Are you considering getting thermal imaging services on the house you’re buying or selling?
Thermal cameras have been proven to be an excellent aid for building inspectors to use when testing a house for moisture related problems. Your biggest concern is if the operator of the camera knows how to use it correctly.
Over the past 2-3 years, there have been a flood of structural building & house inspection companies offering thermal imaging services in Auckland. Infrared cameras are quickly becoming a tool of choice for more accurate testing results. Unfortunately the feedback from real estate agents is that some inspectors just use it as a ‘flashy tool’ to impress the buyer, but the interpretation of the pictures could be questioned.
The Theory: One point to understand is that thermal cameras are not detecting water, they are only looking at heat. Yes, they will certainly give an indication of where ‘signs’ of water are… but without the correct moisture testing equipment, it can only be considered a cold spot on the wall. The theory behind infrared is quite simple, but you still need further tools to confirm what you are detecting. Is it metal, is it moisture or missing insulation? Only experience can tell.
Insulation and Heat Loss
It’s not just leak detection and moisture related issues that infrared cameras are useful for during a house inspection, the other benefit of thermal imaging a house is the thermographer can quickly determine if there is missing insulation or not without creating any damage to the walls. Insulation is a big issue in New Zealand and is required under the current building code in order to obtain a code of compliance (CCC).
One inspection we carried out was a classic example of how our thermal camera caught out a ‘reputable’ certified building contractor. He had installed all the ceiling insulation as per building code, and after the council inspector has been around to the home and ticked it off the list for the CCC, he took the insulation right back out the ceiling and took it to his next job. Great ethics!
Water Leaks and Leaky Building Inspections:
Thermal imaging cameras are usual for so many different applications, and one of the more popular uses for the infrared cameras in Auckland is to assist in leaky building inspections. Water leaks infiltrate a home usually long before the home owner knows it’s even there… and a thermal inspection of the house can highlight these areas before they leak will visibly show. Great for leak detection under decks over the top of rooms, flat roofs etc.
Thermal Imaging Services for Older homes that aren’t plaster:
No matter what the style of home you are buying, there is always room to consider thermal imaging services. Even if it’s not a plaster clad house, it might be an old villa that has serious heat loss issues, or an old rusted roof that is leaking water down into the walls or ceiling.
Certainly don’t assume that older houses are OK and don’t leak… this couldn’t be further from the truth. Although most older homes are constructed of treated timber, they can still rot if subjected to enough moisture over time. All it takes is an old rusted roof to let water into the external walls over a couple of years and that can become really nasty.
There are now options in the marketplace to get a timber treatment test which can certainly help you to make an informed decision when buying, and certainly goes along way to help sell a house if the result is positive.
Our cameras are brilliant for testing electrical switchboards for hot spots, loose connections, under rated cables, potential for arcing, and coupled with a visual inspection of switchboard which is automatically coupled with each inspection, we will also identify and discolouration or melted electrical cables. We inspect the electrical systems of some of New Zealand’s largest companies.
Thermal imaging cameras can not be used on their own to determine if there is moisture or leaky building issues. It’s only one tool that must be coupled with a moisture testing report, and experience. Infrared is a brilliant way to identify leaks that are in ceilings, under windows and under/around bathrooms. We certainly credit the camera to finding 1000’s of leaks that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise, but we always confirm what we are seeing with other equipment.