Ask the Expert – Maintaining Your Dream Home

No matter what materials it’s made from, every house requires maintenance.

Ask the Expert - Sponsored by Sashco

We know you have questions about maintenance. So we’ve asked industry experts, Sashco to help us with the answers.

Each month in our Cabin Living Newsletter we will feature one question and answer. If you’re not already receiving our bi-weekly newsletter, you can sign up here.

We’ll archive all the questions on this page for easy reference and if you’ve got a question, please email Amanda at

I just took down some pictures from my log walls and the wood underneath is lighter than the wood around them. I knew this might happen, but how do I fix it? How do I avoid the thing happening in the future?

Ah, picture frame effect. You’ll see the same effect if you remove the trim on clear-coated cabinets. The area underneath the trim will be a much brighter, whiter color than the rest of the cabinet. Wood turns yellow over time on its own, due to both UV exposure and natural oxidization. There’s no stopping this from happening (but you can slow it down and hide it…more on that later).

There are a couple of options for getting rid of picture frame effect after the fact:

  1.  Stain:  Stain those areas with a very light colored stain that would match the surrounding yellowed wood. It might mean you have to go over the entire area with a clear coat to get a good match. This is going to be the easiest labor-wise, but the hardest to get a match.
  2. Sort of Sanding: Sand down those areas and feather them into surrounding wood so the delineation is harder to see. Again, a clear coat will hide things a bit more. And again, getting a good match will be difficult.
  3. REALLY Sanding: Hardest but most effective would be sanding down all of the affected walls and applying a single coat of stain and a coat or two of a clear coat. This will ensure a good match and prevent the picture frame effect from happening again.
  4. Artful Coverup Job: You may have to just continue hanging something there. The work to repair it may just be too much to do for some. Consider hanging something different for a change of pace. A tapestry, quilt, or wreath may be just the change you’re looking for. Of course, we’d still recommend you stain and clear coat the wall to prevent even weirder picture frame effect from your new artwork, but you can avoid the sanding – which is the real work – by going this route.

So, how do you prevent this from happening in the future?

In short, you won’t prevent it. But, you CAN slow it down and hide it. Apply a pigmented stain to the walls, followed by a coat or two of a clear coat. The pigmented stain will prevent UV degradation caused by the sun coming through windows, while also hiding the natural oxidization that will happen over time. No need to go crazy with a dark stain (unless you want that “Miss Scarlett in the Library with the Candlestick” kind of dark, brooding look to your logs). A lightly pigmented stain will do the trick. Plus, BONUS: a clear coat is going to make cleaning those logs much, much easier. Any dust that settles on the top curve of the logs can be easily wiped off with a microfiber dusting cloth.

Published on: January 16th, 2018

HELP! My new log home is getting large checks and cracks all over the interior and it was just built a few months ago. What’s going on? What can I do to prevent the cracks from growing?

As your new logs are acclimating to their new environment, they’re going to give up any excess moisture, causing them to shrink and move beyond what they can handle. All of that pressure has to give somewhere, and it usually means checks and cracks form. You’ll probably notice more of it happening as you turn on the heat. All of that warm air speeds up the rate of evaporation. The wood is forced to move more quickly than normal. The pressures keep coming!

The good news: you can slow down the rate of evaporation and, therefore, the rate of cracking (and often the size of the cracks) by doing a few things:

  1.  Seal up those logs. Apply a quality clear coat that will allow the logs to let off moisture at a more steady rate. (Bonus: a clear coat is more friendly when it comes time to clean dust off.)
  2. Invest in a whole-home humidifier. Especially if you’re in a really dry climate, using a whole-home humidifier will ensure that the rate of evaporation is controlled and, thus, the movement happens at a more reasonable rate. Run the humidifier for the first couple of winters, until your home has done the majority of its shrinking and is at home in its new environment.
  3. Turn up the heat slowly. Don’t go from 60 during the week while you’re not at the cabin and then immediately crank it up to 72 when you arrive for your weekend. Use a programmable thermostat to slowly turn up the heat over 3-4 days before you arrive.
  4. Remember: Cracks & Checks Build Character. Or, rather, they ARE character and make your home unique. Some checks and cracks are normal and are part of the charm of living in a log home. On the interior, feel free to leave them open if you like the character. (We’d always recommend sealing them on the exterior to prevent rot and insect infestations.)

Published on: December 5th, 2017

What are the pros and cons of using a clear coat on my exterior logs and wood?

We hear it all the time: “I want to keep my logs looking natural. I don’t want a stain” Indeed, there’s nothing quite like that fresh, blonde wood. Is there an easy way to keep the natural look over time? And if you do use only a clear coat, what are the pros and cons of doing so?

Pros of a clear coat only:

  • Allows you to maintain the light blonde color of the wood for the first year or so.
  • Provides water repellency
  • Great for interior wood that’s not exposed to much UV light. Will maintain the fresh wood look for many years.

Cons of a clear coat only:
In a word: entropy. (We’re digging into our physics background here.) Entropy is the rule that states that all things tend to disorder. That includes clear coats.

  • Doesn’t protect wood from UV damage. Think of a clear coat as an SPF 8 sunscreen. Doesn’t work for long. That UV damage turns wood from amber yellow to gray over time, usually within the first year to 18 months.
  • Inconsistent moisture protection. UV breaks down the clear coat. With no other protection, you have moisture repellency in some areas and not in others.
  • Higher maintenance over time. A clear coat must be reapplied every year, if not sooner, to ensure proper protection from moisture.

If you want to keep that fresh blonde wood look, or even if you prefer the weathered gray wood look (big trend right now!), you’ll be better off over the long run using a stain that delivers that color, along with the protection your wood needs, in one product. (Think of pigmented stains as an SPF 15 with long sleeves.) Get samples of the colors you like best and test them first to see what’s possible. Yes, traditional stains will have to be maintained over time, but not nearly as often as a clear coat, and they’ll protect your wood from rot, insects, and UV damage much better than a mere clear coat.

Published on: November 7th, 2017

How do I design my log home for lower maintenance?

Most of the time, that dream home picture in your mind’s eye doesn’t include details like a three-foot foundation, or vegetation that is at least five feet away from the home. But if you’re going to keep your log or timber home looking the same in year six as it did in year one, while also reducing the amount of maintenance it needs overall, you’ll want to keep these design tips in mind:

Wider = Better
Wide eaves and overhangs will protect the walls from weather and sun better. UV damage is the “gateway drug” to deteriorated wood. It will break down your stain, exposing the bare wood to insect and moisture infiltration. Protect the walls from UV and you extend the life of your stain, lower your overall maintenance costs, and prevent potentially costly (and ugly) damage down the line. (Bonus points for a wrap-around porch!)

Keep ‘em off the ground
We’ve all seen those rotten logs on the forest floor. They’re rotten for a reason: they’ve been sitting in everything a log needs to make it rot. Don’t allow that to happen to your wood. These days, 18” off the ground is a bare minimum for any wood structure. Three feet is even better! If water can run off the roof or splash back off the ground, it’s at risk.

Landscaping is beautiful – from a distance
Keep all vegetation at least three feet from the home. This includes bushes, flowers, or other natural plant elements. They attract moisture, bugs, and a host of other things that love to damage wood. Cut trees back to prevent them from dripping (both moisture and bugs) onto the home. And speaking of vegetation, feel free to water your plants, but avoid watering your logs at the same time. Make sure sprinkler heads are pointed away from the logs and keep hose bibs well away from the wood, as well, in case of leaks.

Gutters are NOT optional
You wouldn’t skip gutters and downspouts on a conventional home. They’re even more important on a wood home. Channeling water way from the wood is the name of the game. And don’t stop at gutters and downspouts! Flashing is important, too. Protect logs on a second story from sitting snow or cascading rain with proper flashing.

Proper finishing of your home IS part of design
Sure, you know exactly what color you want your log home to be. But how do you get there, do it right so it lasts, and ensure you budget for it? By including it in the design phase. Too often, granite counter tops and copper sinks win out over a proper finishing job, which leaves you choosing the stain that is not made for logs and isn’t as durable. Researching the right stain – both the product itself and the way to apply it – should start early on.

For more information on proper finishing, download Sashco’s Keeping the Dream Alive book. It takes you through the steps of finishing a log home from beginning to end to help you know how to achieve that picture in your mind’s eye.

Published on: October 24th, 2017

How much prep do I have to do before I stain?

Perhaps the correct answer to this is not how much prep you’ll need to do, but that you need to do proper prep before staining, whether on a new log home or an existing one you’re re-staining. Proper means making sure these five pre-requisites are met before you apply stain:
1) Clean wood
Seems simple, but you want to make sure the surface is free of dust, bird poo, pencil marks, pollen, and anything else making it dirty. A 10% bleach solution will accomplish this, as will cleaning with other wood-friendly cleaners. Thoroughly rinse afterwards! If you don’t, the cleaner remains behind and will damage wood fibers. Which leads to the next item on the list…
2) Sound wood
Sound means removing all loose, sunburned wood fibers, along with failing stains. Loose wood fibers are present after just 10 days of exposure to the sun, so new homes and older homes alike will need work. Depending on exposure, bare wood can be an amber yellow color or gray. Failing stains means anything that’s significantly faded, cracking or peeling. All of these wood fibers will eventually fall off and take your stain with it. Removing them beforehand ensures your stain is adhering to and penetrating sound, solid wood. An aggressive power washing (sometimes with a chemical stripper to remove stubborn stains), hand sanding, or media blasting will all accomplish this. Remove any felting (wood fuzzing created during the process) with 80 grit sandpaper, Osborn® brushes, or non-woven buffing pads.
3) Textured wood
That’s right: you don’t want smooth wood on your exterior wood. Why? Texture allows the stain to soak in a bit more, which translates into better longevity. Stick to no more than an 80 grit tool to get the right amount of texture.
4) Warm wood
Stain won’t penetrate, adhere to, or dry properly when applied to surfaces that are too cold (below 40 degrees), nor surfaces that are too hot (above 90 degrees). Have a surface thermometer at the ready to check those temps. Work with the sun – start on the south side in the morning and work your way around the home clockwise to ensure you stay in the right range.
5) Dry wood
What’s dry? Well, not just dry to the touch. It means dry as measured by a moisture meter and dry for your climate. In coastal Alaska, dry could mean 18% moisture content level. In the Arizona desert, dry means 7-8% moisture content level. Take a reading before you start any work. It will take your home a year to 18 months to acclimate to its new environment, so use a breathable stain that will allow moisture to escape, but never stain when the moisture content level is above 18%. You could trap moisture, which could lead to a host of problems (rot being the worst).

Published on: August 29th, 2017

Which stain is best? Is an oil-based stain better than a water-based stain?

We’re sure you’ve seen at least five different answers to the same question. That doesn’t clear things up at all. So, let’s first start with a moment of truth: there are more stain types than just water- and oil-based. Each has its advantages. We’ll talk about that in a minute.

Here’s a quick checklist when deciding which stain to use. Click here to continue reading.

Published on: July 18th, 2017

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