Commercial and domestic building inspections are subject to many impediments and limitations, including safe access limitations, inability to see through walls and defects that are invisible to the naked eye.

If you cannot access low pitched roof spaces cluttered with heating and AC ducting, you cannot inspect. You cannot see issues inside walls, including dampness, heat from termite nests or overheated power points.

Examples of access limitations include the inability to inspect an entire roof space because of a heavy concentration of ducting, or a low-pitched roof. Invisible defects include dampness that cannot be seen with the naked eye or overheated power points.

One way to overcome some of the limitations is thermal imaging (TI) technology. TI is a nifty camera that can, under favourable conditions, detect many building defects that would otherwise be invisible.

TI cameras cannot see through walls, but they can read temperature differences on surfaces and display them as images on a screen. These tools, of course, are only as good as those who use them, and the interpretation of TI is a bit like radiology.

TI cameras can detect invisible defects (under favorable conditions) in 12 categories:

  • live termite nests in walls or ceilings
  • remnants of inactive termite activity
  • possums, felines or rodents sleeping in walls or ceilings
  • roof or wall leaks
  • wet carpets
  • plumbing leaks
  • dampness in walls (bathrooms, showers, wet areas)
  • missing or poorly fitted insulation in walls or ceilings
  • air draughts (heat convection)
  • overheated power points
  • structure type detection
  • framed wall images (studs, bracing, setout)

TI cameras are not cheap, but they go above and beyond the requirements of AS4349.1 Residential pre purchase building inspections and AS 4349.3 Residential pre purchase timber pest inspections. They can be valuable tools in inspecting new homes and commercial buildings.

The most common building defects that can be found through TI are poorly fitted or partially missing insulation in ceilings and walls, dampness around shower enclosures, and roof leaks. Occasionally, there will be heat from a termite nest, rodents or possums in walls or roof spaces and overheated power points and junction boxes.

You can scan the ceiling and walls in a room in seconds and TI will tell you much more reliably about insulation than an inspector poking around in a roof space for 20 minutes.

Some inspectors may tell you it’s a gimmick, but don’t believe it. It tells you they have no vision, skill, commitment, drive or investment to give you the best inspection.

They will spend hours blundering about to try to find (and miss) what TI will find in minutes.

Roof insulation is the most common building defect in new homes. It is often either poorly fitted (just thrown in) or interfered with by electricians and heating contractors that will just remove insulation batts and not refit them back. TI can be a very quick and easy way to determine whether the roof insulation is up to the job.