What I'm Seeing Now

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Thermal Image Transition Study On A Condo Building

I was contacted recently by an engineering firm to help with a Transition Study on various condo buildings.  This study is to turn the properties over to the residents, and their HOA management company.  As such, they had never included a thermal image examination of any building.  The purpose of the study is to address issues to everyone knows where they stand.  Thermal imaging can help with that!  These are buildings that house six condos, three downstairs and three upstairs.  They are very nice looking.

They had had resident complaints for a long time that they wanted addressed.

The complaints concerned cold areas, particularly near outside walls, rooms that are very cold, and windows and doors that feel like air is just pouring in.  Finding me on line, the engineering firm thought that thermal imaging might help isolate what things are contributing to these complaints.

Well, welcome to new construction!

I suggested we start outside, and once things have been isolated move indoors to get more specific information.

The buildings have a plastic siding that has a shingle appearance, and faux stone.

All around the buildings is a trim member covering the wood sill plate inside, typically a 2x4, but can be larger, onto which the framing is attached and begun.

As I am sweeping the outside of the houses with my thermal camera I notice something significant at all of these trim members.

Warm air is pouring out from underneath!

The thermal image to the left shows that the foundation wall is dramatically demonstrating warmth!  The outdoor temperature at the time of the inspection is 19F.  That bright yellow spot in the thermal image indicates warm air flow from under the wood trim, and is 51F.  I could FEEL the warmth when I put my hand there!

Look at the thermal image to the right.  Indoors, at the hardwood flooring on the exterior wall, just inside this exterior trim, you can almost see the cold influence inside!

If this is common in every unit in every building, and there are a lot of buildings, that means that the same construction error was employed everywhere. 

Between the poured-concrete foundation, and the wood sill plate, some form of air sealer/vapor retarder should be utilized.  There are many types - a poly foam pad, rolled, thick polyethylene sheet, etc.

The pad to the left is called a Protecto Pad, and is extremely effective.

This rests on and seals the top of the foundation wall, which is not a perfect surface, so that air cannot escape under the wood sill plate when it is bolted on.

Inside the house, ideally of course, insulation would be fitted all the way to the bottom of the stud cavity constructed on top of this sill.

At these condo buildings, if so much warm air is getting out, something was done improperly as regards the sill plate, or insulation.  And it's a big deal!

And from what I saw outside these buildings with my thermal camera, this is just one of many problems!

My recommendation:  anytime you are investigating complaints that are common to every building in a development, it is a good idea to employ a thermal imaging sweep as a part of the investigation.  The camera can "see" temperature differences in ways that we can feel, but cannot see with our eyes.  Using my camera, Mighty Mo, is a Best Practice!   And, as you know, 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 22 commentsJay Markanich • January 27 2014 02:52AM

Comments

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

Hi Jay,

Thermal imaging will find the issue if it exists. The naked eye is good but not that good. Great for you it was so cold out. When it's warmer the camera will not pick up the small variences in temprature swings. IE 2+ -.

Have a great day in Bristow.

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

The camera sees in tenths of a degree F, so it picks up differences, but not so dramatically.  It's art and science, Clint, so the better the temp variance the less likely one is to make an error.

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

Mighty Mo to the rescue again.  That's great that you were able to find the main issue here and hopefully, they can fix this soon.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 6 years ago

Not the main issue, necessarily Debbie, but one of many.  More posts to follow.

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

So interesting Jay and how might this be remedied?  Spray foam insulation?  

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Well, the matter of drafts, etc. is surely above my pay grade. 

I practice the "hand on the wall" procedure. 

Most important for agents is to get the utility company usage history for a property.  A few smart listing agents include these in their property brochure.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 6 years ago

This was just Saturday Ginny.  They are having a board meeting Tuesday to see if they want me to go indoors.

Lenn - I see my usage history when I get my bill.  Beyond that I don't do anything.

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

Jay.  I was referring to homes for sale and it's a good idea for the listing agent to get the usage history from the seller.  Buyers are going to ask.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 6 years ago

I bet if you point that image gun at any home you are going to find something...Yes?

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

Jay, you can't dispute the facts and the thermal images. Mighty Mo builds a good case.

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

Jay, that is a nasty discovery, especially if it exists on every exterior wall at ground level. Is there a fix on this sort of thing?

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) over 6 years ago

Good morning Jay,

The best way to make an informative decision.

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

Hi Jay.  What a discovery!  We just insulated our house so I appreciate the problem of warmth escaping and cold walls.  But to do this for a condo building is a great idea. 

Posted by Ruth Lerner (William Raveis Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Interesting indeed! Sounds like an expensive repair.. yikes!

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

Thermal images are great for finding this. I am suprised more home owners dont use it to find where heat escapes and get it fixed to help with utitlities in winter.

Posted by John Fauth, Turning your dreams into an address! (Coldwell Banker King Thompson) over 6 years ago

I have seen this same heat loss numerous times. Typically on very cold days most often due to the lack of insulation at the sill. Further low temperatures increase the stack effect, contributing to the air infiltration you see on the interior. 

Here's one I took sometime ago. The basement was unconditioned, but yet still warmer than the exterior. The heat you see is bleeding through both the concrete and wood framing. There was no insulation at the sill. 

Heat loss at sill and foundation

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

I would love to do this thermal imaging outside my home so I could prove to someone that we are losing heat around the windows, doors, etc.  :-)  

Thanks for the overview!

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty) over 6 years ago

Jay,

Amazing technology.  Thank you for posting this and educating us about it.

 

Posted by Wayne and Jean Marie Zuhl, The Last Names You'll Ever Need in Real Estate (Samsel & Associates) over 6 years ago

I think that's a good idea Lenn, if the company will give it up.

Likely Richie.  It's a fabulous tool.  I call it the sharpest arrow in my quiver.

Mike - I am thinking the board will be really impressed.

Tom - that won't be up to me, but if it was my house I'd fix it from inside and out.

Raymond - by accumulating as much information as you can!

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

Ruth - I was glad they called!  I got a lot of info for them.

Jill - that's not all.  There are many other things, for sure.

John - the mental paradigm shift that homeowners would think of this and call a thermographer has not occurred.  Maybe one day.

That's a great shot Jim.  Heat seeks cold!  Whooosh...

Kat - look around to see if you can find a (really cute) thermographer where you live.  It is likely you can.

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

W&J - it is great information, and explains a lot.  Blogs like this are good primers for those who are not familiar with the technology.

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

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