One of the greatest challenges in making interior log home space livable is taking full advantage of light, overcoming the tendency of the home’s primary building material, the wood itself, to create dim, dark areas inside. In addition, preserving and protecting the wood from the ravages of time and the effects of moisture, dust, and dirt keep the log home interior looking beautiful for years.
The first line of defense and the best way to lighten up your log home interior is to choose the appropriate interior finish. A variety of options are available in a broad color spectrum from clear to almond, chestnut, gold, and even shades of gray. Make an informed decision. Once that finish is applied, changes become problematic, time consuming, and expensive.
“Make sure you are using an interior finish that is recommended for that purpose,” advises Barbara Murray of CTA Products Group. “In some cases, using an exterior finish on the interior of a log home might not be a problem, but many finishes are labeled exterior only. Look for something readily cleanable, something that breathes so it won’t tend to crack or peel. The finish has to allow the wood to breathe so core moisture can come out, or it will crack your finish off.
“There are oil and water based finishes, and both are good,” continued Murray. “I would suggest treating with a clear, colorless coating because new logs dry out. They will darken up to 12 shades, so if you want to stain your interior pecan, get ready. It will darken. One day, the interior may be as dark as a cave.”
The right finish is instrumental in keeping the interior of the log home fresh and clean. Untreated wood may absorb odors or oil from cooking or the fumes from a fireplace. Wiping the surface with a damp cloth can remove accumulated dust and debris and renew the sheen of a log home interior in just a few minutes.
Bob Kren, owner of Blairstown Distributors in Blairstown, New Jersey, has seen interior finish products come and go during 31 years in business. He recommends several fundamental considerations in choosing the right interior finish. “Look for a green, environmentally friendly interior finish,” he comments. “One with low odor and no flammable vapors is best. Make sure the wood is below 18 percent moisture. A quick-drying acrylic that breathes works well.”
“Ease of applying is important, particularly if you are doing it yourself,” Kren adds. “Many finishes are sprayable, but the average homeowner can apply the finish with a three- to four-inch brush. Make sure the temperature is above 50 degrees when applying. The bugaboo is always the possibility of the interior being dark and dingy. Bare wood is also tough to clean. Make the interior easy to maintain with an environmentally friendly satin finish that is nontoxic.”
When choosing an interior finish, take the time to consider the natural color of the wood. For example, according to Sean Gahan, senior chemist at Perma-Chink Systems, wood with a natural red color paired with a gold stain will likely produce an orange tint. “It has more to do with the color of the wood,” he says. “You won’t know until you try some samples, and we encourage our customers to call us or go online and request free wet samples and try them on their logs.”
A low-maintenance, environmentally friendly finish will also help preserve the natural beauty of the wood along with the warm glow that log homeowners love. In the past, many interior finishes, whether oil- or water-based, contained solvents that produced lingering odors; however, recent improvements have reduced this issue. When considering either base, ask questions. Read labels and directions thoroughly. Make the log home livable as soon as possible and avoid unnecessary
The combination of an interior stain and a separate finish proves best for some. “We have a product that is a natural looking, transparent wood finish that is easy to apply, dries to the touch in one hour, and cleans up with soap and water,” explains Perma-Chink advertising manager Nadia O’Hara. “The breathable formula allows natural moisture to escape from the wood yet provides a tough film surface that can easily be cleaned and dusted, especially when top coated with an acrylic gloss or satin clear finish.”
Choosing the right interior finish creates the feeling, impression, and ambiance the log homeowner wants to achieve. The process provides a first and lasting impression for all those who step inside.
Photography by Roger Wade Studio