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Should You Buy a House With Woodworm? (Will Worms Eat Your House?)

Should You Buy a House With Woodworm - Will Worms Eat Your House large

Has your house search led you to the perfect property, but for the fact it has woodworm? Which leaves you with the important question about whether you should buy a house with woodworm. Or is it too risky and will the woodworm eat half your home?

It’s okay to buy a house with woodworm as it’s unlikely to have caused any structural damage. Active woodworm infestations need to be treated to halt any further damage to the timbers. But get the vendor to pay for any treatment required or deduct the cost of treatment from the purchase price.

Firstly should you worry about woodworm?

Only worry about woodworm if it’s still active and hasn’t been treated. Most period properties will have had woodworm in the past. So if the woodworm is historic (i.e. not active nor live) you don’t need to worry. If you have a continuing active woodworm infestation you should get this treated.

You should also be concerned about the cause of the woodworm if it’s active. Woodworm only like damp or moist wood, so a woodworm infestation could indicate a damp issue in the property. The damp problem can be more costly to fix than the woodworm infestation.

If you fix the damp problem and dry the wood, the woodworm problem will go away as well. But most prefer to treat the woodworm infestation with pesticides.

What is a woodworm infestation and what is woodworm

What is a woodworm infestation and what is woodworm?

A woodworm infestation is when the timbers of a property are infested by the larvae of adult woodworm beetles. The wood provides a food source and moisture to the growing larvae. This is why you only find woodworm in damp wood, as dry wood doesn’t provide the moisture they need.

The tell-tale holes are known as “flight-holes“. These holes are what most people recognise as a sign of woodworm. But these flight holes are left when these wood-boring insects leave the wood to pupate into adult beetles.

What type of wood do woodworm prefer?

The larvae of the woodworm beetle prefer moist sapwood, with the operative word being “moist“.

The larvae need moisture to survive, and as they have no means of getting a drink of water, they can only get the moisture they need for survival from the wood in which they live.

Sapwood is the outer living part of a tree, which is what contains the nutrients and moisture they need to grow. Which means if the wood in your property is dry, you will never have a woodworm infestation.

How to tell if a house has a woodworm infestation

How to tell if a house has a woodworm infestation

To confirm if a property you are buying has a woodworm infestation pay for a property survey. Occasionally active woodworm is misdiagnosed by surveyors, when in fact the holes in the wood are from an historic infestation.

If your survey has identified a woodworm problem, you may need to pay for a specialist woodworm survey as well. You may be able to get the seller to pay for this survey. But often times vendors are unwilling to pay for surveys.

Who should you get to check the woodworm infestation?

Be careful who you choose to carryout the woodworm survey. Some companies who perform woodworm surveys are also woodworm treatment companies too, which often causes a conflict of interest.

It’s far better to get an independent woodworm specialist to check if the house has woodworm. If the woodworm specialist confirms it to be a woodworm infestation, only then engage a company to treat the problem.

You should also check if the surveyor and the treatment company are Property Care Association (PCA) approved or similar in your country. The PCA is the leading trade association for property care. Their aim is to promote best practice and protect consumers.

What are the tell-tale signs of an active woodworm infestation
Frass or fine sawdust is a tell-tale sign of an active woodworm infestation – image courtesy of Rentokil

What are the tell-tale signs of an active woodworm infestation?

You will know if the woodworm is live and active, as live woodworm generate “Frass“.

Frass is the fine powdery refuse or fragile perforated wood that is produced by the active boring larvae. If there are lots of tiny holes in the timber, together with small amounts of what looks like very fine sawdust (i.e. Frass), you may have an active infestation.

What can cause a woodworm problem in a property?

Damp and woodworm go hand in hand, as the beetle larvae require moisture to survive. The female woodworm beetle will only lay her eggs on moist nutritious wood. Which means you are more likely to have woodworm if you also have a damp problem in the property.

If the property has a damp problem, you may also like to read about how to red rid of damp quickly.

Lofts can be damp if there’s not adequate ventilation. A damp loft can create damp or moist timbers, which could lead to the occurrence of woodworm.

But if the wood in the property is dry, it’s unlikely there will be a woodworm infestation. Most homes with central heating will dry-out the wood, which will prevent any woodworm infestation.

Woodworm don’t like well ventilated environments with low humidity levels. Also, wood with moisture content below 11% is unlikely to sustain the larvae of woodworm beetles.

But if the property has problems with penetrating or rising damp, this could lead to a woodworm infestation. You may want to read this article about how you tell the difference between penetrating damp and condensation.

Should you worry if there’s woodworm in the loft and roof timbers?

Signs of woodworm in the loft are only a problem if it’s an active woodworm infestation. But even then an active infestation can be treated quickly and cheaply. However, the route cause of the woodworm problem should be fixed, which is likely to be a damp problem in the loft.

A damp problem in a loft can be caused by poor ventilation, resulting in condensation damp. Or the damp can be as a result of penetrating damp from a broken or dislodged tile. In conjunction with treating the woodworm problem, the damp issue should be addressed too.

Make sure to confirm any tell-tale holes in the attic timbers are from an active infestation rather than historic. Any woodworm holes are more likely to be historic if there isn’t a combined damp problem in the loft.

Can you get a mortgage if a house has woodworm

Can you get a mortgage if a house has woodworm?

You will get a mortgage on a property if it only has historic woodworm and no active infestation. But if the property has an active infestation, the mortgage lender will normally require this to be treated before they will lend.

However, if the timbers have been compromised by woodworm, these will need replacing before they will lend.

What if you are looking for a re-mortgage and your property has an active infestation? Your mortgage lender will request you have this treated before they will re-mortgage your property. This assumes the lender carries out a survey, as they may only prepare a desktop valuation.

How much does it cost to treat woodworm?

The cost of treating a woodworm infestation when the affected timbers don’t need replacing will typically be less than £1,000.

If in the unlikely event the timbers have been compromised, which has resulted in a structural problem with the property, the cost to replace the damaged timbers will depend on how many need replacing.

For example, if the woodworm infestation is in the roof timbers, the integrity of the roof will be compromised. Before you proceed to buy you should get the affected timbers replaced. But if you intend to purchase with a mortgage, you won’t be able to proceed without the problem being fixed first.

Will the timbers need replacing after a woodworm infestation

Will the timbers need replacing after a woodworm infestation?

It’s very unlikely the timbers will need replacing after a woodworm infestation. This is because woodworm larvae tend to eat the outer layer of sapwood.

This means the structural integrity of the wood is unlikely to be compromised. This is unless the woodworm infestation has been left for many years.

Can woodworm cause structural damage to the timbers

Can woodworm cause structural damage to the timbers?

It is possible for woodworm infected timber to cause structural problems in a property. This is especially true if the roof timbers have been compromised significantly.

However, it would take a long-long time for woodworm to damage the wood to the extent that it becomes unsafe that it must be replaced. But if the house is very old and the woodworm has been left to eat away at the wood, it’s more likely to need replacing.

Should you trust what the estate agent tells you about woodworm?

Don’t take too much notice if the estate agent talks down the problem of woodworm. They aren’t the ones buying the house.

Always remember that an estate agent is only interest in selling the property and getting paid their commission.

Conclusion to should you buy a house with woodworm

You should only be concerned if the signs of woodworm indicate that there is an active infestation. But any active woodworm infestations are easily treatable for under £1,000.

But if the cause of the woodworm infestation is from a damp problem, this may cost more to fix depending on the type of damp the property has. Also, if the active infestation has compromised any of the structural timbers of the property, these will need to be replaced.

Before you buy a property with woodworm, have it checked for an active infestation. Also, have a survey done to confirm the structure has not be compromised. Also, make sure to identify the cause of the damp and what it will cost to fix this problem too.

But this shouldn’t stop you from buying a house with woodworm. So long as the cost of any rectification work is deducted from the purchase price.

The rectification work will include:

  • Treating the woodworm.
  • Replacing any compromised timbers.
  • Rectifying any damp problems.

Finally, you may also like to read whether you should buy a house that has damp too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article about should you buy a house with woodworm

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Should You Buy a House With Woodworm? (Will Worms Eat Your House?)

Article written by Russell Bowyer who has been investing in property since purchasing his first commercial property in the 1990's for his own Chartered Accountancy business. But his first property investment project was to turn an old dilapidated restaurant into a large 5-bed home, which he purchased for £117,500 and sold for £450,000 (to see an "after" photo of the house before it was sold see here: About). Russell owns a number of investment properties, which includes houses, flats and HMO's. More recently he has turned his creative side to investing in property using lease options. His largest lease option deal to date was to acquire 12 properties worth over £2 million for just £12, which means he paid just £1 to acquire each property!

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