Termite-Resistant Cabinet Materials

Advice on termite-resistant wood, composites, or synthetic materials for use in tropical locations. August 31, 2010

I've been asked and happily agreed to provide cabinetry for a PA training facility in Liberia, Africa. The main criterion for the cabinetry is it has to be resistant to termites as there is a serious issue there. My review of appropriate material so far has been treated ply and AZEK. AZEK is pricey and may or may not provide sufficient structural support where needed. Treated ply, I believe, is simply going to cause all sorts of problems once itís opened up. My plan was to run all parts for frameless construction so it can all be shipped flat. Please comment on all aspects such as appropriate material and shipping issues. Itís a humid climate. Thanks for any and all thoughts!

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor L:
Treated plywood would not be allowed for interior use (especially in something handled as often as library shelving), at least not in my house. I wonder about AZEK for shelving. As you said it seems you'll need to support it somehow. For what itís worth I recently saw termite damage in particle board! I thought all the chemicals in it would have made the nearby wood pieces more desirable.

From contributor M:
I am located in SE Asia and the termites here are insane! If I leave a cardboard box on the floor inside my home (cement floors) the termites will eat the bottom of the box within a week. Houses are all made of concrete because of this.

We use MR rated Particle board. So far there have been no calls related to termite damage. I have done some informal testing and termites seem to not like the stuff. I found an infested log in my yard and stuck a piece of MR PB in the ground pointing up like a gravestone right next to the log. The moisture caused failure before the termites would attack the board.

Termites always eat the easy stuff first. They will east pine before oak, oak before, plywood, plywood before PB. I am sure they will eat MR PB but they havenít yet in my experience. I have seen then eat the wooden doors of a cabinet before they eat the PB. These were doors that were opened every day.

From Gene Wengert, forum technical advisor:

Let's get something straight. There is some treated wood that is safe for handling and is approved for food contact. So, using treated wood that is handled for cabinets is not an issue. However, the dust created when sawing, sanding, and other machining can be an issue for humans that breathe or contact it. The disposal of treated wood residues (dust up to large pieces) is also something that needs to be addressed. It appears that AZEK or similar is a good choice for this project.