Oftentimes, the wood on the exterior of a log home tends to be the main focus for care. Exposed as it is to the elements, it’s assumed that it will receive the brunt of any damage. But just as the exterior needs to be protected against various factors, so too does the interior. Proper maintenance of the interior can go a long way in preventing potentially costly repairs from being needed in the future. Below are several simple steps log home owners can follow to guard against interior wood damage.
A log home owner’s first priority in ensuring that the interior is well protected is applying a layer of stain to the wood. Staining the interior walls, like staining the exteriors, will prevent sun and moisture damage as well as protect against smoke or grease build up. Water-based acrylic stain is advisable as an interior stain because it allows the wood to breathe and does not have a tendency to yellow over time. The tough film that it creates also allows for easier cleaning and dusting. Certain areas that experience increased humidity levels such as bathrooms and kitchens may see additional benefits from the use of a varnish or clear polyurethane coating which don’t allow quite as much moisture through as an acrylic stain might. All interior wood should be well-sanded and swept free of debris before any stain is applied.
As mentioned, because smoke and other vapors have a high tendency to become trapped within the home, these too can cause damage to the wood over time. As such, proper ventilation is crucial in protecting the interior wood of a log home. Grease especially, from the kitchen, can quickly discolor the surrounding walls, cabinets, rafters, and ceiling if not adequately aired out, as can any smoke leaking in from the fireplace. Furthermore, not only does a good ventilation system prevent against vapor buildup, it can also aid in the reduction of moisture and dust buildup. Homeowners should take care to see that any leaks and cracks both within and without the ventilation system are completely sealed to disallow any additional contaminates from entering the home. Along with its other uses, having a functioning ventilation system in place will allow log home owners to more easily control temperature and humidity levels within the home which can help in avoiding any extreme fluctuations in temperature. Such fluctuations can cause cracks to form in the wood and its coating as the wood shrinks or expands in reaction to the temperature.
Simple routine cleaning of the walls goes far in guaranteeing that the interior wood remains in excellent condition. This can often be accomplished with just a clean, soft rag to remove dirt, dust, and cobwebs. If grease or smoke stains are encountered, try using natural cleaners to remove them. Vinegar and lemon juice/extract are examples of effective and non-harsh cleaners that will cut through the grease without causing any undue damage to the wood. A low ratio bleach mixture will work as well. Five parts water to one part bleach mixed well in a gallon bucket will suffice for porous woods while increasing the ratio to three parts water and one part bleach will be more effective for weathered wood. It must be cautioned that when using bleach mixtures, the bleach must be thoroughly washed off the walls as a buildup of bleach can be damaging to the wood and will alternately provide a breeding ground for certain fungi due to its residual sodium content. Of course soap and water can be used for smaller spots. When cleaning, it’s recommended that because thorough washing of the walls can be a messier business, tarps or even just plastic paint trays can be helpful in catching any cleaning solution run-off.
A number of store bought cleaners are also available that may be recommended for use with certain stains and finishes. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using these products to prevent harming the wood in any manner, as many of the store bought solvents will require exact dilution. Of the store bought options, oxalic acid products are common and when used on raw wood, will color it deeper than a bleach and water mixture. These cleaners are safe for use on both raw and stained wood and in fact are preferable for any walls stained with water and solvent-based finishes. They can be highly effective in removing moisture and rust stains as well. The key to store bought mixtures is finding ones that will prove effective without being too harsh for the wood.
Once the wood has been cleaned and washed, as a last touch many owners apply an additional layer of polish to keep it shining and further protected. Mineral oils are frequently used as wood polishes due to their availability and natural components. Although some will require regular application to be properly effective, polishing is just one more little step homeowners can take in maintaining clean and healthy interior logs.
Simple cleaning methods such as the ones described in this article are the key to making your walls last a lifetime. Remember that protecting the interior of the log home is just as important as protecting the exterior. For questions on how best to maintain your interior log home walls, don’t hesitate to call us!