The ability to quickly identify and address issues such as damp and cold bridging is paramount to maintaining the integrity and value of buildings. Surface level inspection processes often overlook moisture in areas that are difficult to access or require the lifting of floorboards, drilling into walls or the removal of fixtures such as skirting boards.
One technological innovation that has revolutionised the way it is possible to detect and diagnose damp problems are thermal imaging surveys. Thermal imaging provides a more comprehensive and accurate method for damp diagnosis than other, more traditional methods, such as moisture metres. It can detect damp in a wider range of areas and at an earlier stage, and is also less invasive than other methods, so it is less likely to cause damage.
If you are worried about damp in your property, a thermal imaging survey can be a valuable asset in helping to identify the issue and find the best solution. In this blog, we’ll delve into what a thermal imaging survey is, how it works, and its invaluable role in pinpointing damp issues before they become a more serious problem for you and your property.
What is a Thermal Imaging Survey?
A thermal imaging survey, also known as infrared thermography, is a non-invasive technique that utilises thermal imaging cameras to detect variations in temperature on the surface of objects or structures. This powerful tool has been widely employed by building services engineers for insulation, electrical and plumbing inspections, but is now finding applications in property preservation and building inspections to identify hidden issues that may otherwise go unnoticed.
Thermal imaging is a method of creating an image of an object by detecting the infrared radiation emitted by that object. While invisible to the human eye, this radiation can be detected by thermal imaging cameras and used to gain information about an object’s temperature, shape, and surface texture. It can also be used to distinguish between the temperature of different objects or materials that may be indistinguishable to the naked eye, such as breeze block and brick construction, that are covered in hard plaster.
How Does Thermal Imaging Work?
At the heart of a thermal imaging survey is the principle that every object emits infrared radiation in proportion to its temperature.
Put simply, the hotter an object is, the more infrared radiation it emits, and the brighter it will appear in the thermal image.
Thermal imaging cameras capture this radiation and translate it into a visual image, where each colour represents a different temperature range. By analysing these temperature patterns, professionals can identify anomalies that may indicate underlying problems, such as damp.
In the context of damp detection, thermal imaging can be used to identify areas of moisture in a building. This is because as moisture is lost from a surface by evaporation, it cools that surface and, as a result, areas of damp will often appear cooler in a thermal image than the surrounding areas.
For example, if there is a leak in a roof, the thermal imaging camera will show a cooler area on the ceiling below the leak as the water in the leak cools by evaporation. This pattern can be seen long after the area has dried to the naked eye, as may be the case with a leaking gutter or water tank overflow down the outside of a building.
However, just because a surface is cold, does not mean it is damp, as may be the case with cold bridging. It is therefore important that the cold area is checked for damp by more traditional methods, once the thermal imager has pinpointed that area of interest.
Thermal Imaging and Damp
One of the most significant applications of thermal imaging surveys is in detecting and diagnosing damp within buildings. Damp, if left unaddressed, can lead to structural damage and mould growth, amongst other issues. Here’s how thermal imaging can help:
Identifying Hidden Moisture:
Traditional methods of detecting damp, such as visual inspections, can only reveal surface-level issues. Thermal imaging, on the other hand, can identify hidden pockets of moisture behind walls, ceilings, and floors by highlighting temperature variations caused by evaporating moisture, provided these come to the surface.
Detecting damp at an early stage is crucial for preventing extensive damage. Thermal imaging can allow professionals to identify damp before it becomes visible or results in significant structural issues.
Pinpointing the Source:
Thermal imaging not only identifies damp areas but also helps to pinpoint the source of the moisture through interpretation of the thermal image pattern. This valuable information enables targeted and efficient remediation efforts.
Cost-Effective and Non-Intrusive:
Thermal imaging surveys are non-invasive, meaning they may not require the tearing down of walls or the lifting of floor covering and floorboards for inspection, provided a thermal anomaly can be detected at the surface. This makes them cost-effective and minimises disruption.
Professionals can provide property owners with detailed reports and images that clearly illustrate the extent of the damp issue, aiding in informed decision-making and remediation planning.
While this method of detection represents a substantial step forward, it is important to note that it is not a foolproof method. It can be affected by other factors, such as the temperature of the surrounding air and the type of material being inspected. Therefore, it is important to use thermal imaging in conjunction with other methods in order to obtain a complete picture of the damp problem.
This being said, by harnessing the power of thermal imaging technology, professionals can detect damp, cold bridging and a range of other issues with unparalleled precision and efficiency. This non-invasive, early detection method not only safeguards the structural integrity of buildings but also helps to ensure the wellbeing of those who inhabit them.
Thermal imaging is just one of the methods our expert surveyors use to diagnose and create treatment plans for our customers’ property. For more information on how our damp surveys could benefit your property and preserve its value, don’t hesitate to reach out to Peter Cox, your trusted partner in property preservation.