Turn the ta­bles on wood­worm

These wood-munch­ing crit­ters are a very com­mon prob­lem, and it’s best to tackle them early. LISA SALMON finds out how

Gloucestershire Echo - - HOME ADVICE -

HAS your home got wood­worm? You might think not, but the star­tling re­al­ity is that the ma­jor­ity of homes (80%, it’s es­ti­mated) have a wood­worm in­fes­ta­tion. And sum­mer is the height of the in­fes­ta­tion sea­son in the UK. Now is the time when wood-bor­ing bee­tles, whose lar­vae are col­lo­qui­ally known as wood­worm, may be chomp­ing their way through any kind of wood in your house, po­ten­tially threat­en­ing the struc­tural in­tegrity of those built us­ing tim­ber, or sig­nif­i­cantly dam­ag­ing trea­sured items of fur­ni­ture. The key to stop­ping wood­worm be­fore they cause ir­repara­ble harm is iden­ti­fy­ing them early. But you may not re­alise you have a wood­worm prob­lem un­til the dam­age be­comes vis­i­ble, and the struc­ture of your home may have al­ready been se­ri­ously dam­aged. Wood­worm ex­pert Nicholas Don­nithorne, tech­ni­cal ser­vices man­ager at Ren­tokil Prop­erty Care (ren­tokil.co.uk), says: “Around now, it’s not un­com­mon to no­tice round holes ap­pear­ing in wood­work. These are the tell­tale signs of wood­worm ac­tiv­ity, the adults of wood-bor­ing bee­tles emerg­ing.” Nicholas ex­plains that the wood­worm life cy­cle is three to five years from egg to adult, mean­ing that if you see exit holes in tim­ber beams, floor­boards or fur­ni­ture, you could po­ten­tially al­ready have sev­eral years’ worth of dam­age. The light or dark brown bee­tles pre­fer a moist habi­tat, and their eggs won’t hatch on wood with mois­ture con­tent less than 8-12%. In a heated prop­erty, the wood will typ­i­cally have a mois­ture con­tent of roughly 9%, while the tim­ber in a colder home can have a mois­ture con­tent as high as 15%. So how can you tell if your home has wood­worm, and how do you treat it if it does?

FRESH EXIT HOLES

LOOK out for small round exit holes, sim­i­lar in size to the holes in a dart­board. Holes can be found all year round but of­ten form from May to Oc­to­ber.

BORE DUST

WOOD­WORM bee­tles leave bore dust when emerg­ing from tim­ber. The fine, pow­dery dust can of­ten be found around the exit holes, and even if you can’t see any holes, you might find the dust es­cap­ing from the back of, or un­der­neath old fur­ni­ture.

TUN­NELS

IF YOU can cut into the tim­ber, ob­vi­ous signs of wood­worm are small tun­nels bored into the wood.

LIVE OR DEAD BEE­TLES

KEEP en eye out for live bee­tles but oc­ca­sion­ally, adult wood­worm bee­tles can’t es­cape the prop­erty and you see dead ones. How­ever, bear in mind that dead bee­tles, holes and dust might in­di­cate a pre­vi­ous wood­worm in­fes­ta­tion, rather than an ac­tive one. If you’re un­sure, check with a wood­worm spe­cial­ist.

WEAK AND DAM­AGED FLOOR­BOARDS

THIS could in­di­cate a se­ri­ous in­fes­ta­tion – as it pro­gresses, you may no­tice crumbly edges to floor­boards and joists as a re­sult of wear and tear around the wood­worm bore­holes near the edge of the tim­ber.

TAKE PRE­CAU­TIONS

IF you’re buy­ing a piece of sec­ond­hand fur­ni­ture, in­spect all sur­faces for emer­gence holes, which are about 2mm in di­am­e­ter.

Ac­tive in­fes­ta­tions have clean holes, which may have dust com­ing from them. Pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to ply­wood drawer bases and wardrobe backs, un­pol­ished sur­faces and the bot­tom of chair legs. You might also spot saw­dust from the holes, known as frass, on the floor.

ASK TO SEE A GUAR­AN­TEE

IF you sus­pect a prop­erty has had a wood­worm prob­lem which has been treated, ask to see a guar­an­tee cer­tifi­cate for when this took place. A pro­fes­sional treat­ment should come with at least a 10-year guar­an­tee.

VENTILATE THE HOUSE

RE­MOV­ING mois­ture and hu­mid­ity in the home will re­duce the like­li­hood of a wood­worm in­fes­ta­tion. This means proper ven­ti­la­tion, par­tic­u­larly un­der floors, and heat­ing the prop­erty dur­ing colder months.

DIY TREAT­MENT

IF YOU’VE iden­ti­fied ac­tive wood­worm in your home, it’s im­por­tant to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion. DIY prod­ucts can help treat lo­calised in­fes­ta­tions and are suit­able to use on items such as ta­bles and chairs.

From wax to oils and wa­ter-based preser­va­tives, these DIY treat­ments will not only kill, but also help pre­vent wood­worm in­fes­ta­tion in the fu­ture.

PRO­FES­SIONAL TREAT­MENT

DEPEND­ING on the sever­ity of an in­fes­ta­tion and how del­i­cate the af­fected item is, there are also ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies that can help.

Pro­fes­sion­als use Con­trolled At­mos­phere Tech­nol­ogy (CAT), a safe and ef­fec­tive method to treat wood. In­ert gases are used in a con­trolled at­mos­phere that elim­i­nates all life stages of the insect, in­clud­ing eggs and lar­vae, while leav­ing no harm­ful residues on the fur­ni­ture.

The treat­ment also pen­e­trates fab­rics, so up­hol­stered fur­ni­ture can be treated with­out hav­ing to re­move the fab­ric.

If you’re un­sure of the type of bee­tle in your home, or the ex­tent of the in­fes­ta­tion present, call in the ex­perts.

These bee­tles can cause mas­sive amounts of dam­age around the home. You can treat small in­fes­ta­tions your­self but might need to call in the ex­perts for a big job

Nicholas Don­nithorne Ren­tokil ex­pert

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