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Thermographic (Infrared Thermal Imaging) Services

Michael Thomas did the miraculous; he located the source of a roof leak from a second floor deck which eluded my General Contractor and several other experts for six years. Using some high tech gear but mostly systematic reasoning, he did what others could not. His skills would make Sherlock Holmes envious. — Paul Barker, Evanston Illinois

A quick overview of my thermal imaging services

The objective of my infrared inspections is to save properly owners, buyers and managers time, money and aggravation by providing a method of identifying and diagnosing a wide variety of common building defects without have to tear open roofs, walls, ceilings or other building structures or components. (This called non-destructive testing).

I provide basic thermal imaging services as a standard feature of my general home inspections, and my condominium and other property inspections. Click on the top image at left for additional information abut my use of infrared imaging at home inspections.

Thermal imaging is also an important component of my Moisture Intrusion Detection (Leak Detection) and Diagnosis Services .

I also provide additional specific non-destructive infrared inspection services to meet the needs of property owners, condominium, town home and coop associations, investors, real estate professions, builders and contractors, attorneys, lenders, insurance companies, municipal building departments and community development authorities and other interested parties.

Click on any image at left to learn more about my specialized services, or just scroll down the page to discover the many ways that Thermography can save you time, money and aggravation by by nondestructivly locating and diagnosing a wide variety of building problems.

How does thermal imaging work?

Making the invisible visible

Infrared thermography (also called thermal imaging or infrared imaging ) is a process by which infrared radiation from an object can be measured or imaged using a special type of digital camera which translates the infrared image of the object (which is not visible to the human eye) into an image on a LCD display.

Visualizing temperature differences

In many cases the infrared radiation received by the camera corresponds in a fairly straightforward way with the temperature of the surface(s) being imaged.

Thermal imaging of building structures and components is useful because it allows a thermographer to visualize temperature differences between two different materials or between two different areas of the same material.

Patterns of temperature differences can be clues to construction or maintenance problems

Often patterns of temperature difference allow the thermographer to understand the the causes of the difference, and diagnose defects causing them.

For example, one of the common uses of infrared technology is to located and diagnose known or suspected water leaks at roofs, attics, chimneys, ceilings, walls, foundation and other areas of a building, or water leaks from plumbing fixtures, pipes and other water sources.

This is possible because a wetter area or surface may at a different tempeature than adjoining areas, for example because it is being cooled by evaporating moisture. A thermal image of the surface may graphically highlight the difference, allowing the thermographer to determine that the area is likely wetter, verify the presence of moisture using other tools such as moisture meters, and then in investigate the reason for the increased moisture.

In this example a small — about 4F — difference in surface temperature is readily visualized in an infrared image.

In the the image to the left a wetter area of the ceiling is cooler than adjoining areas because it is being cooled by evaporating moisture.

The thermal image of this surface graphically highlights the temperature difference, and the thermograqpher can infer that the cooler areas are likely wetter, and then verify and investigate the reason for the difference.

However, thermal imaging can be misleading

While the image at left is relatively easy to interpret, it is important to understand that in other cases the information provided by thermal imaging can be useless or even misleading unless the thermographer has the training, skill and experience to understand what they are seeing. For example a wet material may be warmer than surrounding areas early in the evening because the wetter area is retaining more heat than surrounding materials.

Successful use of thermal imaging to evaluate building problems depends as much or more on the skill and judgment of the observer as on the type or quality of equipment used — every competent thermographer has an infrared camera, but not everyone with an infrared camera is a competent thermographer!

Working together — Visual inspection, infrared imaging, and direct moisture measurement

Because thermal imaging by itself can be misleading, it is usually used in connection with visual observation and other types of direct moisture measuring tools such moisture meters to identify and evaluate water leaks and other building construction and maintained defects.

For example in the picture below a property’s owners believed that roofing repairs had eliminated previous leaks, and the prospective buyer wanted to know if all leaks had been eliminated — and if he repairs were adequate to prevent the leaks from reoccurring:

Below the roof in the picture at left, at the ceiling of the entry and living room, there was extensive patching and painting that was likely the result of repairs of water damage caused by a leak above. (This picture shows only around 20% of the repairs, which extended across the entire living and dining area).

Prior to the introduction of infrared imaging surveys, the only way to check for still active water leaks would have been to spot check a representative number of areas with a moisture meter.

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