The Log Blog by Appalachian Log Structures

Using Borates to Protect the Investment made in Your Log Home.

Posted on Thu, Aug 24, 2017 @ 09:30 AM

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Thought we would share a great article written by a log home owner who also sells products that help homeowners protect their log home investment.  Although the products he mentions, and reps, are used mainly for restoration and/or repairing an existing log home, they are sometimes used on newly constructed log homes.  You'll notice the author mentions that the penetration of these surface treament products are not complete, however recommends that using borates in the PRESSURE TREATED logs is the way to go.  As most of you reading this already know - we PRESSURE TREAT our new log homes BEFORE they arrive to your building site.  Once pressure treated, you'll NEVER have to re-treat the home with borates again.  Just keep a quality exterior finish on the logs, siding, and porch timbers will keep rot,decay and wood digesting insects at bay.  Enjoy the article....

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TIPS FROM THE FIELD - BORATES

BY PAUL PEEBLES

paulp

Paul Peebles is Perma-Chink System's West Coast Director of Sales, and has over 20 years experience in the log home industry. As a log home owner, his first-hand experience helps customers get the right products and correct solution to maintain and protect their homes.

There are two kinds of wood – wood that is rotten, and wood that one day will be rotten. This statement may seem a bit extreme, but it is a fact. Wood is a product of nature and its nature is to return to the earth in a natural process. As professional log home contractors, it is our job to ensure that wood used in the construction of log homes lasts for many years.

Borates have been used to preserve wood for many years, and because people have lately become more concerned with the toxicity of products used in their homes, it has steadily grown in popularity. This newsletter will discuss the use of borates to preserve log homes in detail.

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.

Rot in log or conventional homes cause far greater damage to homes every year than damage by insects.

For borates to be effective against insects, they must be eaten by an organism. Interestingly enough, consuming borates does not instantly kill termites or other wood destroying insects. It kills the bacteria in their digestive system. The bacteria help insects digest the cellulose fibers that make up wood. Insects die of starvation without these bacteria. Funny how nature works.

BORATES

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.

Borax is a component of many detergents, cosmetics, and enamel glazes. It is used to make buffer solutions in biochemistry, as a fire retardant, as an anti-fungal compound, in the manufacture of fiberglass, a texturing agent in cooking, as a precursor for other boron compounds, and along with its inverse, boric acid, is useful as an insecticide.

TYPES OF BORATES

Perma-Chink Systems markets four different forms of borates for the purpose of preserving wood.

ARMOR-GUARD®

Sold as a powder that is mixed with water on-site and then sprayed onto wood.

SHELL-GUARD® RTU

Comes pre-mixed and is Ready-To-Use.

SHELL-GUARD® CONCENTRATE

Contains the highest concentration of Borax with food-grade glycol added to deepen wood penetration and must be mixed with additional water on-site. The Concentrate is usually used in extremely wet or rot-prone conditions, on active rot, or insect infestations.

COBRA-RODS®

Made from borax and copper, are compressed and heated to form a glass-like rod. The rods are inserted into holes drilled in rot-prone areas, like porch posts. Cobra Rods are so effective that they are now inserted into all new utility poles installed in the southern U.S.

**It is important to note that Armor -Guard, Shell-Guard RTU, and Shell-Guard Concentrate do penetrate into the wood to some extent. They are an inexpensive step during initial construction to prevent wood rot, forming an effective barrier against wood-eating insects and topical rot. However, it is very important to understand that while they will stay in the wood and prevent rot for as long as a waterproof coating is maintained on the home, they are not a permanent, fool-proof solution to wood rot.**

When most homes are constructed, the logs are clean and smooth with very few checks, or cracks, in the logs. During the first few years, these checks open up, expand, and deepen. Many checks extend to the center of the log – much deeper than any topical application of borax can effectively reach. These exposed deep checks CAN and DO collect water. Over time, this will cause the log to rot. It is very important to include the application of borates into checks during any and all maintenance work done on a log home prior to a maintenance coat of stain, clear coat, or caulking. (Note: Pressure treating with borates will saturate the sap wood in the initial treating process and continue to diffuse in to the heartwood over the following weeks.  Unlike topical applications of borates, the entire cross section of the logs, timbers and siding will be saturated with borates when used in the pressure treating process.)

SPECIAL AND UNUSUAL APPLICATIONS

I have used borate treatments over the years in many other special and unusual applications that I will list below. For antique log homes – Owners of antique log homes have spent a lot of money purchasing old logs, timbers, and siding because of their unique appearance. They love that silvery-gray rough texture inherent to old timbers. They are very reluctant to remove this look in order to properly apply a protective waterproof coating that would protect these logs from rot.

An alternative for this unique and growing segment of the market is to simply treat the exposed logs every year with borates. The treatment must be done every year because borates are water-soluable and rain will eventually leach the product out of the wood. The borates will not change the color of the wood and it is almost impossible to over-apply.

For additional protection against insects inside new homes – During initial construction, spread powdered Armor-Guard into open stud wall cavities and on the floor where base cabinets are to be located. Then close up the stud walls and install the base cabinets. The borate powder will stay in those locations forever and kill all roaches and ants that come in contact with Armor-Guard.

Now, I told you earlier that insects must consume the product to be effective and that is true. Insects can crawl through the powder without being harmed. However, ants and roaches belong to a group of insects which constantly groom themselves to stay clean – or a clean as a roach or ant can be. To stay clean, they lick their legs and other body parts. When they do, they consume the borate and will die.

For log replacement projects – I highly recommend a thorough treatment of all replacement logs and log siding with liquid borates and Cobra Rods. The chances are that homeowners who have not maintained their homes in the past will probably neglect them in the future. A more permanent treatment today will lower your liability in the future as a contractor. An even better plan would be to have replacement logs pressure-treated with borates.  I do know that Appalachian Log Structures will pressure-treat logs for use in log replacement. They also produce many different log profiles. If I were to replace a log on a customer’s home that was pressure-treated, I would have no problem extending a lifetime warranty on that log – a good selling point for log home contractors. (Note: Appalachian Log Structures not only pressure treates logs for use in log replacement, but on their new log home products as well.  They've been providing this valuable service for their customers since 1980 and offer a 25-year warranty against rot, decay and wood digesting insects.  They've never had a warranty claim in their 37-year history of operation).

For active infestations – I have successfully used borates against insects that are actively living in isolated spots on structures. In the pictures below, powder-post beetles infested barn wood on my porch. I injected Shell-Guard RTU into the actual holes using a syringe made for injecting marinade into food.

Any plastic syringe will work when held tightly against the hole to inject the liquid.

Application hole in woodDead bugs

I treated these holes one afternoon and found them dead on my counter-top the next day. I may have simply drowned them, but that was a year ago and they have not returned.

The same type of method can be used in isolated areas of rot or termite damage using – believe it or not – a bulb-type turkey baster or cheap ketchup squirt bottle. Simply drill angled holes into the wood on the upper part of the log (you have to drill to get the product into the wood past the existing water-proof stain on most logs) and insert the bottle or baster full of borate solution into the hole and walk away for a couple of days. The liquid will slowly soak into the log and saturate a large section of log. If the product simply flows quickly into the log, then you will probably be facing a log that is too far gone and it may need to be re-faced or replaced. Once the product is deep in the log, it will soon kill the rot or termites.

I recommend Shell-Guard Concentrate for this procedure as it has the highest concentration of borates. Remove the delivery device and add a Cobra Rod as extra insurance and longevity. 

For log railings – Log railings exposed to the weather are a maintenance nightmare. They are very difficult to maintain a stain coating on because they develop checks on the upper curvature of the rails which gather water. However, when located on a raised deck or stairway, they can be downright dangerous. How many homes have you visited a homeowner who warns you not to lean on the railing during your inspection of the home? (Note: Appalachian Log Structures offers borate pressure treated log railing with their log home packages, as replacements or for new projects on any type of home)

Think about it – the only thing between you and serious accident is a rotted handrail! Many state codes now require pressure-treated handrails.

These things are a serious safety problem – and this warning does include cedar or redwood which last longer, but also rot.  (Note: the same is true for these wood species used in log homes - they are NOT impervious to rot/decay as some may have been lead to beleive)

Railing Rot #1Railing rot #2

If you are at a new home site, you can treat new hand rails as they are assembled by drilling a hole into the end of each spindle and inserting a Cobra Rod. The borates and copper will dissolve into the surrounding wood and protect against rot. I would also soak all the components in one of our other liquid borate products.

If you would like to learn more about borate pressure treated log homes and log home building products call Appalachian Log Structures at 800-280-2574 or one of our Independent Log Homes Consultants.  You may want to also consider visiting our mill during one of the Plant Tour/Seminar events held in Princeton, WV to see for yourself the advantages of pressure treating with borates and how it saves new log homes from expensive re-treatments or restoration/repair of logs infested with rot, decay or wood digesting insects.  Now you may understand why our by-line is "PRESERVING America's Log Home Heritage".