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Newcomer to the forum - with perhaps a common question regarding stains and sealants.  I've read the other posts, and apologize for any overlap.

We have recently completed a massive 2-week stripping and sanding project with our ~12 year old log cabin (lodge pole pine) in northern Wisconsin and I'm having difficulty deciding what to finish the logs with.  A film-base sealant or a penetrating oil?  I'd hate to go through such large effort and then choose poorly and essentially waste all the time and cost.

When newly-constructed in 2000, we sealed the logs with a simple Big-Box Store penetrating oil called "House Beautiful."  It was not an informed or thought out decision at the time, I just recall choosing penetrating oil based solely on my childhood memory that all lacquers seemed to invariably fog up and peal off.  (These were likely oil-based lacquers at the time.)  Additionally, I generally liked the somewhat more 'natural' look of the wood after an oil sealant vs. a lacquer. 

The decision tree seems to be:

1)  Film or oil?

2)  If film - Latex or an oil-based product?  Does either one provide obviously better performance?  (Ease of application seems a less important factor.)

3)  If oil - What type or mfgr?

Are there any objective and accepted-fact benefits of each?  Does the location in northern Wisconsin tend to support one over the other?

I think I've learned in the last year that regardless which one chooses, that an pro-active maintenance approach every 2-4 years is needed. 

Lastly, we naturally have different woods and surfaces (fascia, cedar railings, cedar window trim, etc.) - do experts ever mix colors / or type of sealant based upon the different woods, or is one generally best to apply the single choice to all the exterior woods?

I welcome any guidance and opinions,

     - Dale

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Hi Dale,

I work for one of the leading Log Home Finish maufacturers in the country. We were one of the first with a viable water based finish for log homes and have had a long time to test and modify water based finishes for log homes. If you would like some tech tips about Oil VS Water-Based Finishes just email your request to I would be happy to email this information to anyone requesting it as it is far too lengthy to post here.

Good luck with your project,

Kevin, Perma-Chink Systems;Redmond, Washington

Your house looks great! You did well in the stain removal. There are atleast 3 more steps that are very important, before you re-coat.

There are 2 penetrating stains that I know of that I recommend, Lovitt's and Q8 oil. Those 2 will really accentuate your grains and really make them pop (looks like doug fir) And those particular brands are very easy to apply, and will never peel or have to be removed (not the case with every penetrating oil stain) And with Lovitt's, you can adjust the pigments when you re-coat in 4 years, allowing to not darken your home as you refinish.


Dale: Having stripped off two "film forming" products from my log home - I finally chose an oil base product (Q8) and have never looked back.  I read all the tech reports listened to all the sales pitches for water based and film forming products but would not recommend them after my two bad experience.  Good luck with your re-finishing - it will turn out FANTASTIC.  Make sure to remove any of the mill glaze the sanding may have formed, clean the surface well, check the ph before applying and have a GREAT time making your beautiful home look brand new!  Donald

Hello Donald & Group, thank you for your thoughts and input - -

I've heard of the concern for 'mill glaze' - and I believe an over-revving angle grinder created some of that with the otherwise awesome Osborn brush.  After I purchased a slower grinder, that was not an issue at all.   Question:  Is the best way to remove mill glaze with a slow or hand sanding?

Also - - how does one check the ph of exterior logs, and what should it be?

Dale:  Most exterior finish companies offer a cleaner (similar to oxy-clean) that will not only clean the surface but also remove mill glaze. The makers of Q8 Log Oil has a product called KleenStart.  Works great and easy to prepare and use.  You can check the ph with the strips similar to those used in spas or pools (ph paper).  If you use any cleaners, continue to rinse the log walls until the water running off measures 6.8 to 7.4 ph.  Cheers - Donald

Lovitt's Cleaner & Brightener can be diluted down to clean new wood and remove the mill glaze, neutralize the surface, open the grain, and it leave the wood PH balanced and ready to accept any wood finish.  Hand sanding is recommended only on new wood, we like to use a sanding sponge.  The Lovitt's is also a great wood finish remover and wood restorer when used full strength.

Hi Donald,

I was just curious as to which film forming finishes and how long ago this was? As not all film forming finishes are the same. There are oil based film forming finishes, water based film forming finishes, and some others. Not all film formers are equal. We've had years of success with the film forming finishes that we sell and the technology has come a long way.

-Kevin, PCS Redmond

Hey Newcomer

I built my log home in 1989, and I have always used Permachink products.  I am not a salesperson, just a log home owner.  Their exterior lifeline ultra is water based, and it goes on nice, and after  you stain, you can get their clear coat, which is easy to put on as well.  It took me two days to stain a  1500 sq ft ranch home, and  one day to clear coat, of course it took me a few days to prepare the home, but all in all It took me about 7 to 10 to do my home.  Good Luck with your endeavors, and hop your home turns out well!!!

Hello Don & EZMARY,

Thank you again for your thoughts.  I'm interested in the cleaner to remove the mill glaze - -

I also have perma-chink actual chinking between our logs, at that product has been amazing.  Not a single failure anywhere in hundreds of feet of log in 11 years.

I would greatly value a brief phone discussion with you both to learn a bit about your experiences if you'd be so kind or consider doing so.

My e-mail address is if you might be avail to share your knowledge.  I'm planning on completing the refinishing aspect of our project in two weeks.

Oh, and - - - Kevin, would the stain (but more specifically the clear coat) product of Ultra 2 be applied on the rough-cut cedar of log railings and various window and door trim?

It is a pretty rough surface, and just asking if the clear coat will 'stick' or be effective on that very different surface than the normal prepared log?

Thanks again, truly appreciative to all thoughts and experience - I'm anxious to do the right thing and get this massive and enjoyable project completed correctly, and I'm surprised at how uncertain I seem to be about how to do it.

I've called a few referred Ultra 2 experienced contractors in the WI and MN areas and have not been able to get responses to our thought of hiring out of this last phase entirely - and I'm not too keen on leaving the logs naked for much longer.

Penetrating oil is a better option. Film forming stains are time intensive and expensive to maintain. They protect the wood by leaving a coat or film on top the surface which also has a bad effect in the long run. It causes cracking, flaking, and peeling. 

Penetrating oil on the other hand, as the name implies, penetrates into the wood and not just on top of it. Since it is absorbed by the wood, it's not prone to cracking, flaking, and peeling. L.R.


Sounds like you have done quite a bit of research which is good.  Hopefully, you have found that there are some very good oil based products and some really bad oil based products.  Also, there are some really good water based products and some really bad water based products.  I would recommend going with a trusted company that stands behind their stain products.  The best stain products work anywhere and not just in one particular climate or region.  Also, please remember that good surface preparation is the key to the success with any stain. 

I would recommend going with one stain color on your house regardless of the species of wood.  This will make your maintenance work quite a bit easier and because of the different wood you will get different tones of the same color on your house which in my opinion looks the nicest.  Finally, I would recommend taking a look at a water based stain from The Weatherall Company for ease of application, great results and a warranty.  Good luck and let us know if we can provide any further assistance or free product samples.  Please contact me at with any other questions.


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