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