Older homes will always reveal some problems, but if there is one thing that causes dread and terror in a homeowner, it is being told that woodworm is eating away at the house. In the worst cases, woodworm will destroy all joists and floorboards and require major works to rectify. But, it is not always that bad! As with mould problems, a damp specialist will be able to give some professional advice and treatment if you cannot resolve the problem yourself.
What Is Woodworm?
Woodworm is actually a beetle that lives in wood. It is identified first when there are small holes in the wood – these holes are where the beetles first emerge from the wood. However, these holes are often just the tip of long channels creating in the wood.
Woodworm beetles have a life cycle of around 6 years and some will remain inside wooden beams, joists and floorboards for many years, and literally eat their way out. When this happens, the structural integrity of the wood is destroyed and it is no longer strong enough to hold up your floor.
The first signs of a problem are usually when the floorboards start to sag underfoot. If things are really bad, they will totally collapse.
Treating Woodworm Infestation
Failure to treat woodworm properly will result in the problem persisting. The only effective treatment is to first carefully remove all wood that has been damaged. If the wood is showing signs of weakness, which means joists and floorboards will bow under your weight, then it needs replacing, and this means replacing your joists too. The wood should be removed from site as soon as possible to avoid beetles moving into fresh wood supplies. Many people chose to burn the wood on a bonfire to be sure the infestation is destroyed.
One all bad wood is removed, then the remaining wood needs to be treated with boron, or a wood preservation liquid, that is designed to kill beetles and their eggs. Wood treatments also include antifungal chemicals to prevent wet and dry rot. Usually, woodworm and rot go hand in hand, as they both thrive in damp conditions.
Before repairing and replacing wood, it is a good idea to determine why the problem started. If due to dampness, damp membranes, damp courses and ventilation needs to be examined and repaired. Often in older homes, air bricks become blocked and the sub-floor no longer gets enough ventilation to keep it dry. The problem may take years or decades to manifest, but once the beetles find a nice damp environment, they will stay until you remove them.
Treating small localised woodworm infestations is a simple DIY job if you don’t mind getting your hands a bit dirty – always wear a mask and protective clothing when using boron and wood preserves. However, if the problem has spread then you will require expert advice and treatment from woodworm specialists.