Updated: Dec 12, 2020
Over the past year, we received an abnormal number of reports from customers who told us that they had been scammed by contractors and home inspectors who claimed that they provided leak detection services. Unfortunately for these customers, either they didn’t receive any service and lost their deposit, or they received a poor infrared service, where the photos were taken using inexpensive thermal cameras.
We were asked by one of these customers to write this post to provide some basic guidelines to help other homeowners avoid this trap.
First, start by asking the most important question, Who can perform a leak detection inspection?
Many companies add Leak Detection as one of their services. They do this to attract customers, by offering inexpensive infrared inspections.
How can a homeowner know if a contractor is qualified? This is difficult, but check their review history on the Better Business Bureau site, to see if the contractor has ever done any leak detection inspections in the past or any building envelope work. This is not the best method, but it will definitely give you an idea of previous work experience.
1) One way to determine the knowledge and expertise of an inspector is to ask what type of infrared certification their technician has. Many companies are using third-party home inspectors to provide this service, so ask them if their inspector is an employee. When a company uses an external inspector, it is a strong indicator that the company does not take building envelope seriously, as they are relying on others to provide the expertise. This is not a good sign.
2) Ask inspectors what type of thermal camera they use. Thermal imaging is similar to photography. Knowledge is essential, but it must be combined with professional equipment. Most professional building investigation thermographers will purchase thermal cameras that cost at least $8,000.
Formal training is required to determine if your building envelope is failing and causing water to intrude. Ideally, you should hire someone who has at least 10 years of experience in this field and also has equipment beyond infrared technology. A basic building envelope tool kit can cost $20,000-$50,000. Water intrusion can be very difficult to detect. This means that you need a high sensitivity thermal camera that can detect a temperature variation as small as 0.02 degrees. This can be achieved only with sophisticated, industrial-grade, thermal cameras. These cameras cost $14,000-$30,000. So ask for the model number and do your own research to find out the cost of the camera they are using.
3) Ask the company to provide proof of their certifications. Thermography is not simple and post-analysis is crucial. This means that the thermographer must be certified at the very least as an ITC level 1 thermographer.
Some quick online searches can avoid big problems. Certified Building envelope and leak detection companies are COR certified. For licensed, pre-paid contractors,
you can call 1-877-427-4088 or search online at https://www.servicealberta.ca/find-if-business-is-licenced.cfm.
Unlicensed contractors are a big red flag.
4) Don't trust a website. Nowadays, it is relatively easy to build a professional looking website. Many clients have told us that they trusted the contractor, based on their website. It is best to meet your contractor in person. Visit them in their office to verify they still in business. Due to Covid, many businesses have shut down, but they may still use their business address. If something goes wrong, you want to make sure that you can find them at their business location. Also, their location's size will give you a sense of what type of project the contractor is capable of doing.
5) Get a quote in writing! Never hire any contractor without a proper quote. Before you give out your credit card, get everything in writing.
We hope this guide will help you to find a contractor with the skills, tools and experience required to correctly diagnose and resolve your water leakage issues.