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Click! Finding Leaks With an Infrared Camera

Testing the waters. Repairing leaks in roofs, windows, parapets and facades – which can lead to interior water damage and compromise exterior elements – is a never-ending challenge. The conventional method of detecting leaks has been to penetrate a surface to seek what lurks within. Now some architects and engineers are turning to a detection tool that does not require any initial drilling or probing – and, in the bargain, can produce big savings for co-op and condo boards.

Hot spots. The tool is a thermographic – or infrared – camera, which produces color-coded images based on temperatures and guides an investigator to the precise location of harmful moisture. “If there’s a leak in the facade, the water will retain heat and stay warm when the facade cools off at the end of the day,” explains Mitch Frumkin, the president at Kipcon Engineering Consultants. “When you take a picture, you see a lot of colors, which represent temperatures. A bright spot indicates a higher temperature behind the stonework where water has accumulated.”

Location, location. The next step is drilling holes into the stonework and inserting probes to determine the percentage of moisture concentration in the wood framing. “If it’s higher than 30%, there’s a high probability of damage,” says Frumkin, who recently used his Flir thermographic camera to detect leaks at a 1920s brick building and a newly constructed New Jersey condominium. “By localizing where the probes need to go, that saves buildings a huge amount of money.” Once the extent of damage is ascertained, the pinpointed repairs will begin.

Smart choices. Brian Sullivan, the president at Sullivan Engineering, has also found the thermographic camera to be a money saver. “It allows a co-op or condo board to make informed decisions on whether to replace the roof or do patch repairs. If you make half a dozen patch repairs and then have to come back in a couple of years and replace the roof, you’ve thrown good money after bad. By making the right decision, a board could save several hundred thousand dollars.”

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