What I'm Seeing Now


Little Hole. Big Leak.

Little hole.  Big leak.

It was a little hole in the TPO covering of a veranda outside a master bedroom.

TPO is a Thermoplastic Olefin material, a single-membrane roof/balcony covering which is pretty tough and has a life span of 15 years or so in the sun.

This veranda was 12 years old.

But no single-membrane anything can withstand a hole.

This veranda was about 15'x20' or so.

There was room to walk around and to sit.   There was comfortable furniture.

It overlooked woods, and a large meadow.  What a great space!

And the buyer wants to preserve it, so this hole was an issue!

How can we know the little hole was an issue?

With a thermal camera!

The hole above can be seen in the thermal image as the small bubble near the lower left corner.

Moisture can be seen moving from it toward the left.

And a puddle UNDER the TPO can be seen as having formed to the right.  It is cooler because at this moment, about 830am, the sun was not up for very long to influence this moisture spot, so it was cooler than the surrounding areas having been influenced by the cool of the night.

The roof deck was dry at this point, but we have had rain in the past few days. 

So what you see in the image was not visible walking on the surface.

More movement of moisture can be seen toward the right.  And further to the right of this image there was a large soft spot, a circle about 3' in diameter.  So this leaking has not only been happening for a while, but has caused softness in the underlayment.

This moisture would be visible in no other way.  A thermal camera can "see" it, but you and I cannot.

The softness might have been felt, but no one would know that it was moisture related.

My recommendation:  thermal cameras are worth their weight in gold.  Their ability to detect, analyze and determine circumstances is fabulous.  Mighty Mo is a great companion, and detective, and analyzer.  He can see things you and I cannot.  But better that he does, so the buyer of this house will not inherit a hidden issue that one day might become a big, big deal.



Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

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


Comment balloon 13 commentsJay Markanich • May 27 2017 09:51AM


Good morning Jay. I know this matters and so good of you to point out that somethings are worth the time and money too.

Posted by Sheila Anderson, The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133 (Referral Group Incorporated) about 3 years ago

We had an inspection yesterday and while there was no visible evidence of moisture, the inspector's thermal camera showed us that the entire bottom of the walls in the basement (up to 2 or 3 feet) were filled with moisture. Those cameras are great.

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty) about 3 years ago

Good morning Jay. "Mighty Mo" does it again! Gotta love it! Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) about 3 years ago

The results are in for us. We will never use a home inspector who does not own and use themal imaging devices for home inspections.

Posted by Sandy Padula and Norm Padula, JD, GRI, Presence, Persistence & Perseverance (HomeSmart Realty West & Lend Smart Mortgage, Llc.) about 3 years ago

Worth it's weight in gold for sure! I would certainly want that information if I were buying a home!

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) about 3 years ago

We had a similar problem on the second floor balcony sitting area at our condo in Florida. Once removed all the support was mosit and moldy so a fix is important.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) about 3 years ago

Jay this is a perfect example of one of the many reasons a professional inspection is warranted. And one done by an inspector with all the right tools!

Posted by Maggie Dokic | Miami, FL | 888.883.8509 X101, GREEN, CDPE, SFR, Pinecrest | Palmetto Bay | (eXp Realty LLC) about 3 years ago

Sheila - they are, and a date with Mighty Mo should be on everyone's wish list.

Kat - years ago I had a newly-finished basement with a big foundation crack behind the new wall!  It was quite the revelation to everyone.  Of course, I had been there many times.  The blog about is here:


Wayne - Don't say that too loudly.  Mo is going to get a big head. 

S&N - hope you can find someone!  It's a great way to discover the otherwise invisible.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 3 years ago

Sharon - thermal imaging is the only way to derive some information!

Joe - removing the TPO surface is the only way to get to this problem.

Maggie - some have them, some don't!  I hope your home inspector is throughly prepared.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 3 years ago

I just can't believe no one does the thermal imaging thing here....but have never seen it ! 

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) about 3 years ago

That is the perfect place for it, S&D.  If I was there I would imediately begin marketing the insulation and energy savings benefits of having a thermal image sweep of a house.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 3 years ago

I do a thermal scan on every inspection these days, as you just have shown... how can you not?

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 3 years ago

For me it's the norm now, Fred.  I charged extra for it for years, but I think it's time for the new normal.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 3 years ago

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