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What to do when a survey reveals woodworm

  1. 31 May 2019
  2. By Andi Michael

When a survey comes back with a surprising list of issues, it may put you off the house purchase completely. We discuss what to do if you find woodworm in your potential property.


We welcome woodworm and property preservation specialist experts Peter Cox on the blog to tell us a little more about woodworm and what it means for your property.

 
While the approach to summer is an exciting time for most of us as we get the chance to take advantage of sunny days and rising temperatures, it’s also the time that woodworm like to emerge from the wood and timber they have been happily chewing their way through and make their presence known in your home. In fact, the little bugs are so prominent at this time of year that it has come to be known as ‘woodworm season’.

Dealing with Woodworm can be a frustrating task, so if you are concerned that your wooden furniture or structural timber has become the site of an infestation, then have a look at our top tips on how to identify and treat woodworm.
 

1. Woodworms aren’t actually worms

Woodworm is actually a certain species of beetle. The woodworm life cycle begins when the eggs are laid into the timber and they burrow through, feeding off the cellulose in the wood. Eventually the larvae turn into adult beetles ready to exit the wood, find a mate and start the process all over again.
The larval stage is where woodworm cause all of the damage to your property and unfortunately this stage can last anywhere between two to three years - giving the grubs plenty time to gnaw their way through your wooden floors or furniture! Extreme cases of woodworm infestations can even result in wood and timber becoming structurally unstable.
 

2. Checking if you have woodworm

Usually people first become aware that they have a woodworm problem in their home when they notice small round exit holes of around 2mm in size appearing on their surfaces.

However, this does not tell you if there is still an active problem. Exit holes confirm that the site once hosted Woodworm grub, but it could be the case that many more larvae are embedded within the structure. On the other hand, it could mean that the beetle has left and the infestation is now inactive.
The best way to assess whether your wooden structures are still the site of an active infestation is to examine the outside of exit holes for evidence of ‘frass’. This is a fine powdery substance that looks similar to sawdust, but is in fact Woodworm droppings. If you can see frass beside the exit holes then the likelihood is that you do indeed have a current and active woodworm population in your home. 
 

3. There are different types of woodworm

While one grub may look more or less the same as any other, it is important to realise that the offspring of different species of woodworm beetle will have different characteristics.

For example the ‘Common Furniture Beetle’ which is known to be the cause of 75% of woodworm infestations in the UK will feel at home in both soft and hard woods, whereas the ‘Wood Boring Weevil’ will only infest damp timber and usually attacks sites that are already afflicted with wet rot.
The most damaging form of woodworm come from the larva of the ‘House Longhorn Beetle’. Again this beetle is only likely to be found in damp timber, however due to its size and ability to bore extensively through wood and timber, it can cause quite rapid and severe damage. Furthermore, each ‘House Longhorn Beetle’ can lay up to 200 eggs at a time.

To read more about specific characteristics of woodworm beetles and what they look like you may want to take a look at our woodworm guide.
 

4. Woodworm damage can be repaired

Thankfully the need for structural repairs is quite rare as woodworm are more frequently a nuisance rather than a serious threat to the structural integrity of your home. Generally applying a woodworm insecticide will be enough to ensure that the infestation is dealt with, and if caught early enough then the damage caused is usually minimal.

However, if you are unlucky enough to have a particularly large and severe infestation then it is sometimes the case that post-treatment some form of timber repair service will be necessary.
On the other hand, if the site of your woodworm infestation is in a decorative structure such as a wooden drawer or cupboard, then we would normally recommend that you dispose of the item appropriately. This is due to the fact that once the adult beetle escapes from the affected surface, it is free to roam anywhere in your property until they are discovered. This could likely result in beetles making their way to other timbers that are far more costly to replace such as structural beams, and depositing their eggs in miniscule cracks there, thus planting an infestation in a much more serious position.
 

5. Professional woodworm treatment may be required in some cases

If you are able to identify the source of the woodworm problem then there are brush and spray treatments commercially available that you may want to try in order to treat the infestation yourself.
Unfortunately though, many people find that the problem persists after DIY treatment, so if you have been unable to treat the problem yourself, or if your woodworm issue is particularly extensive and severe then it would be sensible to consult with a professional woodworm company in order to determine the extent of the damage to the property and to formulate a woodworm treatment plan for your home.

Approved and certified woodworm solutions companies will have the capabilities to treat afflicted timber with Safety Executive (HSE) approved woodworm formula to ensure that the woodworm problem is comprehensively dealt with. Moreover, opting for a company that provides long term woodworm guarantees ensures that you are covered should there be a re-infestation after treatment has been applied.
 
 
If woodworm is revealed on your home survey, all is not lost! Talk to your surveyor about what they can identify about the woodworm, and then talk to a specialist. Buying a property with potential structural issues may not be the best option, but as we can see from above, some infestations are low level and easily solved. Don’t let woodworm stop you from getting your dream home.
 
 
Peter Cox, founded in 1951, are widely recognised as the UK market leaders in providing specialist advice and effective repair solutions for woodworm, damp control, wood rot and other property preservation issues.  


 
 

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