Dealing With Woodworm In Vintage Furniture

Written By: Karoline Gore

Woodworm is the most common furniture beetle, and it can cause a lot of damage to vintage furniture. Perhaps you have bought an item of furniture from an estate sale, only to discover at a later date that the furniture has tell-tale signs of woodworm. It may be that you simply want to protect your much-loved existing furniture against woodworm. It is important that you deal with a woodworm infestation promptly, as it can spread to other items of furniture, wooden floorboards, beams and joists. You can then look to repair any damage that has been caused.

What are the signs of woodworm? 

Often, it may be a couple of years before you notice that an item of furniture has a woodworm infestation, and by then the damage has been done. You may find that the edges of joists and boards are crumbly and prone to breaking. There are usually tiny, round holes in the wood with a powdery dust around them - this dust is called frass. You may even see adult woodworm emerging from those holes or in other areas of the house. Woodworm and termites feed on dead wood and cellulose, which comes from furniture. The tiny holes are their exits from the colony.

Repairing damaged furniture

If you think that your vintage furniture still has woodworm, then it will need to be treated with woodworm treatment. This is an insecticide that is available in most DIY and hardware stores. If you are planning to give your vintage furniture a new lease of life, look for a rapid-drying treatment such as Sika Sikagard Universal 5, which can be painted, stained or varnished over the top. Once you have treated the woodworm, you can now repair your furniture. Damaged timber with exit holes doesn’t have to be removed if you’re restoring vintage furniture. The exit holes can be sealed up with a specialist resin if you are certain that there is no longer a woodworm infestation. You can also use soft wax sticks. If the damage is extensive, or the furniture is particularly valuable, it is worth getting a professional restorer to look at it.

Preventing woodworm

Preventing woodworm is the key to looking after your vintage furniture. Woodworm thrive in damp or humid conditions, so you should make sure that you are keeping your furniture somewhere dry. A timber moisture meter can help you measure the humidity of your furniture. You would hope to have a reading of less than 12%, and anything over 20% is of concern, and presents prime breeding conditions for woodworm. Make sure that you regularly check over your furniture, and if you are cleaning it, don’t let the wood remain wet for too long - wipe it over, and then dry it immediately with a soft cloth.

You can get some wonderful vintage furniture from estate sales and auctions, but some of it may need care and attention. If you have furniture with signs of woodworm, you can treat it, repair the damage, and still have an item that you will want to treasure.
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