Ceiling anomalies

I found these signatures on todays inspection. This ceiling was in a bedroom directly below a balcony and there was some cracking and repair work to the ceiling gyproc. The balcony was not accessible as it was a different unit in the condo complex and the other homeowner was not home. Moisture content was typical and yes, it has been raining alot lately. What is your opinion? I think I am just going to insert the pics into my report and recommend further investigation.






More pics…


What were the moisture meter readings?

7 to 14 with pad and pins. It got as high as 17 in one spot.


With the exception of the second image, the patterns have very straight lines (square shapes). That would suggest that the temperature difference you are seeing might be attributed to missing or misapplied insulation.

I would be careful about just injecting the images in your report and stating that they need to be further evaluated. On what basis would you conclude that the area needs to be “further evaluated?”

It seems that the way you have described the property, the only way to really have this evaluated further would be by removing a section of the ceiling.

Was this a standard inspection or a specialty type IR survey or energy audit? I would base my comments on what type of inspection I am conducting.

If this was a standard inspection, I would have made an informational comment that the patterns in the IR images appear to be consistent with missing or misapplied insulation, and that there were no elevated moisture readings noted at time of inspection.

Or something to that effect…


Kevin… I agree.

Thanks, It was a standard home inspection as per our SOP. There is some cracking or splitting in the ceiling drywall and some patching repair work from the past.

I hear you about being careful and I appreciate your comments. Even if it was lack of or compressed insulation it could contribute to a significant enerygy loss in this area considering the other side is an exterior balcony and it should have the insulation replaced in these cavities if this is in fact the problem. I will be writing up low moisture content.

Personally, I would want further invasive investigation in this area before I closed the deal. But, thats just me.

I concur with Kevin. Insufficient insulation.

I find, often, insufficient or inadequate insulation images edges are more mottled looking but, with the info provided, I’d suspect missing insulation, too.

Assuming it was colder outside and that moisture readings were okay, I agree with insulation issues. I have found around here that these are very common, so I see that kind of image at least a couple times a week.

I have noticed that I often see extra minor cracking in these areas. I attribute it to the materials seeing greater temperature ranges/changes and therefore expanding and cracking more than properly insulated areas.

There is also the potential problem of condensation build up in colder weather when the interior is heated and the attic side of the sheetrock is not properly insulated in cold weather - which I believe you get=)

So in my opinion it warrants noting in the report. I say something along the lines of “Infrared imaging scan revealed anomalies consistant with improperly installed or missing insulation. Such conditions are an efficiency concern as well as a potential long term mositure concern, as condensation can build up on the sheetrock in cold weather conditions. Recommend further review by qualified insulation contractor and repair or addition of insulation.” On a sale type inspection, I will explain that this may or may not be something they can get the seller to do, they may consider it an upgrade, and that is just part of the negociations. But that I recommend they repair themselves if they have to.

Seeing as you have a visual condition that is abnormal. The fact that you also have abnormal thermal scans to go along with it is relevant.

You’re not required to diagnose the exact problem, only identify that it exists. If they want to know more, unless the buyer is purchasing the house “as is”, the seller should be flipping the bill for thermal diagnostics and invasive inspections. At that point the seller becomes your client.

I would not venture to guess or speculate what is causing the problem of the anomaly unless you can actually determine the source and identify it visually or using other electronic equipment. As the moisture meter was inconclusive, and you did not mention inspecting from above, I would not speculate in the report.

It is sufficient to just call out the unknown.
Just report what you see, report the testing completed and the results.
You may also state that testing conditions at the time of thermal imaging scans was not favorable for a better assessment.

You’re doing a home inspection, not an infrared inspection. Just as if you were inspecting the heater and found an insufficient temperature rise through the heater, he would not try to diagnose the problem, rather recommend a follow-up by someone who does this for a living.
Thermal patterns are a key to what you’re looking at. This will come with experience. You can best gain experience by finding out or following up on exactly what the anomaly is for future reference.

These pictures are moisture I found yesterday. Note the irregular pattern. You’ll note geometric patterns also in these scans. You can have multiple causes. In this case moisture intrusion was occurring throughout opening which is also allowing air infiltration. Don’t forget the possibility of combination anomalies.

This is a good discussion that has a bunch of different hot topics and further discussion points. Much of which will be included in my paper “Thermography and the Home Inspector” that I will be presenting at IRINFO in January.

One of the “hot topics” that I find most interesting is how an Infrared Camera should be used during a standard (real estate transaction) inspection. There are two schools of thought:

  1. Use IR during and included in every inspection
  2. Offer IR as an additional service or “add-on” to the inspection

I believe that option #2 is the best way to utilize IR during a standard home inspection. I will discuss the reasoning in detail in my paper.

However, David A. made an interesting comment above; “You’re doing a home inspection, not an infrared inspection.” In addition, Mark made this comment “**Thanks, It was a standard home inspection as per our **SOP.”

I’m certainly not picking on David or Mark, but these comments bring up additional questions.

  1. What’s the difference between a home inspection and an Infrared inspection?
  2. If I’m conducting a home inspection and I use IR during that inspection, am I not conducting an Infrared Inspection?
  3. Doesn’t the use of IR go beyond the SOP?

Anyways, didn’t mean to change the topic of the thread. But, I’m a firm believer that if we are going to invest in formal training in Thermography and use titles like "Infrared Certified, “Certified Building Science Thermographer”, and “Level I/II/III Certified Thermographer”, then we better be prepared to go beyond the mindset that it is “sufficient to just call out the unknown.” There are certainly times that insufficient data will bring us to that conclusion, but make no mistake, consumers are intelligent and savvy. They’re perception of us is that we are the “experts.”

If you make the decision to go beyond the SOP an use Infrared Technology, you will have to face the fact that you are more of an “expert” than you might think. Especially, if you have formal training and advertise or market yourself as a “Certified Thermographer.” Therefore, it is critical that we protect ourselves by establishing a clearly defined “scope of work” for IR and a well written pre-inspection agreement or addendum to the standard pre-inspection agreement for SOP Inspections.

Sorry for the rant… :slight_smile:


Essentially, this is what I put in the report:

An infrared scan of the master bedroom ceiling showed some anomalies. There is some mechanical damage, drywall cracking and repair work in this area. The moisture content was typical although many variables may be involved. No access was available to the exterior balcony above. Recommend further investigation as to the source of signatures from infrared pictures.

I didnt want to get into a bunch of “maybe this, maybe that” including the lack of or compressed insulation. Maybe it is but maybe it is actually a leak or moisture undetected by my moisture meter. The one signature does not have straight lines and has some rounded edges. There is some drywall patch work done and a balcony is set into the building above this area of the master bedroom. Either way, I agree it looks consistent with lack of or compressed insulation.

Is it wrong to recommend further invasive investigation? Great thread and thanks for your input!

Kevin, very good points

I’m waiting awhile to get into IR for this very reason, let the first round of “experts” sink or swim with it. It appears that there is a whole lot to be learned about the IR process and reporting methods by those in it now.

These are my definitions not to be misconstrued with any standard;

1.Infrared inspection is specific to determine certain criteria solely related to thermal imaging. Someone has a specific concern such as air infiltration, water infiltration, insulation installation, equipment evaluation etc. The purpose is not just to identify potential issues but to further evaluate them to a point of determining remediation (such as the location of water infiltration in a water infiltration concern). In most cases your client specifically has a specific issue and is not hiring a to do a full house assessment. Also most of the time you have permission to do intrusive inspections because the person hiring you owns the property or you have received written permission to do so.

  1. A home inspection using infrared is to determine the presence of anomalies in conjunction with other building inspection practices set by the SOP. Following the SOP of home inspection we are not required to determine the cause and means of repair. My home inspection/IR client is interested in identifying potential issues. This has to do with locating and verifying an anomaly so that a professional in that particular area and further evaluated and repair of the situation if necessary. Your home inspection client has no interest in how and where to repair the house unless the house is an “as is” contract. They expect it to be fixed by the seller. This is where I draw the line with thermal imaging and home inspections. I identify, verify and locate issues. If more information is needed about mediation I offer my services to the homeowner or the home buyer for an additional service/fee. You cannot do efficient assessment if you don’t have permission to do potentially intrusive inspection which is outside the home inspection SOP. I also believe that it’s not the client’s responsibility to spend the money to make these determinations, rather the homeowner. For all tense and purposes excessive moisture intrusion into the house may result in the potential buyer from walking away from the sale. There is no reason to investigate how the situation will be repaired if there is no intention on the part of your client to make the repair.

  2. The use of infrared does not go beyond the SOP when the SOP specifically states that the home inspector is allowed to do so if properly trained, certified or licensed if required by the local jurisdictions.

In the state of Tennessee the standard of practice only requires the home inspector to view and report issues which can be seen in the daylight with a flashlight. It specifically states that it does not prohibit you from using any other testing device. Just that it is not required.

The reasons I separate specific infrared inspection from home/infrared inspection is so that we do not cross too far over the lines of home inspection SOP. I will conduct a home inspection with infrared, but if further information is required I renegotiate and perform the service outside of home inspection and those standards. To do a good infrared job you have to cross way over the SOP lines and that is what makes so many uneasy concerning this liability.

The specific practices and limitations in a home inspection/IR inspection should be spelled out in your inspection agreement and report to handle your client’s expectations. Your contractually setting out services you intend to perform and are advising the client that there are limitations, exceptions and exclusions to those services.

Just as a sidenote, these repairs could have been performed using a different type/thickness of sheetrock and it would show up if the temperature differential or extremely small. We don’t have this information.
Also increased thickness of sheetrock paste and paint will also show up.
It is most likely that the installation was disturbed as a result of the repairs being made.
In this photograph, we have a sheetrock repair, repaired texture ceiling and a different type of paint. The anomaly is very subtle and temperature differential very small, however it is visible.

P.S. The apparent temp differential of this spot is only .7degrees F.