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Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

Home Inspection topics in the Twin Cities area

By Reuben Saltzman | Home Inspector in Minneapolis, MN
  • I'm thankful for closed-cell foam insulation. Yeah, that's right.

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate in Maple Grove, Going Green in Maple Grove, Property Q&A in Maple Grove  |  November 22, 2011 3:07 AM  |  2,628 views  |  2 comments

    Yes, you read that right.  I'm thankful for closed cell foam insulation.  Of course, I'm thankful for my family, health, and all that other jazz, but this is a blog about home inspections and home related topics, so I'm going to stay focused on that.  To fully explain why I'm so thankful for closed cell foam insulation, I first need to complain about my house a little bit.

    My thirteen-year-old Maple Grove house has an unfinished basement with a walkout; this means about half of the basement walls have a poured concrete foundation, and the other half, the part that's above grade, has conventional 2x6 wood framing.  The foundation walls are insulated at the exterior with rigid foam; this is a great way to insulate a foundation, because it means that the concrete walls will be relatively warm, and the potential for condensation problems will be minimized.  If you want to read more about foundation insulation methods, click this link - foundation insulation.

    Fiberglass insulationThe stud walls, on the other hand, were insulated the same way as 99.9% of the houses in Minnesota - with fiberglass batts.  Yuck.  While this is the standard way to insulate a wall, it's also probably the worst acceptable way to insulate a wall.  The photo at right gives a great example of how fiberglass batts are installed incorrectly all the time; just look at those gaps around the junction box.  I've already dedicated a blog to complaining about fiberglass batts, so enough on that topic.

    In addition to having fiberglass batts for insulation, the vapor barrier in my basement was basically useless.  Here's how a vapor barrier is supposed to work: to prevent air from passing through the fiberglass insulation and creating moisture problems in the wall, a vapor barrier gets installed.  This consists of 6 mil polyethylene sheeting (aka 'poly', aka 'Visqueen') that has been made airtight; that means caulked, overlapped, sealed, taped, etc.  On a home built today, this will be done quite well.  On a house that's thirteen years old... no way.  The vapor barrier will probably be just about useless.

    Unsealed vapor barriers create heat loss.  Just thirteen years ago, vapor barrier were never sealed. It was standard practice to just use a stapler to throw the poly on the walls and leave everything completely unsealed.  This practice allows for air to constantly circulate within the fiberglass insulation, creating a convective loop, which means a lot of heat gets lost through the walls.

    I have my 'office' set up in my unfinished basement, so I spend a lot of time in the basement.  During the winter it gets very cold in my basement, despite the fact that I have 2x6 walls filled with fiberglass insulation.  Last winter I kept an electric space heater under my desk to keep my toes from turning in to icicles.

    rim joist insulationFiberglass should never be used at rim spaces.  The rim space is the area between the floors of a house; this is an area where it's nearly impossible to install a proper vapor barrier.  Without a vapor barrier, condensation can occur at the rim space, creating mold growth or eventually rotting out the rim space.  This is why fiberglass insulation should never be used here.  On new homes, it never is.  The only type of insulation that gets used on new construction homes in Minnesota is closed cell spray foam insulation; we'll come back to that in a minute.

    Unsealed vapor barriers can lead to mold growth.  When a vapor barrier isn't sealed and air is allowed to freely pass through the wall, what happens when warm, moist air hits a cold surface?  It condenses.  My basement stays relatively cool and dry throughout the year, so the vapor drive is really happening from the exterior during the summer.  The walkout part of my basement faces south, so this part of the house is where I have the greatest temperature differential between the exterior and interior of the walls.

    During the summer, as humid outdoor air passes through my walls and hits the relatively cool vapor barrier, the moisture condenses.  This summer there was never enough moisture to actually drip down to the floor, but it was enough to leave drip marks in the insulation and allow mold to start growing between the insulation and the vapor barrier.  This wasn't major and I don't have mold allergies, so I wasn't too whipped up about this... but I couldn't allow this to continue.

    Mold in fiberglass batts Mold in fiberglass batts 2

    Enter closed-cell spray foam insulation.  To address all of the insulation, mold, and vapor barrier issues at the same time, I had the wood framed walls in my basement completely re-insulated about three weeks ago.  I had the vapor barriers removed, all of the fiberglass insulation removed, and closed cell foam sprayed in to the walls and rim spaces.

    Foamed walls

    I love it.  Closed cell foam acts as a perfect vapor barrier after 2", it doesn't allow for convection, and it has a much higher insulating value than fiberglass.  Now when I walk down to my basement, I don't feel a drastic change in temperature; my basement is only about two degrees cooler than the rest of my house.  I can sit here at the computer without a space heater, and I no longer freeze my toes off.  Life is good.

    Having foam insulation sprayed in to the walls was expensive, but it was worth every penny.  Will I ever get a payback in energy savings?  I'm not sure.  I didn't even bother to check the numbers, because my main motivation for this project was comfort.  Saving energy and not having mold growing inside the wall cavities is just a bonus.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - Email- Maple Grove Home Inspector

            

  • Removing Those Ugly Black Roof Stains

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Maple Grove, Home Selling in Maple Grove, Property Q&A in Maple Grove  |  November 1, 2011 3:33 AM  |  2,492 views  |  No comments

    If you have nasty black stains on your asphalt shingle roof, don't worry.  The black staining won't damage the shingles, and it won't make your roof leak.  This black staining is typically caused by an algae, and usually shows up on areas of the roof that don't get much sunlight, such as the north side.

    Black roof stains

    Garden SprayerIf you don't like the look of these stains, you can clean your roof with some basic supplies that you probably already have at home.  Simply mix up a solution of two parts water to one part bleach in a garden sprayer.  Spray down the affected areas of your roof with this solution, let the solution soak for about ten minutes, and then  spray the cleaning solution off your roof with a garden hose.

    For this blog, I started by cleaning a small section of the roof and letting the shingles dry, just to get a good photo showing how effective this is.

    Black roof stains cleaned

    A few precautions:

    • Protect your lungs.  Bleach is nasty stuff, and you'll get it in the air when you spray it with the garden sprayer.  Wear a respirator.
    • Watch where you spray the cleaning solution.  The solution won't harm your shingles, but you could certainly do damage to other surfaces or people if you're not careful.
    • Wear grubby clothes.  If you get this solution on your clothes, you'll ruin 'em.
    • Protect your vegetation.  If the cleaning solution will run off the roof on to your plants, you should cover them up with tarps or something similar.
    • Be careful on a ladder, and don't walk on the roof.  This is 'no-duh' advice, but I'm saying it anyways.  Even if you're used to walking on your roof, it will get very slippery once the bleach interacts with the algae, and you could easily slide off the roof.
    Some people get whipped up over the topic of bleach.  If you don't like the idea of using bleach, you could buy a product made for cleaning roofs, such as RoofOX 3000.  I've heard good reviews, but never tried this stuff personally.

    Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - Email- Minnesota Home Inspections

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  • Conducting Your Own Deck Inspections

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Maple Grove, Remodel & Renovate in Maple Grove, Property Q&A in Maple Grove  |  May 3, 2011 3:18 AM  |  1,842 views  |  No comments

    As I'm sure you already know, May is Deck Safety Month, so it's a good time to talk about deck inspections.  Is your own deck safe?  Now is the time to check.  If you're going to have a party or a large gathering, you better be sure.  The best way to be sure is to pack as many people on to your deck at one time as you possibly can, and have them bounce up and down all at once.  If your deck doesn't collapse, it's safe.

    Collapsed Deck
    Ok, that's a joke.  Seriously, the best way to know about your deck is to have it professionally inspected. As I've said before, building a deck and replacing a water heater are two of the most common projects that get royally screwed up by DIYers on a regular basis.  If you're not keen on hiring a home inspector or carpenter to check out your deck, there are still a few basic things that you can look for yourself.

    Improper attachment to the house

    The most common reason for deck collapses is improper attachment at the house.  That's what happened with the deck pictured above.  If the deck is supported by the house, it should be attached with bolts, lag screws, SDS screws, or some other similar method.  The photo below shows proper attachment with lag screws, which I've circled in black.  This is the most common deck ledgerboard attachment method.  If you look at the deck attachment to your house and all you see are nails or small screws, you have a problem.

    Lag Screws

    Improper flashing at the house

    There should always be flashing installed above the top of the ledgerboard - that piece of wood that attaches the deck to the house.  The purpose of the flashing is to keep water from leaking in behind the deck at the house and causing rot.  Here in Minnesota, painted galvanized steel is pretty much the standard way to flash the ledgerboard.

    To determine if the ledgerboard is flashed, just take a peek underneath the deck.  If you can see a piece of metal sticking out over the edge of the ledgerboard from underneath, you know that flashing is present.  This doesn't mean it was installed properly, but you should at least feel a little bit better knowing it's there. If installed properly, this flashing will extend up underneath the siding.  The photo below shows what you should see if the flashing is properly installed; I drew a black rectangle around it.

    Ledgerboard flashing

    If there is no flashing present, there will be a much higher chance for water instrusion and rotting.

    Improper joist hanger installation

    Joist HangerJoist hangers are those metal brackets that attach the deck joists to the house and beams.  The manufacturers of joist hangers are very specific about how joist hangers should be installed; they specify exactly which nails should be installed, and exactly how much weight the joist hangers will support when installed properly.   Here are a few defects that I regularly find with joist hangers:

    • Missing nails.  Nails are supposed to be installed in every hole.
    • Improper joist hanger nails.  I find improper joist hanger nails on almost every deck.  If you can see a little "10" on the head of the nail, it's probably the wrong nail.  Click the link above for more details on this defect.
    • Screws used instead of nails.  Screws don't have nearly the shear strength of nails, and they're not an acceptable substitute.  Well, there's one screw I know of that's an acceptable substitute, but I've never actually see it installed.  Joist hanger screw
    • Altered joist hangers.  Joist hangers shouldn't be bent or cut.

    Rot

    Get a screwdriver and poke around your deck looking for rot.  The area that usually rots first is the place where two deck boards butt up against each other over a joist.  Pay special attention to that location.  If your deck doesn't have the aforementioned ledgerboard flashing, you should also pay special attention to the place where the deck connects to the house.  This video shows me inspecting a rotted deck in Minnesota last year.

    Improper stairway attachment

    The best way to attach a stairway stringer to a deck is to use a metal bracket that's designed just for this purpose.  The photo below left shows a proper bracket for a stairway stringer.  This bracket isn't the only way to properly attach a stairway stringer, but it's probably the best way.  The photo below right shows an improper installation; they used a joist hanger bracket, and only managed to get a couple nails in the entire bracket.  Not cool, and not uncommon.

    Stairway Stringer Bracket Improper stairway stringer attachment

    Guardrail problems

    Guardrails should be strong.  If you can push on the top of your guardrail and it moves a couple inches, it's not strong enough; guardrails should be able to withstand 200 lbs of pressure along the top rail in any direction.  While this may seem like a lot, just think about a group of people leaning against a guardrail while heavyset guy who's had three too many mint juleps falls against the guardrail.  If a guardrail is supported only with 2x2 balusters, it's probably way too weak and should be reinforced.  You can read more about this topic at my blog about guardrail requirements.

    Also, the current requirement for guardrails is that the balusters be spaced so that a 4" sphere can't pass through.  This is a requirement so little kids don't get their heads stuck.  Common sense also tells you that you don't want horizontal balusters that little kids can climb like a ladder, but there's nothing in the building code that prohibits this design.

    That makes up my list of the most common deck defects that you can look for yourself.  This isn't a comprehensive list, but it's a great starting point.  If you'd like a comprehensive but much less user-friendly list of things to look for while conducting your own deck inspection, you can download a deck inspection checklist from the North American Deck and Railing Association.

    Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - Email- Minnesota Deck Inspections

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  • The Dirt On Expensive Furnace Filters

    Posted Under: Property Q&A in Maple Grove  |  March 15, 2011 3:01 AM  |  982 views  |  No comments

    Are super expensive furnace filters really worth the extra money?

    Ultra Allergen FilterThe main job of a furnace filter is to keep big stuff from getting in to the furnace's heat exchanger or the air conditioner's air coil and clogging things up with dust, pet hair, and other big stuff.  They're not intended to purify the air you breathe.  Furnace filters protect equipment; not people.

    Manufacturers of furnace filters would have you believe otherwise (big surprise).  The most expensive disposable filters that I commonly see are the Best 1" Air Filters made by 3M. These filters are marketed as being able to

    "help attract and capture allergens from the air passing through the filter including mold spores, pollen, pet dander, dust, smoke, smog particles and particles that carry bacteria and viruses."

    Sure.  I'll buy that.  I'm sure these filters do a great job of preventing all those things from passing through the filter. There is no claim made, even by 3M, to improve indoor air quality.  Up until recently, these filters were sold as "Ultra Allergen" filters, but they've recently changed their wording.  I don't know when this change happened, but I'm sure it was quite recent - you can still purchase "Ultra Allergen" filters on Amazon.

    If you want to improve indoor air quality, try something else. Expensive furnace filters have been proven to have a very small effect on indoor air quality.  There is plenty of anecdotalevidence out there that says expensive filters will solve all of your indoor air quality problems, but I haven't been able to find a single study backing these claims.

    The problem with expensive furnace filters is the amount of air flow that gets restricted when they get dirty.  As I mentioned in my blog about the importance of changing your furnace filter, reduced air flow can actually lead to premature failure of your furnace, besides costing you more in heating bills.  This can also lead to service calls on your furnace.  Furnaces come equipped with heat sensors that will shut the furnace down if the heat exchanger gets too hot, and the main cause of this is insufficient air flow.

    StanleyAt my own house, I use a cheap pleated filter.  It's reinforced with steel wire on one side and will last for up to 90 days.  I have a German Shepherd (Stanley) who sheds like crazy, so I change my filter a little more often - about once every 60 days.  I don't like the super-cheap fiberglass filters because they seem to let too much stuff through, and I'm concerned that the air coil would get gunked up with all that dust that would still come through.

    My recommendation is to skip those super-expensive furnace filters.  I think they're a waste of money.

    Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - Email - Maple Grove Home Inspections

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  • Thinking of adding more insulation to your attic? Read this first.

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate in Maple Grove, Going Green in Maple Grove, Property Q&A in Maple Grove  |  February 15, 2011 3:01 AM  |  1,508 views  |  6 comments

    If you're tired of dealing with ice dams and you've decided to finally get your attic re-insulated, please read this first.  You might save yourself a lot of time and money.

    Over the past two months, a large portion of my business has been ice dam inspections in Minnesota.   For most of these inspections, I was hired to determine the cause of the ice dams and to recommend a solution.

    I feel extremely fortunate to have spent the past two months doing this.  During this time, I've dug through a ridiculous amount of insulation in attics.   I've come home with itching arms, neck, cheeks, and red eyes (I'm pretty sure fiberglass insulation was invented by a very evil person).  Most importantly, I've learned quite a bit about attics.

    I'd like to share the complaints I've heard from homeowners, what I've learned, and what I've recommended.  My goal is to help homeowners benefit from my experience.

    What I've Heard

    I had more insulation added to my attic after last winter, but the ice dams are just as bad as they were last year, if not worse!

    I heard versions of this statement over and over from frustrated homeowners.  Just adding more insulation typically won't fix ice dam problems.  I'll come back to this.

    I just had a new roof installed, and the roofer said they laid down a rubber membrane going six feet up.  Obviously my roofer is a liar, because if they really had laid down a rubber membrane like they said, my roof wouldn't be leaking.

    I've heard so many versions of this!  The 'rubber membrane' that everyone refers to is actually an underlayment that's commonly referred to as an ice and water shield.  This underlayment is required by the Minnesota State Building Code; it must be installed underneath the shingles and "extend from the eave's edge to a point at least 24 inches inside the exterior wall line of the building."  This stuff comes in a three foot roll, and roofers usually have to lay down two layers of it to get 24" inside the exterior wall line, so it's usually six feet.

    Ice and water shield will not prevent roof leakage from ice dams. Ice dams can cause leaks above the underlayment, or even right through the underlayment; I've seen it happen.  According to Certainteed, the manufacturer of Winterguard underlayment, it "provides your first line of defense."  It's not a guarantee against leaks.

    If you have ice dams and your roof leaks during the winter, don't blame your roofer.  I can almost guarantee you that it has nothing to do with the way your roof was installed.

    Why do I live in Minnesota?

    This last weekend was a great reminder of why we live in Minnesota.  The temperature shoots up to 40 degrees and it feels like summer is around the corner.

    What I've Learned

    Gutters don't cause ice dams. Ok, I always knew this, but I've noticed plenty of ice dams with no gutters this year.  Ice dams will show up whether gutters are installed or not.  I mention this because I actually heard a 'professional' guest on a local radio show say that gutters cause ice dams, and that homes without gutters won't get ice dams.  I'm sorry, but that just ain't true.  You should have seen me 'calmly' disagreeing with my radio when I heard this.

    Ice dam with no gutters 3

    Ventilation has little to do with ice dams. I'm sure I'll get plenty of indignant feedback for this blasphemous statement.  I've always been taught that you won't get ice dams if you have enough ventilation, and I even used to preach this myself.  This is a concept that is deeply ingrained in the minds of contractors, roofers, and home inspectors everywhere.

    Nevertheless, from all of the houses I've been to, I've seen little to no relationship between attic ventilation and ice dams.  Sure, attic ventilation is required.  Attic ventilation will help to cool the attic space, which helps to cool the roof decking, which helps to prevent snow melt, which helps to prevent ice dams... but this is a very small part of the equation.

    The Minnesota Department of Commerce lists attic ventilation as a non-solution to ice dams.  The University of Minnesota Extension says that "only small amounts of roof ventilation are needed to maintain uniform roof surface temperatures."

    Adding more ventilation probably won't change your ice dam problems.  Shoveling the snow off your roof vents probably won't change your ice dam problems.

    Adding more insulation to your attic probably won't fix your ice dam problems. As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, I've been to a ridiculous number of houses this winter where insulation was added, but the problems didn't go away.

    If an attic lacks insulation, it's probably an older attic.  Not always, but usually.  If it's an older attic, it's pretty much a guarantee that there are attic bypasses present.  Attic bypasses are passageways for warm air to get in to the attic, and they're the driving force behind ice dams.  In almost every home that I inspected this winter, attic bypasses were at the root of the ice dams, regardless of how much insulation was present.  Through the use of an infrared camera, I've learned that insulation can't make up for air leakage.

    It doesn't matter how much insulation is present in an attic; if there are air leaks, warm air will pass through traditional insulation.  The images below help to illustrate this; this was a very small attic bypass, but it still shows up plain as day through 14" of loose fill fiberglass and another 4" of cellulose on top of that.  I have hundreds of image sequences just like this.

    Attic bypass

    Recessed lights are huge contributors to ice dams. I recently wrote about this in another blog - Recessed Lights Are Evil.

    What I've Recommended

    I've recommended the same thing over and over; seal the attic bypasses.  They're the main cause of the ice dams.  When insulation has already been added to an attic space, this becomes an extremely difficult, if not impossible chore.  To access and seal the attic bypasses, you first need to know where they are.  When they're buried under one to two feet of insulation... forget it.

    An experienced insulation contractor might be good enough at their job to know where to look for most of the attic bypasses, and could spend their time digging through the insulation to find most of them, but without completely removing the existing insulation, there is no way to seal all of them.

    In most cases, I've told homeowners that they can hire an experienced insulation contractor to seal up all of the attic bypasses that they can find, and to keep their fingers crossed.  This will probably be enough to prevent leakage from ice dams again, and it will be a good repair, but not complete.  For a complete repair, all of the existing insulation needs to be removed so all of the attic bypasses can be located and sealed.

    If you're going to have insulation added to your attic, be sure to seal the attic bypasses first.

    Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - Email - Maple Grove Home Inspections

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  • Recessed Lights Are Evil

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate in Maple Grove, Design & Decor in Maple Grove, In My Neighborhood in Maple Grove  |  February 1, 2011 3:50 AM  |  2,039 views  |  1 comment

    I love recessed lights, but even the best ones create a ridiculous amount of heat in attics, which can lead to ice dams.  Until I started performing infrared inspections in attics, I never quite grasped how much heat recessed lights contributed to attics, but now my eyes are wide open.  The main problem I find with recessed lights is that they're not insulated well enough; on a recent home inspection in Maple Grove, I found a home with forty-six recessed lights sticking up in to the attic, along with some wicked ice dams on the roof.

    A standard recessed light will stick up in to the attic about seven inches.  If an attic has fourteen inches of  loose fill fiberglass insulation, how much insulation does that leave on top of the recessed light?  Hang on, let me get my calculator...

    At any rate, there's far less insulation above recessed lights than anywhere else in the attic, and these are the areas that get the hottest, so they should really have more insulation than anywhere else in the attic.   Unfortunately, that neverhappens.  The combination of minimal insulation and hot light fixtures shows up clear as day using an infrared camera.

    Recessed Light in attic with IR overlay

    The images above show how much heat is leaking through the insulation above an IC rated, airtight recessed light with a 75-watt incandescent bulb.  IC rated means that it's safe to have insulation directly in contact with the light, but it's not synonymous with airtight.  You can usually tell if a recessed light is airtight just by looking inside it; if there are a bunch of holes inside the housing, it probably isn't airtight.

    Non-airtight recessed light

    If you can see light pouring through on the attic side, it's definitely not airtight.  All of these little holes in the housing are passageways for heated air to escape in to the attic; they're called attic bypasses.

    Non-airtight recessed light

    Having said all this, I don't think recessed lights are truly 'evil', but they sure can cause a lot of problems, and there seems to be very little understanding of this in the building trades.   Here's what you can do to prevent problems:

    If you plan to install recessed lights that are going to protrude in to your attic, make sure they're airtight, IC-rated lights.  After the lights are installed, be sure to double down on the amount of insulation above the lights; you're gonna need it.

    If you already have airtight recessed lights in your home, you probably need way more insulation installed on top of them.  This is usually quite simple to do, but without an infrared camera, it might take a little time to locate all the lights.

    If you already have non-airtight recessed lights sticking up in to your attic, don't worry; there's a fix for this.   Simply construct an airtight box out of rigid foam insulation, and 'glue' it together with spray foam.

    Insulated Box

    Now place this airtight box over the offending recessed light in your attic, and use a bunch more expanding foam to seal it up and make it completely airtight.   Not only will this prevent air leakage from around the light, but it will dramatically increase the insulation level above the light.  While the box pictured below is the ugliest box I've ever seen (I built it), it's still very effective at preventing heat loss.

    Insulated box over recessed light

    If constructing and installing insulated boxes throughout your attic seems like too much work, you could always replace any standard incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lights; they produce far less heat, they're easy to install, and you'll start saving money on your electricity bills.

    Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - Email - Maple Grove Home Inspections

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  • What An Infrared Camera Can Do For Your Home Inspection

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Maple Grove  |  January 25, 2011 3:13 AM  |  909 views  |  No comments

    We've been using an infrared camera at random home inspections for the past several months, and we've decided that this is by far the coolest home inspection tool in the world.  It's also pretty useful.  Today I'm going to share some of the problems we've been able to identify with this camera that we might not have identified without.

    Roof Leaks

    With all of the ice dam inspections we've done in the last month, we've looked at a ton of leaking houses.  For each photo in the series below, I made a duplicate of the original image, then overlaid the thermal image on top of the original.  It's pretty easy to identify the wet areas in the thermal images, but they're not apparent in the original photos.

    All of the homes shown below had roof leaks from ice dams.

    IR Image - water leak 1

    IR Image - water leak 2

    IR Image - water leak 3

    IR Image - water leak 4

    IR Image - water leak 5

    IR Image - water leak 6

    IR Image - water leak 7

    IR Image - water leak 8

    IR Image - water leak 9

    IR Image - water leak 10

    I could share more, but I'm pretty sure I've made my point.  Thermal imaging can be used to find roof leaks.  The one caveat to finding roof leaks is that the conditions have to be right; if it's a hot summer day and there hasn't been any rain for a week, forget it.

    Hot Spots In Attics

    Warm attics cause snow to melt, which is what causes ice dams.  I've found an infrared camera to be invaluable while troubleshooting the causes of ice dams.

    The photo below shows a warm spot in an attic that I never would have identified without an infrared camera.  The culprit was a flush-mounted light fixture with light bulbs that had too high of a wattage.  I don't make a habit of taking apart light fixtures to check the wattage on light bulbs, but I'll do it if something tips me off.

    IR Image - warm attic

    Uninsulated ductwork in an attic is also a problem; the heat loss is quite obvious with an infrared camera.  The photo below came from an attic with an insulation value of R-60.  Who would have thought it?

    IR Image - uninsulated ductwork

    Recessed lights are a huge contributor to warm attics, whether they're airtight or not.  I'll be writing a blog about this soon.

    IR Image - recessed light2

    Improper Insulation

    This is one of the most obvious uses for an infrared camera.   The photo below shows an attic access panel that wasn't properly insulated.

    IR Image - attic panel

    This next image shows an interior wall that was very cold, because there was a missing section of insulation in the attic behind this wall.

    IR Image - cold wall

    The photo below shows the same section of wall, as seen from inside the attic.

    Attic Insulation 3

    In the photo below, there is an obvious cold spot where the insulation was missed or improperly installed.

    IR Image - missing insulation

    Heating Systems

    If a radiator doesn't heat up properly, it will be quite obvious with an infrared camera.  The photo below shows a radiator working properly; while I'm not demonstrating a problem here, I just thought this was a cool image to include :)

    IR Image - radiator

    If there are voids or leaks in heating tubes for in-floor, in-wall, or in-ceiling heat, an infrared camera will probably find them.  The photo below shows an inconsequential gap in the tubing at this heated ceiling.

    IR Image - ceiling heat

    I'm sure I'll have plenty more interesting photos to share as the months go on, but these photos should help to answer the question everyone asks: "Why would I want an infrared scan with my home inspection?"

    For the record, one thing we don't offer and never will offer is infrared scans on stucco homes in lieu of invasive testing.  I'll have more on that topic another day.

    Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - Email - Maple Grove Home Inspections

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