Home Inspection: Thermal Imaging for Detecting Moisture Intrusion

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Detecting moisture intrusion problems is one of the main applications for Smith & Smith Home Inspections Murfreesboro using thermal imaging or infrared (IR) cameras.  Moisture intrusion may be identified through a basic visual inspection if it has lead to obvious defects, such as staining or mold growth.  By the time visible evidence is noticeable, however, significant damage may have already been done.  In many cases, moisture or water intrusion may have been developing for a while before obvious signs become apparent.  By employing thermal imaging and a moisture meter, our home inspector can locate moisture issues before they become large problems and lead to serious damage, as well as gather details in cases where moisture intrusion has already become obvious.

Advantage for Home Inspectors, Home Buyers and Home Sellers

Using an infrared camera provides certain advantages in locating moisture problems.  Thermal patterns created by latent moisture become readily apparent when viewed through an IR camera, even when they are not visible to the naked eye.  This is because the thermal camera sees the apparent temperature difference between wet spots and building materials.  Water intrusion and excessive moisture within walls, under floors, and above ceilings will show up in the thermal image.  Water intrusion implies that the house has been compromised somewhere, perhaps through the roof, in the basement, or as the result of a mechanical or plumbing leak.
Thermal imaging helps our Murfreesboro home inspector locate the sources and extent of moisture intrusions.  Here’s a list of its advantages.
  • It allows examination of areas that are not visible to the naked eye.
  • It allows examination of areas that are difficult to access, such as tall ceilings.
  • It allows for larger areas to be examined.
  • It helps locate sources of moisture intrusion.
  • It helps determine the extent of moisture intrusion.
  • It allows the home inspector to trace moisture intrusions through other affected areas.
  • It provides visual documentation of moisture intrusion.

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There are few disadvantages associated with using infrared imaging to locate sources of moisture intrusion.  Your Smith & Smith Home Inspections home inspector is adept at accurately reading images and utilizing the equipment to its fullest capabilities.

We know the importance of using a moisture meter in conjunction with a thermal imaging camera to identify moisture intrusion problems.  Once a potential trouble spot is located through thermal imaging, the problem can be verified with the moisture meter.

Applications for Finding Moisture

Since infrared technology provides so many advantages for inspecting for moisture intrusion, it is applicable in many situations.  Home inspectors benefit by using an IR camera in the following scenarios:

  • during a home inspection, thermal imaging makes apparent any areas of moisture intrusion and/or air leaks in the building envelope;
  • after a water-damage event, such as a flood or pipe rupture, thermal imaging can help document the scope of the damage, as well as find affected areas that may not be immediately obvious;
  • behind finished basement walls, inspectors can view inside for moisture in a non-intrusive way;
  • if an in-slab water supply or waste line is suspected of leaking;
  • when windows, doors or other openings are suspected as points of moisture and/or air intrusion, thermal imaging can help confirm such suspicions;
  • to help identify wet spots in insulation;
  • to locate hidden leaks under resilient flooring; and
  • to find wet areas in inaccessible spots, such as a narrow crawlspace and inside ductwork.

thermal imaging home inspection murfreesboro tn

Home Inspections with Infrared Cameras and Moisture Meters

At the beginning of a Smith & Smith Home Inspection, getting oriented with the interior to be inspected is immediately helpful.  Knowing the general layout of the house can help determine where to start inspecting.  Exterior walls should be noted in relation to shared walls, as well as areas of the floor above.  Is the bottom of a basement wall above or below grade?  Is there a deck above the room being inspected?  Is there a roof above the room being inspected?  Is there another room above the room being inspected?  What part of the room being inspected is a likely point for moisture intrusion?  Taking such factors into account can help determine the obvious areas to start inspecting with a thermal camera.

After identifying the areas that are most at-risk for moisture intrusion, along with any visual evidence, such as staining, discoloration,  and/or apparent wet spots, the surfaces can be scanned with a thermal camera to locate the source of problems.  Since the apparent temperature of wet spots will be lower than that of building materials, moisture will be visible through thermal imaging as dark areas.  After a potential problem is located, it can be confirmed with a moisture meter.  An issue can then be documented by saving an infrared image alongside a digital photo to include with a description of the problem in the home inspection report.

Our home inspector keeps in mind that a house is a dynamic system, made up of many components that are all interconnected and interactive.  Leakage or moisture intrusion at one point will likely affect other areas as it moves or grows.  Smith & Smith Home Inspections pays attention to what other areas are at risk downstream from the point of a moisture intrusion.  For example, if an upstairs toilet is found to be leaking, the ceiling area in the room below it should be examined.  Using thermal imaging, all the areas affected by leaks or moisture at a specific location can often be traced down the line and documented, giving a fuller picture of the nature and extent of the issue.

Important Areas Smith & Smith Home Inspectors Check

Thermal imaging can be employed effectively to find moisture:
  • in the kitchen around the sink, under the dishwasher, behind the refrigerator, and under the cooking range, as well as around vents and exhaust fans;
  • in bathrooms around plumbing fixtures and outlets, shower and bathtub enclosures, fixtures and vents, the toilet and bidet, and windows;
  • the HVAC system;
  • the water heater;
  • in the attic, including roof pass-throughs and penetrations, connecting walls, vents and fans, and recessed lights;
  • in the basement, including walls, ductwork and crawlspaces;
  • in the laundry area around the washer and dryer hookups, drip pans and exhaust vents, as well as utility sinks.

Using a thermal camera in conjunction with a moisture meter allows problem areas to be located and documented easily in our home inspection reports.  Thermal imaging can also help determine if insulation is lacking or deficient, help determine if electrical systems are overloaded or overheating, help determine if there are leaks or defects with the roof, and help determine defects with the HVAC system.

Call/Text/Email Smith & Smith Home Inspections for detailed professional inspections and the most accurate radon monitoring in Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Lebanon, Mt. Juliet, Shelbyville, Manchester, McMinnville, Columbia, Nashville & the Greater Middle Tennessee Area.

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