular structure where it can create adhesion or other problems with the finish. This is especially true with oxalic acid (Oxcon) which should never be used as a neutralizer to compensate for inadequate rinsing. The formation of oxalic acid crystals or sodium oxalates within the surface layer of wood will have a significant impact on long term adhesion and several peeling problems that have come to our attention have been the result of using too high a concentration of oxalic acid or inadequate rinsing. Attempting to balance the pH of a wall by using chemicals usually results in compounding the problem and although the wall may look acceptable at the time the finish is applied, discolorations or failure of adhesion may occur weeks or even months later.

    The bottom line is that the best method to neutralize log walls before staining is to use Log Wash and adequate rinsing with clean water. So what constitutes adequate rinsing? Typically we recommend rinsing a wall until you think it's enough and then rinse it again. When using a garden hose or pressure washer we are talking about rinsing a wall for at least 10 to 15 minutes. It's impossible to over-rinse. Of course the best method of determining if a wall is adequately rinsed is by using pH strips. If a few drips on a well rinsed wall read between 6.5 and 7.5 you can pretty well be assured that the wall is adequately rinsed.

    Content courtesy of Perma-Chink Systems

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