Odd Bed Fellows

Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

The thermographer, neurosurgeon and the insulation installer, what would these people all have in common?

Answer, they are all specialist.

A Connecticut house during a renovation project

Specialist are knowledgeable and skilled in their particular discipline. If someone who was not for example, an insulation installation specialist were to install insulation, the job is most assuredly going to take more time with a less than ideal result.

Recently I was contacted by a general contractor to perform an infrared thermographic scan. The IR scan was needed for an energy efficiency project the contractor was involved in on a multifamily house. The purpose of the thermographic scan was to check the consistency of recently installed blown in cellulose wall insulation. The house being quite old, built around 1900, never had insulation installed inside the walls when built or any else where for that matter.

During my conversation with the contractor I discussed the usual requirements in order for my scan to yield good results. I mentioned that it is not unusual for someone to request an infrared scan to check the integrity of an insulation companies work. Predominantly wall insulation, since it can not be seen. The contractor replied that his company had installed the insulation, not a company that specializes in insulation. "Oh!?" was about all I could say.

Infrared thermal image poorly installed blown in cellulose wall insulationThe appointment was set. I would meet the job foreman on site, in this way I could discuss directly with him any issues that were discovered.

Arriving at the house on the designated morning, I could see the project was in full swing. Getting the camera out I began scanning at the side of the house. Immediately it was apparent there were inconsistencies in the insulation.

When a wall is properly insulated it should appear to the infrared camera as a blank canvass, broken by regular, thin vertical lines. Instead the wall appeared almost mottled, with both thin and wide vertical lines.

This pattern is a clear indication of poorly installed insulation. The wide orange areas on the exterior are the stud cavities that are warmer due to heat loss. A scan from the inside shows the same, but the colors are in reverse. The blue is a colder portion of the wall, again from inconsistent insulation. Once I completed the walk around, I found the foreman to give him a tour of the areas that required his attention.

He was less than pleased.

Interior view of inconsistent cellulose wall insulation According to him, the job had taken over a week to complete. It was very labor intense because installing blown in insulation was not something this company does regularly. It was his opinion the job should have been given to an insulation company. He felt that it could have been done better and faster by a specialist. Now he would have to go back and fix all the bad spots in the walls. More time, more resources and more money.

Reminds me of one of Murphy's laws,

There is never time to do it right, but there is always time to do it over.

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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Gary L. Waters Broker Associate, Bucci Realty
Bucci Realty, Inc. - Melbourne, FL
Fifteen Years Experience in Brevard County

"There is never time to do it right, but there is always time to do it over." Should be there is never enough money to do it right but there is to do it over!

Nov 03, 2012 09:07 PM #1
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Great post Buddy Boy!  So true, great information, common sense and a contractor that is NOT a specialist and therefore seems not to know when a given cavity is COMPLETELY full or had been filled at all!

And he would have left this job saying all is well.

Nov 03, 2012 09:21 PM #2
Andrea Swiedler
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties - New Milford, CT
Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT

Jim, great information. We count on the job being done correctly, but without safegards in place, that is not always the case.

Nov 03, 2012 10:08 PM #3
Kathryn Maguire
GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881 - Chesapeake, VA
Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach

The more posts I see about thermal imaging, the more I think that a home buyer MUST insist on an inspector who does this as part of his inspection.  

Nov 03, 2012 10:12 PM #4
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

It appears to me that he should not have taken the job in the first place, or subbed it out to someone who knew what the **** he was doing. Good job!

Nov 03, 2012 11:02 PM #5
Michael Setunsky
Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

James, at least this contractor had the sense to give you a call. Your quote says it all!

Nov 03, 2012 11:10 PM #6
Clint Mckie
Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections - Carlsbad, NM
Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586

Hi James,

And they say we don't need to have a inspection....Really.

Look at this post and you will see why a inspection was the best option with really good results.

I love it when we find hidden issues.

Have a good day in Connecticut.

Best, Clint McKie

Nov 03, 2012 11:38 PM #7
Harry F. D'Elia
RentVest - Phoenix, AZ
Investor , Mentor, GRI, Radio, CIPS, REOs, ABR

It is best to do the job right the first time so everyone is happy about it.

Nov 03, 2012 11:43 PM #8
Rob Ernst
Certified Structure Inspector - Reno, NV
Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor

That's not a good install job for sure. Hope air sealing in part of that project. With the height of that building there is going to be some good stack effect going on there.

Nov 04, 2012 12:26 AM #9
Scott Seaton Jr. Bourbonnais Kankakee IL Home Inspector
SLS Home Inspections-Bradley Bourbonnais Kankakee Manteno - Bourbonnais, IL
The Home Inspector With a Heart!

Probably thought that "it's a little slow right now, I can make a couple extra bucks and then BAM! Now I'm spending more than I will ever hope to make on the job". Murphy's Law for sure. 

Nov 04, 2012 12:32 AM #10
Reba Haas
Team Reba of RE/MAX Metro Eastside www.TeamReba.com - Bellevue, WA
Team Reba, CDPE

I loved when one of my clients was under contract to buy a house that was a spec built home. The general inspector found moisture issues under the first floor windows - which shouldn't be the case in a brand new construction home. We then brought out a thermographer who determined that the entire first floor of the 3 story structure had moisture penetrating because of faulty installation of the siding. The GC is also the owner of the siding company that did the work and he refused the fix the problem - mostly because it would have cost upwards of $70k to do. We walked on the sale and she bought a home she ended up liking better later on. I still wonder what damage that place would have by the 5th year of its completion without the proper fix. Someone is going to end up with a major mold problem.

Nov 04, 2012 03:46 AM #11
Jon Karlen
Finish Line Realty - Shelbyville & Louisville Ky Real Estate - Shelbyville, KY
Louisville & Shelbyville Kentucky real estate

Specialists are very important.  They are going to have the expertise that non-specialists aren't going to be familiar with.  Side note:  Thermal scanning/imaging really is a huge asset for persons now.  I wish more people used it!

Nov 04, 2012 05:01 AM #12
Christina Sanchez Hood
Palo Alto, CA
#SiliconValleyHOODS | Inspired Living

James, I liked the Murphy's Law at the end of your post.  I have found it to be very true.  Great information in your post and a good lesson on how to be thorough with clients, like a specialist :)

Nov 04, 2012 12:17 PM #13
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Gary, That's true too :)

Jay, The idea of a specialist was not lost on the foreman.

Andrea, A little QC goes a long way.

Kathryn, Thermal imaging can definitely provide unique information to the home buyer.

Fred, The job is the renovation, the insulation should have been subbed. 

Michael, Yes, he has some good sense.

Clint, We do, but do all party concerned? I think we know the answer :)

Harry, There should be no other way.

Rob, No idea about the sealing, my job was to simply shoot the building. 

Scott, That is entirely possible.

Reba, That sounds like a window install issue more than a siding issue. I have been involved in similar cases, unfortunately they are after the purchase. 

Jon, I think you will see more IR in the future.

Christina, Yep, that adage is so true and thanks. 

Nov 04, 2012 09:06 PM #14
Kathleen Daniels
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist

James, I can hear my Dad (God rest his soul) when I read this “IF you are going to do something you might as well do it right the first time.”  So true, cutting corners will only end up costing more time and MONEY.

Nov 04, 2012 11:19 PM #15
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Kathleen, Your dad was a wise man. Too bad not everyone understands such a basic concept. 

Nov 05, 2012 09:06 PM #16
Robert Sole
REM Inspections LLC - Winter Springs, FL

Far too many people feel that it looks so easy, anyone can doit...until they try.  Then they find out that it was not as easy as it looked.

Nov 06, 2012 12:45 AM #17
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Robert, I think that is ture of so many things. An expert makes it look easy. 

Nov 06, 2012 08:15 PM #18
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James Quarello

Connecticut Home Inspector
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