Log Cabins Paint & Varnish

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Woodhouse-New-YorkConsumerism encourages us to buy goods that we don’t need “because we’re worth it”. Multinationals encourage us to use their products because “it does exactly what it says on the tin”. Their research and investment focuses on how to sell us their products. Government certification in the building industry is also influenced by big business. For example stamped WBP plywood and certified structural timber in this country is of poor quality. So we have learned not to believe everything we are told. Through experience The Log House Company has developed knowledge and understanding of timber and its properties as a durable building material.

Let’s get back to paint and varnish. Whatever it says on the tin, polyurethane varnish and water based latex are not good for log houses. Fine for doors and windows where it can be sanded off every few years but try sanding it off a log house. The Log House Company has carried out repairs on some older log houses in Ireland and has seen the effects of varnish.


There are a number of factors that relate to the painting of log houses: breathability, expansion & contraction, condensation and moisture content.

But it says it on the tin that it’s breathable. The whole point of varnish is to seal up the wood, so how can it be breathable? The timber in log houses will have a moisture content of about 18% and the varnish will lock this moisture in. Then as the building dries out it will contract, settle and shrink, causing cracks on both interior and exterior surfaces. So the varnish will crack – allowing moisture to get behind it. The logs will blacken and rot behind the varnish. The client then paints on another darker coat to hide the damage.

We are brainwashed by advertising campaigns. Many old stone houses were destroyed because cement products were used instead of the original lime products. Most people think that timber is inferior & needs constant maintenance. On the one hand people want low maintenance buildings but they can’t wait to get a paintbrush in their hand. A question we get asked a lot is “Is the timber treated “. They are attracted by the natural product but now want to douse it with chemicals.

The Log House Company has not varnished any of our buildings and after 8 years they are in better condition than some of the varnished buildings we have inspected. Our log buildings have turned a silvery grey on south facing walls, a natural seal that timber creates to protect itself from UV rays.

Some people dislike the greying effect so we recommend leaving the building for a couple of years and then painting with a truly breathable distemper paint.

UULA Distemper is a genuine earth paint manufactured traditionally by boiling colour pigments with rye and wheat flours. The distemper finish is matt. It ages by wearing and does not peel. Distemper does not prevent the wood surface from getting wet and, more important; neither does it prevent the wood from drying.

Again some people want to keep the natural look of the timber for as long as possible. UULA Roslag Mahogany is a traditional and translucent wood preservative for exterior use containing tar. Eventually the greying process will take hold especially on south facing walls. Important to remember is that if you use an oil based pigment you are stuck with it – you can’t paint distemper on top.

For further information contact:

UULA Traditional Paints – Finland  http://www.uula.fi/

PAJUTEX – Finland   http://www.pajutex.fi/

The Traditional Lime Company – Ireland    http://www.traditionallime.com/


Eamon Murray

Please Note: The Log House Company takes no responsibility for use of the above information. They are general guidelines and suggestions. Each project should be individually assessed.

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