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Woodworm - Run for the hills?

Posted by: on 26/05/2020


Woodworm, the very mention of this 'terrifying' insect is enough to have people running for the hills but is it something that you need to be concerned about? In the majority of cases NO and only in a very limited number of cases Yes. Woodworm can cause serious damage but in my experience in 95% of the occasions that I investigate woodworm the actual risk to the structural integrity of the timbers is minimal and certainly not something to get overly concerned about.

The truth is that most of the woodworm infestations that I come across are historic and require no form of treatment with the vast majority of them having already been treated in the past but it is not uncommon to see that when a house is being sold that the surveyor identifies woodworm and recommends that it is treated even though it may well already have been treated (usually the last time the property changed hands) which is not only an added expense to the vendor/purchaser but damaging to the environment and serves no purpose whatsoever. If you suspect that you have woodworm you must establish whether it is active or historic, active infestations are normally accompanied by visible evidence of the bore dust or frass (fine powdery dust which is often brown/golden in colour) which is produced by the adult beetles as they bore their way out of the timber. Even if the infestation is active, as long as the timber is generally sound the treatment is relatively straightforward via the application of a suitable woodworm killer to the infested timbers.

It never ceases to amaze me how many times I have been asked to investigate a woodworm infestation following on from a ‘HomeBuyers Survey’ report only to find that the infestation is as dead as a Dodo and probably has been for many years. In the majority of cases, the woodworm has previously been treated and is often covered by a long term Guarantee. Any surveyor with his/her salt should be able to distinguish between an active and inactive infestation and advise accordingly.

80% of the infestations found in the UK are by the common furniture beetle and it is relatively easy to determine the activity status of the infestation, especially during the warmer months of the year (end of May through to September) when the insects will be most active. There are other types of woodworm for which it may be more difficult to identify the activity status but they are nowhere near as common and if you suspect that the infestation is something other than common furniture beetle you must seek professional advice.

If you are concerned then seek the advice of a competent and suitably qualified specialist surveyor who will be able to advise you as to how to proceed but to put it into perspective, in the 35 years that I have been investigating woodworm issues (thousands of cases) I can count on 2 hands the occasions in which I have mildly considered running for the hills.

Historic woodworm Historic woodworm
Historic woodworm in floorboards. Historic woodworm in floorboards
Historic woodworm in a tie beam. Historic woodworm in a Tie Beam.
Historic woodworm in a garage roof. Historic woodworm in a garage roof.
Historic Common furniture beetle. Historic woodworm in floor joist
Bore dust or frass at the base of the skirting board. Active woodworm in a skirting board.
Bore dust at the base of a door frame. Bore dust at the base of a door frame (wood boring weevil)
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