You’ve most likely spent months, if not years, planning the design of your log home and hadn’t even considered what you would use to protect its precious walls. There are many companies out there that claim they make the best finishes for the exterior of a log home. Weeding through all of these products can be a daunting task, and you may be tempted to drive down to the local hardware store and pick up a few cans of the product that’s on sale that week. Before hopping in your car, get to know what makes a top-quality finish formulated specifically for log homes different. Cutting back on a finish now because of its cost and convenience may lead to higher costs in maintenance down the road. “We’re always looking for ways to skimp on expenses around the house,” says Nadia O’Hara of Perma-Chink Systems, Inc., in Redmond, Washington. “But when it comes to putting your best foot forward with a beautifully stained home that’s also protected from the elements, you might want to think twice before being lured in by the lower price tag of a middle-of-the-road finishing product.”
To begin, consult with your log home company or dealer for their recommendations on quality finishes. Ask if recent and past customers are willing to talk to you about the finishes they used on their logs and their performance. Have the benefits outweighed the upfront cost? Is the product doing what you thought it would? Also, call the manufacturer and ask questions that will help you make an informed decision. What are the benefits of using your product? How is your product better than one I can pick up at the local hardware store? Does your product have better lasting power? How often will I to have to reapply the finish? It’s up to you to weigh the benefits that a high-quality product can provide with the initial cost of the product.
The most important purpose of a finish is to protect the exterior of your log home. The two main elements the affect the logs are UV rays and water. The job of the finish is to act as a UV inhibitor and to repel rain while allowing your logs to breathe. It should not inhibit evaporation. The pigments in the finish also provide protection and block the fading and bleaching effects of the sun. Also, many products are formulated to prevent mildew and mold growth.
Barbara Murray of CTA Products Group based in Southaven, Mississippi, advises customers to understand what the product includes by simply reading the label. “A top-quality finish is not always a wood preservative,” she says. “Most finishes, in fact, are not wood preservatives and require an additional pretreatment to control rot, decay, and termite activity.” Check the label to see if the product mentions insects or rot-causing organisms, and if it has an EPA registration and establishment number on the label. If not, the logs will require a pre-treatment, such as Borate or Copper 8 Quinolinolate to effectively control rot and insects.
In addition to the functional properties of the product, look for a finish that comes in a wide variety of colors and tones. Even the highest quality product won’t do any good if you don’t like the color. “Not only do you want to build a quality home, you want to build a beautiful home, which is why the finished appearance of your logs is so important. By spending a little bit more up front, you’ll get a distinguished looking wood finish that sets your home apart from the rest,” says Nadia. A high-performance finish gives long-lasting color retention through the use of a balanced formulation of transparent iron oxides and long-lasting mildew inhibitors.
“Not only does a stain and finish define the aesthetic appeal of your log home, enhancing the striking beauty of the wood’s grain and natural color, but it serves as a shield for your home’s most precious building blocks—the logs,” says Nadia. “Because of this, it makes sense to spend the extra money up front on a high-quality finish for your home.”
The cost of purchasing a high-quality finish could be as much as triple the cost of a standardquality finish. But, over the lifetime of the application, using a high-quality product can make up for this initial cost. For example, according to Nadia, for an average-size log home, labor costs for finishing would typically be about $4,500. In addition, about 20 gallons of stain would be needed to apply two coats to the home.
For an ordinary stain, add the cost per gallon at $25, for example, totaling $500 plus $4,500 for labor, and the total cost of the job is $5,000. But you must account for longevity. Field tests show that a job like this will last two years, making the cost per year of service $2,500.
Now let’s compare that to the cost for a top-quality stain. At about $80 per gallon, the cost totals $1,600 plus labor at $4,500, making the total $6,100, which is a significant increase from the lower priced product. But, since the stain job of the higher quality finish will last at least five years, the cost per year of service would be $1,200, which less than half the yearly cost of the “budget” stain job.
By making the initial investment of the more expensive, higher quality product for the first application, you will reap the benefits of the return on investment over the lifetime of your log home.