What I'm Seeing Now

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I Have A Leak Nobody Can Find - Can You Help?

That's what the voice in the phone call said.  It was an elderly lady who has puddles show up on the floor in her breakfast room after rains.

Four years ago she had a bay window put in.  Beautiful job.  It overlooks the golf course and was a very nice addition.  But it began leaking recently.  She knew she had a problem, but didn't know what it was.

She called many contractors.  She paid them to come out.  Nobody could find the problem, or the source of the leak.  The leaking is too new to manifest staining, surprisingly.  There is no damage anywhere.  They told her that it must be coming from when she waters the plants, or from an open window, or leaving the door open, etc.  They were not too helpful!

She knew she had not done those things - after all, we all open windows and doors during rain storms, right?  What to do?

A friend suggested that she Google thermal imaging inspectors in the area.  She found me.  She called me.  Good for her!  I asked her if the other contractors had used thermal cameras.  "No, they never mentioned one."

I asked, "If they are roof, siding and leak contractors, why wouldn't they have one?"  "That's why I called you!"

I was her lucky day.

It took me about 1 minute to discover where the water was getting in.  Literally.

Thermal imaging cameras measure temperature differences.  They do not see "inside" walls.  They do not "see" leaks.  They do not "see" anything.  Well, except hot flashes.

But with one you can "see" a lot!  It is a bit of an art, and a bit of a science.  But I could "see" right where water was getting in.  I bet you can too.

The purple indicates cooler spots.  The darker the spot, the cooler the area.  You might be able to see the darker spots.  Moisture!

From there it was easy to see how the gutter and flashing installation outside created these problems.

I also could tell that there was very poor insulation around the two sky lights and in the ceiling generally.  "So, that's why this room is cold?!"

Yepper!

I charged her one half my normal fee, emailed her the report and referred her to a good roofing guy I know.

And I rode off into the sunset...

My recommendation:  When you call contractors to determine where a leak might be occurring, get ahold of your favorite, certified (NOT certifried) thermal image inspector.  That will save you time and money.  And that would be a big help.  It might be your lucky day too!

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 10 commentsJay Markanich • October 20 2009 05:43PM

Comments

Jay,

Great post.  My favorite inspector started using FLIR a couple of years ago and he went from very good to great.  I allow my clients to pick whomever they want as an inspector, but I always make sure they know about thermal imaging and my guy. 

Thanks for the good pictures. 

Posted by Dan Tabit (Northstone Real Estate Inc.) over 8 years ago

Dan - thanks.  I have been doing it now for five years.  I was certainly the first in my area and I have checked around - until today there are still not many I can find who use it.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Good post, Jay. An infrared camera is a GREAT tool in the right hands. As you stated, it is VERY IMPORTANT that the inspector be a certified thermographer. I am a Level I Thermographer and in a few weeks I will taking a course in using my infrared camera for home energy assessments.

Posted by Bruce Breedlove (Avalon Inspection Services) over 8 years ago

Hi Bruce.  I don't do energy audits without mine!  Have one scheduled Thursday morning.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Hey Jay,

Great post. I have a new fluke infrared camera and it is the best tool I have for home inspections. When my clients see what it does they love it. I did some training through Internachi, they have some really good training courses for infrared cameras.

Posted by Eric Middleton, Professional Property Inspector (Closer Look Property Inspections Inc.) over 8 years ago

Eric - experience, experience, experience.  That is the key to those cameras.  Like I said, it is part art and part science.  But what a great arrow in your quiver!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Hey Jay,

Thanks for the advice. I'm going to keep using it and experiment with the camera until I'm really comfortable with it.

Posted by Eric Middleton, Professional Property Inspector (Closer Look Property Inspections Inc.) over 8 years ago

Eric - if/when you do just an IR inspection, be sure you have a separate agreement people sign just as you have for your home inspections.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

Smart contractors call thermographers (us) when they have problems they can't solve. I have had more than a few good builders call me for camera work. Why are these guys good you ask, like I said they called me ;)

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 8 years ago

James - I am surprised the mental paradigm has not shifted more towards IR cameras - both in the various industries and the consumer at large.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 8 years ago

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