Leak detection needs thermal imaging, just like meat needs salt!
There are so many different types of leaks that can occur in a home, and the source of the water is normally easy to detect if you know where to look.
Leak Detection using thermal imaging cameras are one of the fastest ways to find a leak, especially when the operator of the camera certified for the job.
Is the water from above or below ground?
The basic rule of thumb with leak detection is…
If your suspect the leak is underground you would generally call a plumber who specialises in that type of work. Pipe leaks require specialised detection equipment called ultrasonic. This allows the plumber to pinpoint the source of the pipe breach, therefore only needing to dig up the dirt in the immediate area. Other plumbers will use a pipe snake camera.
If the leak is occurring from above ground level such as roof, deck, window etc, and it’s not obvious where it’s coming from, then a thermal leak detection inspection is probably the best possible way to get a track on the leak… further confirmed with a moisture meter.
At what point can a leak cause serious issues to your walls?
Any leak that is tracking it’s way to an external wall is serious. One of the first signs you will notice is either swelling in your skirting board, or visual signs of bubbling on the gib board lining. Once you see the moisture damage at the bottom of your walls, there’s a good chance your bottom plate of timber frame is wet, and in some cases, rotted.
If the timber is untreated then you need to act quick, otherwise the more you leave it the further to mould and decay will spread. In the industry, it’s normally called ‘gradual leak damage’, meaning the moisture has been slowly entering the wall over time and is very destructive.
If the water suddenly pours out of a light fitting or the top of a window frame, then there’s a better chance there is less destruction then other types of moisture damage due to leaks. If it’s coming through a light of crack in the ceiling, there is most likely a roof, deck or bathroom above the area. Ok, the insulation is most likely saturated and the last place you want water is around electricity, but you can recover from the problem pretty quickly. In general, the faster the leak comes through, the easier the leak will be to find.
It only leaks when it’s raining and the wind is blowing
Every building, including yours, will leak at some stage… it’s just a matter of how & when, so don’t get too angry when your asleep one rainy night and water drips of your forehead! One of the first things you should observe when a leak occurs, is which way is the wind blowing from… and does it leak when there is no wind? If it’s only when wind driven rain is hitting one side of your house, then the problem is 95% a issue with flashings.
Where it gets tricky is when the moisture appears on a ground floor of a 2-3 story home because some thermal imaging companies will track it back to the roof, so the chances of you finding it are limited without infrared equipment. Look for a certified thermographer with experience in finding leaks and moisture testing. There are plenty of them in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch… including us.
Please note: The air pressure between the inside & outside of the home can also have a huge effect whether it will leak or not… regardless if it’s windy or not.
The dangerous option is avoiding leak detection altogether
Burying your head in the sand. It’s amazing how many people will close their eyes and hope the leak just goes away… that’s scary to hear but true. If you see signs of moisture or a suspicious smell, then it’s going to work our far cheaper to get it detected and repaired now because black mould and moisture behind a wall will spread like a cancer and possibly compromise the structural integrity of your home.
Leaky buildings are a different kettle of fish to what we are writing about here, but you can read more about why some homes leak more than others.