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You’ve done it; you’ve finally bought a property. You’ve spent your savings, you’ve had to plead with your parents and you’ve had to sell all of your personal belongings; but it’s yours, right? While you may not have anything to furnish it with, the property is yours and you couldn’t be happier.

Buying a property is something that we all want to do, but it’s a pipedream that is getting more distant with each economic forecast and news bulletin. But, if you are fortunate enough to own your own home, you need to know about the hazards that can come with property ownership.

While you may feel superior to your friends who are still stuck in ‘generation rent’, property ownership isn’t as easy as it seems. Houses may be made using the simple and solid foundations of brick and mortar, but a lot can still go wrong with them. Not only that, but if something does go wrong with your property and you own it, it’s down to you to fix it – not the landlord, and definitely not the intern that the estate agent claims to be paying ‘living wage’ to deal with your complaints.

Essentially, homeownership is a highly lucrative but risky game. Yes, your mortgage payments are likely to be lower than your previous rental payments and, yes, you probably will sell your property for more than what you initially bought it for, but there’s also more responsibility placed on you as a homeowner than you as a tenant.

Mortgage repayments, bills, insurance and property upkeep all lay at your feet. It’s YOU who has to face the music should a storm tear off your roof tiles and it’s YOU who has to fight the on-going war against woodworm.

That’s right, you heard me; woodworm. Never heard of it? Well, that’s about to change. Woodworm, like Japanese Knotweed, is something that you need to be aware of if you own a home, as there is a chance that you will come across it at some point during your ownership. But, what is woodworm, and how do you combat it? Don’t worry; you’re about to find out.

What is woodworm?

Woodworm is the term used to describe the larvae of a wood-boring beetle that leaves distinctive holes in the floorboards or wooden structures of your home. However, just because your floors or furniture have holes in them, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a woodworm problem.

People often assume that they are dealing with a woodworm infestation the moment they come across a hole in their furniture. While it may be that there is an infestation, it could also be that the holes are the legacy of a previous infestation that is now dormant. That said, there are some telltale signs to look out for.

Woodworm larvae tend to have creamy-white curved bodies. It unlikely that you will ever see the larvae, as they often stay hidden, munching away on your precious timber until they are fully-grown and ready to emerge.

 

The signs of woodworm

As mentioned, there are some giveaway signs that you need to be aware of if you become suspicious that you may be dealing with a woodworm infestation. The main damage caused by woodworm happens inside of the timber, so it’s unlikely that you will see any visible results for a number of years. That said, alarm bells should start to ring if you see any of the following: 

–         Small holes in your woodwork, these will typically be around 1mm – 2mm in diameter.

–         A fine, powdery white dust around or underneath these holes.

–         The edges of your timber beginning to crumble.

–         Weak and damaged woodwork

In the summer months, you may also see adult beetles emerging from the tunnels in the woodwork. Once a wood-boring beetle is fully-grown, their natural instinct is to head towards a light source, so they will begin to appear out of the wood in your home.

The adult exit holes are arguably the easiest infestation sign to spot, but they only occur when adults are ready to leave the timber, in which case the damage will have already been done. In light of this, it’s best to get into the practice of checking for the signs of a woodworm infestation and looking at the back or underside of your timber furniture. As mentioned, a hole in your wood doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dealing with an infestation, so if you’re ever unsure, call in the help of a professional who will diagnose the issue for you.

Different species of woodworm

There are different species of woodworm, with some being more serious than others. The Anobium Punctatum is the most common type of woodworm and is known as the common furniture beetle, but it has some cronies that are capable of more damage. In order to identify the common furniture beetle, it’s worth remembering that it’s a small, brown winged creature that is typically 3-5mm long.

The Death Watch (yes, seriously), Powder Post and House Longhorn beetles are far less common than the Anobium punctatum. However, what they may lack in frequency of appearance, they make up for in their ability to wreak havoc in your home. The common furniture beetle rarely causes major structural damage and its larvae can often be killed a proprietary woodworm killer that you apply directly to the infestation. However, the other species require specialist products that aren’t available to the common consumer.

 

What to do when you find woodworm

If you think you have an infestation of any woodworm species, the British Pest Control Association recommends that you get in touch with a professional immediately. While the damage may look small, years of woodworm infestation can lead to structure collapsing and causing injury.

Damage caused by woodworm is a fairly common part of owning a property, particularly if it’s a period property. The frequency of the infestations means that woodworm damage is unlikely to be covered by your home insurance policy. Much like rust, corrosion and vermin, the damage is seen as a gradual and preventable problem that can be remedied and prevented fairly easily.

Insurers argue that home insurance is to protect your property against serious and unpredictable events, such as floods, storms and fires. For them, an issue such as woodworm is avoidable and will not be covered in your insurance policy.

 

How to prevent woodworm

So, what can you do to prevent your home from woodworm damage? Well, woodworm like damp wood, such as loft timbers, and prefer non-varnished furniture. Female beetles seek moisture content of 28% or higher for their offspring, but can also be found living is timber with 12% moisture content. In general, however, the dryer the wood, the harder it becomes for woodworm to survive.

To prevent a woodworm invasion, you need to keep your wood dry by keeping your home heated and well ventilated. Although it’s more expensive, furniture made with good quality hardwood will be less appealing to woodworm, and sealing it with varnish will deter any unwanted guests. Similarly, it’s important to regularly check your furniture for any signs of an infestation and remove any infected wood from your home, replacing it with new timbers where possible.

If you do have woodworm, the good news is that it’s easy to get rid of. Before you hop online and begin ordering a concoction of ingredients that you found on Google, consult a woodworm specialist to ensure that you know exactly what type of species you are dealing with.

Different woodworm types and different treatments

If you’re dealing with the common furniture beetle, you can easily treat any damage with a brush, dip or spray woodworm treatment that is available in plenty of retailers. You can apply these products directly onto the infected area and it’s always recommended to treat nearby timbers as well. Don’t forget to re-varnish and re-paint the timber after treatment, as it will help keep a new infestation away.

When it comes to the Death Watch and LongHorn beetles, the treatments are a lot more complex and require the help of a professional. For a Death Watch beetle, the infestation is likely to be deeper inside of the timber than a common furniture infestation, so you may be required to drill into the timber and fill up the holes with a special gel. Because of the nature of this procedure, it’s best to consult a professional before you go ahead.

If you suspect that you’re dealing with a House Longhorn infestation, you will need a specialist to visit your property and carry out the extermination. All timber within your property will need to be treated and have its structural integrity inspected, such is the devastation that these creatures can cause.

 

Woodworm may be small, but the ramifications of an infestation can be huge. If the signs of a woodworm infestation have begun appearing in your home, seek the help of a professional before you begin your own treatment. The last thing you would want to happen is to believe that you have taken care of the issue, only for woodworm to rear its ugly head in the future. Your house is your home, so look after it and keep it in a good state of repair.

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