Wood Eating Insects & Dry-Rot

Wood is an attractive and practical material for use in construction, from a simple picnic table and chairs or a Pergola to a complete House. Here in Spain we are seeing wood being used more and more – a welcome change from concrete and steel.

Wood is strong, light in weight, flexible and relatively easy to work, and it looks great. And it is a natural renewable resource when harvested from managed forests. Many areas of Spain shied away from using wood for a time because quality timber treated against wood eating pests and rot wasn’t available – green, untreated lumber was used. As a result, particularly in older houses and outbuildings, the wood gradually succumbed to attack from wood eating insects and rot. Thankfully those days are behind, and quality, treated timber is freely available, hence the increase in its use.

However, it doesn’t mean the insects have vanished, simply that they are no longer able to get their greedy teeth into wood without dying in the process. But it’s still good to know your enemy. Let’s have a brief look at some of them:

Woodworm isn’t one species of wood boring insect but a collective term for many. In their natural state these insects live in and around trees. Generally they are not known for lengthy flights but stick close to their breeding grounds. The mature insect lays eggs in the crevasses of wood, and when hatched the larvae proceed to eat the timber, finally emerging after pupation as an adult; this final stage of development leaves dust and a tell-tale hole. The most well know of these insects are: the Common Furniture Beetle, the Death-watch Beetle, the Longhorn Beetle and the Powder post Beetle.

Termites in Spain are mainly what are called dry-wood and subterranean termites. Unlike woodworm, they live in colonies and forage for food. Because they tend to eat into timber from the bottom upwards, particularly if untreated timber makes direct contact with the ground, they can cause extensive damage within the wood whilst displaying no visible outward sign of the ongoing destruction taking place inside.

Dry-rot is a fungal condition, paradoxically caused by the timber having moisture content of over 20%. It causes serious damage to untreated timber and can spread through brickwork and masonry.

Wet-rot effects timber constantly exposed to high levels of moisture and dampness.

So there we have it. All the above can be treated and eradicated, but it is better to never let the problems occur in the first place. Professional carpenter and joiner, Woodworks Direct, use only high-quality, pressure treated timber, and when double stained with a colour preservative the wood is given extra protection. Skilled craftsmanship, combined with extensive knowledge of working with timber in Spain, make them an obvious choice for construction and rehabilitation work.

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