Water restoration has been around for as long as houses have been standing, but as technology moves from rudimentary electrical current measurement to the wonderful world of thermography, our job gets just a little easier.
From as early as the 1950s, scientists have been improving technology to detect moisture, primarily in wood. By measuring electrical resistance across two probes, moisture meters can precisely indicate the percentage of moisture that is in a substrate. These tools have evolved over time into a relatively inexpensive handheld, battery-operated instrument. There’s nothing better than a moisture meter for detecting the exact amount of moisture in a particular spot.
But what about on a large scale? A single handheld instrument surely can’t quantify an area of moisture, without taking individual measurements all over a room and recording the measurements, which can be a very tedious process. If only there were a way to “see” the moisture?
Enter the thermal camera. Flir and Fluke are the front runners of the consumer thermal imaging industry, but there are many other companies producing this product as well. Thermal imagery is sometimes incorrectly used synonymously with infrared, but they are different technologies. In this text we’re referring to actual thermal detection, not infrared. In the world of water restoration, a thermal imaging camera can display, in real time, areas of moisture in a room. This allows us to size up the amount of water damage and, in some instances, identify the source of the water.
How does it work, you ask? Fortunately the phenomenon of evaporative cooling provides us with a temperature gradient significant enough to visualize wetness in substrates such as carpet, drywall, plaster and wood. As we know from standard psychrometry, moisture moves towards dryness. So in a room at standard temperature and humidity, any water in said room will constantly evaporate. This provides us with a relatively clear view of the damage. Care must be taken so as not to interpret cold air sources such as HVAC ducts, drafty doors and windows, or areas of missing insulation as moisture. There’s a bit of a learning curve involved with thermography, but the time invested is worthwhile for us as well as our clients!