Log Home Maintenance – Borate treatment

The Advantages of Treating with Borates
by Matt Edmunds
Edmunds & Company Log Home Restorations, LLC

Boron-based treatments are now an established part of log home maintenance. In the past,  the chemical Penta was used as a wood preservative from the 1950′s up until the 1980′s. Penta (pentachlorphenal and creosote) was outlawed in the 1980′s for public use because of its toxicity.  Many log homes here in the Midwest have had this chemical applied to the exterior over the years.  Now, many of these same log homes are turning black and the preservative effect of the chemical is wearing out. Penta wood treatment tended to preserve the outer 1/2″ of the wood and if it did develop rot, the rot would take hold deeper into the log where the Penta had not penetrated.

Unfortunately, on most log homes, Penta is no longer an effective preservative because it leaves the logs vulnerable to the elements.  Modern exterior stains act in a different way to control rot than Penta did.  While the chemical reactions in the Penta prevented the rot from taking hold, today’s modern stains actually control moisture, which ultimately prevents decay.

Surface preparation is very important in order to control the surface moisture on the logs. On log homes that have been treated with a Penta preservative, it is necessary to remove the old preservative first. This prepares the outer surface of the logs to “accept” a new application of stain, which will better protect the logs from the elements.  In cases like these, we recommend sand, glass or cob blasting to remove the old finish.  This process takes off a layer of the wood and cleans up the logs, making them ready for staining. Click here for more information on blasting.

To learn more about why logs rot, click here.

After blasting and before staining, we apply a preservative that contains borates – a natural preservative as opposed to Penta. The borate treatment raises the PH level in the logs to the point where they need a few higher percentage points of moisture before rot can get started.  The final step in the process is the application of a high quality exterior stain.  There are many options to choose from but protection, UV inhibitors, and breathability are all important factors to look for when selecting a stain.

Visit us at www.restorelogs.com for more info on our services, or email us and we will contact you: info@restorelogs.com.


  1. Cathy Davidson says

    We bought a log cabin & not real sure if it is painted or solid stained. It is cedar D logs. There is a leaking problem with wind & rain coming through the walls. What can be done? Our cabin is about 10 miles n. of Fergus Falls, mn. Thank you, Cathy (701) 318-2731

    • Edmunds & Company says

      You are right to want to know if it is painted or stained. Paint is not the best choice for finish on a log home because it doesn’t allow the logs to breath properly. Perhaps you could take a chip of it to a paint store and see if they can determine what it is. If it is paint, you might consider having it blasted off and then put a quality stain on the logs instead.

      As for leaking, it is not the easiest thing to determine where the leaking is coming from. You can try to duplicate a driving rain by spraying a garden hose (with a nozzle attached) on the area you are concerned about and see if you can get it to leak. (Don’t use a power washer on the logs.)

      Sometimes leaks happen when there are cracks or checks in the logs on the up-facing side, which allow water to get into the log and travel. This can make it difficult to find the actual source of the leak. Here is a link regarding cracks/checks in logs.

      Log homes can also leak through gaps in the caulk or chinking. For more information regarding caulking and chinking, check out this link to our site.

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