How to Prepare for a Building Inspection During Winter

Posted by Tom Laurenzi on Dec 4, 2018 10:21:13 PM

Winter is here once again—and with it comes numerous wintertime water damage risks. In the northernmost parts of the U.S. that are cool or cold year-round, most buildings are well-prepared for winter conditions with insulated pipes and other precautionary measures. However, in areas where temperatures tend to vary, moisture intrusion risks from snowmelt, burst pipes, and even collapsed roofs demand frequent building inspections to make sure that moisture is being kept outside.

Whether you’re looking to perform a residential or commercial building inspection, there are a few things that you may need to prepare before performing an inspection in winter.

Building Inspection Item 1: Protective Wear

One of the most basic things to prepare for any building inspection is protective wear, such as gloves, boots, pants, long-sleeved shirts, goggles, and headwear. Even if you’re inside the building, it’s important to cover up your skin as much as possible because you’ll be needing to check insulation.

Fiberglass is a popular insulation material, but it’s also a skin and eye irritant that can cause lasting harm. By covering up during a commercial building or home inspection, you can avoid potential injury.

When checking the exterior wall and foundation for potential moisture intrusion sources, it may be helpful to wear at least two layers of clothing for extra cold protection. Thick, slip-resistant boots are also useful for checking the roof to help prevent slip and fall incidents. According to data cited by OSHA, “an average of 40 workers are killed each year as a result of falls from residential roofs.”

Building Inspection Item #2: Light Sources

During a home or commercial building inspection, you may run into areas of the structure that aren’t well-lit. This is more common when inspecting unoccupied properties that haven’t been maintained for a while. Because of this, it’s important to carry a light source of some kind, such as a flashlight or electric lamp that can provide bright, steady light when you need it.

This helps to improve safety during a building inspection by increasing visibility so there is less risk of a slip and fall accident. Even in a well-lit and maintained structure, there may be enclosed spaces where normal lights do not reach.

Building Inspection Item #3: Camera

During a home or commercial building inspection, it may be necessary to document any damage that has occurred for insurance purposes. Here, taking photos or video of the damage with a camera can be enormously useful.

Thankfully, smartphones have cameras built right into them that can take photos and even let you email them right to an insurance agent. In fact, some insurance companies are now making smartphone apps that let users take pictures and upload reports right in the app.

If taking video, it can help to take some verbal notes to refer to later. For example, you could document the size of a hole or where you think the moisture intrusion source is.

Building Inspection Item #4: Moisture Meters

One of the major goals for any commercial building or home inspection is to verify whether or not the structure has been moisture-compromised. For this moisture testing, you’ll need to have a moisture meter on hand.

With a moisture meter, you can trace the origin point of a leak in a structure and determine how moisture-compromised different building materials are. The first capability is useful for fixing issues causing moisture intrusion in the structure before they get worse. The second is useful for dry-out/tear-out operations and for documenting the severity of a moisture problem.

The process for tracing a leak during a home or commercial building inspection varies depending on the type of material being tested. For example, when tracing a leak in drywall, brick, or plaster, the process usually involves a pin-type moisture meter, some ductile wire, and at least one nail:

  1. Set the moisture meter to its reference scale mode.
  2. Drive the nail partway into masonry that you know is wet.
  3. Attach the ductile wire to the nail.
  4. Attach the other end of the wire to one of the moisture meter’s pins.
  5. Drive the other pin into different parts of the wall where you think the leak may be originating. If the meter gives a “wet” response, then the wall is wet all the way between the two contact points. If the meter gives a “dry” response, then the spot being tested may not be in the path of the leak.
  6. Repeat the test until you’ve determined the size of the wet area.

Building Inspection Item #5: Moisture Meter Electrodes

The pins on the top of a pin moisture meter are seldom long enough to provide reliable moisture testing in insulation. To get deep into fiberglass insulation and make sure if it is free of moisture, it’s necessary to use an extra-long moisture meter electrode/probe.

When testing insulation with a moisture probe, it is helpful to test the insulating material at several angles to make sure that a moisture pocket isn’t missed.

Some moisture meter electrodes are designed specifically to punch through drywall to test the insulation behind it—which can be useful for moisture testing in residential structures where tearing out walls may not be considered desirable.

Need help finding the right moisture testing tools for winter building inspections? Reach out to the team at Delmhorst to learn more!

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Topics: building inspection