Woodworm can cause substantial damage, whether in furniture or structural timbers in your home. If you are thinking of buying a property, make sure that you have a survey carried out by an experienced RICS surveyor who will be able to spot signs of woodworm in the property and advise you accordingly.
If woodworm is revealed in the home survey findings, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. However, it is prudent to carry out specialist investigations into timber decay, rot and woodworm before you make a final decision on whether to proceed with the purchase.
Your surveyor may recommend a Timber Defect Report or a Building Defect Report. “A Building Defect Report will give you a more in-depth understanding of the problem and practical recommendations for remedial action. What’s more, it can be used for negotiation with the seller, specialist contractors or insurance companies,” Silk Sharples Jennings.
Clearly, no-one wants to be lumbered with a property with potential structural issues. If significant timber damage is identified, it could cost you more than £1,000 to repair, and potentially many more thousands of pounds to replace the damaged timbers.
So, what exactly is woodworm and how do you tackle the problem?
They’re not worms!
You may perhaps not have realised that woodworm is not a worm at all; it’s is actually a beetle. Eggs laid into the timber turn into larvae who feed off the cellulose in the wood and slowly develop into adult beetles, who will then mate and the cycle repeats. It’s the larvae that are the problem. Since this stage in their development can last an incredible 2-3 years, it gives them ample time to munch their way through furniture, wooden floors, roof timbers and more. In extreme cases of woodworm infestation, the integrity of the entire building may be weakened.
Do you have woodworm?
You may be able to detect woodworm yourself since the telltale signs are not hard to spot, once you know what to look for. Small 2mm round holes appearing on wooden surfaces are normally a clear sign of a woodworm infestation. But without the additional presence of ‘frass’ – a sawdust like substance left on the outside of the holes – it may well be a past, and therefore inactive, infestation, so nothing much to worry about. On the other hand, if there is clear evidence of frass around the exit holes, the likelihood is that you do indeed have many unwanted visitors.
Which type of woodworm?
Woodworm is a group term covering a multitude of different timber attacking beetles, and they each have their own characteristics. The Common Furniture Beetle is responsible for three quarters of infestations in the UK, affecting both softwood and hardwood surfaces. The Wood Boring Weevil, by contrast, only attacks damp timber and prefers sites that are already affected by wet rot. Damp timber is also the habitat of the House Longhorn Beetle, who can cause substantial timber damage very quickly on account of its size, bore speed and the ability to lay up to 200 eggs at a time.
Can you treat it yourself?
Depending on the extent of the infestation, it may be possible to get to the source of the problem and treat it yourself. If the damage caused is minimal, contained to one area or item, and caught early enough, applying a commercial woodworm insecticide may be all that’s required. Luckily, structural damage caused by woodworm is quite rare but if you are unfortunate enough to be affected, severe infestations need professional treatment and timber repair or replacement. Finally, if the infestation is located in a decorative item or wooden furniture, your best course of action is to remove the item so that the infestation has no chance of spreading.
Do you need professional assistance?
Unfortunately, DIY woodworm solutions don’t always work – often the problem persists despite your best endeavours. If this is the case, or you have discovered a particularly extensive, severe or structural timber infestation, you should seek professional help. Your surveyor may point you in the direction of a damp and timber specialist or a professional woodworm company that will examine the extent of the problem and formulate an effective treatment plan. Make sure you use an approved and certified woodworm contractor who will eradicate the problem using an HSE approved woodworm formula plus a guarantee to come back and deal with any re-infestation if necessary.