Protecting and Finishing Your EZ Log Home
Although interior spaces won't present the same potentially destructive elements found in exterior environments, important reasons exist for protecting wood surfaces inside EZ Log buildings.
There are two interior areas which require surface protection. First, there are the visible surfaces of flooring, walls, and ceilings. Second, there are invisible surfaces between boards and timbers and within insulated double walls. Because insects, mold, and other factors have often caused decay in unseen interior spaces, protecting the wood in these areas is vital for the long-term integrity of any wood building. When selecting interior finishing materials, it is wise to choose products which allow a healthy interior environment for humans and animals. For this reason, quick drying non-toxic, water-based materials should be considered. We recommend applying these in two stages.
Mold & Insect Control + Flame Retardants
Two types of materials should be used when finishing the interior of an EZ Log home. The first of these is applied to protect the wood from molds, termites, carpenter ants and other insects. Among the most effective is the boron compound Disodium Octaborate Tetrahydrate or DOT. Known as a borate, this mixes readily with water to form a colorless, odorless, non-staining liquid recommended for use as a penetrating wood preservative. If applied liberally, this treatment will soak deeply into the wood, and protect it against many types of mold and fungus, termites, wood boring insects, and ants. It will also work to reduce interior dust mite populations. As a bonus, DOT can function as a flame retardant when concentration levels are sufficient. More information about this can be found on the page titled: Borate Flame Retardants.
Over a dozen borate brands exist for use on wood, but DOT is the active ingredient in all of them. Easily applied borate treatments are non-toxic, odorless, colorless, and recommended for log homes. These preservatives do not represent a final finish coating, but they do provide long lasting protection against mold, rot, and termites. You can learn more about these on the page titled: Borate Wood Treatments for Log Homes.
Interior Stains and Finishes
Many high quality finishes for interior wood surfaces are available from paint suppliers, hardware stores, and home improvement retailers. Professional flooring supply stores are good resources for the extra tough finishes you'll need for wood floors. Traditionally, these interior wood finishes have been oil-based with mineral spirits or other solvents required for brush or roller cleanup. However, many newer water-based materials are now available with low odor and zero VOCs, for easy water cleanup. The sales representatives in your favorite paint store can show you a range of options. Some of these are easily applied with brushes or rollers and some can be sprayed.
Two types of stains are available for interiors. One is transparent, and the other opaque. Because transparent stains and finishes allow the wood's natural sheen and other characteristics to remain visible, you may find transparent materials more attractive. And many prefer clear finishes for walls and ceilings to preserve the naturally attractive color of these baltic spruce interiors.
Stage One for Interiors
We recommend a thorough borate treatment to your EZ Log home's interior before applying any stains and sealers. If your building has a double wall, we recommend applying borates before installing wiring, plumbing, and insulation. To prevent warping, uninstalled wall boards should be treated on both sides and allowed to dry evenly.
Borate treatments come in two formulation types, and most of these are based on active ingredients from US Borax, which mines compounds used in many types of products. One of the most common formulations involves a mix of borate and water, while the another uses glycol as its base. Both types may include additional additives for reducing surface tension and improving their ability to penetrate the wood.
Manufacturer's claims vary with regards to which material provides the most complete saturation and effectiveness. To determine which borate carrier (water or glycol) provides the most effective penetration into dry wood, US Borax (which sells borates to most of these wood preservative manufacturers) conducted careful lab tests. Although there were no significant differences in penetration levels between the two carriers, it appears the water-based material penetrated to slightly deeper levels. Although this difference provides no practical advantage for water-based treatments, there may be another significant difference worth considering. This relates to glycol's slow rate of evaporation from the wood. And because this may affect the adhesion of secondary materials like stains and clear finishes, water-based borates may represent an advantage, depending on the wood finish you choose. Regardless of the borate treatment you select, we strongly recommend against mixing this with a stain or final finish, because that may severely compromise the appearance and integrity of the finish.
Borate treatments present very low levels of toxicity to humans, especially after they are in a dry state inside the wood. However, you should always guard your lungs with a respirator whenever you are spraying any type of paint or preservative. A range of respirator filters is available with ratings specific to various types of paints and coatings. It's always a good idea to check with the respirator's manufacturer, to make sure the filter you use is sufficient for the material you are using.
Stage Two for Interiors
It's important to allow ample time for the borate treatment to dry thoroughly before applying secondary coats of stain or clear finish. Depending on temperature and ventilation, this will require varying amounts of time, from a week to several weeks. After the borate has dried, you may find the wood grain has been raised slightly. A light sanding followed by a vacuum cleanup will smooth the wood in preparation for the final finish.
Being aware of humidity levels is always important for wood finishing projects. Air conditioners which operate by using refrigeration systems can be very effective for reducing humidity, but when this type of air conditioning is not available, we recommend avoiding finish work on high humidity days, especially when the weather includes rain.
Wood finishes generally dry fairly fast, but will require more time to fully cure. This is particularly true for floor finishes, where durability and wear resistance is most important. It's never a bad idea to wait at least a week before moving furniture and area carpets onto freshly finished floors, and two weeks can be even better depending on the material you use.
In an exterior environment, wood is subjected to many harsh and destructive elements. Mold and mildew, microorganisms, water, fire, thermal cycling, termites, ants and other insects can all cause damage to exterior wood surfaces. There are many different ways to protect wood which is exposed to these elements, so it's important to research this subject yourself and make decisions based on what you learn about the available materials, how well they work, their impact on the environment, and how they can affect the health of those applying the finishes, as well as the health of those inhabiting the treated structure. Just as we recommend dual stages for applying wood preservation materials to an interior, we recommend two stages for exterior finishes.
Observing humidity levels is just as important for exterior wood finishing as it is when finishing interiors. Another consideration is heat and direct sunlight. If you want a durable, long lasting finish that presents an attractive appearance, always study and follow the directions for the specific material you select. There are many good finish materials available for exterior surfaces, including products specifically formulated to protect log homes. After comparing various products and available stain colors, and selecting an exterior finish for your project, always read and follow the finish manufacturer's instructions, and always allow sufficient time for a Borate treatment to dry thoroughly before applying the exterior finish.
Stage One for Exteriors
For the same reasons borate treatments are useful for protecting an EZ Log cabin's interior, they represent valuable protection before applying stains and sealers to your building's exterior. And the same pre-stain materials will work just as well to protect your building's exterior as they will when applied to that building's interior. NOTE: Prices vary widely depending on brand, suspension vehicle (water or glycol), retail source, and container quantity. However, all of the available borate wood preservatives depend on Disodium Octaborate Tetrahydrate (DOT) as their active ingredient. Exterior applications will require a secondary coat of stain or sealer to lock in the preservative and prevent rainfall from leaching it out of the wood.
Stage Two for Exteriors
Exterior finishes fall into two categories; paints and stains. Both have their advantages, but transparent and semitransparent stains are more popular among log home owners, because they don't cover up the wood's natural beauty. Also, most stains will weather in time and require additional coats, just as painted surfaces will eventually require repainting. However, many stains penetrate and adhere to the wood so well, they won't crack and flake as most paint will after years of exposure. As a result, you may find future applications of stain easier and less time consuming than paint.
Some exterior stains designed for log homes contain a copper compound which provides additional protection from insects, molds, and microorganisms. More information about these can be found on the page titled: Copper Based Wood Preservative Treatments.