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Our secret weapon in building pathology

Gordon Colbourne, Associate Partner-Building Surveyor at DHCS, shares with us his secret weapon for use in building pathology.

James Bond and Q spring to mind as Gordon opens up his briefcase, to reveal his state-of-the-art weapons in the battle against building defects.  Among his box of tricks is a FLIR thermal imaging camera, a Protimeter MMS II Moisture Meter with a non-contact infra-red temperature sensor, a metal detector and a borescope.

thermal imaging equipment for building pathology

For building surveying, in particular building pathlogy, thermal imaging equipment (sometimes referred to as Infrared Thermal Imaging or IRT) is ideal for detecting both energy deficiencies and building defects. For example in:

  • walls – identifying gaps in cladding, wet insulation, badly fitted windows, ingress, damp patches, rising damp, wall-tie-fatigue, black mould, delamination, voids, condensation, airtightness
  • cavities –  missing insulation, wet or voids in the walls
  • floors – failed damp-proof membranes, trapped moisture in concrete below floor finishes, wet timbers, gaps in insulation, leaking pipework, failure of underfloor heating
  • roofs – establishing when they should be refurbished
FLIR thermal imaging camera

FLIR thermal imaging camera

The camera produces a thermal image which displays an array of colours all signifying differences in energy absorption and radiation.  Generally – although not always – red/white means hot and blue means cool. Anything that contains moisture absorbs heat energy and is generally colder so damp shows as the darker areas on the image.

Both the camera and the computer-controlled moisture meter have non-contact laser guided infra-red sensors – which senses the temperature at the exact point where the laser is directed. It can detect faults such as where a radiator, or pipework serving it, has failed.  It’s very useful when an underfloor heating system has a fault as it can pinpoint where the heat stops – so only that part of the floor needs to be opened up to repair the pipes, rather than the whole area.

This technology, alongside the moisture meter, assists and guides us towards a correct diagnosis of the cause of the problems.

Protimeter MMS II Moisture Meter

Protimeter MMS II Moisture Meter

The advantages of thermal imaging and non-destructive sensing technology

  • It is quick: the problem can be identified within seconds and remedial action discussed.
  • It is reliable: the thermal image cannot lie.
  • It is non-destructive: no holes are drilled, and no physical penetration of the building or roof fabric is undertaken.
  • It can reduce the cost of refurbishment: by literally pinpointing where the problem is and uncovering its extent, only targeted repairs and maintenance are required.
  • It is increasingly used in conflict resolution where there are claims of poor workmanship.

Thermal imaging in action

Here’s some images generated by our equipment and showing it in use

Photos from the Thermal Imaging camera of The Old Manor House:

thermal imaging technology

Black and White image shows windows slightly cooler than solid wall which appears warm because heat has transferred out through the solid wall.

Thermal image – building pathology

Colour image shows the warm building, colder windows and very cold sky. Yellow/white is hotter , blue is cooler

Building Pathology, Defect Analysis and Repair service

Colour image of lath and plaster ceiling showing the ceiling frame timbers as a grid, the unlit fluorescent light fitting as a warmer straight line (emitting heat equal to the warm room – note colour of door) and darker areas between the ceiling joists where insulation is poor or missing.

Mould on alleged damp wall - internal leaf of exernal wall. Not damp, just cold - condesation issue

Photos of the Protimeter MMS2 Moisture Meter in use, showing condensation on surface of the wall, not a damp wall (wall plaster not retaining moisture), even though residents of a block of Flats associated mould with damp. Not necessary to spend lots of money from the Maintenance Fund for the block of Flats.

Daniells Harrison use thermal imaging technology as part of our Building Pathology, Defect Analysis and Repair service.  Please contact Gordon Colbourne or Nick Eames for more information.