Construction materials manufacturers are preparing for increased demand after the late-2021 passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The funding package, which includes more than $1 trillion, is projected to have a profound, multi-year impact on building materials and construction projects. Oxford Economics expects U.S. construction sector growth to average 6.0% and 5.8% in 2022 and 2023, respectively.
With a large investment on the horizon, companies are looking for ways to maximize the value of materials they produce, lower costs, and improve process efficiency. U.S. Borax supplies borate products that have widespread benefits and help the construction industry meet those goals.
Producers use borates to make strong yet lightweight materials, optimize manufacturing processes, and prevent damage from elements such as fire.
Borates make gypsum board stronger and lighter
Gypsum wall board is essential to building construction as it forms internal walls and ceilings in both residential and non-residential buildings. For the past 80 years, producers have used borates (specifically boric acid) during the manufacturing process to create better boards.
Increases board strength
Borates encourage the formation of large gypsum crystals, rather than its default needle-like crystals. These larger crystals make for a more rigid board with a harder outer edge.
Reduces board weight
Lighter boards, which don’t compromise strength, offer two major benefits for construction companies:
- Easier installation
- Lower shipping costs
To produce lighter boards, manufacturers use less gypsum and add borates. Boards with less gypsum are susceptible to over-drying and calcining. Borates counter these issues by raising the calcination temperature and increasing the density of the board’s core without increasing overall weight.
Enhances fire retardancy
Borates—commonly used as fire-retardant additives—promote the formation of char, which resists flame and slows the spread of fire. This helps builders as they create safer, fire-rated building designs.
Drywall producers also use borates to:
- Improve adhesion of the paper backing to the board
- Accelerate curing time of the gypsum board
- Create a hard gypsum edge to withstand nailing and handling
Borates provide greater control over concrete
More than $110 billion in the infrastructure bill is allocated to the construction and repair of roads and bridges. Concrete will undoubtedly be needed for these projects. And without cement, there can be no concrete.
Borates serve an important role in cement applications as they extend the period cement stays hydrated.
Because borates function as a set retardant, construction workers gain better control over cement pours and can direct cement to its designated place—before premature setting occurs.
This capability of greater control is especially useful for applications such as capping orphaned oil wells, where cement must reach deep pockets before fully setting. More than $4 billion is allocated to well capping in the infrastructure bill.
Cement production benefits
Borates are helpful in producing many types of cement, especially those high in belite. This is because borates promote the formation of dicalcium silicate. Belite cements also see improved compressive strength when borates are added as a dopant.
Borates make the production process more efficient, too, by lowering the clinkering temperature from 1500°C to 1300°C and improving melt viscosity via its glass-forming and fluxing-agent properties.
- Boron’s ability to absorb neutrons is beneficial when it’s used in the cement inside nuclear reactors
- Borates act as corrosion inhibitors for steel reinforced concrete
- Oil-well cementing operators use borates both as conventional retarders and auxiliary admixtures at high temperatures
Boron in insulation
Borates offer benefits both in the production and finished states of two main types of insulation used in residential and commercial buildings: Fiberglass and cellulose.
Fiberglass, or glass wool, is commonly used in structural and pipe insulation as well as filtration and soundproofing.
During the fiberglass insulation manufacturing process, borates act as a fluxing agent which helps the fiberizing process. For the final product, borates also improve the Infra-red absorption and durability.
The result? A finished insulation product that features extremely fine, moisture-and-compression-resistant fibers. These fibers enable the insulation to maintain its loft over time and improve the insulation’s effectiveness by increasing its infrared absorption.
Lofts, attics, or cavity walls often employ cellulose insulation, which is treated with borates. Because of this treatment, the insulation gains flame-retardant qualities and can help repel pests. It also reduces infra-red transmission.
Additional applications for borates in construction
Any construction conversation would be incomplete without a discussion about wood. Infusing borates into wood products mainly serves to preserve and protect.
Plus, wood is a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternative to construction that relies on carbon-intensive steel.
There are two main types of applications for borates in wood construction: Dip-diffusion and a vacuum pressure process. Both methods help borates penetrate deep into the wood, offering reliable protection that extends its life.
While borates are often used in solid wood products, they’re also found in reconstituted wood products such as oriented strand board (OSB) and medium-density fiberboard (MDF) because they protect wood from:
- Moisture, rot, decay, and fungi
- Pests like termites
More than $60 billion in the infrastructure bill is allocated to passenger and freight rail. Products that will support these projects, such as railroad crossties, can benefit from borates’ biocide application.
Choosing borate products for your construction materials manufacturing
Our team possesses deep expertise in helping suppliers select the best borate products for your manufacturing needs. If you need help determining specific percentages or products for your materials, please contact our knowledgeable technical support experts.