How To Buy A House With Woodworm
If you’re shopping for properties, the last thing on your mind is the potential problems you might encounter with each of those homes you’re considering. You’re probably thinking more about the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the right amount of family space, the perfect location, and all of the other amenities you want in a property. What you may not be thinking about, though, is serious property problems like woodworm. What is a woodworm? Can you buy a house with Woodworm and still have a property that you can trust? If so, how do you begin to buy a home with an issue as big as woodworm? This quick guide can help you better understand the problems associated with buying a home with Woodworm and how to make sure you still get the home of your dreams.
What Is Woodworm?
Woodworm is the common name for the larvae of wood-boring beetles. There are several different types of these kinds of beetles. One is called the Deathwatch Beetle. Another is the Common Furniture Beetle. The Powder Post Beetle and the House Longhorn Beetle are the other two types that are generally considered to be woodworm infestations. In the UK, though, most homes with woodworm are suffering from an infestation of the Common Furniture Beetle.
No matter which type of infestation you have, though, they all essentially do the same thing. The larvae feed on and tunnel through wood, leaving behind small holes and tunnels as they go. The damage caused by woodworm, then, can be devastating. It can weaken wooden structures, like those that are throughout the walls, floors, and ceilings of your home, and that can potentially lead to structural failure if left untreated. Essentially, they can damage every beam in your home you’re your furniture too), which could cause your house to collapse.
How To Treat Woodworm
It’s important to note that a woodworm infestation isn’t a death sentence for a property. There are several different methods of how to treat woodworm infestations in homes. Here are a few of the most common options:
- Chemical treatment: The most common woodworm treatment in the UK is a chemical treatment using woodworm killer that is usually based on synthetic pyrethroids or boron compounds, both of which have been proven to be not only effective in killing the current generation of woodworms that are affecting your property but also the next generation that could come afterwards. In most cases, a chemical woodworm killer is typically applied to the affected wood surface using a brush or spray, and it penetrates the wood to kill the wood-boring insects and their larvae. Some woodworm treatments also include a surface coating or sealant to help protect the wood from future attacks. The treatment is usually carried out by a professional, who will assess the extent of the infestation and determine the appropriate product and application method that’s right both for the home itself and for your particular infestation circumstances.
- Heat treatment: If chemical treatment is one of the most common options, heat treatment is likely the best woodworm treatment in the UK. This involves exposing the affected wood to high temperatures for a certain period. Heat treatment is effective in killing all life stages of wood-boring insects, including eggs, larvae, and adult insects. This method is typically used for larger items, such as structural timbers inside a home. The process typically involves enclosing the affected area with a heat-resistant covering and using specialized equipment to heat the wood to a temperature that is lethal to the insects. The temperature required depends on the type of woodworm and the thickness of the timber but usually ranges between 50-60°C for a sustained period. The heat penetrates the timber, killing the larvae and eggs of the wood-boring insects, which stops the infestation from spreading. Unlike chemical treatments, heat treatment does not involve any toxic chemicals or fumes, which makes it a more environmentally friendly and safer option for both people and pets. Heat treatment is effective for all life stages of the wood-boring insect, including the larvae, pupae, and adult beetles. It is also useful for hard-to-reach areas where traditional treatment methods may not be effective. However, it may not be suitable for certain types of wood or structures, and it can be a more expensive option compared to other treatments. It is important to consult with a professional and experienced pest control company to determine whether heat treatment is a suitable solution for your specific woodworm problem.
- Freezing treatment: This involves freezing the affected wood to kill the woodworm. This method is also known as cryolite or thermal shock treatment. While it’s tough to treat a large infestation this way, it can be a great way to treat a localized infestation in a home. The process involves placing the infested wood in a specially designed chamber or tent that can be sealed tightly. The chamber is then connected to a refrigeration unit that circulates a coolant, such as liquid nitrogen, through the chamber to bring the temperature down to the required level. The infested wood is left in the chamber for a certain amount of time to ensure that all the woodworms, larvae, and eggs are killed. This works because the woodworms and their eggs are exposed to extremely cold temperatures for long enough to kill them. That causes their body fluids to freeze. One of the benefits of freezing treatment is that it is a non-toxic method of treatment, making it safe for use in homes and other living spaces. Additionally, the process does not leave any chemical residues in the treated wood, unlike the chemical form of treatment.
- Fumigation: Fumigation for woodworm involves using gas or vapours to kill the wood-boring insects. As with the freezing treatment, this isn’t a great process for an entire home, just a localized area. The process involves sealing the infested area and pumping a fumigant gas or vapour into the space. The gas penetrates the wood and kills the woodworm, larvae, and eggs. At one time, the most commonly used fumigant for woodworm treatment is methyl bromide. However, methyl bromide is a highly toxic chemical and is being phased out in many countries due to its harmful effects on the ozone layer. In the UK, it is no longer used for woodworm treatment because it’s so dangerous. Now, phosphine is typically used instead. It is a colourless, flammable gas that is used in a solid form called aluminium phosphide. The solid tablets are placed in the infested area, and the fumigant is released as a gas when it reacts with moisture in the air. While fumigation may not be your best option, it can be an effective way to eliminate a woodworm infestation, but it is typically more expensive than other treatments. It also requires specialized equipment and trained professionals to ensure safe and effective treatment. Fumigation should only be carried out by licensed and certified professionals because of the very real dangers involved with this type of treatment.
Wondering about the cost of woodworm treatment? It varies on how serious the infestation is and what method of treatment is used. The cost of a typical woodworm treatment for a small to medium-sized room in the UK can range from £300 to £800. However, the cost can be much higher for larger or more severe infestations, or properties located in more expensive areas. The cost will also vary significantly depending on the company you hire to treat the woodworm infestation.
Where is a Woodworm Infestation Most Likely to Occur?
Woodworm infestations can occur in any part of a house where there is timber or wood-based materials. However, certain areas are more prone to infestations. Roof spaces are one of these. Attics and roof voids provide an ideal environment for wood-boring beetles due to the warm, dry conditions and availability of timber. Another fairly common space where you might see a woodworm treatment is the floorboards. This is particularly true in places where the home isn’t ventilated well or it’s more susceptible to dampness. Staircases also make the list of top places where woodworm is likely to occur. Staircases are often made of timber and can provide an excellent food source for wood-boring insects. The timber framing of a house like the trusses, wall plates, and lintels is also at risk of infestation, especially if they are in contact with damp masonry or have not been properly treated.
It’s important to note that woodworm can infest any type of wood, including hardwoods and softwoods, and can cause significant damage if left untreated. Don’t just look at these commonly infested spaces. Instead, you’ll want to concern yourself with any space that might harbour an infestation.
Knowing How to Watch for Woodworms as You Shop for Homes
If you’re shopping for homes, the best way to prevent making a bid on one with a woodworm issue is to familiarise yourself with the potential signs of woodworm in a property. First, you’ll just want to look around for any potential signs of damage. These often include things like small holes in wooden surfaces, usually between 1mm and 2mm in diameter, which are typically caused by adult beetles emerging from the wood. You may also find small piles of sawdust or frass, which is woodworm excrement, near the holes.
Additionally, you may want to look around for signs of any live activity. Sometimes you’ll find beetles or larvae near the holes or cracks in wood surfaces. That’s usually a good indicator that you have a woodworm infestation on your hands.
You can also do what’s called the tap test. Take a screwdriver or similar tool to tap the surface of the wood. If you hear a hollow sound, it may be an indication of woodworm infestation. Keep in mind, though, that it can be an indication of other issues too.
When buying an older property in the UK, it’s crucial to be extra cautious of potential woodworm infestations. Woodworm thrives in damp conditions, so ensure there are no signs of moisture or high humidity. Take a close look at the wooden features in the property for small holes or sawdust, which are indicators of woodworm activity. If you do come across any signs of infestation, seek professional advice to determine the extent of the problem and whether treatment is necessary. Keep in mind that treating woodworm can be expensive, so factor this into your decision-making process. Additionally, discovering woodworm in a property could affect your mortgage approval, as lenders may be hesitant to lend on an infested property.
Should I Buy a House with Woodworm?
Deciding whether or not to buy a house with woodworm in the UK depends on various factors, including the extent of the infestation, the type of woodworm, and the cost of treatment. If the woodworm infestation is minor and can be easily treated, it may not necessarily be a deal-breaker. However, if the infestation is severe and has caused significant damage to the structure, it may be best to reconsider the purchase or negotiate a lower price to reflect the cost of repairs and treatment.
It is also important to consider any potential health hazards associated with woodworm infestations, such as allergic reactions to wood dust or the possibility of weakened structures. It is advisable to seek professional advice from a surveyor or woodworm specialist to assess the extent of the infestation and provide guidance on the appropriate course of action. Ultimately, the decision to buy a house with woodworm should be made based on a careful evaluation of the risks, costs, and benefits involved.
If you do decide to buy a home, though, whether you suspect woodworm or not, you’ll want to have a surveyor do a full inspection of the property. Within that inspection, they will often search for a potential woodworm problem. There are a couple of different ways they carry out an inspection. Most will tap on the timber to listen for the hollow sounds woodworm can create. That will help them decide whether to carry out further inspections. They may also choose to use a small borescope to look directly inside the timber for any signs of potential damage. If they suspect a problem, they will typically do further inspection work to establish whether the problem is historic – that is that there was once a problem, but there is no current activity – or active. In an active infestation, larvae and eggs are usually present, as well as the beetles themselves, and they’re working on the home’s timber right now. This presents a very serious problem, and your surveyor will consider what might have caused it and how to repair the damage.
How is Woodworm Damage Repaired?
Woodworm damage can be repaired in the UK by replacing the damaged timber with new timber, or by treating the existing timber with a wood preservative. The extent of the damage will determine the best course of action. In some cases, it may be necessary to remove and replace entire sections of timber. Once the damaged timber has been replaced or treated, any necessary cosmetic repairs can be made, such as sanding and painting or staining the wood to match the surrounding area. It’s important to ensure that any repairs are carried out by a professional with experience in treating woodworm damage to ensure that the infestation does not return.
The costs here depend quite a bit on how serious the infestation itself is. If it’s a fairly limited infestation, the treatment may cost just a few hundred pounds. If, however, it is widespread, the costs can be as high as thousands of pounds. Don’t forget, though, that you won’t just pay for the cost of treatment, but also of repair too.
Ready to Buy?
If you’re thinking of buying a house, but you’re worried about woodworm, just be sure you have a structural survey before you buy. That will help give you all of the information you need to buy the home with confidence.