Bearer of Bad News

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Thermal image during building inspection.
Buildings
The Snell Group

Often during the building inspection process, one will discover issues the building owner does not necessarily want to be found. These issues include, but are not limited to; air leakage, moisture, and conduction losses/gains. All issues found are going to cost money to correct, with some more than others. The cost of these faults or anomalies can be quite high, to the point where some building owners may try to discredit your findings. While many property owners want to be made aware of the problems that exist in their structures, it is the cost of repairs that can be discouraging.

How much would it cost to fix this area above the fireplace in this lovely room?

The ROI (return on investment) for some of the problems found may not be there. For example, air leakage into a home office that has expensive wall coverings may have a loss of $15 to $30 in air-conditioning or heating costs per month. The other problem that may occur is that air leaks can also allow moisture to infiltrate leading to mold issues. This would lead the building owner making the repair despite the negative ROI. The cost of the repair may total up to $3000.00 to $6,000.00 depending on contractor or DIY (do it yourself). With those numbers, it may take decades for the repair to pay for itself. Granted, not all air leaks are going to cost as much to repair. The fact is that many of the leaks found during an inspection are inexpensive to repair, but still require the time and effort to do so.

Insulation problems can be costly depending on the type of original insulation installed, and the number of steps needed to correct the problem. Blown-in cellulose or other similar materials may only require drilling a hole and refilling the voids. Whereas, a spray-applied foam or fiberglass batts may require the removal of wall coverings (drywall board, plaster/lath). At this point, the costs start to rise very quickly. The building owner has to answer some key questions about ROI: Will there be significant cost savings (heating and cooling costs) if I repair? What do I want my carbon footprint to look like? Will the repairs help comfort levels? Will mold be the result of any of the problems if they are left unchecked? How much will the repair (or lack of) affect the resale value of the home?

The cost to stop this air leakage is very little versus the return you can typically get by fixing it.

There are many factors to consider. We, as thermographers, should avoid getting involved in this process. Our scope and mission are to find any present anomalies and report them to the owner, or the owner’s engineering or construction team. Our job is to gather the data and images needed for the building owner to make an informed decision on whether the repairs are worth consideration.

Keep in mind, when performing IR inspections, sometimes the job will include being the bearer of bad news and the recipient may not want to hear it. Regardless, we must present our findings in an honest and straightforward manner. Sugarcoating or omitting details will come back to haunt you later and is generally bad practice. Take good images, keep detailed notes and records, verify your findings, and provide the most accurate report possible. Whether it is good news, bad news, or both - another job will be successfully completed.

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