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Staining Wood for Beginners | Choosing a Wood Stain

“When it comes to stain principles, I have developed a few rules by which I live…Understanding this will help you sleep well at night.” What are these peace-proven principles? Our very own log home expert and Southeast Territory Rep extraordinaire, Paul Peebles, spills the beans in this month’s “can’t miss” training article.

Staining Principles to Live By

Over the years, I have developed a few rules by which I live when it comes to stain. The number one principle that a log home maintenance contractor must understand is that the products you are about to apply to the exterior of a log home will eventually fail. It’s a fact. All exterior coatings eventually fail. Understanding this principle will help you sleep well at night. It is your job, and even your duty, to explain to customers that you will be applying coatings that are among the best manufactured products on the market today, but that maintenance is always necessary. The amount of maintenance is determined by many factors, some I’ll touch on in more detail. For you as a contractor, properly selling the system and managing customers’ expectations is paramount to customer satisfaction.


Maintenance Factor #1: Design

Repeat with me: wider is better. A one-story home with wide, covering porches, minimum 2’ roof overhangs, 6” gutters, that is properly oriented so that porch roof will block the south and west sunlight will require very little maintenance. A yearly wash and a touch up every two years, done!  Conversely, a two-story home with no porches, standard 16” soffits, and no gutters will require yearly maintenance on at least part of the home.


Maintenance Factor #2: Landscaping

A home in the woods with tall trees that provide proper shading will need much less maintenance than a home in a cow pasture with no shade.


Maintenance Factor #3: Texture

A blasted or sanded log surface can hold up to twice the stain of a smooth surface. Twice the stain will result in twice the durability of the coating.


Maintenance Factor #4: Climate

The amount of sunlight in South Florida or at altitude in the Rockies is obviously greater than in Wisconsin.


Maintenance Factor #5: Stain Colors

The more pigment, the longer lasting the stain. Below are stain colors listed from the most durable to the least durable.

  1. Gray toned stain
  2. Dark browns and red tones
  3. Yellow and “natural” tones

If a customer insists on a clear, insist on annual maintenance. 


Maintenance Factor #6: Water Management

I mentioned gutters above. Let’s face it, though, having gutters, and having working gutters, are two different things. Clogged gutters can cause the equivalent of 60” of rain to run down a wall during a rain event of as little as one inch. In addition, much of this water will hit the walls twice if it splashes back up on the home after hitting the ground or a deck. Improperly maintained gutters cause billions of dollars in damage to homes in the US. In addition, posts, siding or logs that are in contact with stone, mortar, roofing material, or concrete draw water into them, which severely degrades coatings. Keep water away! If your customer doesn’t have gutters, now is a good time to encourage them to get some. 


Customer Satisfaction is Nice. Customer Loyalty is Priceless.

At the end of the day, you are probably well-acquainted with all of those maintenance factors above. What will help set you apart from the competition is how you build that education into your conversations with customers. The more you share your knowledge with them and set them up for success, the more likely you are to win the job and keep the ongoing maintenance business down the year. Customers who are happy, repeat customers keep your business going, and everyone is happier in the end.