In the UK, woodworm is a very common household pest that affects the wooden aspects of homes.
Depending on the severity of the infestation, the cost of treating woodworm can be quite high, not to mention the damage to furniture and the structural integrity of your home.
A woodworm problem can be time-consuming and complicated, mostly because there are three different types of woodworm found in the UK and each one needs dealing with differently.
Some woodworm issues can be fixed relatively easily using DIY methods whereas others require professional help and costly treatment.
That’s why it’s important to get as much information as possible to correctly and swiftly deal with this pesky pest.
This article will cover what you can expect to pay to treat woodworm, the factors that affect the cost and common questions around treating woodworm.
Woodworm Treatment Cost
It’s pretty much impossible to give an exact answer for the cost of woodworm treatment since individual situations have individual requirements.
To get a grasp on how much woodworm treatment costs, it’s essential to identify which type of woodworm is present in your home, which we’ll look at in more detail later in this article.
Once you know which woodworm you’re dealing with, you can understand what are the best measures to undertake in order to remove it.
Equally, the size of the infected area is a determining factor of the treatment cost. An infestation in a small piece of furniture, for example, is a different story than one that is spreading through floorboards!
Generally, the cost of treating woodworm ranges from £450-£1000, equalling around £30 per 25 sq m.
At the lowest end of the price bracket are DIY spray treatments while at the higher end are situations that require a professional opinion and more invasive treatment.
If you opt for a DIY approach – and this is only advisable for small affected areas infected by the least damaging type of woodworm, you’ll need to pick up some chemicals.
These cost between £10 and £40, depending on the brand and type, and you’ll also need to invest in proper brushes and adequate protection (gloves and masks, which cost between £10 and £15) as well as a spray gun, which can set you back between £25 and £50.
However, a larger infestation calls for professional help. Although it might cost a lot upfront, this method comes with a guarantee that the problem will be properly eradicated.
Enlisting an expert to deal with your woodworm problem ensures correct identification of the type of woodworm and accurate and lasting treatment. It is also safer for both your health and that of your home and family, not to mention any pets!
Professional treatment can cost up to £1000 and that’s not including the initial survey, which usually costs around £150 and lasts between 2 and 4 hours, depending on the size of your house.
The good news is that a company will normally offer a discount on the survey if you go ahead with treatment by them.
How Long Does Woodworm Treatment Last?
To ensure lasting results, it’s important to administer a treatment that will eradicate woodworm in every stage of their life cycle.
Professional woodwork treatment has the bonus of coming with a guarantee that generally lasts for around 20 years, meaning you can sleep easily.
A major setback of DIY jobs is that there is no way to ensure the treatment will last. If you’re not a woodworm expert, it is difficult to know that you have correctly treated the problem in its entirety, which means it might come back.
Now that we’ve had an overview of how much woodworm treatment costs, let’s take a closer look at this domestic pest to help you understand the best way to tackle an infestation.
What Does Woodworm Look Like?
Despite what the name suggests, a woodworm is actually a kind of beetle. Woodworm refers to the larvae of wood-boring beetles.
As previously mentioned, there are three types of woodworm commonly found in the UK. Although they are similar with regards to their life cycle and appearance, each one has different habits, affects different types of wood and with varying degrees of intensity.
This is why it is fundamental to identify the kind of woodworm you are dealing with before tackling the issue, as they each respond to different types of treatment in different ways.
Adult woodworms look like tiny beetles, ranging from 2 and 10mm long, whereas the larvae look like little worms.
Most people identify a woodworm problem from the presence of holes on the surface of timber. You can distinguish between the different types of woodworm by the holes they leave in the wood, which we will cover later.
The three most common types of woodworm are:
The Common Furniture Beetle is the most common type of woodworm. It is also the simplest to deal with. It rarely causes structural damage and can often be treated with a DIY approach, using a water-based treatment agent that contains borno.
The House Longhorn Beetle is most commonly found in Surrey, hence its nickname the Camberley Beetle. This woodworm is more difficult to eradicate as it burrows deep beneath the surface of the wood. It can cause serious structural damage to your home and often requires professional help.
The Deathwatch Beetle: this ominous-sounding woodworm does not respond to surface treatment as it burrows deeply into wooden structures, often severely comprising the structural integrity. This type of infestation is very rare but usually requires an expert to identify the scope of the problem and advise on how to treat it.
What Causes Woodworm?
Woodworm is very common in the natural environment, with pretty much every tree in the wild containing some sort of wood-boring beetle. They tend to come into our homes from nearby trees or woodpiles.
Woodworm is caused by a female wood-boring beetle laying eggs inside the nooks and crannies of a piece of wood.
When the eggs hatch a few weeks later, the worms feed in the wood that surrounds them. They continue to do so for between 2 and 5 years. When they are fully grown, they bore holes in the wood through which they exit in order to breed.
A woodworm issue that has gone a long time without being treated can cause serious damage to timber, breaking it down systematically from the inside, which is why it is essential to eradicate woodworms while they are young.
There is no one particular type of wood that woodworms favour; they can thrive in both soft and hardwood, particularly the Common Household Beetle.
However, some things will greatly increase the chance of woodworm in your timber. The most common causes of woodworm are:
Damp conditions: Most wood-boring beetles thrive in warm, damp environments and flock to wood that has a moisture content of more than 20%. They particularly like wood that is soft enough for them to easily bore through, which makes rotting or infected timber a hotspot for these larvae.
Wood fungus: similarly, a fungal problem caused by mould and mildew will break down the structure of your furniture, making it easy for the woodworms to burrow in.
Badly-treated wood: furniture must be well looked after and cleaned regularly in order to prevent the arrival of woodworm. Wooden materials that are in bad nick are just as likely to break down in the same way as if they were infected by damp or fungus, creating optimum conditions for woodworm.
How Do You Know If Woodworm is Active?
The presence of holes in timber does not necessarily equal a woodworm problem. It could be from a previous infestation that has now been treated, or from a beetle that has since moved on.
The easiest way to tell if woodworm is active is to look for wood dust, known as “frass”, around the holes, as this shows where the beetles have burrowed out of the timber.
Each of the three most common types of woodworm has unique telltale signs that can help you distinguish which one you’re dealing with.
An infestation of Common Furniture Beetles is recognisable by the formation of 1-2 mm wide holes around which you’ll see a light cream frass caused by the adults burrowing out. These beetles lay their eggs just below the surface, making their presence the least damaging to wooden structures.
The larvae of the House Longhorn Beetle have big appetites and carve out 6-10 mm deep oval tunnels that create a mass of powder just under the surface of the wood. The emergence holes are ragged and irregular, but the tunnels can join up under the wood surface, causing severe structural damage to timber. They prefer softwood, such as fir and pine.
The defining trait of the Deathwatch Beetle is the odd tapping sound you can hear on a summer evening when, during mating season, the males will bang their heads on the wood in order to attract a female. They are also recognisable by the pellet-shaped dust that gathers around the emergence holes. Deathwatch Beetle infestations are extremely rare in well-maintained properties because they like damp hardwood that is in bad condition, either rotting or suffering from a fungal problem.
How to Treat Woodworm in Furniture
Old or antique furniture is very susceptible to woodworm. It is possible to treat woodworm naturally, by either freezing or heating it in order to kill the pests, but this poses the risk of warping the furniture.
The best thing to do is to apply some pesticides onto the affected surface using either a spray or a sponge.
The most popular DIY treatment for woodworm is with pesticides containing boron: odourless, vapourless water-based agents that can be found in most DIY stores.
The mixture normally calls for about 5% of boron powder to water and you should apply a few coats, making sure the previous one is completely dry before applying the next.
In addition, most brands will require you to remove any paint or varnish before treatment by sanding or stripping the wood. Make sure to wear protective clothing, including gloves and goggles as this product can irritate the skin.
How to Treat Woodworm in Floorboards
Treating woodworm in floorboards is a reasonably big job.
First, you’ll need to lift every other board in the room and check them for traces of the pest. Next, decant woodworm treatment into a spray bottle and cover the top, underneath, sides and ends of each floorboard, as well as the joists, even if there’s no sign of any woodworm.
Again, make sure to wear gloves and a mask. If the infestation is severe, you’ll probably have to replace a few floorboards here and there where the woodworms have clustered.
Once you have dealt with woodworm, either in furniture or floorboards, it’s important to apply a good preservative in order to stop them coming back.
With very serious infestations, it’s a good idea to enlist professional help, particularly if the piece of furniture is very valuable or fragile.
You want to be sure you have correctly identified the type of woodworm because House Longhorn and Deathwatch will need more pervasive treatments than the Common Furniture Beetle and applying the wrong solution could permanently damage the wood.
Equally, with the more serious types of woodworm, getting treatment from an expert is the only way to ensure the problem is gone for good since they burrow deep into the surface of wooden materials.
The presence of woodworm in our homes is a nuisance, to put it lightly. However, if caught early, it doesn’t have to mean the total destruction of wooden materials and the problem can be dealt with swiftly and effectively.
Although there are DIY treatments available, if you are unsure of the type of woodworm you have and what to do with it, it’s best to enlist the services of a trusted exterminator to make sure the problem is completely eradicated.
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