Cold Store Panels Retaining Moisture

Here is an infrared photo from a thermographic survey we did for one of the largest dairy companies in the world.

Thermal imaging cameras are an excellent tool for detecting moisture ingress into cold store panels.

We were recently hired to detect any signs of water leaking into a building freezer cool room made up entirely of 150mm thick polystyrene panels (poly in the middle and a plastic skin on either side). Between each panel is a join as seen in this image below.

cold store panels leaking

(The darkest area is water under the sealant between the panels. The lighter shades is water under the panels)

In theory: The roof should be a uniform temperature across the entire surface, as there is no shade or obstructions that could cause a different infrared temperature reading in isolated areas. On this roof, there were thermal anomalies in several areas which indicates there could be moisture ingress inside the panels.

The reason we can detected these anomalies, is because the moisture inside the panels would heat up and cool down at a different rate to the rest of the panels where no moisture is present. Thermal imaging can detect such anomalies instantly.

Taking into account the cool stores are running below zero degrees, any water inside these panels will most likely freeze. Frozen water will lead to excess weight inside the panels, and will also cause loss of cold air by conduction.

Potential Danger: A large build up of ice inside a low pitch roof cavity which is only 150mm thick could cause the roof to collapse due to sudden increase in weight.

Time of Survey: Just as the sun went down to avoid reflection giving off false readings. We needed some daylight so we had a reference point in the still images. This infrared inspection should have been done from a cherry picker or helicopter for safety reasons, but the pitch of the roof was low and safe to walk on.

In summary: Further invasive testing should be carried out in random areas to confirm if moisture/ice is present, and to confirm the structural integrity of the roof area.

How to Sell a Leaky Building

How to Sell a Leaky Building

Our core business in detecting signs of leaky buildings for buyers, sellers and builders who are in the business of carrying out remedial work (Pre renovation inspections). When your testing houses for moisture on a daily basis as a business, you come across some interesting scenarios… and some creative solutions to problems!

Frustrated Plaster Home Owner Sells House Fast!!

Interesting story: How frustrating do you think it would be if the potential buyer of your property hired a building inspector who then went on to detect leaking problems in your external walls… only to find out once the wall was opened up for further investigation, there is no signs of moisture anywhere?

Well… we recently tested a house on the North Shore where this exact scenario happened, but in this case the home owner replaced the gib board after finding out no problems existed behind the wall after the 1st building inspection had detected problems. He then did a nice plaster & paint job ready to sell the home all over again… but this time with certainty it’s not a leaky building.

What happens next? A new buyer comes along with their building inspection company and moisture testing guy, only to get the same high 20%+ moisture reading. Another sale down the drain… and the timber frame isn’t even wet!

How did he end up selling the house?

Through pure frustration, he ripped off all the gib board and pulled out the insulation and left it like that!!! The very next potential buyer ended up buying the home for the asking price. Why? Because they could physically see the timber frame wasn’t rotted, therefore they felt certain they had avoided buying a leaky building, regardless of all the negative publicity in the media about the common problems with plaster cladding systems. The deal was that the home owner would re-gib, plaster and paint before the new owners took possession once the deal was unconditional. Not a bad tactic hey?

This is not a common method to sell a plaster house, but it worked well is this case. Unfortunately, these are the lengths some sellers who own plaster homes have to go to, but that’s all part of the property ‘game’ isn’t it? SOLD!

How to Stop & Eliminate Condensation on Windows

How to eliminate condensation on windows

This is one of the most common questions we get asked… and the answer is actually straight forward. Click Here to see how you can do it within minutes!

Let me start by saying that I’m in NZ houses almost every day of the week testing for moisture, or inspecting houses for ‘leaks’ under windows. Well, in many cases they are not actually leaks coming in from the outside (i.e. Weather tightness issues), it’s condensation pouring down the windows and straight into the walls! This is especially the case for windows with no condensation channels, or situations where the miter joints have failed. Even some homes with double glazed windows still get moisture beading on the aluminum frame due to a high moisture content in the air.

“How do you stop condensation?”

Click Here to see how you reduce condensation within minutes!

If you have single glazed windows, then you’re in for an uphill battle right from the get go. Homes with single glazing will always be susceptible to moisture and damp issues if there is no air circulation. A classic example of ‘lack of air circulation’ is when a home owner calls telling us their basement is damp. If you smell damp in the basement of your house, simply ‘test’ putting a dehumidifier in the room. If the smell fades away after a few days, then you know it’s simply moist air. If the smell remains (providing it’s not a permanent smell in carpet), then you could have other moisture/drainage related problems, especially if the external walls are built into the side of a hill.

Back to stopping window condensation…

If you and/or your children are sleeping in a room with condensation on the windows, you should put a stop to this asap, purely for health purposes if anything. If you or someone in your home gets asthma, or generally gets sick over winter, then you need to do your best to begin a logical ‘process of elimination’ of what could be causing the problem. Here’s a few options to test…

  • Put a dehumidifier in the room… if it fills with water in 24hrs or less, you know the air is very moist! Consider getting some kind of system installed that works 24/7 to keep your home dry and healthy (HRV, DVS, Moisture Master etc).
  • If the dehumidifier doesn’t work, go for a holiday somewhere and sleep in a different environment for 5 days or so. Has the health condition of the person changed in a positive way? You might find it will, therefore your house is the problem.
  • Are the bedroom curtains moist? They most likely will be if you have condensation. Curtains in moist rooms act like a big sponge… further introducing ‘sustainable’ damp in the room. Not good.
    As a result of moisture on the back curtains (transferred from the wet windows), mould will start growing on the curtain, potentially causing further health issues! Try using this mould cleaning product on curtains…
  • Here is your best option… Click Here to see how you can manage and control condesation on windows within minutes!

Double glazed windows will certainly help reduce condensation, and also help to retain any heat that is introduced into the room. If you live in a damp area of NZ and are constantly getting sick, then you may have no choice but to sell up and leave! That is the extreme case I know, but many people take this option to resolve moisture related health problems almost right away. Why would you compromise your lifestyle and health, when you could be living somewhere warmer, healthier and generally a dryer environment!

In summary, NZ has moist climatic conditions over winter and there is nothing that you or I can do about part of it… but there are always ways around it, generally at a cost. Before you hit the panic button, the best low-cost place to start is with moisture testing the home to make sure the problem isn’t originating from behind the wall, which is often the case… and usually doesn’t cost much to fix providing it’s not a widespread moisture ingress isssue.

Can Internal Moisture Cause Timber to Rot?

So you’ve made sure every crack and pentration on the external cladding is sealed, so the house won’t leak… right?

Not so. Sure, the external cladding may now be all sealed up and water tight as a navy submarine, but is there a possibility that moisture can still get into the timber frame of the house? Yes… if there is no wall cavity system, most definately… especially if you don’t have a system in place to expel the trapped moisture.

How is the moisture getting into the wall if the house is ‘sealed’?

Recently I found this topic on a forum which talks about the basic theory of how moisture ‘penetrates’ walls, even when you think your home is water tight. I thought this summed it up nicely…

internal moisture extract

(Did you take note of the last sentence of paragraph 2? Nice analogy!)

In summary, if a wall can’t breathe (i.e cavity system), then it’s only a matter of time before moisture does what it does best to timber… rot.

If you fix cladding directly onto timber, and then you also cover the internal side with gib board, then what you are actually doing is creating a vaccuum. What  happens next, is that the local plumber comes along and fixes a pipe bracket through the plaster which will eventually release and create a small hole. Then what happens?

Here’s what… the outside air pressure is greater than the internal wall pressure, therefore the water gets sucked right into the tightest of holes and penetrations. Got kids? Make sure they dont slam their pushbikes up against the plaster cladding and penetrate it… same effect… in goes the water!!

As a result of many plaster homes leaking, some people will only buy old weatherboard or brick & tile homes… you know, then ones that have been standing for 50+yrs, but wouldn’t get a CCC under the new building code  🙂 . Hmmm.

Did they build with internal gutters back in the good old days (Common design issue associated with leaky buildings)? The basic issue here is that if the gutter leaks, it goes straight down into the wall… and it can’t escape because there is no cavity for it to exit. The only thing standing in the way of the water is untreated timber! Ekkk.

Here’s an interesting fact: Just about every builder I speak too says “I tried to warn the authorities that untreated timber wouldn’t work”. So why did they go ahead and build with it? Because they could, and it was cheaper etc etc. Lets not get into the ‘who’s at fault’ debate… we’ll leave that to the ‘experts’… and no doubt the experts will be the ones that created the problem in the first place (cough).

95% of plaster home owners when asked “Would you buy another plaster home?”, say “NO”. This is based on my own survey whilst inspecting homes, it’s not an official statistic. You can join the dots on the meaning of that one.

Locating Leak Damage on Wall Frame Stud

Moisture or leaks infiltrating your wall frame studs can cause problems, regardless if the timber is treated or not.

One of the most common questions I get asked when someone calls me for a pre purchase thermal leak inspection, is “Should I worry about getting a leak/moisture test because the timber is treated?”. YES!

For example: Lets say the home is only 4 years old (Built to the new building code… treated timber on external framing), and there was a window joinery failure from day 1. If the window has been getting hit by wind driven rain on a regular basis, then ‘gradual leak damage’ could occur on the timber framing if the water didn’t get out through the cavity. The same scenario would apply  for pre 1992 built homes… in fact, the timber framing will rot no matter when the place was built if enough water gets to it.

Here’s an infrared thermal imaging leak photo of a wet wall stud in a home with treated timber…

The darker wall stud is a different temperature... couldn't be seen on the wall as indicated in right hand image
The darker wall stud is a different temperature... couldn't be seen on the wall as indicated in right hand image

Locating a leak in one section of a wall can be simple with the right leak detection equipment. If you have any doubt at all in the home you are buying… get it checked for leaks, because the home owner may have fixed the source of the leak, but not the damage it caused along the way.

The benefit of our thermal imaging camera, is that ‘tricky’ vendors who paint over walls and ceilings in an attempt to hide leak marks will get caught out, because if there is moisture on the gib at the time of inspection, no paint will hide it, as it will be a different temperature… which is exactly what our infrared camera will detect and locate.

Marketing and Selling a House with Known Leaks

Does your real estate agent have a good poker face?

Home buyers… there are still real estate agents in NZ who are willing to say whatever it takes to get pen on paper. Most agents are above board and ethical… but you get the odd one who needs to make money and has a good poker face when it comes to telling you how “they don’t know of any leaking issues with the home“. (Even if there is water dripping through a ceiling like the case below).

Today was a classic example which you may be able to relate too, or it may sound familiar. It went something like this…

1) It was a rainy day and the home owner decided they were sick and didn’t want anyone around at the house. We put the heat on them for cancelling the infrared inspection at the last minute. The buyer got his way and we got into the home to do the inspection as per original plan.

2) We get in the house, and the first thing I see is the cleaner with a mop and bucket in hand? So much for no-one being welcome that day. You’ll see why the cleaner was really there in a moment.

3) Before I started the thermal imaging inspection, the real estate agent tells me “the home owners are pedantic and very fussy, and if there were any leaks they would have had them fixed”. I took her on face value (Turns out to be ‘poker face’ value)

4) The very first room I find a leak with the infrared camera… and this continued for the first 3 rooms. 3 rooms, three leaks. Hmmm.

5) I then see the cleaner moping the tiled floor in the next room we were about to moisture test. She then leaves, and what do you think the first thing we see is? Water dripping from the top of the door frame onto the floor! The cleaner was staying one step ahead of us moping up the leaks hoping we wouldn’t see any signs! Are you kidding me!!! She did this on two occasions and got caught both times. Little did she know that a thermal imaging camera will see the leaks anyway.

6) To cut a long story short, there was a total of 14 leaks throughout the house, and 12 of these were big ones. Here’s just one of them…

Water dripping onto the floor through this leak
Water dripping onto the floor through this leak

I like most agents, and I get plenty of work through them… and most of realtors do disclose everything for their own sake… but some just aren’t following the rules.

Summary: You can’t point the finger at the agent if you buy a home that leaks because you didn’t get it tested first on your own accord. Regardless of the marketing and verbal representations made when buying a house, it’s up to you to do your own research.

Do Solid Block Houses Leak? – Wet Batons

Are you considering buying a solid block house?

Is there any point getting it checked for water leaks?

The general perception about homes made of solid block, is that they will never fall down and won’t leak… so there’s no real need to get a pre purchase  leak inspection before buying. This is not true… you certainly can get water seeping through block walls and rotting the batons and carpet etc. I’ve seen it many times over.

Rotted batons below ground level
Rotted batons below ground level

The most likely scenario for such leaks to occur, is when the floor level of the house is below the ground level directly outside the area. The other reason the batons behind the wall will rot is there’s a roof leak travelling down the wall.

In general, block houses are more solid and less likely to leak then other traditional building methods, but are you prepared to take the risk of buying an ongoing hidden leak for the sake of spending a few hundred dollars for a thermal inspection prior to buying?

Fortunatly the owner of the above home is ethical and is doing the right thing. At the time of this building inspection, he was in the process of repairing and sealing the block wall prior to selling the house. You can actually seal block/brick wall to prevent water leaking through, but it’s a very vulnerable area that isn’t straight forward to fix long term.

If you are buying a house with any external wall of the home below ground level (i.e. Built into the side of a hill), then certainly consider getting a thermal imaging leak inspection… it could make a huge difference to your purchase price if the structural intergrity of the area has failed. Leaks can be a real pain… so find out first!

Some leaks found during home inspections are nothing to really worry about (like an internal plumbing leak). It’s the leaks inside external walls that are the ‘not so friendly’ ones… regardless if it’s a solid block home or standard home with timber framing (especially plaster cladding homes with no cavity).

One question I commonly get asked from buyers, is “How many homes do you inspect wouldn’t have any leaks?”. The answer is about 5%. Yes, 5%. But… there are good leaks, and bad leaks. Good ones can be fixed easy at low cost and most likely have caused minimal structural damage. Then you have the monster leaks that travel down between the walls, penetrate the timber, saturate the insulation, rot the bottom plate, blow out the skirting board then make their way onto your carpet and saturate the underlay in the process. Most homes will leak at some stage… it’s just a matter to what extent. Even new homes leak if there’s a failure in the window joinery, or the shower hasn’t been sealed correctly. These are all things you need to know before paying the $$$. 

FACT: You will not see the leaks that I will see when walking through a house due to the high tech equipment that I use (I wouldn’t see these leaks with my naked eye either)… and that’s why you should consider getting thermal imaging during your buying process. It may be cheaper than you think… and certainly a great peace of mind after you move in!

Cheap Leaky Buildings for Sale

If you are seriously in the hunt to buy a bargain property, just be careful that you don’t actually get more than what you bargained for!

In this case, a ‘first time’ unexperienced buyer of leaky buildings hired me to moisture test a property after he had already payed a non-refundable deposit (auction).

If you see any advertising telling you about cheap leaky buildings for sale, then please proceed cautiously, because some leaky buildings leak so badly that they are beyond your standard re-clad to fix up.

Recently I did a home inspection for a client who was aware the home had moisture issues… it even stated that in the marketing materials for the home. You see, it’s easy for a real estate agent to say “the building might need a total re-clad”, but what if all the floor joists are also rotted? If you see a leaky home/building for sale in the Mission Bay, St Heliers, Kohimarama area at just $270k, then surely you would have to be suspicious there is more than meets the eye, right? You bet! Especially when it’s on a tiny cross leased piece of land with no view.

So what’s it really worth?

Unless your an experienced builder or investor who has dealt with leaky buildings in the past, then in my opinion you will need a complete structural intergrity survey of the home first (Don’t get excited by the price to quickly)… and if it’s so rotted that it’s close to a ‘knock down’ (don’t forget to factor in costs to take it away), then it’s barely worth the piece of dirt it sits on.

Everything property is a good deal at the right price, but make sure you also factor in your building experience into the price… and don’t let the hype of an auction grab your bank account and tear it apart like I have just witnessed!

Maybe ask a current or past leaky building owner if they would buy another one for a cheap price.  I highly doubt it… especially if they aren’t experienced in the building industry. Take Care!

Building Inspection Company Misses Leaks!

If you’ve ever doubted getting an infrared building inspection, then this should change your mind!

*Building inspection company misses obvious leaks*

(Above: The infrared photo in the centre shows a leak tracking the lighting wire. Only seen using our infrared equipment).

Out of all the thermal imaging inspections I’ve carried out, this one takes the cake. Recently I received a call from a first time home buyer. The call went something like this… “We settled on our home just 10 days ago, and there is already water coming through the ceiling in the ensuite bathroom?”. So around to the house I went with infrared camera in hand. (The dark spots in this photo are leaks as seen through our infrared camera… keep reading).

leak inspection in wellington home

When I arrived, they showed me a report from a ‘reputable’ franchised home inspection company. The home was given the all clear. The first thing I noticed when I arrived was cracks in the plaster cladding… but there was no mention of that in the building inspection report either. The interesting part was that he did a ‘moisture test’ during the inspection! (There was a photo in his report showing this).

To cut a long story short, there were leaks in the home everywhere, under windows, on the ceiling, around skirting boards and below flat roofs. This place was a home buyers nightmare come true. In this particular home, there were 7 leaks detected, and one of them was creating a bulb in the gib board ceiling which was also missed by the house inspection company.

So what’s the come back on the building inspector?

Probably nothing… half the report was disclaimers. Maybe he doesn’t include leak detection in his building report… not sure about that one. The bottom line is the home owner purchased the home based on the clean report from the home inspection company. Unfortunately they didn’t know about thermal imaging prior to signing the dotted line.

If you’re considering buying a home, atleast give us a call for a free quote, so you don’t end up suffering the same stress as the family above! Please remember that once you’ve paid over your money for the home, you can’t turn back… and quite often it’s the homes that look great that are the problem homes.

You should also read this thermal imaging article  before calling. Also, NZ buyers should consider a METH TEST when buying.

Leaks Caused by Roof Pressure Wash & Water Blasting

Have you had your roof pressure washed lately? This leak photo below may be of interest to you.

Does the water blasting company guarantee no leaks?

 Yesterday I inspected the home of an elderly lady who was in a panic about a leak that ‘suddenly appeared’ on her ceiling. She had just hired a company to pressure blast all the moss and dirt off her roof so she can get it painted.

Before you hire a company to clean your roof, you should ask them what happens if they blast water in the wrong direction and it ends up in your ceiling… just like it did to the lady above. Water blasted under flashings can do damage to your walls and ceiling (i.e. Water getting in and wetting the insulation, causing potential mould growth), so make sure you ask the right questions before agreeing to getting your house cleaned, like what are their guarantees and experience.

Take a look at this infrared photo…  the result of a roof water pressure clean: (Dark areas are water leaks on gib board ceiling that weren’t all visible to the human eye)

leak water pressure blast clean on roof

If you suspect leaks in your ceiling after a contractor has been on your roof, give me a call and i’ll thermal image the area. You will then receive a written report that you can present to the company who cleaned the roof 🙂