March 11, 2010

Can a piece of antique furniture infested with woodworm be saved?

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Antique Furniture

Antique Furniture

Living in the U.K., protecting furniture from woodworms is a concern for any household. If the right precautions aren’t taken, furniture can be literally turned into a pile of dust, especially antique furniture with its older wood. The question is: Once woodworms are detected, can antique furniture still be salvaged?

The simple answer is yes. But it’s not a do-it-yourself kind of job. Antique furniture should only be handled by restoration specialists. These people are trained to reinforce the structural integrity of furniture which has been weakened by woodworms or other pests. However, it is possible to at least get rid of the woodworms on your own.

The first step in detecting and preventing woodworms is to know what their favourite item on the menu is. The general rule of thumb is: the older the wood, the better. So, it’s important to keep an eye on extremely old antiques. Soft woods are generally preferred by woodworms. For this reason perhaps, mahogany is usually safe from attack – solid mahogany only, though. Any solid wood that is only veneered over cheap wood is still in danger. Not to worry, since this kind of cheaper furniture isn’t generally considered a priceless antique.

Now that it’s apparent which types of wood to look out for, here’s how to go about spotting an infestation. Whether you’ve had the piece of furniture for years or you just purchased it from the antique store, you should inspect all surfaces for holes of about 2mm in diameter. These holes indicate that woodworms have chewed their way through the antique wood for up to five years. They are made when the woodworm has finally had enough to eat and has left. To see if the damage is recent, check the floor to see if there is any dust, which indicates there are active woodworms inside that are tunneling away.

The best way to kill off an active infection is with a woodworm fluid. You simply inject those “escape holes” with the fluid. You can also brush this fluid onto any inside surface, such as a drawer to prevent future woodworms from taking up residence. This will also kill any eggs that have been laid in your furniture. Lastly, remember that woodworm fluid has a terrible odour and should be used in a well-ventilated room or outside.

Again, the best way to make sure that the furniture is restored properly is to take it to a professional. However, there is a temporary aesthetic fix that can be completed at home. Those holes you found can be filled-in using beeswax. Melt the wax and tint it to the color of your antique piece. Then, simply allow it to fill in the hole.

Lastly, it’s important to emphasize the preventive measures that can be taken. If you come across a piece of antique furniture with no holes, make sure you still use timber treatment to assure no future infestations. Don’t forget to check the bottoms of the antique pieces, which are often unfinished and rough – a great entrance for woodworms.

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