What are borates and how do they work?

Simply put, borates, or borax are naturally-occurring, water-soluble salt-like acids. It is about as toxic as table salt to humans and pets, but kills wood-consuming insects like termites, powder-post beetles, and old house borers. More importantly, it kills the wood destroying microorganisms that cause rot.  Borates work by eliminating wood as a food source or harborage for termites, carpenter ants, wood-destroying beetles and decay fungi. The wood becomes nonviable to them; therefore, the pests don’t feed on the affected wood. If borates are consumed, they kill the microorganisms that produce enzymes in the insect’s stomach, the insect can’t absorb nutrients and it will starve to death.

While Borates have been used to preserve wood for many years, they’ve grown in popularity in recent years as people have become more sensitive to the use of the toxicity of products used in their homes.


Borax, also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate, or disodium tetraborate, is an important boron compound, a mineral, and a salt of boric acid.

  • Powdered borax is white, consisting of soft colorless crystals that dissolve easily in water.  All powdered Borates are pretty much the same item, that is to say they all come out of the same hole in the ground. Coverage rates may vary with the Brand, and quality companies are always the way to go
  •  Borate Rods are molded from water-diffusible borates and are highly concentrated for maximum efficiency. When inserted into decaying wood or wood in high-risk areas, borate rods diffuse very slowly and provide a controlled and long-lasting release of borate preservative…helping to protect against rot and insects.

Borate has the ability to diffuse into the wood to various depths depending on the density of the wood and moisture content. While dry wood will accept more Borate, it will penetrate deeper into wet wood and in general, with soft woods, this can be as much as a half inch. It must be applied to bare wood, meaning any existing stains or sealers must be removed. Two spray applications are recommended with the first being allowed to dry before applying the second. After the solution has had ample drying time, a good quality sealer should be applied to prevent the borate from leaching back out of the wood. Therefore, during the log home restoration process, after the house has been stripped and neutralized to prepare for sealing, but before the actual sealing, the Borate is applied.

While Borate products provide a great secondary line of protection, it is very important to understand they will only prevent rot for as long as a waterproof coating is maintained on the home, they are not a fool-proof and permanent solution to wood rot on log homes.  You will need to include the application of borates into checks during all maintenance work done on a log home and to keep up on that maintenance coat of stain, clear coat, and routine caulking of checks and cracks. Letting these maintenance items go untreated will surely result in log damage.

Borates have been used to help protect antique log homes, to treat active infestations, applied during log home repairs, or during annual maintenance, added to wood on new log homes and applied to log home extensions such as decks and railings.  Learn more about these specific applications and excellent products at Sascho.com

While not a necessity, Borate treatments should be considered as an option to combat the constant attack from fungal decay, wood rot and insects preventing costly repairs.  Used as another preventative maintenance tool, it provides another layer of protection in the preservation and restoration of your log home.

When consider all the many options related to the maintenance of your home. Working with an experienced and knowledgeable company like the team at 888 Log Guys, can make all the difference. Give us a call today!