GC made a little, very expensive, mistake - Advice?

laurajane02October 15, 2012

Hi there,

So, my contractor made a mistake with the finishing of our house and I think it's going to be a very expensive mistake to fix. We are building a log post and beam style house. We bought our post and beam package and hired a GC to finish the rest of the house. Anyway, they have been staining the outside of the house. However, today it rained, so DH and I came home from work to find that they had used the exterior stain INSIDE the house (not at all what we want or specified).

Anyway, we believe the fault lies 100% with our GC (but does it?). I have an email specifying the stain for the exterior only. The stain itself is considered an "exterior stain". I verbally told him that the stain on the fascia, siding, and exterior logs would all be the same. We have not discussed interior stain, so I have not specified one.

Regardless, this will need to be fixed by a professional (Our post and beam package came from a company 1000km from us). I am going to make the necessary phone calls tomorrow, but I believe we may need to have some chemical stripping done. I'm so worried that the inside that was finished incorrectly, stripped, and refinished won't look the same as the rest. Sanding is not an option, as these logs were all hand peeled. We may need to have someone who initially built the post and beam portion come to fix this.

It's going to be very expensive. I know what actions I need to take to figure out how to fix this. But I may need advice on how to approach this with the GC (I have spoken to him, so he knows, and no one is touching the logs now until I sort this out). DH and I have had a good experience with our GC until now. We have been happy with all his work and not had an issue. I guess I'm just looking for advice.

For perspective, here are some older photos of our build (it's too dark now to take new photos):

FWIW, I doubt anyone here is familiar with this product, but we used Sansin Nano Natural #11 stain. Our logs came from: http://www.pioneerloghomesofbc.com/

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I doubt it will be possible to remove a penetrating stain with chemicals.

If there is no written specification how will you show that the GC made a mistake? Was he supposed to ask you for direction each time he started a different part of the work?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 11:17PM
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The natural #11 doesn't look like it has much of a "color" to it? Does it change the color of the logs substantially? What is your concern about it being used on the interior logs?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 11:25PM
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Sophie Wheeler

No, it's not his fault. You specified that the logs were to be stained, so the logs were stained. If you wanted another finish for the interior, it was up to you to spec it in the contract, both in color and product. And again, no you're not going to be able to remove the stain from those logs. A wood restoration expert might be able to bleach them, but they'd never be the same. Using an exterior stain on the interior isn't a big deal. Let him finish staining the rest of it to match and it will be fine, although perhaps not exactly the color you originally envisioned.

This is one of those "live with it" things.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 11:27PM
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Thanks for the quick replies. The stain is actually significantly darker on the outside (in my exterior photo above, the fascia is stained, the logs are not). It has to be to protect the wood from UV rays. I want a much lighter, close to clear, stain inside so that the cedar will age naturally.

In an email to my GC, I said that the Sansin nano #11 was to be the exterior stain. But, I respect if you say it's my fault. It doesn't really change our desire to have it fixed.

Would the stain have penetrated too much to consider having the logs hand peeled again?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 11:57PM
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So the company that made the stain, also makes a stain remover. I've linked it below. Do you think this could work?

I know I'll probably get this all figured out tomorrow, but I do appreciate the support of this forum.

This is the product that should be used inside.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sansin stain remover

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 12:14AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Nope that won't work. Stain penetrates the wood. You have to get rid of the wood to the depth that the stain has penetrated. Or replace the log. An oxalic acid may bleach the wood, similar to how bleach does fabric, but it also affects the wood fibers so that if you want to stain or clear coat over it, the rest of the wood won't match. However, you may like the look of the first stained and then bleached wood, so you need to do some experimenting on some scrap to see if it meets your look requirements.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 8:13AM
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wow, you might have to chalk this one up to not being there in person to see that the job is done right. I found with my build no one cares more than the homeowner. you might ask yourself is this something you can live with or do you just want it fixed because someone messed up. Blame wont help now and the fix might make it look worse than you originally intended. The "what ifs" of a the fix have not been realized and won't be until you attempt to do so. Perhaps the treated area won't match the other side of room untreated area? then what? you will find that mistakes happen and some have to be lived with. I would have the builder give or produce something extra rather than pay. Good luck and keep posting the updates!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 9:51AM
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I mention the above as my painted glazed kitchen cabinets are a different color than the REPLACEMENT painted glazed crown molding due to kitchen contractor mistake. There is no fix as a different lot number of paint was used versus the one that was used to paint the crown molding replacements. I have to live with it now! IT could be the same with the stain color on treated "fixed" interior wood of your home.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 9:54AM
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I think the stain looks good.

How much of the interior did they stain? If its just a room or 2 then Maybe you can just stain those rooms and finish the others to your preference.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 9:57AM
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I think the nano natural color is very nice. It is not too dark and you can always use some contrast or a lighter flooring.
What you need to find out is if the used stain has any VOCs that are dangerous to human health.
Is it a low VOC stain? Low odor is not the same as low VOC.
In my opinion, I'd only do something if that stain represents a hazard because the color is nice.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 10:30AM
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I just got to see the house in daylight this morning, and honestly, I feel a little better. The exterior stain is a 3 coat process. Our master bedroom area is the only area that has had 2 coats applied, other areas have either 1 coat, or no coats. The 1 coat area doesn't look too bad (or significantly different from the 0 coat area). The master area is way too dark for us, but it is separate from the rest of the house, so we feel like if the wood is stripped or lightened and looks a little different than the rest of the house, that's ok.

Aesthetics aside, the exterior stain has low VOC's but does have insecticides, and other ingredients to prevent mould, bugs, etc. Chemicals that you wouldn't need or want inside the house (I guess?). The interior stain by Sansin has 0 VOC's.

I was really caught off guard by this because our roof isn't on yet, so I wasn't expecting interior finishing to start yet. But, I am a pharmacist and DH is a GP, so we hired a GC because we wouldn't know what needs to be done and when. We're learning as we go.

Anyway, I should hear back from a log home restoration company today.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 11:05AM
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So the Sansin rep said that the stain can definitely be removed and even that the logs will look the same after it's complete. It just requires a lot of water and work. He recommended the same restoration company that I called, so I guess that's the direction that we're going to take. My GC did call to say that he can order the stain removal product for tomorrow, but I'm not sure if I should have his guys do this if they've never done it before.

Here are some photos of how it looks this morning. This is the area with 2 coats (that one log with the carvings is the only 2-coat log exposed to the main area)

1 coat area:

Our intended finish:

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 11:54AM
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Final update for now.

I spoke with the log restoration company, and he is very confident that they will be able to restore these logs to "new". He said that the Sansin stain only penetrates 1mm, and they will remove it with an alcohol based solvent (absolutely NOT the Sansin removal product so I'm so glad I spoke with him). I'm going to have them do all of the interior log finishing as well.

He told me not to worry, the house will be as good as new.

I am so relieved.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 12:35PM
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I am so glad you got it worked out! Thank you for sharing your story- great reminder on communication.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 12:41PM
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that is an amazing house. don't think I've
seen anything like that. can you give us more
details about the build?

glad things will work out.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 1:33PM
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Energy rater ~ Thanks for your interest! Are you interested in anything in particular?

In general, we designed our house with Pioneer Log Homes of BC and they built the post and beam package. The logs are Western Red Cedar (from the Northern BC Coast - some are 1000 years old), dried, hand peeled, etc.

We then hired a GC to do the rest of the build - foundation, framing, etc. At the appropriate time, Pioneer Log Homes disassembled the post and beam portion in Williams Lake, loaded it onto 2 trucks, and with the use of a crane, reassembled it on our foundation. Our GC is now finishing the house.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pioneer Log Homes

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 1:41PM
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I wanted to say what an amazing house!! Can't wait to see it when it is finished!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 2:23PM
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"So the Sansin rep said that the stain can definitely be removed and even that the logs will look the same after it's complete."

That tells you it is a pretty crappy stain, likely nothing more than thin paint.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 2:51PM
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I would question the logs being the "same" after the process. We had the exterior logs on our (much smaller, less grand:) stockade style cabin and the remover combined with the pressure wash did "chew up" some of the finish. I was told the only way to restore interior (white northern cedar) was to cob blast, a process of blasting ground corn cob to sand the logs evenly. Please keep us posted on how this worked for you. Good Luck and either way I've said it before, truely stunning home!
Just FYI-if your worried about VOC's check the product specs. In my bathroom we actually opted since the exterior was significatly fewer VOC's to use the exterior.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 3:44PM
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Thanks again everyone.

I feel like I've hired the best possible log restoration company. They actually travel worldwide to refinish and finish these homes, and we'll be paying extra for their expertise and craftsmanship. For a lifelong house such as this (and we're only 30), I feel this is my best move. I am regretting not hiring them to begin with.

These logs will not be pressure washed (although that is apparently how exterior stains are removed).

Anyway, I'll have to come back here and post the refinished photos. That should be in a few weeks. A lot of people here seem to think this won't work, so I *really* hope I can prove you wrong.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 4:03PM
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I'm not sure why some folks are so negative on the stain removal. I'm sure you can get it lighter, and I'd be much more comfortable with the results using alcohol vs water. Water can make the wood surface fuzzy which would be a shame on hand-scraped logs (you'd have to sand the surface back down before finishing).

I'm not sure if you can get back to "original" condition, but it should certainly get quite a bit lighter. If they overshoot and make it too light, it doesn't really matter as you'll be applying your chosen stain anyway.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 6:42PM
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This is going to be some house! So glad you have found someone to help you, this must have been heartbreaking.

We love log homes but the closest we can get is a "log" veneer to put on our gut remodel :) Can't wait to see it finished.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2012 at 7:09PM
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so you are in canada?

is the house on a slab?
how will you insulate..walls
attic, floor(if on piers)?

how heat & cool?

I have to say that the house is really
beautiful!..love the bear paw marks on the
interior tree trunk. you going to decorate with
lots of green plants?

will you post more pictures?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 7:48PM
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laurajane02 it sure sounds as if you are in good hands and the restoration company has the experience to correct this problem. Looking forward to seeing your project move along - it's really amazing!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 8:27PM
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Energy rater ~ Yes, I live in BC, Canada. The house is on a concrete foundation with a full basement (typical framing for the basement- see first photo). Not sure about insulation.

Heat and Cool ~ DH is setting up an outdoor gassification wood boiler with Pex piping to the house. So, that's our main source of heat. We have in-floor heating in the basement and forced air throughout the house because we'll need A/C. Heat pumps are involved too.

Not going to decorate with lots of plants, maybe 1 or 2. No hunting lodge decor either. Finishes are mostly chosen.

Here are some photos from when the logs were erected. That was the most exciting part and all of our neighbours actually gathered to watch!

dlm ~ Thanks for the vote of confidence! I am meeting with the restoration company on Friday and will post updated photos once the work is done.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 9:29PM
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That is an amazing structure!


As far as the initial question, I think its gorgeous just as it is.

Keep up updated..

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 9:44AM
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Thanks again for the positive feedback!

DH and I met with the owner of the restoration company yesterday, so I thought I'd post an update. I've definitely learned an important lesson. This is the gist of our meeting.

1. The stain can be removed without damaging the logs. He sampled an area with his alcohol based stripper and it looks great. He applied the stripper with a paint brush and then scrubbed it with a scotch brite pad. The stripper is what furniture re-finishers would use. No water, no sand blasting, no sanding.

2. None of our logs were prepped properly (i.e. not all the gray wood was removed before staining). This is actually evident if you look at the "finished" bear paw log. The bottom of it still has gray staining. They will fix that on the inside and outside. The special brushes they use remove the gray wood without affecting the handpeeled logs (he demonstrated this in an area too- osbourne brushes - it's amazing).

3. The outside of our house did not have enough stain applied. This would have led to problems within 1-2 years. They are going to apply another heavy coat of stain.

4. Minor flaws in the logs from transport were not repaired. They are going to fix this too.

Anyway, I think this is another example of the need to hire good, experienced, and well-trained trades. The painter who finished our logs is a good painter, but he has never finished logs before. Our contractor has never built a house like this before, so even he didn't know what kind of skill was needed to finish these logs. Obviously, DH and I didn't know any better, or we would have insisted on this restoration company to begin with. However, thanks to that "mistake", the right guys for the job are here and I'm going to have a beautifully finished house!

Pay for good work everyone, it will save you money and hassle in the long run. Luckily, I feel like DH and I are following this advice with all other aspects of our build.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 8:17PM
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