Get expert eyes on faults
HELP, my house isn’t very well! How many times have you had an annoying random defect with your home? Usually it is a leak somewhere obscure, a damp patch on a ceiling or wall or a crack, mould or decaying timber. Or, even worse, it could be signs that those dreaded, tiny, wood-eating creatures are treating your home like the menu of the finest restaurant.
Perhaps you live in a unit or townhouse and you are positive the home of a neighbour is the cause of the wet patch that appears every time it rains from the east, but you cannot prove it.
This is not uncommon. Houses, like humans, can suffer ailments. But they are often not as easy to diagnose. They are more akin to the sore back, or aches and pains that have no real obvious cause yet cause so much discomfort — and so it is with a sick house.
The unwell house looks fine, until you look closely in certain places. The moment the rain starts, your anxiety increases as much as the patch of damp grows in size.
Recently I was speaking to a building inspector who had been asked to investigate the source of water ingress that could not be traced. Eventually it was found that the guttering at one point had a tiny hole where a rivet should have been. Consequently, in heavy rain this allowed water to soak into the top of a wall through a minute hairline surface crack.
In lengthy rain periods, water would build up and disperse into the cavity — staying there for months and, courtesy of gravity, travelling as far as it could to totally confuse any investigation. The evidence of moisture damage in the home was approximately 18m from the source — two levels up and nearly the length of the whole house across.
As we all know, these tiny issues can grow into very costly repairs. This happens in new homes, old homes, renovators and the show home. In most cases we either ignore it or we start the tiresome, confusing and annoying process of investigation.
But there is help at hand, certainly for any water or damp related issue, or even sourcing the entry point of those little insects.
The technology has been around for quite a few years, but the quality and availability of this specialist equipment is constantly improving and these gadgets and their operators can be invaluable in sourcing any issues, as the equipment undertakes the searching without stripping all the walls back to the frame. Remember, if you could peel any wall or floor back you could easily see what was happening, but that is impractical and you may as well knock down and start again.
Infrared cameras — or thermal imaging equipment — can find moisture, insect infestation, electrical circuit performance or even holes or where air is getting into a cavity. This technology can give you images, print outs, everything you need to source a problem and give you a serious hint on how to solve the issue.
But as amazing as the technology is, the operators need to know what they are doing.
The readings can be heavily influenced by ambient temperatures and the surface material, so it is vital that the operator has both the skills and the training to interpret correctly what is found behind the sheeting.
The good news is there is help out there. But, as with all contractors, please check out the background of operators, check references and get proper quotes and comparisons. Andrew Winter is the host of Selling Houses Australia