What I'm Seeing Now


New Construction Attic Insulation - Do You Wonder If Heat Escapes?

New construction attic insulation - do you wonder if heat escapes?

And, if heat escapes, do you wonder if heat enters?

Many clients call me for a home inspection on brand new construction and tell me that they want one even though they are told by the builder they don't need a private inspection.

After all, the supervisor is there every day, doing his inspections.

The county has been by many times, doing their inspections.

Manufacturer reps often come by, like window companies, doing their inspections.

So, why in the world would you need to pay money for another, private home inspection?


Like insulation.  Insulation is one of the most important energy-saving features of a house.  It is there from the start and theoretically can last decades.  If done right it is great, and if not it is ALWAYS a nuisance, if not a problem.

Where not done right, rooms can be hot and cold.  Why?

Because heat seeks cold.  Put differently, heat moves towards cold. 

What does insulation do?  It provides a thermal barrier  impeding heat energy transfer via the air (convection) to and from the house.  It prevents heat from moving toward cold via the air.

In this attic the insulation was exceptionally erratic.

Insulation is best when it is level and uniform.

The thicker it is, the more value it gives toward the resistance of air moving from hot to cold.

The ability to do that is called resistance value, or R-value.

If crushed with plywood and storage insulation provides less R-value.  Where there are high or low spots insulation provides more or less R-value.

When I say the insulation in this attic was EXCEPTIONALLY ERRATIC ,  it is almost an understatement.  Looking around with Mighty Mo, almost no matter where I looked, it was revealing.

I choose this color palette for the thermal image here because it is logical.  Can you see heat escaping through the erratic insulation?  This is most demonstrative.

This is a multi-million dollar house with a huge attic.  There are many furnaces.  Do you think that AS heat escapes everywhere like this  unexpected, extra dollars are not also escaping?


And in the summer, AS heat enters, it will take more air conditioning (energy) to cool, and, oppositely, are not unexpected, extra dollars being unnecessarily spent?

It could be that the insulating company did a good job.  It could be that the people who followed, plumbers, electricians, data or satellite people, did not care and disrupted a clean blanket of insulation as they went about their work?

So, knowing this, where is the supervision?


My recommendation:  the house is the house.  The home inspector is there to observe and report.  In this case the supervisor had never seen a thermal image taken in one of his houses.  He felt the home inspector was "out of line" using such a device because the inspector pointed out "too many things," not just in the attic.  Alrighty then!



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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


Comment balloon 22 commentsJay Markanich • February 20 2015 03:31AM


Good morning Jay,

You are hired to show any problems that are or could occur in the home.

Looks like the supervisor should get an education.

Keep up the fine work.

Make yourself a great day.

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

Good for you, to many sloppy installs in new construction. Make sure the attic door or access hatch is well insulated and weather sealed as well.

Posted by David Popoff, Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct (DMK Real Estate ) almost 6 years ago

Thanks Raymond.  The supervisor merely needs to supervise!

David - when asked I tell people that a great way to insulate that opening is with styrofoam.  It's light, and a great insulator.

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

This insulation looks like it has been "pushed around" quite a bit over time Jay. The camera shows the problem with that.

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) almost 6 years ago

This house has not yet been lived in Tom.  So the "over time" is a short "over time."

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

Looks like a trade was in the attic at some point. The weird thing is why the batts and blown in? Why the two different brands on insulation? Were there rulers every 300 sqft so they could blow it to the right level? There seems to be a less than professional job being done here. Even in high dollar homes there is often poor construction practices happening and the buyers are usually unaware.

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

Jay, it seems that poor insulation is the root of most problems with costly heating and cooling bills. Since most homeowners have no idea what to look for with new construction, they certainly need a knowledgeable home inspector!

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

I did a new home inspection about a year or so ago, the building superintendant did not want me to come on to the property... he tried all kinds of stuff to keep me out, including asking for workmans comp insurance. Anyway, long story short, I finally got in there and when I got up into the attic... there was no insulation at all!!

Mr. Superintendant... may I speak with you a minute?

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

Funny that the builder tells them that the construction manager has been there everyday - RIGHT!  AND - just because the county code inspectors have signed off on everything doesn't really mean anything either.  FOR instance - We inspected a 5 year old house in an L-shape and as I was going down through the attic wondering why there was so much insulation in there (up to my knees!) when I got down to the L-part I saw why: they didn't put the insulation in the rest of the attic!  ALSO - my father had an addition put on his house (crawl space) and the main electric service panel had to be moved to this part of the house.  I took a tour in the crawl space and noticed that the main panel was grounded to the copper water line - but I know that his main house supply lines were PVC - back towards the water meter.  I asked him if he had already had the final electric inspection and he said yes.  I told him that it was not properly grounded.  He called the inspector back and INDEED a mistake had been made and the service panel had to be grounded properly.

Posted by John Helmick, Realtor Personal Growth/Success Coach (John Helmick Success & Ohio Property Inspection Services) almost 6 years ago

Wow... I've never seen insulation projected like that... I would be one relieved buyer to hire you!

have a great day


Posted by Rob Thomas, Bristol TN-VA & Tri Cities Agent, ABR, GRI, e-Pro (Prestige Homes of The Tri Cities, Inc. CALL....423-341-6954) almost 6 years ago

These inspections are a lot easier if the builder is prepared for them early on.

A home buyer will get a better home if the buyer's agent develops a good relationship with the construction super and builder/agent from the beginning.

There's no reason for an adversarial relationship between the buyer and the builder with respect to inspections.

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

Rob E. - I didn't see any rulers!  And when I do I measure them - too often they have been bent down to make it look like there is more insulation than there really is!  And yes, a contractor or four up there.  That stuff was a mess up there.

Tom - poor insulation indeed.  The time to see it is pre-drywall, but on new construction inspections I always break out Mighty Mo.

Fred - that has happened to me too!  And builders here are demanding more and more criteria from home inspectors.  Recently $2mil General Liability insurance - which, by the way, I have.

John - that there is supervision!  And coming from YOU, not those supposed to be doing the supervising!

Rob T. - I observe and report!  But the inspector has to be in the best places to observe.  And really cool tools help too!


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

That is exactly true Lenn.  And so, why are there so often those adversarial relationships?  This is a custom home in South Arlington and a very defensive builder.

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

Jay Markanich we all know how valuable the home inspections are. And yes, this is not limited to attic insulation.

Supervisors have a different job altogether.

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) almost 6 years ago

Hi Jay,I worked exclusively as an on-site builder's representative 2004-2007.One thing I learned is that the quality of construction in each community depends highly on the supervisor running it!

Although rare, I've seen a few disasters with the lazier or less experienced construction supervisors. I recommend buyers bring in their own inspectors at the pre-drywall and finished stage.

Posted by Athina Boukas, Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) (Virginia Capital Realty) almost 6 years ago

Praful - and I think that job is to supervise!

Athina - sometimes during the construction of a house (120 days or so) sometimes there can be three different supervisors in succession!  The best builders have supervisors who consider the job their careers, and have been there for a long time.

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

Morning Jay congrats on the feature.  I don't know if any of the people we have has got one of those thermal devices.  You can bet come Monday I'll know

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

I have many dozens of thermal imaging posts on AR, James.  Trying to educate because you are right, there aren't that many cameras out there.

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

This goes to prove, once again, that inspections should be done regardless of the age/type/etc of a future home.  

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

Especially new homes, in my opinion, Kat.  Builders almost ALWAYS disagree!

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

Great discussion Jay!  As you may know, the Virginia Home Builders are so irritated with Home Inspectors that they sent their lobbyists to Richmond this year, bill-in-hand to make it more difficult for Home Inspectors to inspect new construction homes.

Future home owners want to know more about the quality of what they are about to plunk down a million $ for, and we all know that Home Inspectors spend more time looking at the systems in a home than do all of the city or county inspectors combined - who have incredible time constraints.  And with the variety of sub-contractors rolling through the home to get their task completed and system installed, there is huge room for mistakes, as we well know... Surprisingly, and now obviously with their action to restrict access, the builders don't want those flaws to be found before the ink is dry and the check is received.

Posted by Donald A. Masters (Master Home & Building Inspections, LLC) almost 6 years ago

Yes, Donald.  That's a discussion floating around the VARIE website and members.  The biggest problem with new construction around here, in my opinion, is the professionalism of the subs the builders get on site.  I sarcastically call it 7-11 Construction.

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

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