What to do when my home survey finds woodworm
The term ‘woodworm’ might make your heart instantly sink when you read it in a home survey report, but it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker. In this article, we’ll explain what woodworm is, what causes it, and what you could choose to do moving forward.
What is woodworm?
Okay, so first things first. Despite the slightly deceptive name, woodworm isn’t a worm but rather a type of beetle larvae. In fact, it’s an umbrella term encompassing several different species of timber-inhabiting pests. Woodworm larvae could be part of any of the following wood boring species:
- Common Furniture Beetle (Anobium punctatum) – the larvae from this beetle are responsible for around about 75% of all woodworm cases in the UK.
- Death Watch Beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) – this type of woodworm regularly affects historic buildings, as it thrives on hardwood that’s been softened by fungal decay.
- House Longhorn Beetle (Hylotrupes bajulus) – native to the European mainland, the House Longhorn Beetle has now spread worldwide. In the UK, it’s most commonly found in the South East and is also known as the Camberley Beetle.
- Wood Boring Weevil (Euophryum confine) – woodworm from the Wood Boring Weevil is widespread in the UK and associated with wet rot decay. The flight holes are relatively small, only around 1mm across.
- Powder Post Beetle (Lyctus brunneus) – this type of woodworm affects wide-pored hardwoods, such as oak, ash, sycamore and walnut, because there is space for the female to lay her eggs.
Because the beetles are in larvae form for between two and five years, they can do some significant damage. Unfortunately, since they reside within the wood itself, it can be very difficult to see you have woodworm until some later signs emerge.
What are some common signs of woodworm?
The first sign of woodworm is usually a concentrated area of small holes on wooden surfaces, around 2mm in diameter. This doesn’t necessarily mean there is an active infestation, though – the woodworm larvae could have matured and left. On the other hand, there could be more of them living beneath the surface.
If you have an active infestation, you’ll usually see ‘frass’ around the exit holes on the wood. It looks a little like very fine sawdust but is actually woodworm droppings. The presence of frass indicates an active infestation.
You might also see dead adult beetles lying around. Once they’ve matured, woodworm beetles don’t have long lifespans and usually die not long after emerging from the timber.
In extreme cases, you may also notice wood being structurally compromised. For example, floorboards may become damaged, or furniture may begin creaking more.
What causes woodworm?
Most of these wood boring species would naturally live on forest floors, feeding off deadwood. Any wood within your property – especially that which might have been affected by damp – is an excellent substitute for them.
The beetles can enter your property from wherever they hatched from. It could be from outside – an old tree nearby, perhaps? – a neighbour’s house with woodworm or from an existing infestation within the property.
Is woodworm harmful to humans?
Thankfully, woodworm isn’t directly harmful to humans. However, it can sometimes fuel the growth of parasitic species such as the Cuckoo Wasp or the European Straw Itch Mite.
These can bite and leave you with swellings or nasty rashes – in extremely rare cases, you may even need some professional medical attention.
The Scleroderma Domesticum and the Pyemotes Ventricosus most commonly affect humans when they’re living off the woodworm grubs found in upholstery and furniture, such as chairs, sofas, cupboards and wardrobes.
They’re very unlikely to be dangerous to humans. Still, they’re certainly a nuisance and need to be removed from your home as soon as possible. The best way to do this is to cut off their food supply by getting professional woodworm treatment.
What should I do if my home survey finds woodworm?
Although woodworm isn’t the nicest thing to have to deal with, it’s very rarely severe enough to cause structural weakness.
You can quickly and safely use woodworm insecticides to eliminate the infestation in most cases. As long as it’s noticed in the early stages, the damage is usually minimal.
It’s also usually a good idea to dispose of any woodworm-infested timber, such as furniture doors or drawers. Although it might be harmless enough in those situations, the matured beetle could make its way to a more critical beam in the house and eventually lead to a much bigger problem.
If you’re unlucky, the woodworm damage may be severe and even potentially dangerous to the house’s structural safety. In this case, you’ll need professional timber replacement services along with woodworm prevention in the surrounding area.
In most cases, it’s worth hiring a respected and reliable woodworm solution company. DIY treatments are available, although many people often find them ineffective. Ensure the company you choose to go with uses a Health & Safety Executive approved formula and offers long-term woodworm prevention guarantees.
Importantly, woodworm is rarely a significant cause for concern. If you’re uncomfortable with the situation, speak to your surveyor, who will be happy to help you come to a decision.
For detailed RICS home surveys, we would be more than happy to assist. If the survey uncovers a potential woodworm problem, our experienced surveyors will advise you as to how to move forward.
You’re very welcome to get in touch with us using the contact information provided.