Reclaimed Hardwood

How to Treat Reclaimed Wood for Bugs – Step-by-Step Guide


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The use of reclaimed wood to make furniture and home décor items has become extremely popular nowadays. Reclaimed wood is easy to acquire and is the perfect thing to indulge your latest carpentry addiction. Using reclaimed wood is also an excellent way of recycling old wood rather than burning or destroying it. It gives the wood a new purpose and an excellent piece of furniture for your home.

But before you start using reclaimed wood straightaway for your upcoming carpentry project it is very important to rid it of any bugs that might be lingering. Reclaimed wood, depending on where it spent its previous life can be home to a myriad of bugs.

If these bugs are not eradicated completely, over time they will not only destroy this reclaimed wood, but may also affect other pieces of furniture in your home.

What kind of bugs can be found in reclaimed wood

There are several bugs which make old wood their home. Below is a list of the most common ones.


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These are probably the most common of all insects that reside within wooden structures. These pesky insects cause billions of dollars’ worth of damage to wooden structures around the world. Each species might damage a particular type of wood.

All termites like moist and humid surroundings. This environment best suits their survival and reproduction.

There are some signs you can look for when examining reclaimed wood which will tell you whether there are termites inside.

– Sighting insects which resemble white ants.

– Pencil sized openings to tubes made out of mud inside the wood.

– Worker termites shed their wings. So if you see wings around the wood, you know it has termites within.

Carpenter ants

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Carpenter ants like termites burrow into the wood and weaken the structure significantly. They exhibit pretty much the same symptoms as the termites and the detection mechanism is also the same with them. In addition to moist conditions, they prefer molding wood to greater extent.


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Beetles also pose a significant threat to the integrity of the wood and also to people in the home where the furniture is housed. This is because of the gestational periods of beetle eggs. If left unnoticed, beetle eggs may live inside the wood for years before hatching.

Look for tiny holes on the surface of the wood. Female beetles chew through the wood and make these holes where they can safely lay eggs.

Treating reclaimed wood

There are several methods we can employ to treat reclaimed wood to rid them off bugs. Some methods are industrial in nature while others can be followed by anyone using reclaimed wood.

Step 1

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Clean the wood thoroughly. The wood should be devoid of all dirt and dust and any residual nails. This will help the treating process to a great deal.

Step 2

Killing the bugs and insects living inside the wood. You can choose one of the following methods to treat reclaimed wood and rid it of bugs.

Using a wood kiln:

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Reclaimed wood apart from possibly housing bugs, invariably contains more moisture inside it than what is desired. Treating the reclaimed wood in kiln will ensure that this moisture is removed and in that process, all the bugs will also be destroyed. A kiln is basically a furnace in which the wood is left inside to dry. The duration for which the wood stays inside the kiln depends on the amount of moisture the wood contains. Since, heat is applied to remove the moisture, it serves a dual purpose of killing of insects and bugs as well.

Pressure treatment:

Some chemicals are used in this method. The chemicals and the wood are kept in a pressurized container for a period of time. This ensures that all the bugs and insects inside are killed. This also ensures that bugs do not infect the wood in the future also. But, the caveat of using pressure treatment is the wood no longer remains food grade. The chemicals used in the treatment can be quite harmful if ingested. So, if the purpose of you acquiring reclaimed wood is to make items which will be around food then this probably not a good idea.

Plastic wraps:

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You can wrap your piece of wood in a heavy plastic sheet and leave it in the Sun for a few days. The plastic wrap acts as insulation and the bugs and insects within the wood will either die or will come out of the wood to escape. You can then simply unwrap the wood and brush off the insects and bugs. Though this does not guarantee removal of all the bugs, most of the bugs can be eliminated with this method.

Wood Fumigation:

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To kill the bugs on the surface of the wood, wrap the wood in plastic and introduce the pesticide or spray. The wrap will keep them from escaping to other places and will eventually kill them.

Step 3

Once the wood is treated to ensure no bugs are inside it you can use certain chemicals to treat reclaimed wood. These chemicals help in killing bugs from reclaimed wood and will also ensure bugs don’t come in at a later date.


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One of the most common and popular of removing bugs already present within the wood is borax. Borax as a chemical does not bring any harm to humans or pets. However it has a deadly effect of insects and bugs. A mixture of borax and water needs to be applied to the wood and enough time must be given to the wood to soak in the mixture. This ensure all the bugs living inside the wood are killed. The best thing about borax is that its usage has no bearing on the finishing of the wood.


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After the wood has been treated with Borax, it is generally a good idea to give it a coating of Timbor. Again the wood needs to soak for 72 hours in the timbor solution. Extra care must be taken to wash timbor off the wood since it does leave behind a white mark which comes from its residue. Use of Timbor ensures that new bugs and insects don’t make the treated wood home again.

Step 4

Your reclaimed wood is now ready to use.

Depending on the method used for treating the wood, the efficacy of removing bugs varies. So, choose your method wisely.

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