Wednesday, 3 July 2013

“Is damp timber more susceptible to woodworm?”

Virtually all wood has the potential to be a home for woodworm and wood boring insects. Some ‘experts’ say the incidence is greater in centrally heated houses as it disturbs the woodworm’s natural seasonal rhythm, others offer conflicting advice that heating reduces the incidence! Richard Walker, National Development Manager of Peter Cox Property Services has his take on it is based on a lifetime of empirical evidence.

“We have an extensive databank of gathered statistics and the simple fact is woodworm can strike just about anywhere you bring a bit of infested wood into your home, whether it’s brought in with secondhand furniture or grazing in the old timbers supporting your roof.  The woodworm can even fly in through an open window or door and set up home for their young in your woodwork. Yes, damp timber is more prone to infestation, wherever the moisture content rises about the level to which it can start to rot, but that doesn’t mean dry wood is safe from attack.”

“In Britain, there are three main types of common woodworm these are: Common Furniture Beetle (Anobium punctatum) which leaves round holes around 2mm diameter. Deathwatch beetle (Xestobium Rufovillosum) which loves partially decayed hardwoods such as oak  and the Wood boring weevil, (Pentarthrum Huttoni) which only attacks decaying  timber and leaves behind ragged holes.  

“Contrary to many misconceptions, the holes the little ‘mites’ leave are not entrances but exits. When the eggs have hatched, the larvae continue to mature until, after about three years in the case of Furniture Beetle, they emerge from the wood to fly away and reproduce.  The interior and often unseen damage is mostly caused by these larvae which feast on the nutritious sugars and starch in the wood. 

“In a severe case of infestation, it’s often because the timber contains sap wood which is more susceptible and a good deal tastier for hungry larvae. The tell-tale sign that they’re in your wood is the finely powdered microscopic sawdust called  ‘Frass’ that they create as they burrow and chew up your furniture, floorboards, roof trusses or window frames.

“Deathwatch and Wood Boring Weevils prefer damp timber that’s partially decayed and prone to fungal attack.  The infestations are often found to beam ends or wall plates where the timber has become wet due to defects in the roof coverings or gutters allowing Dry Rot or Wet Rot to occur.

“In modern homes, the incidence of woodworm is much reduced by using reconstituted wood products such as plywood chipboard, MDF and hardboard which have the ‘tasty’ sugars and starches removed during the boards’ manufacture.  But in older properties where a levelling layer of plywood has been laid over old floorboards, woodworm can still penetrate through the plywood or hardboard overlay. It won’t live in the ply or hardboard but it will eat its way out through there, leaving the same tiny holes.

So what do you do if you find the signs of woodworm infestation?

Says Richard, “A thorough survey is a must to find and identify the type of woodworm. At Peter Cox Property Services, we will explore from the top of the roof void and timbers right down to the floorboards and subfloor of the Ground Floor if necessary, looking for the flight hole emergence points and the fine frass which is the wood dust left by the boring larvae as they munch away below the surface of the wood, forcing the dust out through holes made by previous exiting worms or beetles. Occasionally, the dust may appear even when larvae are no longer present but that can be due to simple vibration. It’s our job to know the difference and not to suggest unnecessary treatments as much as to recommend the right treatment.

“If the woodworm has taken hold in a roof, our surveyors are trained to look for evidence of bats roosting and report to English Nature who advise on when we may proceed with our treatments – usually after the bats have left for the season. On occasion, the bats have to be carefully re-housed to let us treat and then returned safely afterwards. It’s really important as bats are a protected species. As a responsible contractor, knowing how to handle the presence of bats is vital. Needless to say, we use only bat friendly treatments anyway.

“Apart from the roof, we will survey your entire house, turning back carpets to inspect flooring and checking all the home’s joinery for evidence of woodworm activity. Particularly susceptible areas are wherever water is spilled regularly, such as in the floor surrounding the bath, wash basin and lavatory. At the risk of being indelicate, urine contains just the sugars that woodworm larvae love!

“Once we’ve established all the areas to treat, we sweep down the timbers and treat with our specialist form of the insecticide Permetherin. This has a ‘detergent’ added to help the oily ingredient disperse in water so it will better soak into the wood and go on to provide a protective veneer against future infestation.

“Generally speaking, it doesn’t have to be a big or disruptive procedure. The biggest upheaval is in accessing floor timbers by lifting any carpets, vinyl or floor coverings. It takes one of our specialist teams around two days on average to treat an entire house, top to bottom.

“The treatment we use is a water based micro emulsion – the most specialised and effective solution you can get from any professional contractor. It’s approved by the Health and Safety Executive, and we have a “one-hour re-entry approval” and certification which simply means you can continue living in your home just an hour after treatment has dried. That’s important news for homeowners and landlords in that they don’t have to move out or re-house their tenants while our work is completed.  The treatment is completely odour free.

“On average, a 3-bedroomed semi will cost around £1500 for a full whole house treatment, and like all our work, comes with a full guarantee. Peter Cox also works in association with Barclays Partner Finance and together we provide the  one of the lowest APRs to make it even easier to send woodworm packing back to the forest without boring a hole in your home and your household budget!”

“Peter Cox have treated properties from the magnificent Lincoln Cathedral to tiny two-up, two-downs. Big or small, the skill is to treat quickly, especially if you notice the ‘tell-tale’ woodworm holes. Catch it quickly by calling in the experts and you can save yourself a fortune in remedial works. One final word, don’t ever be pressured into carrying out work that isn’t strictly necessary. You’ll be amazed how much money you can save by using a trusted specialist like Peter Cox who will happily provide exactly what you do need - and not try to sell you what you don’t.”

To discuss your property or to arrange a survey, please get in touch with your nearest office of Peter Cox Property Services here or you can also call 0800 789 500 to talk to the experts and we’ll send a surveyor with local knowledge of your area.