What I'm Seeing Now

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"My Cook Top Is Cold, And So Am I When I Stand In Front Of It."

Arriving, immediately I heard, "My cook top is cold, and so am I when I stand in front of it."

When I get to a house for a one-year warranty inspection I ask what things are going on that they want me to investigate.  I usually get an earful!

She went on.  "Last week when it was really cold the metal all over the cook top actually had condensation on it!"

Air blew out of the exhaust vent, and no cold air was coming in, meaning that both of the flaps were functioning correctly.

So what gives?  Well, I knew immediately.  We have an insulation problem!  I have seen it before.

But how can you show a builder that there is an insulation problem without cutting into the wall?

With a thermal camera!  That would be a home inspector Best Practice!

This is a cinch.

For the purposes of this blog, I am using yellow and orange to demonstrate warmer temperatures and lavender, blue and purple to demonstrate cooler temperatures.

The orange framing on the top of the image is the kitchen exhaust hood.

The fan is center, and on top.

You are looking at the exterior wall of the house, above the cook top.

Apparently, in order to install the exhaust fan tubing to the outside, the installer removed a section of insulation between the drywall and the siding.  You can clearly see that the space between two studs is void of insulation. 

They removed the insulation from about two feet above the cook top all the way to the ceiling, installed the fan tubing, and never replaced the insulation.

WEIRD YOU SAY?  NO, THIS IS VERY, VERY COMMON.

And, with the thermal image, it is indisputable that the insulation is missing.  That purple spot is 42F.  The air temperature outside is 35F.

Can the builder argue with this homeowner that the wall is not cold?  That the cook top is not cold?  That cold cannot be felt near the cook top when it's cold outside?

Maybe.

Can the builder argue with a thermal image that buttresses the homeowner's complaint that all of this cold is happening?

NO.

How can this be fixed without removing the cabinet, the exhaust hood and a bunch of drywall?

The smart insulator will simply cut a 2" hole in near the ceiling, right in the middle of those studs void of insulation.  And blow some in!  The small hole is easy to repair.

What's the best insulation for this application?  Probably blown-in cellulose.  That is simply chewed-up newspaper, treated with boric acid (so bugs won't eat it), and when blown in it will completely fill that cavity, and provide terrific insulation.

Blown-in cellulose has an R-value of 3.5-3.7 per inch!  That would gain the desired R-13 inside that space.  Blowing fiberglass puffs into that space will provide about 2.2-2.5 per inch in R-value.  Not so good!

My recommendation:  when rooms or areas are hot or cold, there is a reason!  And most often the reason is due to insulation - and the lack thereof.  What's the best way to investigate that kind of an issue?  By calling an experienced home inspector with a thermal camera!  And remember, 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 37 commentsJay Markanich • January 17 2014 02:09AM

Comments

Good morning, Jay.... it's always a wise move for a homeowner of new construction to have a professional home inspection before the warranty period ends....

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) over 6 years ago

These people were way wise Barbara.  Their "one year" inspection period expires at the end of the 11th month (people are catching on to that trick!) and my inspection was 3 weeks before that!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Warranty expiration can make this a more challenging fix...calling when you notice a problem is the fastest way to get it fixed with the least expense as you point out !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 6 years ago

I think the cold snap last week caused them to snap S&D!  And it's on the report.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Good morning, Jay. Once again, the technology proves that another short-cut has been taken.

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 6 years ago

Busted!  I love it when a plan comes together, Michael.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Technology is a good thing and the camera youuse just proves the point.  You can argue with me but not technology you'll lose.

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 6 years ago

Posted by Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400, Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome ( HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400) over 6 years ago

It does James.  And it's a great tool.  When I bought it a decade ago my wife asked me if my new "toy" would pay for itself.  I was the first in the area to use one and had to market it carefully.  My answer - "I don't know."  I had to be honest...

Margaret - I am betting you did not intend to blank out.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay -  I had a client contractor who did energy audits so I saw this neat camera.  Fortunately, my house is tight. 

Posted by Grant Schneider, Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes (Performance Development Strategies) over 6 years ago

I use mine for audits too Grant.  It works!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Hi Jay,

Use the one inch hole for the cellulose blow in. Plug it with a cap. Done. No need to use the Two inch or bigger hole when not needed. Save time and money on repairs.

Just a suggestion.

Have a great day in Bristow my friend.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 6 years ago

Jay - Good detective work and cool gadgets make for a great home inspector. Keep it up!

Posted by AJ Heidmann ~ CRS, YOUR Alexandria & Arlington, VA Real Estate Expert (McEnearney Associates, Inc.) over 6 years ago

That isn't my call Clint.  The insulator can decide that.  They used 2" hole when they did our garage ceiling.  It worked pretty well.

AJ - thanks.  It's hard to argue with this finding!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Yes, mighty mo to the rescue again.  Glad to hear that this sounds like a simple fix.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 6 years ago
That's cute. How much do those thermal cameras cost? I have not seen one before.
Posted by Cheryl Ritchie, Southern Maryland 301-980-7566 (RE/MAX Leading Edge www.GoldenResults.com) over 6 years ago

Jay, sure beats tearing into the wall and a lot less expensive. I think it has paid off for you in the last decade. Are other inspectors catching on?

Posted by Michael Setunsky, Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA over 6 years ago

Great solution to a trickyproblem.

Posted by Dena Smith (DSmith Realtors) over 6 years ago

It bears repeating that inspections should be mandatory for new and existing Real Estate of any nature...

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 6 years ago

Good morning Jay,

Thank you for the remedy as well as the situation.

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 6 years ago

Likely done Jay. I really like the explanation of how the insulation could be installed today without tearing things apart.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 6 years ago

I see all the time where somebody has installed something, no matter what it is, and they disturb the insulation to do the job and never redistribute the insulation when they are finished. So, they are not finished... right? Wow, a revelation!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 6 years ago

We see that kind of stuff all the time when we're wiring a house. It boils down to what's the easiest and fastest practice. Unfortunately, neither is always the best. 

Posted by Mike Cooper, GRI, Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro (Cornerstone Business Group Inc) over 6 years ago

Insulation is always displaced to install things from vent hoods to speakers. No one thinks about it till they are cold. Even though there is a solution having the work done is going to cost a pretty penny for something so easily avoided.

Posted by Rob Ernst, Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor (Certified Structure Inspector) over 6 years ago

Great post! They were lucky to have you!! So - follow up blog? Did the builder come back and fix his mistake? Curious to know....

Posted by Jill Saddler, Draper Utah Real Estate Professional - 25 years+! over 6 years ago

I'm surprised that if they took insulation out of a space to install something, that they didn't put it back when they were finished. It was put there in the first place for a reason!

Posted by Suzanne Otto, Your Montgomery County PA home stager (Six Twenty Designs) over 6 years ago

I think it is Debbie.  But an important one.

Cheryl - I have had it 10 years and it cost $15K.  It has come down a bit since.  I have almost 50 thermal imaging blogs on AR.

It has Mike.  No, and I think because of the expense of the device and the training.

Thanks Dena.  Not so tricky a solution!

Everything is a choice Richie!  But I should be mandatory...     ;>)

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

You're welcome Raymond!  That is just my remedy.

Tom - I think that's the easiest way to handle it.

Fred - they usually have no intention of replacing it.  Maybe after lunch?

Quick and dirty Mike, and no time to finish properly!

Which is why we are doing a warranty inspection Rob!  The cutting and fitting of the vent tubing should be done pre-drywall!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jill - I have confidence the builder would repair this.  But the inspection was just yesterday!  I don't have a follow up yet!

You really aren't surprised Suzanne, are you?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Excellent post! Thermal cameras are an inspector's best friend!

Posted by Rosie Moore (Serving Sugar Land, Richmond, Rosenberg, Missouri City) over 6 years ago

I call it the sharpest arrow in my quiver Rosie.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay,

I've actually lived with this problem and been faced with it personally, not fun when its 120 degrees in beautiful phoenix and you can't figure out why your bedroom feels like a furnace.  Great post showing and explaining the nuances of this problem

Posted by Alex Popovic, Alex Popovic Designated Broker Commercial RE (Apex CRE) over 6 years ago

Alex - missing insulation is always a big deal, and not as uncommon as most people might hope!  You got it resolved?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Found a very similar problem the other day with a less high tech instrument, my hand and a infrared thermometer. The old exhaust vent through the wall had not been sealed by the flipper, subsequently a nice cold draft was poring from a space in the cabinets onto the granite counter top. Granite retains temperature very well. Perhaps this spot was meant a beverage cooler....NOT!

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jim - my brother and I found a hot spot on the floor of the bathroom where we would heat up our underwear in the morning!  It was obviously over a radiator pipe.  The floors were ceramic tiles, not granite, but retained the heat well!

That is an ingenious beverage cooler!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

This is very good information to know, Jay. Plus, having that thermal camera at your back makes it more than just "take my word for it" advice to sellers or investors.

~Emcee

Posted by Emcee M. Arah, Realtor w/Architectural Dimension, AHWD CRS B-Arch (Remax Excellence - Silver Spring, MD) over 6 years ago

Thanks Emcee.  My thermal camera is the sharpest arrow in my quiver.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

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