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A Step-by-Step Guide to Painting Your Log Cabin

Introduction: Painting the exterior of a log cabin can seem like a daunting task, but with proper preparation and technique, it can be a rewarding and satisfying project. Whether you're looking to update the appearance of your log cabin or protect the wood from the elements, a fresh coat of paint can go a long way!

This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of preparing and painting your log cabin, from filling and sanding to cleaning and masking. Additionally, it will provide recommendations for tools and products to use. With a little bit of effort and attention to detail, you'll be able to achieve a professional-looking finish that will last for years to come. So, let's get started!

Tools & Materials you will need to complete your project:

For your convenience, we have compiled a complete painting kit that you can find in this link (View Products). Additionally, throughout the blog, we will mark specific products that can be purchased separately if you prefer. Happy painting!


Good prep work is essential for ensuring an even, long-lasting paint finish. Before painting your log cabin, it must be appropriately filled, sanded, cleaned, masked, and primed.

Step 1: Filling (Preparation for Sanding)

The first step in preparing the exterior of your log cabin for a paint job is ensuring that any holes, cracks, or imperfections on the wood surface are properly filled. To do this, you'll need to inspect the logs and mark down the areas that need to be filled.

You can mark areas using any masking tape; however, we like using blue painter's tape as it is blue and more visible than other colours, so you can easily identify them.

There are several options for filling cracks and holes in the wood, including various types of wood filler or wood glazing putty. However, in this blog, we will focus on the two products we have tried and tested: 2-part filler and wood glazing putty.

Wood Glazing Putty 

This is the standard method for filling the small cracks and holes in the wood. Consisting of oil-based compounds, such as linseed oil and calcium carbonate. Putty is an effective material for filling small cracks and holes on the exterior and interior wood surfaces due to its flexible nature. However, we do not recommend using putty for filling large cracks or holes as the chemicals in it can damage the wood if applied in large quantities.  

Wood glazing putty is typically applied using a putty knife and can take around 6-8 days to dry completely under dry weather conditions. However, for painting purposes, the putty does not need to be completely dry and can usually be painted over after 48 hours.

2-Part Wood Filler

The 2-part wood filler combines resin and hardeners to create a strong and durable repair material. It is commonly used to fill large holes and cracks in wood and can be sanded, painted, or stained once it is dry. Additionally, 2-part wood filler is highly versatile and can be used both for the interior and exterior of a log cabin.

We recommend using a 2-part wood filler, such as Professional 2 Part Wood Filler, as it is an effective option for filling holes and large cracks in the exterior or interior wood. It is typically more durable, fully paintable, and longer-lasting compared to most other types of fillers.

Powdered and ready-mixed fillers, such as Powdered Interior Wood Filler and Ready Mixed Wood Filler are better suited for interior use.

Follow the instructions on the product packaging to mix or prepare the fillers, and use a putty knife or trowel to apply them to the cracks and holes in the wood.

To achieve a smooth and consistent coating, make sure to fill all the crevices in the logs with the chosen filler. Once the filler is dry to the touch, check for any shrinkage and apply more filler to areas that require it.

Step 2: Sanding (Preparation for Cleaning)

Once the filler has dried, it's time to sand the filled areas. Before proceeding, gather all the necessary supplies, which include:

Start sanding the filler on the flat surfaces using a sanding block or sander. Use light, even strokes along the wood grain. Continue sanding until the filler becomes smooth and blends in with the surrounding wood.

After sanding the filled areas, proceed to sand other areas around the cabin that require attention, such as rough corners, knots, beams, or areas where the timber has been mechanically cut using a saw. Use sandpaper in areas where a sanding block or electric sander cannot reach to avoid damaging the wood.

Proper and even sanding of the filled areas is crucial to ensure a smooth surface for your final paint job. Once the fillings are leveled and seamlessly blended with the surrounding wood, you can proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Cleaning (Preparation for Masking)

A thorough cleaning may not be necessary if you're working on a newly built log cabin. You can clean dust using a soft bristle brush after sanding to ensure any dust or dirt is completely removed from the surface of the log cabin.

Step 4: Removing Hardware and Masking (Preparation for Priming)

This step involves covering or protecting areas that you don't want to paint, such as window and door glass panels, door handles, gutters, downpipes, paving tiles, and other surfaces around your log cabin.

Even the most professional and careful painters cannot completely avoid unwanted paint splattering and spills, which is why this step is extremely important. Proper masking can help you prevent making a mess while painting and save time and money on cleaning up unwanted paint spills.

To mask off these areas, you will need to gather the following supplies:

While the specific areas you want to avoid painting may vary, the following parts are generally masked or removed before painting.

Windows And Doors 

To protect your windows and doors from paint, completely cover them using masking film or masking paper. Secure the coverings in place using masking tape. This will help prevent paint from getting onto the window and door glass panels, handles, and other parts.

Surrounding Ground Areas

Cover any paving tiles, decking boards, or other ground surfaces you want to protect from paint using Floor Protection Paper or a Drop Sheet. It's important to ensure that these surfaces are appropriately covered before you start priming or painting to avoid the tedious process of removing paint from tiles or decking.

Gutters And Downpipes

Certain hardware, such as gutters and downpipes, can be challenging to mask due to their placement and shape. It may obstruct you from painting certain areas of the cabin. We recommend removing all hardware to ensure proper coverage of the raw log cabin wood. Remove any gutters and downpipes on the cabin's exterior, including the brackets and screws that hold them in place. This will allow you to paint more efficiently and achieve better results.

Step 5: Priming (Preparation for Sealing)

Before you start this step, it is essential to consider the primer you'll be using; choosing a suitable primer is crucial to the success and longevity of your paint job. Using the wrong product, or skipping this step, means wasting all your time preparing your log cabin for painting.

Choosing The Right Primer 

Primer helps to prepare the surface of the log cabin for painting and ensures that the paint adheres properly. It is also used to seal knots on the wood surface, which can bleed through the paint and ruin your finish.

There are several types of primers that you can use on log cabins. However, the best option for you is an Oil-based primer–known for its excellent adhesion and durability. It is an amazing option for log cabins that require their knots to be properly sealed before painting. While oil-based primers can be easily painted over with any paint, they typically take longer to dry than some other types of primers and may emit strong odours during the drying process.

We generally prefer using oil-based primer on the exterior and interior of our log cabin painting projects, simply because it creates a great foundation for the paint. We recommend using Zinsser Cover Stain Primer, which works exceptionally well on the exterior and interior wood surfaces. While other oil-based primers take many hours to dry, this product dries out in a matter of minutes and, in dry, windy weather conditions, can be painted over in 40 minutes!

TIP: We get many questions from log cabin owners regarding paint store assistants and even professional painters using or recommending to use Shellac-based primers on the exterior wood of a log cabin. Shellac-based primers are made with a resin derived from the secretion of the lac bug, and they are known for their excellent adhesion, sealing properties, and rapid drying time. They are a very good option for interior hardwood or furniture. Log cabins are usually made from soft pine or spruce wood, which expands or shrinks while absorbing or drying moisture. When the exterior wood absorbs moisture, it can become softer than the Shellac primer, which eventually can cause the primer to crack or flake–damaging your paint finish. In the long run, this can also cause bad water damage to the wood.

Applying The Primer 

To prime log cabin knots, you will need to gather some supplies, such as:

Before applying the primer, ensure the surface is dry and free of dust or debris. If the wood is not completely dry, the primer may not adhere properly, and the paint may not stick to the surface.

We recommend using a moisture meter to check the moisture level inside the wood. Generally, the moisture level on the exterior wood should be at most 15% to ensure the best results. 

To apply the primer, follow the instructions on the tin and use a paintbrush or roller specifically designed for use with the type of material.

If you're using an oil-based primer, we recommend using a high-quality, natural bristle brush or a microfiber roller for the best results. Natural bristle brushes give a smooth, even finish for oil-based paints or primers, while microfiber rollers are designed to hold more paint and leave a smooth finish.

TIP: A handy tip while working with an oil based-primer is to dilute the primer with up to 10% of a white spirit. This will make working with the primer much more manageable and leave a smoother finish.

Exterior Log Cabin Painting Guide

Using a brush or roller, apply the primer on all the knots on the wood surface. Ensure that the primer completely covers the knot before moving to other spots. 

Start at the top of the log cabin and work your way down, applying the primer in thin, even coats. Be sure to cover the knots fully. It's essential to take your time and pay attention when priming knots to ensure that they are correctly sealed, to prevent them from bleeding through your paint finish. If saving costs is not a concern, applying an oil-based primer on the entire log cabin surface will allow the paint to stick even better and extend the life of the paint to the maximum!

Allow the primer to dry completely before moving on to the next step. 

To ensure that your primer is ready to be painted over, manually check if the primer is dry to the touch. This usually takes around 40 minutes for Zinsser Cover Stain Primer to dry.

Step 6: Silicone sealing (Preparation for Painting)

Sealing vertical joints, especially on larger log cabins, is very important to ensure that no water gets inside. Vertical joints are typically sealed using flexible and paintable silicone sealer, so the sealer is barely visible after being painted over.  

Sealing all vertical joints and window/door architraves with a clear, paintable, and highly flexible sealer would be best. There are a few great products 'such as' Fome - Aquastop Paintable Rubber Sealant 300ml, that can glue any joint ensuring that it never flakes or cracks, even when painted over.

Step 7: Log cabin body painting

Choosing the right paint 

When choosing paint for your log cabin exterior, there are a few key factors to consider. The first thing to consider is the paint must be moisture-regulating. Several types of paint can be used on the exterior of a log cabin, including oil-based, acrylic, or alkyl. This blog covers only the most trusted and tested products, such as Oil-Modified Acrylic Paint.

Different finishes, such as gloss, semi-gloss, and matte, can affect the appearance of your log cabin. For example: A matte finish will have a subtle, muted appearance, while a satin finish wears very well.

The exterior of a log cabin is exposed to the elements, so it's crucial to choose a paint that can withstand Irish weather conditions. Look for a breathable paint with high resistance to fading, chalking, and peeling.

The brand we recommend, and continue to use on all our log cabin projects, is Tikkurila–which has consistently provided excellent results. 

For painting the exterior of log cabins, we recommend using the Tikkurila Pika Teho Oil-Modified Acrylic Paint. Not only is the Pika Teho moisture regulating, but it is also highly durable and long-lasting.

Once your log cabin is adequately filled, sanded, cleaned, masked, primed, and sealed, you can move on to the most exciting step - PAINTING! However, before we proceed, we need to look at some different painting techniques that you can employ.

Painting Techniques

There are a few different techniques that you can use to achieve a professional looking finish. While in this guide, we'll only be covering the brushing and rolling technique, other techniques, such as spraying, have their own set of pros and cons.

The Spraying Technique

This one is the quickest way to apply a smooth, even coat of paint to the surface of your log cabin. While it is harder than brushing or rolling and requires specialised equipment, it can provide excellent results. 

Brushing and Rolling

Brushing and Rolling are the most common and straightforward methods of painting a log cabin. Here you use a paintbrush to apply the paint to your log cabin's corners, grooves, and crevices while using a 4-inch roller to paint large and even surfaces. To brush the paint onto the logs, you will need a high-quality paint brush designed explicitly for use with exterior paint. 

We recommend using a high-quality natural bristle brush for the best results for all log cabin body painting projects and a 4-inch long pile microfiber paint roller sleeve to achieve an even, clean finish. 

The steps for painting your log cabin using brushing and rolling technique are as follows: 

Gather Supplies

To paint the walls of a cabin, you will need a range of supplies to ensure the best results. 

  1. High-quality exterior paint: It is important to use paint specifically designed for exterior wood surfaces, as these paints are more durable, breathable and resistant to the elements. We recommend using tikkurila pika teho oil-modified paint.
  2. Paintbrush: You will also need a paintbrush specifically designed for use with exterior paint, such as this blue dolphin - angled natural bristle paint brush.
  3. Paint roller: The bulk of the paint on the wall surface will be applied using a long pile microfiber paint roller sleeve, 'such as' blue dolphin - rough microfiber jumbo paint roller sleeve.
  4. Paint kettle, liner, and lid:  paint kettle is a container that holds the paint and is typically made of metal or plastic. Liner is a disposable insert placed inside the kettle to hold the paint and prevent it from coming into contact with the sides of the kettle. This helps reduce the amount of cleaning required after use and makes it easier to switch between paints, primers, and different colors by simply swapping out the liner without cleaning anything. Lid is a removable cover placed on top of the kettle to protect the paint from spilling or drying out, enabling you to store paint in the liner for a few days without it drying out!  
  5. Protective gear: It is important to wear protective gear, 'such as' gloves and goggles, to protect yourself from paint splatters.
  6. Ladder and step-ladder: If you need to reach high areas, you may need to use a ladder or a step-ladder.

Paint Boxing 

Paint boxing is a technique used to mix multiple cans of paint to create a consistent colour. This is often done when using multiple cans of paint to cover a large area, as it helps to ensure that the colour is consistent throughout.

Before applying the first coat of paint, we recommend boxing your paint. Even when using paint of the same colour, there will be a slight difference in the colour of the paint from each bucket. Due to this, paint from the new bucket may not blend well with older coats, resulting in a patchy finish. 

You will need a large container, 'such as' bucket or tub, and a paint mixer to box your paint. Begin by pouring all the paint cans into the container and using the paint mixer to stir them together until the colour is consistent. Once the paint is well mixed, you can use it like any other paint.

Exterior Wall Painting

Start painting using a brush to get into all the small grooves, joints, corners, and crevices and ensure that they are properly coated to avoid dripping. Once you've covered these areas, use the 4-inch roller to paint the flat surfaces of the log cabin. Work your way down, using long, even sweeps to apply the paint. Work on one wall at a time, and be sure to overlap your brush strokes with the roller to ensure a smooth, even finish. 

Continue rolling the paint until you have covered the entire log cabin surface. Be sure to pay extra attention to any areas that may be difficult to reach, such as corners and edges.

Once you have applied the first coat of paint, allow it to dry completely before applying a second coat. The drying time will depend on the humidity and temperature in your area, but it is generally recommended to allow at least 4-6 hours between coats. 

In more humid areas, it may be best to wait up to 8 hours before applying the second coat. As a rule of thumb, the longer you wait in between coats, the better the finish.

If you want a super professional looking finish, it is a good idea to inspect the cabin surfaces after the first coat, look for any tiny holes or cracks. You can fill these holes using wood glazing putty to ensure that your final finish is smooth and even! 

When you are ready to apply the second coat, use the same rolling and brushing technique as before, starting at the top of the log cabin and working your way down. 

Once you have applied the second coat, allow it to dry completely before touching up any areas needing it.

Step 8: Window & Door Preparation For Painting

Removing Hardware & Masking

Before starting the painting process, ensure that windows and doors have been properly prepared, masked, filled, sanded, cleaned, and caulked. You must also remove any hardware, such as handles, rubber seals, window sills, or locks, while masking off any areas you don't want to paint, such as the glass panels. 


This step involves using a flexible, waterproof sealant to seal the joints on the windows, doors and frames. Caulking is typically applied using a caulking gun, and it is an easy and effective way to fill joints.

We recommend using caulk only to seal and waterproof any gaps around the windows and doors. This is because caulk is generally easier to apply than any type of filler, wood putty, or silicone sealant and it also smooths out really well. 

There are not many great exterior caulk products such as tec7 - caulk that is super flexible and quick drying. It will seal any joint ensuring that it never flakes or cracks, even when painted over.

Window & Door Painting 

Once the surfaces are prepared, you can begin painting. We recommend using a natural bristle angle sash paint brush and a 10mm microfiber paint roller to achieve a nice and smooth finish. 

Start at the top of the window or door and work your way down. Use the brush to apply paint on areas that may be hard to reach with a roller, such as around the glass and along all edges. Be sure to overlap your brush strokes with the roller to ensure a smooth, even finish. 

Use a smaller angle sash paint brush to get into tight spaces and corners. This brush will also let you make straight lines around the glass panels and areas where the paint line meets the inside paint line. 

Allow the paint to dry completely before removing the masking tape and adding any additional coats, if necessary.


In conclusion, painting a log cabin requires careful preparation and attention to detail to achieve a professional looking finish. 

  • Following the steps outlined in this guide.
  • Fill and sand any cracks or gaps.
  • Mask off windows, doors, and trim. 
  • Apply multiple coats of high-quality exterior paint using a variety of techniques. 

With the right tools and techniques, you can transform your log cabin into a beautiful and well protected home that will last for years!

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