Infrared Cameras

A little bit about Infrared Cameras and Home Inspection.
Just a few things to clear the air or your mind about Infrared Cameras. First off Infrared camera or Thermal camera are the same thing, it’s taking pictures simply based on temperature. It’s not X-ray vision as some have been led to believe. So we are taking pictures based on temperature, what’s important here is to realize that the camera operates on a reflective principle meaning we are simply creating an image based on the temperature at the surface of the material photographed. The use of infrared in home inspection is valuable but not infallible. We can look for missing insulation, moisture intrusion, air leaks etc. but all these situations have limitations with infrared cameras. Moisture is probably the most misunderstood relationship with infrared. When moisture is on a surface evaporation is taking place which means a lower temperature in that area due to air currents moving around in that localized area. This will give us an image indicating a cooler spot. Great we think we found a problem, but wait an AC duct behind a wall will also give us a cooler spot. So the first part after the image is taken is to interpret what we are seeing. Also there are other issues to be considered. If we are looking at a finished basement wall trying to find moisture and if the vapor barrier is well installed with no holes and well sealed we can have moisture behind the vapor barrier (towards the exterior) with no migration to the interior. Now we have no evaporation taking place therefore no temperature difference and no cold spot on the infrared image. I’m trying to give you a small snapshot of how infrared works in a Home Inspection application. Infrared cameras are valuable tools, I personally love my camera a wouldn’t be with out one. However there are limits to its use and results. This is why in my opinion an infrared camera is a necessary tool to have but not valid to charge more for an inspection just because I use this tool. Some inspectors are charging up to 40% more because they are using an infrared camera. I can’t justify this when although useful infrared is not a guarantee to find hidden defects. Lastly if you choose and inspection and inspector who uses an infrared camera make sure he has the training to use the camera. The interpretation of the images are critical to any value of this tool.

Are we busy

In general most home inspectors aren’t busy which many of us are somewhat perplexed and bewildered. You would think we would be running off our feet with the state of the real estate market in the GTA. The reason we aren’t is that multiple offer situations often necessitate removal of the request for an inspection in order to make the offer to purchase more appealing. Its becoming the norm to say an offer must go in clean with no conditions. This of course in my eyes is a huge risk and I won’t even  touch on the financial aspect of this. Going without an inspection is a risky adventure for most and extremely risky if you are the type who has contractors complete all of your home maintenance and repairs. For those who are not savy on home systems and components a home inspection  not only looks for major defects but also provides maintenance tips and insight into what may be coming up in the future. It actually is the second opinion on upcoming work to be completed.

A small snapshot of this would be this kind of inspection comment on a deck for example- ” Deck is currently stable but does not comply with current codes” This doesn’t sound like much but means a lot. The deck isn’t failing and is sound but the building code has changed and is changing all the time. With decks for example all must be built today with 6×6 posts and permanent foundations. There are many decks  that have 4×4 posts and deck blocks that work quite well. Deck blocks may require a little more maintenance but can work quite well. Lets say that you plan to increase the size of the deck, maybe add a second level. The relationship to a contractor is that he may state “that deck isn’t to code and you need to rip it off and start over” . What the inspection provided you with is a second opinion that “we know it doesn’t meet the current building code but it is stable, safe and works just fine”. Therefore no “I’m not starting over all I want is to build and extension onto the deck not rebuild the whole thing”.  That is just an example of the benefit of a home inspection beyond looking for major defects and deficiencies.

So now back to the real estate situation where we can’t put the inspection clause in the offer. You can work around this by doing an inspection before putting in the offer, often the seller may allow this and then you have the comfort of knowing more about your purchase if you get into bidding type situation. You can do an inspection after you take possession so you at least know what to look out for or what you need to prepare financially to repair.

At the end of the day many people don’t want spend the $400.00 average inspection price in case they don’t get the home.  With todays home prices that money may not even be one quarter of one mortgage payment. In my eyes why wouldn’t you get an inspection. Even if  you don’t get the home its a 3 hour education session you can take with to your next offer.