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What If Woodworm Is Found During a Property Survey?

Martha Lott

Written by

8th Dec 2021 (Last updated on 17th Jun 2022) 4 minute read

If your property survey flags signs of woodworm, it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. It can be treated and unless it’s an extreme case, it is not structurally damaging. It can also open negotiations with the seller before exchanging contracts.

Despite the name, woodworms aren't actually worms. Woodworm is the term for the larval stage of wood-boring beetles. It commonly refers to an infestation of the pest that affects timber in buildings. A RICS Home Survey Level 2 and Level 3 can highlight any signs of previous or live beetle infestations. Wood-boring beetles are usually present in damp properties and areas with condensation.

This article will cover the following:
  1. 1. Common Signs of Woodworm
  2. 2. Are Some Beetles Worse Than Others?
  3. 3. How Do Surveyors Check For Woodworm?
  4. 4. Should I Buy a House with Woodworm?
  5. 5. How Can You Prevent Woodworm?
  6. Woodworm FAQs
  7. Learn More About Surveying

1. Common Signs of Woodworm

The first signs of woodworm will be an area of small holes found on wooden surfaces. The main signs of woodworm are:

  • Small exit holes in timber
  • Bore dust around the hole which will look like sawdust
  • Damaged wood such as weak floorboards
  • Dead beetles - which signals a past infestation
  • Beetles that are alive - hinting at a live infestation

If these signs are present, it doesn’t mean there’s an active infestation. It can be evidence of a previous infestation. You’ll see ‘frass’, which will look like sawdust, around any holes if the infestation is active.

Woodworm can be harmless, but you may notice wood in your home that’s damaged. In this case, it could be an extreme infestation of woodworm.

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2. Are Some Beetles Worse Than Others?

There are different types of wood-boring insects, some causing more harm than others. Below we look at the types of woodworm that can be found in properties:

Common furniture beetle

This is the most common type of beetle found in properties. It is responsible for 75% of infestations and found in both hard and softwoods.

Wood-boring weevil

This type of infestation can be found in damp timber and areas suffering from wet rot.

House longhorn beetle

Most damage to timber is caused by the house longhorn beetle, found in damp timber. They can also lay up to 200 eggs.

Powderpost beetle

This type of beetle is attracted to woods such as oak, ash, sycamore and walnut wood. It is found in flooring, panelling and even window frames.

3. How Do Surveyors Check For Woodworm?

When buying a house, you will need a RICS Home Survey Level 2 or Level 3, formerly known as a Building Survey. These can highlight signs of woodworm and other damp or timber issues. Your surveyor will let you know if there is evidence of current or past infestations.

Woodworm is usually highlighted in your survey under the ‘roof structure’ section. They will be familiar with the common infestation areas, like timber in the roof. They will look for the telltale signs and give their recommendations.

A surveyor will typically suggest a woodworm survey from a Property Care Association (PCA) contractor. They may also suggest having a damp survey and consulting a timber specialist to take a further look.

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4. Should I Buy a House with Woodworm?

If your property survey highlights woodworm, you may be wondering if you should continue with the property purchase. Rest assured, woodworm rarely cause structural damage. It is also possible to seek woodworm treatment in the form of an insecticide.

If it’s a serious infestation, this could be something negotiated with the seller. Either they can arrange for the removal of the infestation or cover the costs. According to check Checkatrade, professional treatment for woodworm can cost between £500-£1,000 depending on the severity of the case.

Your survey report should state if this is an urgent matter or not. That said, mild cases of woodworm are considered more of a nuisance rather than a serious threat to the structure of the home. With this in mind, a minor case of woodworm should not deter you from buying your dream home, providing you have taken all the necessary precautions.

5. How Can You Prevent Woodworm?

While woodworm rarely poses serious damage, it’s important to prevent or treat it to ensure it doesn’t get worse. There are certain ways to avoid woodworm from getting into your home.

1. Control humidity - Timbers with high moisture content attract the beetles. To avoid any new infestations, you should try and keep that area or your house at a low humidity level.

2. Treat damp and rotten timber - Wood-boring beetles often lay eggs in damp or rotten timber. It’s important to ensure any wood is dry and well ventilated in your property. You should also treat the rotten timber.

3. Inspect new furniture - If you're buying second-hand wood furniture, check for signs of woodworm. If present, ensure you have it treated before bringing it into your home.

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    Woodworm FAQs

    How Common is Woodworm?

    Most period properties will have had a case of woodworm. Be aware that if your property was built before 1945, there will be a risk of infestations. It is less common in more modern and new build homes.

    Is it Covered on Insurance?

    Woodworm damage is often considered to be part of the wear and tear of the property. As a result, it won’t be covered in most buildings insurance. Make sure you check what is and isn't covered by your insurance so you know where you stand.

    How Much Does a Woodworm Survey Cost?

    According to Checkatrade, the cost of a professional woodworm survey in the UK is £80-£250 on average.

    Does Woodworm Smell?

    Woodworm itself does not smell. However, woodworm beetles are attracted to dampness in timber, which causes a musty smell.

    Learn More About Surveying

    This has been part of our surveying guide. In our next article, we take a look at dry rot, its impact on homes and dry rot surveys. To learn more, read what is a dry rot survey?

    Martha Lott

    Written by Martha Lott

    Having guest authored for many property websites, Martha now researches and writes articles for everything moving house related, from remortgages to conveyancing costs.

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