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Only one leak?


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Some IR pics of wet ceilings in a POS house. They only knew of the leaking at the skylight not the leaks over the kitchen, dining, living, hallway and bedrooms.

There was no visible wetness on the roof decking and framing in the attic although there was some staining. I probed the decking and framing with my moisture meter, which indicated about 14% MC in my small sample.

Other than the stains at the skylight, there was no visible evidence from the interior that the ceilings were damp. Even looking at the insulation from the attic, it wasn't readily apparent to me things were damp.

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The interesting thing was that I scanned the interior first before I turned the heat on (interior temps started at around 45 degrees) and found some things, but after I stepped the temperature up to 60 degrees, a bunch more damp areas popped out. It was great example of moisture's thermal lag.

Also I did not feel any humidity, but the vapor pressure was up over 14 millibars.

Chris, Oregon

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Chris:

Are all those areas active leaks or just temperature differences due to the home being at 45 degrees at the beginning of the inspection?

Is it possible that the framing members just warm up slower than drywall?

Last question, if in fact all those areas are wet did you cross check with your moisture meter? Findings?

I lied, one more question, do you present this to the buyer and inform them that they have active leaks in all these areas?

Not having been through IR training I'm out of my comfort zone.

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Are all those areas active leaks or just temperature differences due to the home being at 45 degrees at the beginning of the inspection?

When I pulled up to the house, the roofer was just finishing up on the new roof.

Is it possible that the framing members just warm up slower than drywall?

Yes and no. There's a larger temp diff across the framing then the drywall. If you step temps you'll also see differences due to the thermal mass of the assemblies you're looking at. If the temp diff on the inside and the outside is the same and stays the same then the different masses will eventually come to same temperature and you won't be able to distinguish anything.

Last question, if in fact all those areas are wet did you cross check with your moisture meter? Findings?

Yes. What I have found is that if the back of the drywall is wet, a surveymaster or an Aquant will barely detect it, but a tramex moisture encounter plus will peg the meter. In this case the drywall was so damp my Aquant was pegging.

I lied, one more question, do you present this to the buyer and inform them that they have active leaks in all these areas?

All that anyone knew about was leaking at the skylight. They had no idea that the roof had been leaking all over the place.

Not having been through IR training I'm out of my comfort zone.

I have not been thru the $1800 ($3600 if you add cert II) training either. I'm waiting to get it for free or when the unrealistic pricing drops to something more reasonable.

Chris, Oregon

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If you had been up on the roof, could you tell the skylites were crap from the installation details?

In this case unfortunately not, for they had just replaced the roof.

I have run into several case's now where I have only found the leak because of using the IR camera.

In another recent case I had a roof with torn rubber seals around some of the plumbing vent flashings. I looked in the attic and didn't see obvious drip paterns in the insulation and the P-vents were not readily accessible without getting on my belly in 14" thick loose fill straddling trusses. When I was scanning the master bedroom bathroom I came accross this:

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Chris, Oregon

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If you had been up on the roof, could you tell the skylites were crap from the installation details?

In this case unfortunately not, for they had just replaced the roof.

I have run into several case's now where I have only found the leak because of using the IR camera.

In another recent case I had a roof with torn rubber seals around some of the plumbing vent flashings. I looked in the attic and didn't see obvious drip paterns in the insulation and the P-vents were not readily accessible without getting on my belly in 14" thick loose fill straddling trusses. When I was scanning the master bedroom bathroom I came accross this:

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Chris, Oregon

Few more questions Chris: IR does nothing but show different temperatures correct?

With regards to the pic, the bathroom exhaust fan is right there, any chance that moisture was coming from the exhaust of the fan and showing up there?

If the air conditioning is running on a warm day will you pickup cold areas that are attributed to the duck work?

I see one in my future but I can't justify the price yet unless...

In the trades we use to bill for using a Freon recovery machine if we had to repair the a/c system. We always tacked on 15.00 to every invoice to try and recoup the cost of items like WD40, rags, oil, etc. There was never a problem with doing this with the customer (all commercial or industrial though). I bring this up because I'm wondering how to charge for this instrument. I can't see myself saying "I think there may be a leak here and I have a tool in my truck that can tell for sure. If you'd like me to use it it will cost you 100.00." One of the problems is I look at this tool as nothing more than a high end moisture detector and I can't see charging for this service. It would be comparable to a mechanic charging for using a screwdriver.

"I can repair that car for you but it will involve taking a screw out. There is a 10.00 screwdriver fee, would you like me to proceed?" The customer will understand the screw part.

This discussion has been around the block a few times. Anyone here charge?

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Few more questions Chris: IR does nothing but show different temperatures correct?

Correct, it's a radiometric representation of thermal energy across a certain waveband reaching the camera, how's that.

With regards to the pic, the bathroom exhaust fan is right there, any chance that moisture was coming from the exhaust of the fan and showing up there?

The pattern and concentration of moisture emanated from the wall, confirmed with moisture meters.

If the air conditioning is running on a warm day will you pickup cold areas that are attributed to the duck work?
Yes, and in winter you find all kinds of duct leaks especially in older houses that use the joists as ducts.

I see one in my future but I can't justify the price yet unless...
The usefulness of the IR cam I think depends on your region whether or not you have got good temp diffs between inside and outside. In our summer season here last summer I wasn't discovering much, but in the winter durring our rainy season, it's useful.

Using IR is not like analyzing UFO photographs. You'll need to use a number of other tools in conjunction with it to try and make sense of what you are seeing. In just about every case I didn't need IR to tell me something needed to be corrected. For example, even though the roof was actually leaking all over the place, the damage at the skylight and prior roof inspection was all that was needed to call the roof for replacement. In otherwords there was already enough evidence to call for a correction that would cure the problem. It's just IR can put more nails in the coffin.

You'll need to make a business decision whether you'll integrate IR in with general home inspection work or if you'll only approach it as an add on service.

All I can tell you is that I couldn't afford the camera either, but I knew that it would substantially help my business, and it has. I usually pick up two or three new agents a year, and last year I picked up five and they indicated it was because of the IR camera. But It's not because you can find more defects, it's because you can nail down the defects you're finding. Hell, what agent wants you to find more stuff?

Chris, Oregon

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Back in the late 80's I first starting seeing these cameras however they were being used in large office buildings to check for hot spots in the electrical system. Not sure but they might be effective for shooting steam traps to see if their blowing by.

Have you ever looked into branching out with your services? If so what have you found?

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Have you ever looked into branching out with your services? If so what have you found?

My current business model doesn't have me doing that.

I think that a multi-inspector firm is more likely to make it pencil out, that is offering a menu of inspections that include the use of IR (mold inspections, energy audits, etc.)

I think IR is a must for inspectors doing commercial buildings, hell, I think IR is a must have tool for use as needed in home inspections, but that's my opinion.

Chris, Oregon

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Chris, Sounds like a good use of IR to help confirm a suspicion. However, my opinion is that IR should not be "Included with the home inspection". I only offer it as a separate service only to be done under the right conditions. As you mentioned the delta T is critical. Many times of the year in many parts of the country there will be less than ideal conditions to do a good / proper building envelope Infrared evaluation. Any thing less than the 18 degree F delta T ( for those not familiar with the term, the difference between the interior temperature and the exterior temperature) and you risk of not seeing something that is there and / or misinterpreting what you see. I'm not saying that you cant see things with less than an 18 degree difference but if there is , you better have an explanation / disclaimer in your report. I'm sure you know that some times this can be adjusted for by controlling the interior temp. But the best bet is to do the IR evaluation early in the morning. Like 6 or 7 AM. Not exactly the best time for most home owners, buyers, or agents. After having owned the camera for about a year and getting the necessary IR education (Level II Certification) I've come to believe that this is not an "Inspection tool" but it is a tool that can, under the right conditions, be used by someone with the proper training and a a very good knowledge of construction, be used for inspections.

Herb Scott

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Any thing less than the 18 degree F delta T ( for those not familiar with the term, the difference between the interior temperature and the exterior temperature) and you risk of not seeing something that is there and / or misinterpreting what you see.

This is simply not true, and we need to stop talking in these terms; it's mis-information. It's an oversimplification, and it's wrong to be pounding this into other peoples heads. If this is a result of these cert courses, then they are doing something wrong.

How much delta T you're going to need to resolve anomalies you're looking for depends on a number of factors. Yea, if I was looking for energy leaks across the typical wall assemblies here, I'll want or rather I'll need to get a high delta T to observe most of them. But then there is no easy way to quantify how much loss I am not seeing because my delta T was not sufficient.

You don't need any delta T to see water evaporating off of a ceiling from a roof leak.

I don't use IR in my home inspections to perform any sort of protocoled energy loss inspection, and I never had planned to. IR is a tool that I use in conjunction with other tools in a home inspection to render an opinion if something I have found or something that has been pointed out to me is a big deal, a little deal or no deal at all.

Chris, Oregon

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What about that statement "is simply not true" ?

I was reacting to "that large delta T's are needed otherwise IR is worthless" type language that I have seen floating around, perhaps on other boards. Granted large delta T's make life easier, particularly at identifying points of energy leakage in a buildings envelope, but my point has been to show that you don't even need a delta T to find leaks involving water.

I use my IR cam everyday. I use it in every inspection. I use it to tell if my kids are running a fever, which it's particularly good at. I use it at night to find where my dam cats are at. The point is I use it, and I am always comparing what it tells me vrs what I can see and what I can otherwise measure. If I guy takes a couple of expensive cert classes and then keeps the IR camera in the case to break it out only once in a while to do some work, how well he ever become a master of the thing?

Many say they can't make it pencil out unless they promote it as separate service. I think they are missing the real opportunity. Clients don't want us to find more problems, what they want is for us to tell them if a problem that is found is a big deal, little deal or no deal at all. Tools, particularly moisture meters and the IR cam, can give you that edge. That translates to more referals. That pays for the IR camera.

Chris, Oregon

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