How To Look At A House
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Can infrared thermal imaging find mold behind a wall?
Saturday, June 30, 2018
No, not exactly. It does not “see” mold. Thermal imaging using an infrared camera is very good at scanning areas of wall surface for moisture that is not detectible visually. Because the wetness in the wall begins evaporating as soon as it is deposited, and the evaporation cools the area, the camera recognizes cooler areas in the wall. In the photo above, the inset of the infrared photo of the corner of the window shows an area that is definitely cooler and likely wet—which is typical of small leak at a window opening. Cold air infiltration around a window frame and missing insulation in the wall can also create cool spots, but a thermographer is trained to recognize the signature of moisture in a wall.
The catch is that moisture does not automatically mean there is mold growth behind the wall and, conversely, a previously wet area that is now dry may have may have mold growth that is dying and sending out millions of spores, but not recognizable with infrared.
So an infrared image is good at finding areas where there is likely to be mold. It’s a first step and requires further evaluation, like verification with a moisture meter, exploration with a borescope, or opening up the wall to get a really good look.
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