Seeing dozens of tiny holes bored into your treasured antique furniture can be distressing. After all, you probably paid big bucks for it or the piece holds deep nostalgic meaning and you want it in the best shape.
Woodworms, which are actually wood beetles, can rummage through your furniture fast. They love softwoods and untreated timber, which are both common attributes of older pieces. The good news is that you can put an end to this damage once and for all.
In this guide, we offer some tips to treat woodworm in antique furniture. Try these ideas; you should be able to restore your beloved furniture.
Table of Contents
1. Identify the type of woodworm you are dealing with
Before treating a woodworm infestation, you should first determine the type of beetle that has attacked your furniture. This is important because each type of woodworm requires its own treatment approach.
The three most common types of woodworms are the Common Furniture Beetles, House Longhorn Beetles, and Death Watch Beetles. The House Longhorn Woodworm is the most destructive and may be difficult to get rid of using DIY treatments. If this beetle infects your antique furniture, you might need the help of a contractor for professional treatment.
The Death Watch beetle has a long ten-year life cycle and can cause serious structural damage to wood. As this beetle feeds on the wood, it leaves some parts of the furniture hollow. As such, you will first need to tap on the wood to find out the sections that need treating.
Hollow sections of the furniture where the beetle has fed on will tend to produce a louder sound than the solid sections when tapped on. Once you identify the affected areas, you might need to drill a large hole here through which you can inject treatment to effectively reach as deep into the timber as possible.
2. Get rid of moisture in your furniture
Woodworms thrive in moist and humid conditions. Even though your furniture might not look wet, the wood itself is probably damp; this is why the woodworm beetles infested the piece of furniture in the first place. Heat can also help to destroy the larvae and eggs of the woodworm.
Use an oven or radiator to dry small items. Just keep an eye on the item to avoid burning it. For larger pieces, use an electric heater in an enclosed room or closet. Heat the piece to 140 degrees Fahrenheit to get rid of all moisture.
Some wood restoration experts have heat chambers that can help to remove moisture from bulky pest-infested pieces of furniture. Consider using these services to thoroughly dry an extra-large piece.
3. Remove the frass
When treating a woodworm infestation, you want the solution to go deep into the bore holes and to be absorbed into the timber. One way to ensure that this happens is to first vacuum the piece of furniture to remove frass, which is the dust created when the woodworm beetles bore through the wood. Frass can easily block the tiny bore holes, making it difficult for the treatment to get to the insects, their larvae, and eggs.
4. Unfasten glued blocks
Some antique furniture has pieces of wood blocks attached underneath and to joints to provide extra support. Woodworms hide their eggs and larvae in the space between the blocks and the actual furniture and they will quickly multiply, making any treatment ineffective. Avoid future re-infestations and get rid of larvae and eggs by applying treatment to hidden spots and crevices.
5. Sand down the affected areas
It is important to apply the treatment to the wood itself. For the treatment to penetrate the wood, you first need to remove any varnishes, waxes, and paints on the furniture. Gently sand the furniture making sure to only strip the top coating and not to make large gorges on the softwood. Allow the treatment to dry before reapplying the coating. Removing the coating is only a small alteration and it will not devalue your antique furniture.
6. Do a patch test of the treatment
Whether you use an insecticide formulation or ready-made woodworm killer, make sure that you test it on a hidden area of the furniture before applying it to the entire furniture. Woodworm killing solutions typically do not affect the finish on furniture but it is best to patch-test just for the sake of precaution.
7. Treat every hole and crevice individually
The key to treating woodworms is taking your time and being thorough. It is not enough to randomly spray treatment on furniture; to get rid of woodworm larvae, you have to apply the treatment to every hole.
We recommend using an application can with a thin tube attached to it. The tube will allow you to inject the treatment directly into the individual holes.
Fill the hole until you see the treatment solution coming out from another bore hole. Saturating each hole ensures that the treatment goes as deep into the wood as possible. Rub the excess treatment around the opening of each hole and then allow the treatment to dry.
8. For small damages fill in the bore holes using beeswax
After treating the furniture, you can improve the aesthetics of the wood by filling in the holes. With the holes filled in, you will also be able to detect future woodworm infestations.
A quick fix is to use beeswax. Simply melt the wax, inject it into the holes, and allow it to dry. You can do this before applying a coating such as paint or varnish to the furniture. For a better appearance, you may tint beeswax to the color of the wood before filling the holes.
Check out this video we found on ideas for hiding woodworm holes on your furniture.
9. Conceal extensive damage using wood putty
If woodworms have bored large holes on your antique furniture, you can repair the damage using homemade wood putty. After sanding down the furniture, collect the sawdust in a container and stir in wood glue. Pack the holes with this sawdust paste. Wipe any excess paste with a damp cloth and allow the rest to dry inside the holes. Afterward, you can apply your choice of coating to the furniture.
- Store infected furniture away from other pieces of furniture. Like bedbugs, woodworms easily move from one piece of furniture to the other, which can make a bad problem worse.
- Prevent further infestations by keeping your antique furniture dry. Try to display your furniture in a well-lit and well-ventilated area to minimize moisture exposure. Keeping your home heated can help to keep wood dry. Avoid storing antique wood in damp areas such as basements or attics.
- Seal your antique furniture with a high-quality varnish. Sometimes, collectors don’t want to make adjustments to their antique pieces but a small improvement such as applying protective varnish will not take away from the authenticity of your furniture.
- The lifecycle of woodworms is pretty long so a single treatment might not be enough to completely get rid of the pests. You should inspect your furniture regularly for early detection of an infestation. Immediately apply treatment when you notice signs of woodworm activity.
- Take safety precaution- wear goggles, gloves, and apply the woodworm killer in a well-ventilated area.
Get rid of woodworms and restore your antique furniture with the right treatment approach
Older furniture is made using softwood, which makes these pieces particularly prone to woodworm infestations.
The truth is, while you can treat a woodworm infestation on your own, you will need an extra dose of patience. These pests have a long lifespan and may require several applications of treatment to really get rid of the eggs and larvae.
As much as you value your antique furniture and you want to preserve its original patina, be prepared to do some minor alterations such as removing the top varnish and drilling into the furniture to ensure that the treatment reaches the timber.
With the tips we’ve provided, you should be well on your way to treat woodworm in antique furniture with readily available treatment solutions.