How to Check Antique Furniture for Woodworm

One of the major ways that woodworm get into houses is in old furniture – antiques, heirloooms, and other pieces that have been sitting around in houses or shops for years. And with the auction houses now starting up again after the pandemic, this seems like an opportune time to outline how to check pieces that you’ve bought for woodworm infestations.

First and foremost, don’t bring such pieces into the house until you’ve checked them! Woodworm beetles will wake up and burrow out when they’re warm enough, and bringing the possibly-woodwormed furniture into a warm house is a sure-fire way to achieve this.

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Watch out for artificially “antiqued” furniture, too. Some unscrupulous dealers will try to make modern pieces look older by making fake woodworm holes. Mostly, you’re going to be looking for (real!) woodworm holes, which are small, round holes about 1-2mm across. You might also find horizontal tracks where one surface has been resting against another. Here are the 8 steps to follow.

  1. Check the visible surfaces of the wood for obvious holes, paying particular attention to joints, inner corners, and the immediate underside of ledges or overhangs.
  2. If the piece isn’t too heavy, lift it – carefully – and make sure its weight is about as expected. Badly infested pieces can literally be lighter due to having woodworm tunnels through them.
  3. Turn over the piece and examine the undersides – the bottom of the tabletop, the back (particularly if unvarnished), the feet, and so forth.
  4. Open doors and check the insides of enclosed spaces, looking upward as well as down and to the sides.
  5. Remove drawers and check them inside and out, and look at the back of drawer units through the drawer space.
  6. For rolltops or other complex mechanisms, use phone cameras to get a look at them, and run your fingertips over places you can’t access otherwise.
  7. Look for small piles of dust; these can be the residue left by burrowing beetles.
  8. Finally, if you’re buying from a shop, an auction house, or the like, have a quick look at neighbouring pieces where your piece of furniture has been stored – if they have a woodworm infestation, there’s a chance the beetles have burrowed into yours too.

If you spot woodworm in a newly acquired piece of furniture, you should give us a call immediately on  01 4511795 or fill out our contact form, and someone will give you a call back as soon as possible.

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