A pre-drywall inspection is the only time to see this.
A thermal camera can show where areas are not insulated or not insulated well. But why find that out after the house is built?
A pre-drywall inspection is the only time to see the house in a skeletal condition. THAT is when the insulation should be examined. And it is the ONLY time that areas that will need to be insulated can be examined.
See these photos and notice the large areas where insulation will be difficult, if not impossible, to install.
Long areas along exterior walls between the basement ceiling the floor of the first level MUST BE COMPLETELY INSULATED. If even a small gap exists between the insulation and the first-level floor, for example, it will feel like no insulation is present.
Each of these areas is 30' long, 16" high, and very wide. One is under a long family room wall above and the other under a long living room wall above. These walls will influence each of these rooms, but particularly in winter.
This is what the International Residency Code says, in part, about insulation. Virginia subscribes to this code.
Corners and headers shall be insulated and the junction of the foundation and sill plate shall be sealed.
The junction of the top plate and top of exterior walls shall be sealed.
Exterior thermal envelope insulation for framed walls shall be installed in substantial contact and continuous alignment with the air barrier.
The words "substantial contact" and "continuous alignment" are there for a reason. The words "shall be" are there for a reason. As stated above, even a 1" gap between the insulation and the floor will feel like there is no insulation present.
My recommendation: some things in a house can only be seen pre-drywall. Where insulation should be installed, or where it cannot be easily installed, is one of those things. House designs have to be such that access is provided for insulation. There is only one shot to get insulation correctly installed. If large areas have been built into the framing that discourage or prevent insulation, it will affect the house forever.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560