What I'm Seeing Now

head_left_image

Slipping Insulation

One VERY IMPORTANT thing I do on a one-year warranty inspection is sweep the house with my thermal camera to see if there is slipping insulation.

It is important to do this because the camera can definitively determine if the insulation has actually slipped.  Done before the warranty is expired puts the fix back in the builder's lap.

But be careful.  Some "one-year" warranties expire in 11 months!  That's a another little trick employed in recent times.  So check your contract carefully before you hire a home inspector. 

These are two different views of the same room.  It is the fourth level of a single-family house.

I love four levels in a house.  It makes for a very fun, versatile room and there is little wasted attic space.

In this case the ceiling is peaked.  The drywall you see is not very far from the roof.

These images are taken in the morning.  This room faces east and west.

The image on the left is the west side.  Part of this vertical wall is exposed in the attic space.  As such the entirety of that wall should be insulated.

From the attic it was evident that the insulation had come loose and some had fallen down.  That purple spot is an area where the builder dug through the insulation to get at something down the wall, and never replaced it.  That is the coldest spot in the image, and 42F.  By contrast, look how warm the rest of the wall looks! 

And look at how the camera organizes the 307,200 pixel points of temperature in each of these two images.  The walls look warm (orange and yellow) in the left image and cool (lavender and blue) in the right image because the camera is demonstrating contrast.  The temperatures in the walls and ceiling are not that much different between these two images, but appear so because of the temperature contrast.

The image on the right is the east side of the same room!  Look how the sun on that side of the house is heating the attic space there.  And again, look at how poorly placed the insulation is, literally coming off the wall!

Why does insulation slip?  Insulation has flaps on the paper of the vapor retarder stuck to one side.  Those flaps are there for a reason!  AND THAT REASON IS TO STAPLE IT TO THE STUDS! 

When it isn't stapled, over time, it will sink.  Why?  BECAUSE GRAVITY WORKS!  Staples are how I determine the quality of the insulation job on a pre-drywall inspection.  I do that so that the one-year inspection doesn't reveal what this one has.

I have seen very high cathedral-ceiling walls where the insulation has slipped down about one third in the first year.  That is a difficult problem to fix because it requires removing and replacing drywall.  In this case it isn't so hard to go into the attic to staple this stuff up properly.  BUT IT MUST BE DONE!  And the time to catch it is during the warranty period!!

These people have complained that this room was inordinately hot and cold.  Well no wonder!

My recommendation:  get a one-year inspection on your home!  And if possible, hire a thermographer to try to catch poorly insulated areas.  You will be far more comfortable if you do.  Peace of mind is worth a million bucks!  It's certainly worth the price of a thermal image inspection.  And remember the other benefit - thermographers are all really cute.


 

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 39 commentsJay Markanich • November 27 2011 05:54AM

Comments

Good morning, Jay. Wow! Yet another feature!!! Insulation problems can certainly waste a lot of energy...

Posted by Michael Thornton, Nashville Area - Photography & Videography (RadnorLake Video) over 7 years ago

Often the "builder exam" is limited to the things we can see...ie nail pops....thermal camera...great idea !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 7 years ago

Thanks Jay,,what an interesting post. I bet most have no clue about gravity effecting insulation. That certainly does make sense. And the 11 month expiration...thats a new one for me. 100% heads up info! Happy Holidays to you.

Posted by Mike Schneider, ABR, CDPE, SFR (10 YRS with Active Rain !) over 7 years ago

I think these features happen because someone sees a lesson in the post that everyone can benefit from Michael.  But, to tell the truth, I have NO idea how they happen!  This family paid a whole lot more in energy than it needed to, for sure.

S&D - been doing it for years now!  Builders hate it, I mean HATE it, when I break out the camera and find things like this.  I roared through a whole neighborhood once and did a bunch of one-years that included the camera, and when I would drive down the streets people waved to me like a rock star.  That builder did LOTS of drywall work in there!  And I was NON-GRATA!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Yet another builder trick Mike!  People call for their one year only to be told that their warranty has already expired.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

A featured post so early, congratulations

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) over 7 years ago

Again, James, I don't know how it happens, but when the post is instructive I find it happens quick.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Hi Jay, thank you for such an informative post.  I myself do not like to leave any stone unturned and I will certainly write this one in my books to inform future clients. 

Posted by Ann Gravel (Pat Bennett Realty) over 7 years ago

Jay-Great post. Again you teach me something I had no clue about. As the Joker used to say to Batman "where does he get those toys?" Congrats on the feature! Have a great day!

Posted by Michael S. Bolton, MN Appraiser (Michael S. Bolton,Inc.) over 7 years ago

Not to debate, but I believe the builder never installed insulation, not that it slipped. Think physics, if the cavity had a full batt of insulation, how could it compress what looks like several feet. The stud bay is a confined space. Do you see my logic? None the less the uninsulated wall, whether slipped or missing is a BIG defect and demonstrates why IR is such a good tool. Good catch, I'm sure your clients are happy to know what the problem has been. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

Builders are still using faced batts in your area?  Here in MN, faced batts are used exclusively by handy homeowners.  

Nice catch.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Jay, I bet half of all the contractors we work with don't staple the insulation to the studs.  Some of them use a local insulation contractor who is responsible for that, but he doesn't staple either.  Interesting images.  Have a great Sunday!

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 7 years ago

Hi Jay - You have illustrated a great use of thermography.  People can save a significant amount of money on heating by verifying insulation installation.

Posted by FN LN over 7 years ago

Thank you for the information - I still haven't found a home inspector that use the thermal techniques that you do.  :(  Have a great day!

Posted by Joy Daniels (Joy Daniels Real Estate Group, Ltd.) over 7 years ago

GREAT featured information! Yes, go figure, gravity DOES work! But that they make a one year warranty turn into 11 months should be illegal! Where is the protection for the homeowner???

Posted by Barbara-Jo Roberts Berberi, MA, PSA, TRC - Greater Clearwater Florida Residential Real Estate Professional, Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Safety Harbor (Charles Rutenberg Realty) over 7 years ago

That's a smart idea.  I never understood the 11 month thing and how people can do that (and get away w/ it).

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 7 years ago

Hi Jay,

I have found that even the local traffic can make the "insulation slip".

Also it will make the cellulose compact even more than you want it too.

A lot of people don't know these little facts.

Great post.

Best, Clint mcKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 7 years ago

Real Estate is a vast sea where there are so many different things to visit and learn from. Your little inside posts deliver Jay...thank you and those x-ray eyes of yours too

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 7 years ago

Jay, reading your blog, I have been exposed to so many issues that a thermal imaging device can illuminate.  I can see the benefit of a home inspector having one.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 7 years ago

Jay, it is hard for me to have a meaningful conversation about fiberglass insulation.  It is so far from being effective as insulation for so many reasons.  Cold air and hot air can flow behind batt type insulation whether in place or out of place.  Seeing it falling out of place on the attic side of vaulted ceiling areas is very common as well.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

Jay - Don't know how many times I've seen insulation contractors install insulation with too few or no staples, expecting friction to hold the batts in place--great justification for having a pre-drywall inspection.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 7 years ago

Ann - improperly installed insulation is a big deal because it stays with the house for a long time!

Michael - a thermal camera is the best way to see insulation issues, summer and winter.

Jim - in this case it was just crappy installation.  That room did not take the entirety of the attic space and there was visible access behind each side of the room.  It was just coming off or had fallen down.  Then that one spot someone had dug into it to run something.  Maybe the satellite guy!

Batts everywhere Reubs.  Sometimes there is the blown-in stuff on the flat surfaces, but never blown-in on an angled ceiling.

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

That's hard on insulation long term, Mike, especially on outside walls because it can get heavy with condensation.  Stapling works.

That's true Marc.  And I usually suggest they wait a year to see if there is a problem because that puts them within the warranty period.

Joy - my understanding is that even today a small percentage of inspectors use it.  Maybe that's because one of the requirements is that the one who do use it have to be cute too.

Barbara-Jo - and the two year warranty is done at twenty two months!  I think it's a trick myself.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Debbie - not sure I understand, but it started a couple of years ago.

Cellulose can compact more than fiberglass Clint, and I didn't know traffic can cause it to slip.  I guess from the vibration.

Richie - the older I get the less X-ray I have.  So I rely on my camera!

I do too Chris.  I recognized the benefits really early on (actually the first time my son was in Iraq and he had one, telling me about everything they can do) and I looked into it immediately.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

I agree Charlie, but it is what it is and it is what they use, at least around here.  So it has to be dealt with.  That's why I am so careful on a one year.

John - friction can only work so long.  I have heard builders tell clients that they use "oversized" insulation, so it holds better.  Oversized?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay, there is a big advantage to being able to see behind the drywall. Your thermographic camers is a pretty good tool to have.

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 7 years ago

I think it's the sharpest arrow in my quiver Michael.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Love the thermal imaging device!  I want Santa to bring me one!  How much do they cost?

Posted by Heather Littrell, ABR,GRI,SRES Cabarrus County NC (Keller Williams) over 7 years ago

I know I took down some walls in a rental home and was surprised to see how much the siding had slipped down in the wall! I question if it had even been properly affixed at all!

Posted by Rosalie Evans, The Evans Group, Sioux Falls, SD Homes For Sale (Meritus Group Real Estate) over 7 years ago

Heather - mine was $15K when I bought it 8 or 9 years ago.  I think decent ones are down around $7 or 8K now.  But I haven't priced them.

Rosalie - probably not.  But time works wonders on everything!  We all slip downward with time!     ;>)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay, most fiberglass batt insulation that is to be encapsulated in side walls is "friction fit" type around here---no stapling involved.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 7 years ago

Jay - Never knew about that 12 months warranties. See I learn something everyday in here. Excellent

Posted by Robert and Lisa Hammerstein -201-315-8618, Bergen County NJ Real Estate (Keller Williams Valley Realty) over 7 years ago

I hear that too from time to time Charlie.  But in the winter, when a dewpoint develops and the insulation gets heavy, even with friction it slips.

R&L - that is something I have seen more and more of in the last couple of years.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

It is the cute part that sold me.  I am looking for a thermographer.....but wait!  Do those work in an ambient temp over 110 degrees? 

Posted by Marge Piwowarski, Phoenix AZ Horse Property, LLC (Phoenix AZ Horse Property) over 7 years ago

Jay:

That thermal camera is so cool.  Do all inspectors have thermal cameras?  I no know very little about insulation, but now I know that the flaps are for stapling the insulation in place.  Thanks for the info.

Posted by Evelyn Kennedy, Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA (Alain Pinel Realtors) over 7 years ago

Hi Jay--I learn so many great things every day here in the Rain.  The thermal camera is a whole new thing to me (which I like); the 11-month warranty is also new (and I certainly don't like that)!

Posted by Janet Jones, Home Staging, Interior Redesign Kihei, Maui, Hawaii (Just Your Style Interiors, LLC) over 7 years ago

Yes Marge.  Best to use an umbrella so the screen is visible!

Evelyn - a small percentage of home inspectors have thermal cameras.  But it is increasing.  They are still quite expensive.

Janet - I have used mine for 8 or 9 years now.  As to the warranties, some builders have been doing that for a couple of years now.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay -- another great lesson.  Years ago, we bought a used Triple Wide Manufactured Home.  In doing some repair work, found out that they had used plain batt insulation (without any paper on one side).  Since it had been moved a couple of times, the insulation was sliding down as well (as I recall about a foot from the top was uninsulated.)

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 7 years ago

That is huge when temperatures reach extremes Steven, but in the long run that is hugely expensive!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

This blog does not allow anonymous comments