Does Polyurethane Protect Wood From Termites?

Wood is a common construction material in home and furniture construction. If you are looking to protect your wooden structures from termites, is polyurethane effective?

Polyurethane protects wood from termites. Polyurethane (especially oil-based types) forms a protective coating for the wood and dries to create a hard shell that can deter termites from chewing into the wood.

This article discusses various solutions you can apply to wood, in addition to polyurethane, to help protect it from termites. I’ll also include several signs you need to watch out for that may indicate a termite infestation. Let’s get started! 

Does Polyurethane Protect Wood From Termites?

How to Termite-Proof Your Wood

There are various methods and solutions available to you to termite-proof your wood. These can either limit the access of termites to the wood, drive them away, or kill the pests on contact.

Let’s discuss these solutions in more detail below:

Polyurethane

In woodworking, polyurethane is a wood finishing product and is used to create a durable protective shell on the wood on which it is applied. You can choose between oil-based and water-based polyurethane.

Polyurethane is a sealant that protects wood from scratches and has excellent waterproofing properties. This gives great wood termite protection as it prevents them from being able to chew into and access the wood. 

Because polyurethane also has excellent waterproofing properties, it can help prevent the wood from rotting due to water damage. Softwood is easier for termites to access, and the pests are also attracted to moisture.

Application

Polyurethane can be brushed or sprayed on. Additional coats can also be applied, but the previous coat must be dry first. You should also wait at least 2 hours between coats of water-based polyurethane and around 8 hours between coats of oil-based polyurethane.

Caution

Make sure that the area where you are working is well-ventilated, and consider using a respirator and gloves as well. Avoid inhaling the polyurethane and getting it in your eyes and on your skin. The chemicals in polyurethane are known to be carcinogenic and can irritate your skin, eyes, and respiratory tract.

Amazon.com has Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane Clear Semi-Gloss. It dries faster than other polyurethane and requires around 4-6 hours before recoating. Because it’s oil-based, it dries smoother and more evenly. It also gives a warm yellow finish that can be more visible in lighter woods.

As it provides the wood with durable protection against scratches, spills, and more, it will also give it a good shell of protection against termites.

Paint and Primer

A new coat of primer and paint on your wood furniture helps prevent termites, much like polyurethane. Termites don’t eat through paint, so applying primer and paint will also give wood a protective shell.

Paint also helps waterproof the wood and protects against water damage which can give access to termites through soft wood.

If you want a double layer of protection, you can also apply polyurethane on top of your paint once it has dried. An added benefit is that the polyurethane will also help prevent your paint from chipping and cracking.

Application

Sand and clean the wood you plan to paint before applying your chosen color. You may choose to power wash the surface instead of sanding it. Wait for the coat to dry and cure before applying a second coat. [Can You Power Wash Instead of Sanding? Three Things to Know]

It’s safe to recoat water-based paint or primer after 4-6 hours, but if it is oil-based, wait around 24 hours before applying a second coat.

Boric Acid

Borax or Boric Acid

These are two products that come from the same compound. Borax is a mineral that comes straight from the ground, while boric acid is much more processed and refined.

Both products are toxic to termites when the insects ingest them, but boric acid is more effective and can be found in many pesticides.

Application

Dissolve a teaspoon of borax in 8 oz. (30 ml) hot water. This will create a 2% solution that you can spray onto the wood. Make sure that you allow it to be absorbed before applying paint or other wood finishes.

Keeping the solution at 2% or below allows a contaminated termite to reach the nest to contaminate other termites.

Ecoxall Chemicals 99.9% Fine Powder Boric Acid can be purchased from Amazon.com in one-pound bags. One bag can make 97 oz (2.88 liters) of a 2% boric acid solution, following the aforementioned ratio, which is a good start for spraying some of your wood furniture at home. 

Many customers who have purchased the product have also successfully used this boric acid to get rid of pests like ants, roaches, and bees.

Orage Oil Polish

Orange or Neem Oil

These oils are perfectly safe and non-toxic to people but are deadly for termites. Orange oil contains d-limonene, a compound that is a contact killer for termites. Neem Oil, on the other hand, affects a termite when ingested.

Application

You can apply these oils on wood through a spray or by pouring some on a cloth and rubbing it over the wood.

Consider Parker & Bailey Orange Oil Polish (available on Amazon.com) to give your furniture a beautiful sheen and an extra layer of protection from termites. It’s also gentle on the skin and leaves a pleasant citrus odor, unlike other wood polishes.

Aloe Vera Gel

This is another natural treatment that can protect wood against termites and is considered to be a natural bio-pesticide. Historically, aloe vera plants’ natural aloin content protects them from being attacked by any kind of pest.

Having these plants around the house can also provide a way to absorb pollutants, and the gel can be used for other health purposes like skincare and first aid for burns.

Application

Crush a few aloe vera leaves until the gel comes out. The gel can be directly applied onto wood or used to make a solution. If you don’t have an aloe vera plant, you could always buy some aloe vera gel. It’s widely available at grocery stores, drug stores, and online. 

For the solution, mix around 1 part aloe vera gel with 5 parts water, and spray it onto the wood. 

Olive Oil and White Vinegar

These ingredients are readily available in almost every home. If you don’t have some on hand, you can easily purchase them from your nearest grocery store. 

They’re non-toxic, so you don’t have to worry about any chemicals or adverse effects on anyone that might be exposed to them.

Application

Mix ¼ cup white vinegar with 1 cup of olive oil. Shake well in a bottle and apply to a soft cloth. Use this to polish the wood of your furniture or other wood pieces or decor if you want to add some termite protection.

Other Ways To Protect Wood From Termites

Aside from applying different products directly onto the wood to protect it from termites, there are other measures you can take to prevent termites from getting into your home:

Avoid Direct Contact With the Ground

When constructing, it’s best to avoid direct contact between the wood and the ground. Examples of this include when you put up a fence or when wood sidings or foundations are partially sunk into the soil.

This provides an easy way for subterranean termites to access your home.

To protect the wood, you should have it well-treated before sinking it into the ground or avoid this altogether. Wood foundations can stand on concrete pedestals or something similar.

Keep an Eye Out for Water Damage

Termites prefer dark and damp conditions, explaining why leaving wood furniture out in the sun can help eliminate a termite infestation.

To avoid termites, whenever you see signs of leaks that can turn into a source of water damage, resolve it as soon as you can before damage can be done or even spread to other parts of your home.

Water can cause wood to rot, making it easy for termites to penetrate it. After repairing the leak or water damage source, repair or replace rotted or damaged wood where necessary.

wood filler

Repair and Seal Any Cracks and Holes in the Wood

Cracks and holes in the wood provide an excellent place for swarming termites to land and begin chewing into the wood. Don’t give them that window of opportunity, and seal up any cracks or holes you might find.

Goodfilla Water-Based Wood Filler is an excellent product to fill in any cracks or holes in the wood. You don’t have to worry about throwing out hardened wood filler because it is freeze-thaw stable, has a good shelf life, and reconstitutes with water. Both DIYers and professional woodworkers can use this as it has excellent adhesion and doesn’t shrink or crack.

Chips and cracks can also be present in your wood finish or paint. When you see these, sand, scrape, or remove the old finish or paint before reapplying a new coat to protect the wood.

Final Thoughts

Polyurethane can protect against termites by creating a hard shell around the wood that the pests won’t chew through. Paint, primer, and varnish can also do this. Other treatments like borax solutions, orange oil, and vinegar can be used to create a solution or spray that you can apply as a contact killer against termites.

Preventative measures against termites can also include construction and repair methods that limit or prevent termites’ access to the wood of your home.

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