How to stain a cabin in 5 easy steps.

Posted by Terry Jennings on

How to stain a cabin in 5 easy steps.

We’ve all heard it before; if you want something to last, then you have to take care of it. This remains especially true for log homes. Staining your cabin not only makes it more visually appealing, but will protect it as well. The five easy steps to staining a log cabin are: 

  • Prepare your logs.
  • Prepare your stain and tools.
  • Apply initial coat.
  • Chink/caulk checks or cracks.
  • Apply finishing coats.

  • There are many potentially expensive problems that can arise with log homes. Most of these problems are preventable with the correct maintenance. Staining your log home regularly, 3 -5 years depending on climate, and stain used; will prevent your logs from rotting, bug infestation, warping, cracking, and other problems that are very expensive to fix. 

    Before you stain your log cabin.


  • Check the weather. The perfect weather is between 50 and 70 degrees with low humidity and little chance of rain.
  • If staining over stain, make sure that the new stain is compatible. Often if you switch from oil to water based stain you will have to use a cob blaster to get down to the bare wood.

    1. Prepare your logs.

    The first step when staining your log home is to clean your logs. Dirt and other debris on logs will prevent the stain from adhering to the wood. You want to bring the logs down to a clean and bare state using a pressure washer with minimum psi of 3,000. If you are switching to a new stain, that is not compatible with the previous layer; then use a corn cob blaster to get to the bare wood. You can use an orbital finish sander to remove mill glaze and get to a clean layer of wood. Once you have cleared the tough debris, you will then want to wash your cabin one more time to get rid of any particles left. (Always wear a mask to protect from inhaling particles.) While preparing the places you do want to stain, you will also want to mask of any places that you don’t want to stain. Us tape or plastic to cover doors, windows, and other places where you don’t want to stain.

    2. Prepare your stain and tools.

    Before you start staining, it is important to make sure that you stain and tools are ready. For stain you will want to have enough so that you will not have to stop and wait mid-wall. To avoid visible differences, you will want to finish entire walls at a time. Another trick to avoiding color variations is; if you have different batch numbers on pails of stain, blend them together. We call this “boxing” in the industry. In general we will use half of a pail and then fill it back up with the next pail. 

    For your tools it is important to make sure that they are clean and that you have tested them before use. Often people who do not test a sprayer before use will quickly regret it when they start on their cabin. We also recommend having many brushes available. Staining is a process where it is important to have as little breaks as possible, having extra brushes on hand will help you stay consistent. 

    3. Apply initial coat.

    Before you apply the initial coat, there are a few things you need to know and do. 

    The best weather for staining a log home.

    The best temperature is between 50 degrees and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also important to make sure that it is not going to rain for at least 3 days. After 24 hour most stains will be able to hold up against mild rains, but it is best to play it safe. 

    Read the instructions of your stain before using. By now you have probably chosen your stain. Most oil stains require two coats, while water-based stains like Capture Log Stain & Cascade require three. If you need help choose here is a great comparison of each type of stain Oil Based Stain vs Water Based. 

    Before you apply the first coat it is important to cut out any bad chinking or caulked areas. You will want the first layer of stain to cover the wood BEFORE you replace the chinking/caulk. This will help seal and protect the logs. While applying the first coat, use a brush to get in all checks and cracks.

    When applying the first coat it is important to be safe and make sure that you are in a well ventilated area. If you are using a sprayers, then it is a good idea to have a second person use a brush to go over the sprayed areas. By brushing over the sprayed areas, you are ensuring that the stain penetrates the wood and creates a uniformed look.

    4. Chink/Caulk checks and cracks.

    Once you have applied the initial coat, it is time to caulk all checks and cracks. By applying the initial coat first, it will make it much easier to apply chinking and caulk to areas in need. Check out our Complete Guide on Chinking to learn everything you’ll need to know while chinking.

    5. Apply finishing coats.

    The most important step to staining your log home is to read the instructions. Most stains require two coats, however some of them require three. Wait at least 24 hours between coats. Before you apply the finishing coat, make sure that cover any place that you do not want to be stained. Many people will cover chinking with painters tape to avoid getting stain on the chinking. This also helps prevent drip marks. You can stain over chinking and then go over your chinking with chinking paint. This is really a preference that differs. 

    If you have any questions feel free to reach out to us! Comment and tell us about your staining experience!


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