IR to the rescue!

I did an inspection last Saturday as a follow-up favor for a realtor client. It seems her listing had an inspection which revealed moisture in the corner of a basement wall. It is a 30 year old house and the seller is an older, single woman without much money. She needs to sell the house for financial reasons. I said I would look at the wall with my IR camera, no charge. The realtor is a long-time client and has sent me lots of business. The whole visit took not much time at all. The buyers were demanding that a “dry basement” company work up a solution to this “huge” problem.

Boy, did they work up a “solution!” They diagnosed a cracked block foundation. After suggesting much ditch diggage, French drainage, foundation wall sealage, indoor slab breakage, and new sump pumpage, they offered different prices for different “solutions.” The prices ranged from $6K to +$20K. You know the drill, kill an ant with a sledge hammer.

My IR camera revealed moisture from a very slight drip from a previously stubbed-out hose connection, no longer visible on the outside and apparently hidden when the house was re-sided. The foundation wall was not insulated and the drip was going straight to the sill plate.

I do not know if the “dry basement” company used an IR camera to diagnose the problem. I wonder what they would have done if they discovered the real cause of this moisture. Maybe they did! However, theirs was no solution at all and certainly very expensive.

The true problem is easily corrected. There is no foundation crack. My analysis was objective - I had no financial gain in providing a diagnosis/solution to this problem. The seller is happy. The buyers are happy. Both agents are happy. I have picked up a new client and further solidified an old one. You can give a happy-ending sigh now. A lot of business capital was purchased with very little effort.

My camera is two years old. It is a powerful tool - a great arrow in my quiver. Diversity of product and services offered is one great key to business development. In 1776 Adam Smith wrote a terrific book, “The Wealth of Nations.”* Among the very cool things he said was, to paraphrase, we owe our dinner not to the butcher, the baker and the beer maker’s interest in us, but to their business self interest. Self interest is not selfishness. Business people’s true interest is to put out the best product they can so that their clients will continue to come back and bring more clients with them. Business self interest translates to making a profit, so the business can grow, produce more, and improve lives. That, combined with freedom, is the very basis of an unfettered, free-market, capitalist economic system.

You and I are those business people! Let’s take advantage of the great blessings of the economic system we enjoy and go and do that voodoo we do so well!

  • Another great, more modern book is “How the West Grew Rich,” by Nathan Rosenberg.

You are a brave man to discredit the recommendation for water entry repairs provided by a lic contractor on a 30 yr old home.


Great post Jay!:slight_smile:

Way to go!

Great message I too have a soft spot for the elderly and would have done the same. Keep up the good work you will be justly rewarded.

Word about IR is getting out. I have had three calls for followup IR scans this week from people who had inspections (from inspectors without IR), suspect some sort of water problem and want further examination.

Talked one out of doing it - first time buyer, sounded like inspector did a good job and I did not think Infrared would offer her any additional useful information and the money for my fee was better spent elsewhere, Booked one at $200, didn’t book third - priced it higher because it was a long drive and that probably convinced them not to do it. Still trying to find the sweet spot for a fair fee - one that makes what I want and still sells.

Also noticed from these calls that people do not really understand what IR is or does. They have unrealistic expectations, from whatever source they heard about IR and its capabilities, about what we can do.

Most concerning is the “you can find mold, right?”

Important to keep educating people in everyway we can!


My answer to this question is YES I can. If I find a section of a wall or ceiling latent with moisture or a water intrusion, I can say with 100% certainty that mold will grow within 24-48 hours!


I guess the only people not happy with you are the contractors!:shock:

Good job!

While I don’t disagree with the fact that moisture will produce mold, I do have to disagree with saying, or implying that IR can “find mold.” It can most definately find moisture, so it can find mold conducive conditions. But it does not find, test for, or identify mold. Which, I believe, is what most people are thinking if they ask that question.

IR is such a powerful new, in this application at least, technology that the general public is just beginning to realize. I think it is very important that we, thermographers, are very careful in how we advertise, sell, and educate the general public about it’s true capabilities. Remember, clients do not always hear exactly what you say, they hear what they want or what they perceive to be the answer. While we understand how what you say is true, they very well may not really understand, and therefore may expect something very different from what we can do.


Kevin -

I think you are right. Education is everything, especially as something hits the market and/or begins to take hold. There will always be those who try to sell something on phony ideas or from an angle that doesn’t work. You have to wonder how many people got ripped off after Katrina by the “restoration” or “mold” “experts,” not to mention the “contractors!!” That’s where we come in - ethically and as professionals. I think your “unrealistic expectations” is the perfect phrase.

I think it boils down to our having enough understanding of our tool and its abilities to then explain it enough to clients so the client can make an informed decision. In the case of my realtor client, and the “old lady,” I didn’t go there with any previous explanation to the client, and did not go to prove another diagnosis wrong. But I did go to find out what I could and then try to explain it well enough for all to understand. The room was paneled and all they had to remove was one piece to reveal that what I thought was happening really was. It is at that point that everyone thinks the tool is magic. It’s that “magic” that gets blown out of proportion on the grapevine and then the con artists get involved and begin ripping people off. That’s what you mean I think about people not hearing what we say.

I think that basically Mario is right - wet and mold are partners. But I also think that we have to say it in a way that makes it clear that the conditions are ripe for mold, something like “you do know that this moisture makes for the perfect environment for mold-like amplification… and mold can grow very quickly.” That is professionally said and not definitive - you can’t prove anything until AFTER the test. There was no mold in my case, perhaps because the leak was not very old, I don’t know. But eventually there would have been!

Hey, Kevin, don’t forget to link to my site! Thanks!

Jay, Kevin,

I agree with you guys I guess I should have used smiles with my statement] , but I also stand behind my statement. I would definitely use more tactful wording with clients, but the reality is testing is not required IMO to determine mold growth after having a water intrusion. If mold is visible I allways tell clients to save their money when asked to do air/surface sampling.

I had a story like this. Former client who only lives about 1 mile from my house. Older house, split level. A little seepage at the corner of the lower lever (outside corner). The client was putting down a wood laminate floor and got all freaked out.

I cam over and he already had a guy from a local “flood protection” company and was just about to sign a contract for $5,600 to have interior drain tiles installed in the basement. I checked it out and found that the downspout at that exterior corner was split in the back and not extended away from the house.

I told him to hold off. The contractor guy got real nasty with me, “I have been doing this for 30 years and I know what I am talking about. Who are you?”. “I am a state licensed home inspector. Where is your license?”. Turned out he didn’t even have a local business license.

In any case, the client and I went out and bought some new downspout and an extension ($17.59 at Home Despot :mrgreen: ).

I had the client install it, using my tools, while I told him what to do. After it was done, I told him that the radio said it was REALLY going to storm that night. He was all freaked out and told me that he would sleep in the basement that night (they had not moved in, at that time).

Well, he did call me, at 5:30 AM the next morning. “It rained like hell and the basement is still dry. YOU SAVE ME OVER $5,000!”. I, sleepily, told him I was glad, but I was going back to bed.

I have gotten 9 inspection referrals from him (he is a teacher) since then. All of them were “highly qualified” because he really trusted me.

Go figure :wink:

Yepper! This has got to happen everyday all over the country.
INACHI boys (you know, ethical, professional, standards of practice, etc) to the rescue…! Good job Decker! Will I meet you at the Atlanta IR class?

Just good business. Try to do the little extra and impress the heck out of the client. With so many companies (not necessarily HI companies) doing bad customer service, it doesn’t take much.

I will not be in Atlanta. John teaches some places and I teach others. So far, no one has asked me to teach, other than to teach with John at the Boulder class.