How Does Thermal Imaging (Infrared) Help In Home Inspections? | Featured Video

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Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with David Fairbairn from Fairbairn Inspections in Vancouver. David how’re you doing today?
David: I’m great Mark, how’re you doing?
Mark: Good. So we’re going to be talking about thermal imaging and how does thermal imaging help you in doing home inspections?
David: Well, Mark someone mentioned relatively, I’m not going to say new technology, it’s actually be around for a while but the concept is that we can actually get to the point now where we can read heat signatures on dry wall, ceilings, walls, things like that we can actually determine if there’s hidden moisture or if there’s hidden, you know sometimes we find missing insulation, sometimes we can find electrical overheating, so it’s just really nice technology and we’re sort of seeing this come into the home inspection industry and to be honest with you Mark we’re getting a lot of people asking for it. We offer thermal imaging as a package with our home inspections and it’s getting a lot of interest from potential home buyers who basically want to get that extra level of seeing what our eyes can’t see. Now a thermal camera is basically a camera that can read infra-red light; infra-red light is given off by objects in proportion to how much heat energy they have, so if we had an object that, maybe we have a cold spot in a wall, we might not be able to see that with our own eyes but that could be a leak, it could be something where we’ve got some water running down the inside the wall and it’s on the back of the dry wall and you know we may not be able to see that during standard visual home inspections, so the thermal imaging just gives us that extra insight into the property and I like to say it’s the most detailed inspection you can get. So my advice would be if you’re looking for a home inspector try to find somebody who can offer the thermal imaging and if you want the best inspection out there get the thermal imaging package because it’s going to give you that extra insight into the property and most of the time, I’m not going to say all the time, but most of the time it ends up paying for itself in terms of saving you on repair costs.
Mark: So, when you’re looking and finding say a cold spot in a place where it shouldn’t be or a hot spot, but let’s just talk about a cold spot, what does that lead you to look for further, like how does that help you to do a better job?
David: Yeah, it helps us to a better job because we might not have caught that otherwise, you know if I’m walking through with a flash light, looking at your walls and looking at your ceilings and I’m going, you know what, it looks pretty good, I don’t see any signs of moisture coming through the wall, I have no idea if there’s insulation in the wall but with the thermal camera, and I’ll give you an example Mark. A new construction home, the builder asks to get all the insulation in, wheels leave the driveway and all of a sudden these guys leaves the insulation out, falls out, we’ll just give them the benefit of the doubt, we can take an image of that wall and see there’s actually heat loss maybe in one of the stud bays, so we can actually tell, o.k. you may not actually have insulation here, let’s do some further review. In which case we’re going to recommend a contractor come in, so an example would be a house I did in south Surrey a little while ago. They had a vaulted ceiling so there was no attic space to actually see with our eyes so what we did, we thermally scanned that ceiling and sure enough we see a big drip coming right down the middle of the ceiling and it wasn’t showing through the dry wall yet, it was running on the top of the vapour barrier and we recommended a roofer come out and sure enough after they did water test, there was actually water in the ceiling. It was a relatively new roof and they didn’t know it leaked yet and we actually surprised the home owners. They had no idea.
Mark: And it saved the buyers probably a ton of money in terms of not buying something that they would have to repair after the fact.
David: That’s right. I think they save about four or five hundred dollars on that one. It was a failed flashing. The thermal imaging package, I think they paid about 79 bucks for it, so it’s a pretty good return on their investment.
Mark: So does this increase the time it takes you to do an inspection? Like how long does it take?
David: It does, it takes a little bit longer but one of the main things we want to do in order to get a quality thermal image, Mark is to heat up the house or alternately, depending on the outdoor air temperature, we might run the air conditioning and we’re going to run the heating/cooling system to get those interior conditions just right to get the best image possible so that takes a little bit more time, a little bit more intrusive but you know I feel it’s worth it and usually it only adds about thirty minutes to the whole inspection time. In a condominium it might add about fifteen minutes to the whole inspection. It can be done fairly easily and of course the buyers really enjoy seeing it. We take it out and we scan the, in one case a little while ago, we could actually see the dry wall screws everywhere in the ceiling so we can actually tell the nailing pattern that they’ve done and of course we can tell where the joists are; if you want to remove a load bearing wall, we may not know it’s a load bearing wall, we can actually see, o.k. well we’ve got a beam here, we’ve got a couple trusses here and you can actually see the structure of the building. It’s quite cool.
Mark: So how much does it cost?
David: For condominiums, the thermal imaging package is $39 plus tax, in addition to the cost of the inspection, for a home depending on the size it can run anywhere from about $79 to $99 extra for the thermal image package. That includes electrical panel scanning, that includes ceilings, walls, floors; we’re going to check for missing insulation, and there’s a few other important things that we’re going to check for that’s really specific for instance if you have a two story building and you’ve got some bathrooms on the second floor, you’ll notice I actually have some drywall on me right now, we actually just did a thermal scan of a house in Coquitlam this morning and the bathtub had not been used in twenty years, it actually leaked into the ceiling and we scanned of course and we found a big leak in the ceiling, cut it out and water came out. So this is the kind of thing we’re finding with thermal imaging, we have no idea otherwise. They’re saving about a thousand bucks on that one, so the 79 or 99 is a pretty good deal.
Mark: Well I think for me, the money saved is nice but not having the wonderfulness of moving into a brand new home to you, new to you home, and then having all kinds of problems happening that you did not expect, surprise, that takes all the joy out of, hey, we love our new home.
David: That’s right. We try to make the inspection a fun part of the home buying process where, you know what, we are just there to find, to make sure there’s no surprise when you move in and it’s also an education on the house so we’re going to identify the defects plus identify what you do have there, positive points in the house so you have that well rounded knowledge and the biggest things is when you move in there’s no surprise, that’s right.
Mark: Awesome. So, we’ve been talking about thermal imaging and how it helps in home inspections and it sounds like it’s a pretty important part of your tool kit these days. Thanks a lot David.
David: Thanks Mark.
Mark: Talk to you next week.

About the Author DavidFairbairn

Author David Fairbairn is a certified, licensed home inspector serving Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. He has been featured in the media and has contributed to “24” Newspaper, and Global TV.

He has spent years working with residential and commercial building projects, and holds a Power Engineering License in BC.

Why not give him a call for your next Home Inspection?

Call 604 395-2795 or email david@fairbairninspections.com today!

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