We Can Not Confirm Or Deny

Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

One of the most difficult aspects of inspections is trying to confirm information. Most times it merely can not be done. There are a plethora of reasons why validating data is so difficult or even impossible in the context of a two to three hour inspection. Mostly it has to do with time and location. I don't have the luxury of time to spend in the location to make a better determination. So what I am forced to do is make educated assumptions (man I hate that word), based on the information at hand and my own experience. What I am able to do is gather as much information as possible using all tools at my disposal.

I have been jokingly referred to as Inspector Gadget or the guy with all the tools. For me tools are a means of obtaining information. I hate to find a potential issue and not be able to give at least a fairly good assessment to my clients, however if I just don't know, I will admit it. Trying to pull some theory out of your rear end can put said behind in hot water somewhere down the road. It's always best to be honest as much as it hurts.

One particular aspect of my inspection business where confirmation is extremely important is when conducting infrared scanning.Water or air?

First off in spite of how infrared images appear, they are not x-rays looking into objects. Infrared shows the surface temperatures of objects. The IR camera does not emit energy that is reflected back to the camera to form the images. It is a passive device displaying what is occurring on the surface. This characteristic is one of the devices limitations and should be well understood by the operator and the client who is the recipient of the information.

Just as important the operator should have a good understanding of what is behind or inside objects that are being evaluated. With homes a good working knowledge of framing, insulation, electrical, plumbing and heating is a must.

Here is a great example of information from an infrared camera that can be misleading. In the two images shown are dark purple blue areas which signify these spots are colder than the surrounding orange areas. These cold spots are caused by two things, water and air. Air infiltration is very common in most homes. It is not necessarily detrimental to the building, but is undesirable. Water on the other hand is a big problem. Figuring out what is causing the spot can be critically important.Again is it water or air?

The home from which these images came was experiencing ice damming. Water was already dripping through walls and ceilings. The IR camera was able to reveal two leaks that had yet to manifest themselves. The trick is determining what is air and what is water, which is fairly simple. Using a moisture meter to check the suspected wet areas it was quickly and definitively determined that the areas in the top photo were air, the small spot in lower image was water.

I like to make the comparison of infrared being similar to a surgeon using x-rays to determine where to cut. The infrared camera brings a level of precision to the information I am able to gather, but care must be exercised when interpreting the images.




James Quarello
Connecticut Licensed Home Inspector
2010 - 2011 SNEC-ASHI President
NRSB #8SS0022
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

To find out more about our other high tech services click on the links below:

Learn more about our Infrared Thermal Imaging & Diagnostics services. Learn more about our home energy audits, the Home Energy Tune uP®.
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Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:

Learn more about our Infrared Thermal Imaging & Diagnostics services.

Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.


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Kathy Denworth
Century 21 Schwartz Realty - Islamorada, FL
Realtor in the Florida Keys, Islamorada, Key Largo

We no longer have a ASHI inspector in our area. We had Island Color, but they moved out of the area. Those guys really had my respect. Be proud of your certification.

Jan 30, 2011 11:01 PM #1
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

James - I don't admire your position as an inspector at all.  We Realtors® have to be cautious in what we say, but I think you may have even harder at times.  Showing a client something that is "wrong" with their new home takes tact and a high level of word mastery if you ask me.  My favorite inspector is excellent at explaining why he must show them something, but why it is or isn't necessarily a "bad" thing.  Of course, he has to do so while staying with in the bounds of ethics and good business practices.  It can't be easy sometimes.  I know buyers want perfection when buying a home and I have yet to see it in any home, even one that's newly built.

A good inspector can show you what's "wrong" with the house.  An excellent inspector can explain it and how it affects the client - today and in the future.

Jan 30, 2011 11:08 PM #2
K.C. McLaughlin
RE/MAX United - Cary, NC
Realtor, e-PRO, Homes for Sale - Cary, Raleigh NC

Wow I have never seen that before - you are inspector gadget! Thanks for the post!

Jan 30, 2011 11:09 PM #3
TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc.
Complete Home Inspections, Inc. - Brentwood, TN
Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029

Good morning James, That is the difficult thing about thermal imaging - interpreting the results...

Jan 30, 2011 11:18 PM #4
Ed Silva
RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

James, there are so many of us that are going to be getting that nervous feeling as this mess starts to melt. The damming is a big issue and I am already finding myself walking around the houses' corners listening carefully. It's going to be a very interesting February.

Jan 31, 2011 12:45 AM #5
Joe Kenny
Realty Executive Midwest - Darien, IL
Better Than Your Average Joe

If you are going to be a professional you need the tools to get the job done.  Good job.

Jan 31, 2011 06:06 AM #6
Jeremy Wrenn
Winslow Homes - Youngsville, NC
C.O.O., Winslow Homes

Interesting the first two were air.  I would not have guessed that.

Jan 31, 2011 06:33 AM #7
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I see these stupid ads that say, "We can see through walls!"  What idiocy.  That is lawsuit bait, but not for me.

What could I do but agree with you?  IR is part science, and part ART!  Some inspectors think they can buy a camera and start going at it!  Well, no, get training, training, training and practice, practice, practice.

You can't always believe what you see...

Great post Jim.

Jan 31, 2011 10:06 PM #8
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Kathy, Thank you, I am proud of my ASHI membership. It takes a lot of work to earn it.

Matt, I think you summed it up nicely. I am constantly learning and rephrasing things. My job is not scare clients or under play an issue. It must be presented in an unbiased manner while explaining the potential detrimental consequences. It's difficult, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

K.C., You have never seen infrared?

Michael, It's one area of IR work that can be challenging.

Ed, Infrared scanning can find leaks well before they show on the walls and ceilings.

Joe, Yep tools are a means for gathering information, but the most important tool of all is between my ears :)

Jeremy, Ir is not all that cut and dry all though you may be led to believe so by what you see on the internet.

Jay, Thanks. I know you and I are on the same page with IR use. I have seen those ads as well. It's advertising which is sometinme plain old lying to get business.

Feb 01, 2011 11:26 PM #9
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

I know you guys are having some serious ice dam problems; in the past couple weeks, traffic to my web site from both Massachusetts and Connecticut has outranked my traffic from Minnesota, and it's all from people trying to learn about ice dams.

Feb 02, 2011 02:07 PM #10
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James Quarello

Connecticut Home Inspector
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