Borates for Wood Protection: Forest-to-Market

:: Thursday, March 18, 2021 :: Posted By Frank Wawrzos
The International Day of Forests and World Wood Day are both on March 21. Not coincidentally, that is the vernal equinox, which welcomes the season of renewal and growth. Humanity, and most of the earth’s inhabitants, depend on forests. They breathe for the planet, absorbing and retaining carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releasing oxygen back into the air. Further, forests provide many of the fundamental renewable resources that many of us depend on—including wood.
As markets demand a shift to more sustainable initiatives, responsible use and ethical sourcing of renewable and versatile resources is at the root of all supply chains. Wood product producers embrace those sustainability efforts, providing materials that outperform other products in strength, affordability, and beauty.
To ensure the ongoing sustainability of their operations, the wood and timber industries rely on borates to provide environmentally safe treatments that protect, preserve, and extend the life of wood—from forest to market.

The benefits of sustainable forest-to-market solutions

Modern wood product producers are focused on sustainability and ensuring their high-quality products last a lifetime. Wood is at the center of their livelihood, so responsible stewardship is at the top of every agenda.
U.S. Borax is committed to helping producers bring their best products to market by ensuring borates are readily available across multiple applications. Borates are applied through various methods—by spraying, dipping, pressure treating, and even dry—to provide multiple benefits. Borates:
  • Support healthy tree growth
  • Act as an environmentally friendly biocide to protect against fungi, bacteria, and damaging pests like the Formosan termite
  • Are safe preservatives that control and prevent damage from moisture and rot
  • Offer peace of mind as a fire and flame retardant
Borates are a natural resource, refined to remove impurities and safely provide vital protection to wood products used across multiple applications.

Wood protection and forest preservation before and during harvest

Sustainable wood resources start with responsible forestry practices. Just as farmers monitor the health of their crops, wood producers carefully monitor the health of their forests, watching for signs of stress or disease to ensure early intervention when needed.
Boron is a micronutrient that is essential for healthy plant growth. Boron deficiency in wood trees is characterized by terminal dieback. Major factors of boron deficiency in forests are:
  • Sandy, rocky, or leached soil
  • Trees stressed from drought
  • The area has been impacted by fire
Boron—applied as a spray to leaves or directly in the soil—promotes healthy root systems, better growth, and stronger trees that are more resistant to disease.
To preserve the forest and promote regrowth and renewal after harvest, disodium octaborate tetrahydrate (DOT) is applied as a spray to tree stumps. The borates kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses that could travel into the root system and kill nearby trees, helping to enable healthy reforestation.

Borates in wood and engineered wood product manufacturing

The rapid growth of urban communities means city planners, developers, construction companies, and construction material manufacturers face the challenge of building safe and dependable structures for these growing populations. U.S. Borax is an international research partner, seeking ways to ensure engineered wood products meet and exceed standards for strength and safety so that urban policymakers can confidently adopt wood as a sustainable solution to housing and building needs.
Cross-laminated timber (CLT) stands out as a modern primary construction material that is amazingly strong, light, and versatile. CLT building construction relies on lumber treated with borate products such as Tim-bor® to ensure long lasting protection against decay and insect damage.
Borate-treated lumber and engineered wood products are affordable and extremely versatile. As such, they are in high demand for commercial construction, home renovation, and do-it-yourself home projects. A variety of borates can be used in manufacturing these products, including Borogard® ZB, Optibor®, Tim-bor, and Firebrake® products.
Borates such as Tim-bor also play an integral role in the protection, safety, and sustainability of wood used in heavy-duty applications—such as railroad crosstie production. Pressure-treating ties with borates dramatically extends crosstie service life to an average of 40 years, while lowering annual track maintenance costs and improving safety and sustainability.

Protecting wood with borates in construction

Wood is moving us into a more sustainable future. From modern homes, offices, and furniture to the restoration and preservation of historic landmarks, wood:
  • Provides an extra layer of strength and resilience in even very large structures
  • Safely captures CO2— and retains it, even after harvest
  • Offers warmth and beauty that enhances the environment and improves the quality of life for those who live and work in these buildings
In addition, unlike concrete and masonry, wood-based architecture doesn’t crack or crumble as the building settles. Many structures in earthquake regions are built from wood, taking advantage of the material’s natural resiliency and flexibility.
When treated properly, wood can last for several generations. U.S. Borax products provide multi-functional, broad-spectrum benefits that enable builders to protect against insects, damp, and fungi—helping to ensure long-term structural stability. Borate wood treatment in construction is an ecological solution to prolonging the life of wood materials.

U.S. Borax’s commitment to the environment and you

At U.S. Borax, we support wood producers by providing a viable, reliable source of the borates that improve the world we live in. When we use borates in wood products, we act as better stewards of the materials we harvest from the earth. We extend the life and usefulness of wood products to reduce waste and provide a better option for reducing greenhouse gases.
Our mission is to supply the world with refined borates—remarkable minerals essential to human progress and modern living. Our highly responsive account managers ensure just-in-time delivery of all the borate products you need in your agricultural or manufacturing process. If you’re not sure which of our products best suits your needs, contact our technical experts with questions or request a product sample to experience the quality of our products for yourself.



U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the supply and science of borates—naturally-occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. We are 1,000 people serving 650 customers with more than 1,800 delivery locations globally. We supply around 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from our world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.  Learn more about Rio Tinto.

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