What Is Growing Inside The Walls?

By
Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

Not long ago I received a call from a homeowner with a concern with the exterior walls of his house. He had felt for a long time there was something wrong with his walls. He went on to explain that he had the walls insulated some years ago and felt there might be a problem with the job. The house was an old historic home (1837) without insulation when he and his family purchased it some ten years ago. There wasn't anything specific that he could pin point, but he would like an infrared evaluation for his own information.

Everything looks normal on the outside.Exterior walls are commonly insulated with either cellulose or loose fiberglass insulation. In my opinion cellulose is a far superior material for this application. The method for filling the walls is fairly straight forward and labor intense. The insulator first removes a portion of the siding on the lower section of the wall exposing the sheathing. The same is usually done at the upper portion of the wall. Small holes are then drilled into the sheathing at the center of each stud bay. The holes are for a hose that will be fed through into the wall cavities. The technique is to push the hose to the top of each cavity and force feed insulation into the void. As the space is filled the hose is slowly pulled down, thus filling the stud bay. When the job is complete the holes are plugged and the siding replaced.

Insulating walls in this manner is a t least a two person job, one to operate the hose the other to feed the machine. So I was extremely surprised when the home owner said that one person had done the job...and it took him over a week to finish.

An alien creature or a bad insulation job?When I started looking at the walls with the infrared camera it became very apparent the job was miserably botched, which was really no surprise considering only one person was on the job. Almost without exception every wall was incompletely filled with insulation. In the IR image here it looks like there is some blobulous creature growing inside the walls. Those orange blotches are in fact insulation. It would appear the applicator had applied some insulation at these points and then with drew the hose. The orange vertical lines in the image are the wall studs. If you look close you can detect the horizontal wood lathe in these plaster covered walls.

I have been called on many occasions to check exterior wall insulation work. Most times the job is well done. In fact I work with one company who offers a scan (at the owner's expense) to check the quality of their work. If I find voids, they fix them.

In this case the work by this company couldn't be worse. Regrettably the customer has been left with globs of insulation which do little to trap heat, but do make nice science fictiony looking infrared 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:

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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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Rainmaker
1,854,349
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

That is one fine job there!  This guy should contact the "contractor" and have him over for a look see!  Isn't it amazing what we find with these cameras?

Feb 05, 2011 12:39 AM #1
Rainmaker
456,386
Shannon Milligan, Richmond VA Real Estate Agent/Associate Broker
RVA Home Team - Richmond, VA
RVA Home Team - Winning with Integrity.

Great explaination of the process and a good reminder that is pays the have someone check over work that has been recently done. (We just had a radon system in and I am having a tester re-test to make sure it works...that little cost will give me big peace of mind!)

Feb 05, 2011 12:48 AM #2
Rainer
332,763
David O'Doherty
Raleigh Realty Inc - Clayton, NC
Clayton NC Homes, Raleigh, NC

These are great cameras, shame he didn't have it done while the contractor was still there.

Feb 05, 2011 12:51 AM #3
Rainer
120,219
Steve Ewing - Keller Williams Realty
Keller Williams - Stockton, CA

James - You would think an insulation company would do a scan to make sure the job was completed correctly.  Seems it would be a customer service item.  Then again the equipment could be too expensive to do the scan.  Seems to me that work done in an enclosed space should be "looked" at.  Thanks for the blog.

Feb 05, 2011 12:52 AM #4
Ambassador
1,334,852
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Jim, what year was this house built?  I am thinking that possibly the walls already had some insulation in them and the cellulose installer merely screwed up what was already there making things even worse?

Feb 05, 2011 02:56 AM #5
Rainmaker
226,477
Suesan Jenifer Therriault
JTHIS-Professional Home Inspection Team - Blakeslee, PA
"Inspecting every purchase as if it were my own".

I think a professional insulation contractor should either invest in the infrared camera or contract with an inspector who has one to run a scan after the job is done. A job done so poorly is not a reputation to build his business upon. 

Feb 05, 2011 10:17 AM #6
Rainer
40,155
Dale Ganfield
Leland, NC

Hi James, a new line on marketing - post insulation project quality control.  Confirm the job is done right prior to final payment.  This would help a lot of folks avoid problems and shoddy work.

Feb 05, 2011 11:45 AM #7
Rainmaker
690,288
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Jay, I agree, but it has been years since the job was done. I don't think the homeowners interested in pursuing anything with the insulator, he just wants to fix what's wrong.

Shannon, Testing after installing a radon mitigation system is SOP. They don't always work the first time and could require some tweaking.

David, Yep, that would have been an eye opener.

Steve, I totally agree and have said as much in the past.

Charlie, 1837, like it said above. You wearing your glasses :) There was no insulation in the walls previous to the job.

Suesan, I agree. I am amazed that insulation companies are not offer scans as a quality assurance.

Dale, I have offered, but it's and added expense that many do not want to incur.

Feb 05, 2011 11:43 PM #8
Rainmaker
1,244,628
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Mr James,

I was afraid that this was going to be a post about mold, which is quite good on bread by the way.

Nutsy

Feb 06, 2011 08:10 AM #9
Rainmaker
690,288
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Nutsy, I regularly feed moldy bread to the birds and squirrels who seem to enjoy it.

Feb 06, 2011 11:06 AM #10
Rainmaker
1,244,628
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Mr James,

Yes, we do.

Nutsy S. Wallenda, certifried

 

Feb 07, 2011 07:06 AM #11
Rainmaker
233,733
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Oh boy, that's a mess.

Feb 08, 2011 01:13 PM #12
Rainmaker
690,288
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Reuben, Yes it is. Talk about botched.

Feb 09, 2011 12:12 AM #13
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Rainmaker
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James Quarello

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