What I'm Seeing Now


"We Were In Europe." Another Thermal Imaging Story.

When this buyer called me to ask me to do a final inspection on his new house, I asked if he had done a pre-drywall inspection, to which he said, "We were in Europe."  Another thermal imaging story.

This is a new home where the buyer was, from the builder's point of view, the bothersome type.

The buyer would often stop by and check on things.
The buyer would often call or email the supervisor. 
The buyer would often make sure that things were done on the day the builder said they would be done.

And the buyer was in Europe when the insulation went up and was not present when the builder  typically would do the pre-drywall walk through.

The buyer was not present when I did my inspection either.  He had business obligations. 

On new construction, if there is a proper temperature difference between indoors and out, I like to do a thermal imaging sweep of the house, and particularly its insulation.  I don't know about you, but the older I get the less reliable my X-ray vision has become.

Proper thermal imaging would suggest a minimum of 18 degrees Fahrenheit between indoors and outdoors to properly get thermal information.  Indoors was a comfy 72F.  And that morning outdoors it was 40F.  Perfect.  I could hear Mighty Mo panting in his case, anxious to get started.

The master bedroom is kind of separate from the house.  It has a cathedral ceiling which abuts the house, but in such a fashion the high walls extend above the roof and the main-house attic space. 

There is only one way to be able to check insulation there - a thermal camera.

Imagine these images all put together. 










Those lavender, blue and purple areas are very cold by comparison to the ambient temperature in the rest of the room.  Clearly the ceiling and wall are missing insulation.  That little warmer-looking dot in the third and fourth images is the smoke detector.

The insulation looks not present and/or loosely placed in spots.


Obviously the ceiling and wall were that way when the drywall installers put up the drywall.  It should have been seen and taken care of prior to the drywall installation.  This missing insulation will affect the temperature in this room summer and winter.  And particularly in summer!

The buyer emailed the images to the supervisor.  The supervisor asked where the buyer got those "pictures."  The supervisor said he had never seen thermal images before and that these can't mean when the buyer says they mean.  The supervisor said home inspectors should not be doing thermal imaging.

Really?!  What a diaper load.


The buyer also told the supervisor that I will be doing follow-up images after the insulation is "repaired."  What do you want to bet  that the builder does not allow that follow-up thermal investigation prior to closing?  The second time around they won't be able to feign such ignorance.

(P.s.  I also found two leaks in the basement foundation wall which I did not know about, the buyer did not tell me about, but the buyer had photos of when they happened weeks ago and the builder said they were fixed.....  Hmmm.....)

My recommendation:  if a new house can be scanned with a thermal camera prior to the final walk through with the builder it should be!  Hire a really cute thermographer (well, aren't they all?) and get in there an have some fun.  And the builder likely will not like for you to be doing that.  And we all know why.



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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


Comment balloon 21 commentsJay Markanich • November 19 2014 03:27AM


Oh gosh.  Those pre drywall inspections really prevent a lot of issues.  Now, the builder will need to go back and redo a few areas.  The pictures don't lie.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 5 years ago

According to the supervisor the "pictures" are meaningless, Debbie!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Good morning Jay,

To him the pictures mean nothing as they relate to dollars!

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 5 years ago

Good morning, Jay...how many times have you and your thermal images gone to court as a witness for the plaintiff?? 

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) over 5 years ago

Jay, this does not sound good. I'm guessing because of the timing here, it's going to be tough to get cooperation from the builder without the threat of a lawsuit. If then...

Posted by Tom White, Franklin Homes Realty LLC, Franklin TN (Franklin Homes Realty LLC (615) 495-0752 or www.FranklinHomesRealty.com) over 5 years ago

Jay, it is possible that the insulation is not missing at all but merely that cold air is getting between it and the drywall---fiberglass I would bet if that is the case.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 5 years ago

Good morning Jay. People who are careful and called annoying often find things others miss.

Posted by Sheila Anderson, The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133 (Referral Group Incorporated) over 5 years ago

Raymond - insulation is a permanent feature of the house, if done right.  It's also a permanent feature if done wrong!

Never Barbara.  I have been to court as an expert witness in other inspections however.

Tom - this buyer will not settle for them saying nothing will be done.

Charlie - the coldest areas are 42F, which is probably the air temp in the attic or air outdoors (the sun isn't up yet).  In some of the spots you can see some evidence of insulation, which is why I said "loosely" in the post.  Air behind the insulation would create a convective loop, and that probably wouldn't be the same temp as the attic.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Sheila - this guy is paying a lot of money for this house!  Of course he is trying to be careful.  Builders don't appreciate that, if the Golden Rule is not important to them.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

I had a bulder once made me produce my proof of insurance, then he wanted to see my state license and certifications before they would let me on the property to do the inspection for my client. My client told me he forbid 2 other Home Inspectors from going on the property. It was quite the fiasco. I think maybe he didn't like Home Inspectors.... I don't know why, we are a bunch of fine fellas!!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 5 years ago

 Good morning Jay. I'm getting more and more calls to do thermal imaging especially during the cooler spells that we have been having. The cameras don't lie, that's for sure.

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 5 years ago

You can't paint an elephant white and make it look different.  Apparently the builder tried this but you caught it,  

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty) over 5 years ago

Fred - been like there here for years.  The builders require an email before they approve me with license, E&O (not their issue) and $1mil in General Liability insurance (I have $2mil).  Then they require a written copy of all that to allow me on to the property.  I wised up to that one years ago, and wrote a post on it.  I even carry copies in my car just in case.   I have been banned from inspections on any house by a particular builder here.  Apparently I find too many things.  They require "code" when I submit a report and I can make their eyes bleed with codes.

Michael - now is the beginning of the good season.  The temp differential is essential.

James - they try.  Paint and lipstick.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Jay, just had such an incident where the builder short cut a paid for option. Buyers stayed adament a solution to higher energy costs be found. The solution was actually better then the first option and on the builder's tab. It pays to inspect! enjoyyour day! 

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) over 5 years ago

Thanks Wayne.  Energy savings only add up.  It does pay to inspect!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Not sure the builder is to blame here, looks like the insulation company was a little sloppy. I would tend to believe the insulation was put in, but not set in place properly. If the vapor barrier does not make contact with the wall, it will allow for air, cold air, to flow in between the wall and insulation. I have seen that so many times with fiberglass, which is why I have such a disdain for the crap, um stuff. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 5 years ago

Fer sher Mr. Jim!  However, who is responsible to evaluate the insulation prior to the approval for drywall installation?  In this county there is no insulation inspection.  Another county nearby has to approve the insulation prior to drywall. 

You're right, could be it is very loose, as I say in the post.  A couple of spots it looks missing completely.  But overall, not a great job.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Seems like this builder might be problematic.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) over 5 years ago

These things are supposed to have oversight Lyn.  That is the concept behind "supervision."

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

Nice find Jay!

Were you able to check it later after the builder "fixed" it?

Posted by Jon Boyd, Ann Arbor Real Estate Buyers Agent (Home Buyer's Agent of Ann Arbor) over 5 years ago

Thanks Jon.  I did get back and they did put insulation in better.

By the way, my legal name is Jon!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 5 years ago

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