Timber Survey – “Oh no!! Not the dreaded Woodworm?”

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Timber Survey – “Oh no!! Not the dreaded Woodworm?”

‘Please Calm Down, it’s seriously rarely that bad!!’

Woodworm is a common name for a group of wood boring beetle’s, such as Common Furniture Beetle, Powderpost Beetle and Deathwatch Beetle. Often feared by mortgage companies and valuation surveyors, the mere presence of emergence holes is enough to break them out in a sweat, assuming that an infestation is active and that timbers need to be urgently replaced before the entire house just falls down!

As independent damp, timber and mould surveyors, we’ve seen countless examples where huge sums of money have been spent following ill-advice from contractors regarding these little creatures. The very word woodworm is enough to bring many a mortgage lender out in a sweat. Though this really shouldn’t be the case! Sadly we’ve seen big money spent and many a historic timber beam unnecessarily removed prior to our arrival on-site, and to no avail. Our clients often comment that they wish they’d called us in sooner. As independent damp, timber and mould surveyors we charge for our time and expertise on-site surveying, putting together detailed reports and recommending remedial measures.

So what does this mean? Well, at the outset we’re a greater cost than a contractor offering a ‘free’ survey. But like you maybe learnt at the wedding alter, nothing in life is truly free (okay you probably didn’t learn it there, but you would have somewhere!!) Where Healthy Abode save clients thousands of pounds is by ensuring that only those infestations that are firstly active and secondly so severe are treated and historic timbers wherever possible are kept in-situ. We’re not subscribers to the hack it out, burn it, install cheap, faux, looking timbers and then spray pesticides harmful to other creatures, the environment and potentially occupants willy-nilly around the rest of the property, obliterating everything like we’re in some American-Vietnamese war film!! Instead we opt for a traditional approach to timber infestations. Our ethos is to ensure a dry, warm, ventilated environment is created through the removal of high humidity levels and/or penetrating and rising damp. We then bring wood moisture content levels under control, so as to naturally kill out any infestation. Where infestations are severe, localized spraying is recommended above whole house treatments.

A good example of this was a winter survey our timber inspector carried out in Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire. A historic town, Sawbridgeworth is located just across the Essex boundary line and 5 miles south of the Hertfordshire town of Bishop’s Stortford. Our client’s were seeking to remortgage the home, a former Flourmill and the valuer was concerned over the potential presence of woodworm.

Our surveyor noted emergence holes to timber ceiling beams in the ground floor. However after careful examination of the holes, talking to the clients, testing the percentage wood moisture content of the timbers, looking for any penetrating damp routes and checking relative humidity levels, he determined these emergence holes to be historic. There was no need for the timber here to be replaced or chemically treated as the clients had feared.

However, the same was not true higher up in the building, where in the cold, unvented loftspace the surveyor found evidence of fresh frass on rafters and purlins. In addition, relative humidity levels were high, (due to downlighters in the bathroom ceiling). These facts suggested that an infestation in the unheated loftspace remained active. ‘But hang on, just what is Frass’. Frass is the munched powdery material excreted behind the wood boring insects. After hatching the insects munch their way to the surface, emerging as adult beetles from late spring to summer. They typically fly or lazily crawl off late July after laying eggs in the existing holes, which starts the life cycle all over again. Whilst it was clear that there was an active infestation the severity of which given the age of the timbers and the dust couldn’t be determined. Therefore, rather than recommending immediate wholescale treatment our surveyor recommended the loft was hovered using an industrial hoover, then the areas of most severe infestation covered in paper and the paper monitored over the coming flight season, to determine the severity.

So if you think you have a problem with ‘woodworm’, firstly don’t panic! Call our surveyor, Stuart to come and examine the timber and determine what remedial measures are necessary. His experience and competence will ensure that you are not accidentally detracting from the aesthetics of the property, or spending vast money on treatments that simply are not necessary. Call Healthy Abode on 01245 206 250 for more information.

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