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The Best Stains for Log Homes: A Comprehensive Guide

The Best Stains for Log Homes: A Comprehensive Guide

Like any home, log cabins require upkeep and maintenance to retain their functionality. As durable as these structures are, their raw wood construction is susceptible to a range of issues when not properly cared for. Staining and sealing is one of the most effective methods of preserving a log home and giving it years of dependable performance.

With several different products on the market, it can be difficult for a homeowner or contractor to know the best log home stain. By understanding how stain functions, what variations exist, and what makes a quality product, selecting the right staining material for a cabin can be surprisingly straightforward.

What is Log Home Stain?

Best Log Home Stain

Log home stain is a liquid material that’s applied to cabins to reduce theoccurrence of wood rot, insect infestation, and general wear caused by theweather. This stain is typically applied by either a handheld brush, low-pressure pump sprayer, or commercial spray equipment.

A high-quality log home stain is essential for preserving the home’s exterior. Without this coating, serious wear can occur due to natural forces like precipitation, wind, UV radiation, and temperature fluctuations. All of these elements will slowly deteriorate the logs and cause severe damage. Additional reasons for investing in staining include:

  • Longevity: When unstained, an exposed exterior can begin to show signs of wear after just one year. Maintaining a regular staining schedule ensures that the cabin continues to function for decades.
  • Visual Appeal: Stain helps preserve and enhance the natural aesthetic of the wood.
  • Moisture Repellance: Cabin stain creates a breathable barrier that allows internal moisture to escape, while simultaneously preventing the intrusion of exterior moisture.

How Does Log Home Stain Work?

All wood stains work with the assistance of four main components: pigments, solvents, binders, and additives. The pigment is responsible for adding the desired color and tone to the log cabin’s wood. Solvent (typically water or oil) is used to turn the pigment into a liquid so that it can seep into the wood’s porous cells. A binder (typically an epoxy resin derivative) is then used to make the pigment/solvent combination “stick”. Finally, additives are integrated to provide special properties like algae resistance and insect deterrence.

The lifespan of exterior stains can vary immensely based on factors like the quality of the stain used, environmental stressors, and the level of maintenance that’s performed. 

Types of Log Home Stains

Log home stains are manufactured in a variety of ways, each offering unique finish qualities.  These qualities will differ in their level of protection, the number of coats required, and the aesthetic finish that’s left behind. 

Generally speaking, cabin stain can be categorized based on the type of solvent used and how deeply it sets into the wood.

Water vs. Oil-Based

Log cabin stains are commonly comprised of either a water or oil solvent (carrier). Both types of products have their advantages and disadvantages, as displayed in the table below:

Type of Stain

Pros

Cons

Water-Based

  • Requires More Coats and a Top Coat
  • Has a Shorter Lifespan
  • Requires More Frequent Upkeep 

Oil-Based

  • Maximum Waterproofing
  • Deeper Wood Penetration
  • Creates a Smoother Finish
  • Solvent Cleanup (except Outlast Q8 Log Oil)
  • Slower Dry Times

Deep Penetrating Stains

The intensity of the stain is dependent on its depth of application. Deep penetrating stains are the most durable and long-lasting. They typically penetrate 3-4 cells deep within the wood, up to 1/2”, and are comprised primarily of non-drying oils.

Relevant Products: Outlast Q8 Log Oil, Organiclear WR-5, X-100 Natural Seal Wood Protective, Log 1 Coat

Shallow Penetrating Stains

As the name suggests, shallow penetrating stains are applied less deep within the wood - normally only 1-4 cells. While this may mean slightly less longevity and protection, these products still provide dependable performance. One downside is that shallow penetrating stains utilize drying oils, meaning cracking and peeling can be an issue over time. However, we’ve found the higher quality products in this category are less likely to have this issue.

Relevant Products: Transformation Log and Timber

Surface Stains

Surface stains are a water-based variety primarily used to enhance the visual quality of the wood, while also protecting against water intrusion. They only penetrate the first cell layer of the wood, thus requiring extensive surface preparations like sanding. Despite the extra work that’s involved, they’re generally user-friendly for the DIYer and pose less of a health risk. A good quality surface stain will have a flexible film coating that is designed to move with your logs to prevent possible cracking and peeling.

Relevant Products: Capture Log Stain, Cascade Clear Top Coat, UV Guard

How to Choose the Right Stain

With so many varying characteristics between products, choosing the right stain can be challenging. It’s important to know the performance requirements of the home, as well as other factors like the desired log home stain colors, environmental impact, ease of application, and ongoing maintenance. 

For example, a homeowner who applied a water-based stain with a clear top coat may just need a simple refresh of the top coat to restore the faded sheen while continuing to protect against weathering, mold, and algae growth.  On the other hand, a log home cabin may have a failed product that is cracking and peeling, requiring the removal of the failed stain. The homeowner may choose to then go with a deep penetrating oil that isn’t going to crack and peel in the future.

Best Log Home Stains: Product Analysis

Here at Western Log Home Supply, we carry an extensive collection of high-performing log home stains and sealers that are right for any home. With both oil and water-based products, as well as deep, shallow, and surface-penetrating options, cabin owners and contractors are sure to have the stain selection they need for long-lasting protection and visual appeal.

Outlast Q8 Log Oil

Outlast Q8 Log Oil

The Outlast Q8 Log Oil is our best-selling product. In just one coat, the Q8 Log Oil preserves and protects log homes, wood siding, decks, and fences. It is the only stain that is also an EPA-registered wood preservative. Outlast Q8 is available as a clear finish or in six different colors that provide UV protection. As a deep-penetrating oil, it does not form a film on the surface and will never crack or peel, reducing the need to sand or strip for maintenance. Simply clean the surface and apply a maintenance coat as needed. Outlast Q8 Log Oil never expires.

Stain Type

Oil-Based, Deep Penetrating

Coverage Area (Per Gallon)

150-300 Square Feet

# of Coats Required

1

Main Features

  • Protects Against Insect Infestation, Wood Rot, Mold, and Mildew
  • Extremely Water Repellant
  • Easy to Apply with a Pump Sprayer or Brush

Transformation Log and Timber

Transformation Log and Timber Stain

The Transformation Log and Timber stain is an exterior oil-based stain designed for revitalizing aged wood and giving it a fresh, vibrant look. This stain is particularly adept at enhancing the natural beauty and texture of the wood, offering various color options to match your aesthetic preferences. Its formula is crafted to penetrate the wood, providing long-lasting protection while maintaining the wood's natural charm. This product is an excellent choice for transforming log homes, wood siding, log, and wood handrails, or wood with an unknown previous stain (after proper preparation). The result will be a beautiful transformation with a shiny/glossy appearance.

Stain Type

Oil-Based, Shallow-Penetrating

Coverage Area (Per Gallon)

1st Coat: 200 Square Feet, 2nd Coat: 400 Square Feet

# of Coats Required

2

Main Features

  • Reduces the Frequency of Future Maintenance
  • Ideal for Older Logs
  • Compatible with Other Stains

Log 1 Coat

Log 1 Coat Stain

A new addition to Western Log Home Supply’s lineup for 2024! We’ve been testing this product for several years, and its impressive results have earned it a spot in our lineup of premium stains. Log 1 Coat is a penetrating exterior oil stain sealer that gives the wood a deep natural-looking color. Log 1 Coat is designed to offer excellent coverage in just one coat, saving time and effort during application. Its formula is robust against the elements, providing lasting protection against moisture, algae, and mold buildup. This is an economical product that doesn’t form a film on the surface so it will never crack or peel, making for easier long-term maintenance.

Stain Type

Oil-Based, Deep-Penetrating

Coverage Area (Per Gallon)

150-175 Square Feet

# of Coats Required

1

Main Features

  • Lasts for 6-8 Years
  • High Pigmentation Values, Ideal for Hiding Blemishes and Older Stain Remnants
  • Trans-Oxide Additives that Prevent UV Degradation

Capture Log Stain

Capture Stain

As an environmentally friendly, lightweight stain, Capture is ideal for both exterior and interior surfaces. This versatile product can be used around the home, including log home siding, trim, and deck handrails. When used with Cascade Clear Top Coat, a homeowner can expect their cabin to withstand years of abuse from the sun, humidity, and frigid winter weather.

 

Stain Type

Water-Based, Surface

Coverage Area (Per Gallon)

150-300 Square Feet

# of Coats Required

2

Main Features

  • Quickly Dries Within 30 Minutes
  • Impressive Elasticity for Gap and Crack Coverage
  • Compatible with Chinking Products

Cascade Clear Top Coat

Cascade Clear Sealer

This industry-leading finish coating is intended to add the final touch to Capture Log Stain. Its pristine finish ensures a blemish-free exterior, effortlessly displaying the rich undertones of your natural wood and applied stain. Available in both a semi-gloss and matte finish, Cascade Clear Top Coat has received commendable log home stain reviews from customers.

 

Stain Type

Water-Based, Surface

Coverage Area (Per Gallon)

300–600 Square Feet

# of Coats Required

1

Main Features

  • 100% VOC Compliant for Indoor Use
  • Integrated Biocides for Mildew Resistance
  • Ultra Water Repellant

Seal Once Nano Plus Poly

Seal Once Nano Plus Poly

The Seal Once Nano Plus Poly stain has been proven to outperform all other stains and sealants on the market. Offering superior penetration, this stain utilizes nanopolymers to create a flexible and breathable barrier at the wood’s deeper cellular levels. This innovative approach thoroughly coats the wood fibers and ensures moisture protection inside and out, giving a homeowner complete peace of mind.

 

Stain Type

Water-Based, Deep-Penetrating

Coverage Area (Per Gallon)

200-300 Square Feet

# of Coats Required

2

Main Features

  • Tint Pigments for Long-Lasting Color
  • Completely Non-Toxic and Safe for Pets, Children, and the Environment
  • UV Blockers to Prevent Graying

Organiclear WR-5

Organiclear WR-5

Featuring a premium blend of oils, resins, and waxes, the Organiclear WR-5 treats every home to a luxurious shine. This deluxe finish is only one benefit, as the stain also utilizes a MOISTURE-GUARD barrier for maximum water resistance, sun blockers to minimize UV radiation, and a microporous exterior film that causes water to bead up and roll off the log’s surface. Additionally, the translucent coating accentuates the home’s natural wood grains and is easily applied with just one thick coating for impressive application efficiency.

 

Stain Type

Oil-Based, Deep-Penetrating

Coverage Area (Per Gallon)

200-400 Square Feet

# of Coats Required

1

Main Features

  • Solvents Can Be Easily Removed
  • 11 Unique Pigment Colors
  • Resistant to Cracking and Peeling

UV Guard Wood Finish & Advance Top Coat

UV Guard Stain

UV Guard provides an exceptional selection of finishing products that are best used in conjunction with one another for superior results. The UV Guard Wood Finish is one of the industry’s original stains and is ideal as a final coating, although it can also be used as a maintenance coating for general upkeep. 

 

Stain Type

Surface

Coverage Area (Per Gallon)

200-500 Square Feet, Depending on the Lumber Type

# of Coats Required

2-3

Main Features

  • Non-Yellowing Formula
  • Can Be Applied with a Brush or Sprayer
  • UV Absorbers and Stabilizers

 Uv Guard Advance Top Coat Sealer

The UV Guard Advance Top Coat offers a crystal clear top finish that protects and enhances. It can be used to coat a variety of log home surfaces like siding, shingles, and other vertical surfaces, making it one of our most robust products.

 

Stain Type

Water-Based, Surface

Coverage Area (Per Gallon)

1st Coat: 200-400 Square Feet, 2nd Coat: 400-500 Square Feet

# of Coats Required

2

Main Features

  • Compatible With Other Finishing Products and Brands
  • Available in 1 and 5 Gallon Sizes
  • No Application Odor

X-100 Natural Seal Wood Protective

X-100 Natural Seal Wood Protective

The X-100 Natural Seal Wood Protective is one of the most reputable, deep-penetrating stains on the market. Relied on by organizations like the US National Parks Service, Parks Canada, and the San Francisco Maritime Museum, this product offers comprehensive weather protection against sunlight, precipitation, and mold growth.  Capable of being installed on both horizontal and vertical surfaces, this stain is perfect for all exterior uses.

 

Stain Type

Oil-Based, Deep-Penetrating

Coverage Area (Per Gallon)

100-200 Square Feet

# of Coats Required

1-2

Main Features

  • Compatible with Most Wood Species
  • E.P.A. Registered Water-Repellant Wood Protective
  • Available in Many Semi-Transparent Log Cabin Stain Colors

Find Your Ideal Stain at Western Log Home Supply Today

Log home staining is crucial for safeguarding a home’s exterior from the weathering effects of Mother Nature. These stains are available in a wide selection of styles, and understanding the functional differences between each product is key for any homeowner looking to upgrade and invest in their residence.


Western Log Home Supply was founded with over 30 years of experience in the log home industry, and today we continue to be the leading provider of premium log cabin stains and sealers. Whether you’re looking for a surface finish to enhance your cabin’s exterior appeal, or you’re interested in preserving it with a quality, deep-penetrating finish, we have all the necessary products. Contact us today for any questions regarding your stain purchase.