Does Wood Varnish Prevent Termites?

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The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) spends $40 billion a year to combat termites. These pests destroy over 600,000 homes each year. We call termites “silent destroyers” because we only discover them after they have destroyed the wood completely.

Does wood varnish prevent termites? It can prevent them. Termites, which we also call “silent destroyers” can completely destroy a home and the furniture within it. They hide in the wood layers, leaving the surface intact, and systematically destroy all the wood content. If you see piles of sawdust and mud, the prime suspects are termites.


Termite on brushwood

Termites are some of the most destructive wood-attacking pests that you can come across. They will attack almost any type of wood, even plywood. These tiny critters will enter your woodwork from the foundations to the furniture within your home.

Because of their tiny size and silent existence, you might not discover termites until it is too late. By that time, your woodwork will be completely ruined.

Termites are extremely hardy insects and thrive in all regions of the world except Antarctica. We also call them white ants. Although they resemble ants in appearance, they are not remotely related to them.

You can find three types of termites – subterranean termites, drywood, and dampwood termites. The subterranean termites thrive just below or above the ground. The drywood and dampwood termites live inside dry and damp wood respectively.

The best way of preventing termites is to check for termites and other pests regularly. Treating wood or protecting it with varnish or other substances that termites dislike is a good method of keeping these pests at bay.

The Effect of Wood Varnish on Termites

Shellac is a natural secretion from the lac insects. We commonly use it to make varnish and lacquer to coat wood for added protection.

Studies conducted at the Indian Institute of Wood Science (IIWS), Bengaluru, India revealed that shellac-based varnishes effectively protect wood from termites.

Further, out of three treatment methods, the impregnation of wood varnish into wood proved to be most effective in protecting wood against wood-boring insects.

Further, scientists could prove that the introduction of varnish into wood also improved its resistance to fungi and wood rot.

But ultimately, unless we carry out this type of preventive treatment on new, freshly-cut wood, the treatment would be ineffective.

Preventive Measures Against Termites

Wherever you have wooden items and structures, you can prevent or at least restrict the onset of termites by following these basic steps:

Prevent Accumulation of Moisture

Pests like termites have an affinity to moisture. Ensure that there are no damp spots in your home, especially in the areas of the woodwork. If the place where you live is humid, then use a dehumidifier to make the air dry. Keep your air conditioner running during the summer months which also helps to keep the air cool and dry.

In case of water spillage, do not lose time wiping up the spilled water. Ensure that  the area where you spilled water becomes totally dry by wiping it down with a dry cloth or using a blower.

Plug Your Leaks

Leaking water is another source of moisture and rot. Wood rots easily if exposed to water for long periods. Basements and damp corners of your home are prime candidates for rot and termite proliferation, especially where there is an abundant supply of wood, paper, and cardboard. A leakage in a basement can attract termites because of its proximity to the ground.

Clear the Clutter

Pest control worker spraying pesticides

You may finally hire a professional pest control expert to deal with your termite problem. But these professionals will only deal with the live termites and perhaps the eggs. If your home is full of clutter, especially with old newspapers, magazines, and cardboard cartons, you are only inviting termites to enter your home and live a royal life.

If you have a room where termites lived, keep your furniture and other items away from that room. You need to be a bit ruthless and get rid of everything that you haven’t used in a while, especially wooden, paper, and cardboard items.

Maintain a Gap Between Wood and Soil

In your garden, try to keep your wood away from the soil. For example, if you have a crawly space underneath your home, the gap between the wood of your home and the soil should be at least 18 inches. You can insulate the wood by adding stones and cement to keep it from becoming damp and away from the soil.

Treat the Wood

When you first procure wood, before you start working on it, treat it with anti-termite chemicals. One of the most popular anti-termite chemicals is borate. Spray wood with this until it soaks into the wood.

You can work on the wood once the sprayed borax has dried. But ensure to add a final coating of varnish or wood sealer to the wood surface for final protection.

Expose Infestations to Direct Sunlight

If you notice termites infesting your furniture, placing it in direct sunlight can help to get rid of the pests. When the weather is bright and sunny, if you put your furniture in the sun for at least three days should kill the termites.

Termites cannot stand excessive heat. Moreover, the excessive heat from the sun dries out the wood, making it impossible for the termites to survive. Before you bring your furniture back into the house, spray it thoroughly with anti-termite spray. It is a good idea to spray all your furniture even though the entire lot may not be affected by termites.

Avoid Dark Corners from Developing in Your Home

Apart from placing your wooden items and furniture in direct sunlight, take care of your immovable wooden structures like bookcases, shelves, paneling, and wall units.

Keep your rooms open, bright, and airy. If you let enough direct or indirect sunlight into your rooms, the termites, if any, will be unable to find a place to hide.

Use Treated Lumber

Treated redwood lumber gazebo in green park

Nowadays, you can get lumber and wood sheets that are treated with anti-termite substances. Your lumber supplier will give you the details of termite-proof plywood or lumber. You might have to pay a bit more, but it will be worth it in the long run.

Call Pest Control Professionals

biosafety workers with sprayers disinfect

If your woodwork is already infested with termites and the damage is extensive, call a pest control company that will take care of getting rid of the termites. Although a lot of your woodwork might be damaged, pest control professionals will take measures to ensure that the termites don’t return.

Do not try to conduct your own pest control operations. You will be unable to achieve the levels of success of a pest control company – they have been doing it successfully for years.

Natural Anti-termite Treatment for Plywood

Plywood is a popular source of building, construction, and woodworking material today. You can treat your plywood with these two natural oils for a safe way to keep termites at bay:

Orange Oil

Orange oil on table close-up

A natural substance in orange oil called D-limonene serves as a highly effective insecticide. This oil is readily available in the market. You can apply orange oil to your plywood by brushing or spraying it. It will not only prevent termites from getting into the plywood but will kill any existing termites.

Neem Oil

Neem fruit with oil in white background

Neem oil is another effective remedy for termite control. You need to apply neem oil to your plywood or plywood furniture multiple times. Neem oil is a safe and natural remedy and is also readily available in the market. Apply neem oil multiple times to your plywood furniture to get rid of termites or to prevent them from getting there in the first place.


We cannot emphasize strongly enough how serious a termite problem can be. You should incorporate termite proofing as an essential stage of your woodworking process. Prevention is better than cure. There is much you can do to prevent termites from entering your woodwork.

One of the best methods of preventing termites is to add varnish to your wood as you finish your projects. Multiple coats of varnish will add to the efficacy of termite protection. Add varnish to all your woodworking projects to enhance the look and prevent termites from ruining your creations.