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.
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.
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.
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