Woodworm is a well-known problem in older buildings, but even newer properties have been known to suffer infestations.
A serious woodworm infestation can cause structural weaknesses to timber, as it becomes riddled with holes over time.
These tiny holes aren’t actually caused by worm at all, but but the grubs or larvae of a number of small beetle species. Eggs are laid on the surface of timber, and upon hatching the woodworm burrow inside. With enough grubs living in your home, they can quickly create a “wafer” effect, increasing the chances of floors or roof joists collapsing under pressure.
For obvious reasons, the sooner a woodworm infestation can be treated the easier (and cheaper) that the process is likely to be.
This, combined with the structural risks, means that preventing and treating woodworm should be considered of paramount importance for home owners.
Fortunately, discovering woodworm in your property doesn’t necessarily need to be terrible news. Many infestations can be quickly remedied, and it is also important to note that many people discovering tiny holes in their roof or floor timbers are actually seeing the evidence of a past infestation – not necessarily a current one.
It stands to reason that preventing woodworm in the first place is preferable to treating an existing infestation.
When woodworm beetles are deciding on a place to lay eggs, the most important factor is damp wood. In essence the higher the level of moisture in your home, the more likely it is that you could be affected by woodworm.
The upside to this problem is that woodworm prevention can be quite simple: your goal is simply to reduce the moisture within your home, with particular emphasis on timber.
Here there are a number of possible solutions:
Damp Proofing – First and foremost you’ll want to consider why your home is damp. It might be that you have issues with wall ties, gaps in mortar or ill-fitted windows or doors for example.
The sooner you can identify the cause of damp in your home, most likely with the help of a damp proofing professional, the sooner you can protect your home from woodworm. So get a professional in, and get them to check there are no major structural issues leading to damp within your property.
Improved Ventilation – Once the core issue has been isolated and resolved, improved ventilation can be highly beneficial for drying out timbers. From opening windows in fine weather, to directing powerful industrial fans at your ceiling joists, the goal is to gently increase evaporation and so dry out the wood till it is no longer of interest to woodowrm.
Heat – Lastly, increasing the heat in your property can also help to dry out timbers. These days many modern homes are so well-insulated that loft areas can stay cool throughout the year. Fitting a low-powered heater, which will drive moisture out of the timber, can therefore be a helpful trick.
Woodworm cause the most damage as they burrow out of timber to pupate and breed. Often, live infestations will show signs of “saw dust” or other activity. Painting timber can also be useful for diagnosing an existing infestation, and fresh holes become more noticeable.
If you, or your damp proofing professional, find a live infestation, fortunately there are effective ways to eliminate it.
Assuming you have already reduced the moisture content in your timber, the first step in eliminating woodworm is the use of a chemical pesticide. These are typically sprayed or painted onto affected timber, though some professionals believe that treating even unaffected timber may also be beneficial under such circumstances.
Due to the potency of such chemicals, and the need to apply them properly, it is normnally safest to recruit the help of a woodworm expert, rather than attempting to carry the work out yourself. Having spoken to a number of damp proofers in recent years, it seems many of them get just as much work trying to fix a bodged DIY attempt as they do from anything else!
Replace Damaged Wood
Once the chemical treatment has done its work, and killed off any grubs, the next step is to consider the strength of your timber. The key here is to have a professional check that the remaining timber maintains enough strength to do its job.
If your damp proofer believes that the infestation has caused structural weaknesses, the next step is to remove and replace affected timbers. Remember: it may not be necessary to replace everything, so depending on the extent of the problem only minor work may be required.
Lastly, once you’re confident that your home is safe some home owners like to touch up the remaining timber. Doing so helps to hide any woodworm holes – often a cause for concern among potential buyers – and also to make it more difficult for woodworm to return in the future.
Products such as chemical wood fillers can quickly mask any holes, and return your timber to its former glory.