This week I inspected a home that visually had some questionable roofing installations. Easy to spot things like heavily tarred flashings and things that definitely wouldneed further investigation from the attic and inside.
When I took a peek in the attic I knew that it would be very little help in the diagnostic department. There was about 8 inches of free space between the rafters and the 16 inch deep blown-in fiberglass insulation. The area in question was totally out of view and what was visible from the access hatch looked like it should. No visible signs of moisture intrusion or staining.
The ceilings were my next place to investigate. Visually they also looked like they should no outward signs of moisture intrusion and no staining at all.
Next step in my inspection is a full infrared scan of the home, ceilings to floors. Not surprisingly an area of unusually cool temperature turned up. The thermal camera can only show differences in temperature so the next step in the inspection is to pass a moisture meter over the area. The meter pegged. One area on the roof in particular was in fact a current leak and needed immediate attention.
If I had been a traditional inspector I would have had to tell my client that the roof had issues but I would have had to shrug my shoulders and tell them that I couldn't "see," any current leakage while following that with the standard: "that doesn't mean that there are no leaks it just means I can't see them."
Now with the pictures I provided my client and their representative get a compelling bargaining chip to show the sellers.
Thermal imaging is not the magic bullet that will see everything but in the hands of a skilled operator it can be a very useful tool to help solve some of those shoulder shrug issues.