Infrared Exterior Cladding Inspections

Why use an Infrared Thermographer for an External Cladding Inspection?

Thermal imaging has greatly improved our ability to perform cladding moisture inspections as the infrared camera can see temperature. If there's moisture in the cladding it will effect the surface temperature in that area, the infrared camera can see the temperature difference and therefore can see the leaks. As the saying goes "a picture is worth a thousand words" so being able to take simultaneous digital and infrared photos that can show the effected areas, being able to present them to the customer or builder in an easy to understand report is also a huge advantage. This means you no longer have to perform costly invasive random testing to find a leak, only the effected areas need further investigation. The Thermal images allow us to see and document the extent of the areas of moisture ingress at the click of a button. By using Infrared Cameras for cladding inspections as well as our non invasive moisture meter for confirmation we are now better able to identify the correct areas that need repair quickly and easily compared to other types of inspections. As part of the cladding inspection the interior of the home should also be tested as if moisture is getting past the exterior cladding into the wall framing the issue may be more serious and damage may have occurred. Owners that take preventative steps now will most likely avoid leaky building type headaches later. The longer a leak is present the more damage is being caused. See more about types of building inspections

When should I get an Infrared Exterior Cladding Inspection?

If your house...

  • Was built before 2005.
  • Has living areas that are below ground level.
  • Has flat roofs or decks with living areas below.
  • Has plaster or monolithic cladding.
  • Is built with untreated kiln-dried framing timber.
  • There is mould or other stains on exterior walls.
  • Has bad smells mould or damp.
  • Has any exterior walls without eaves for weather protection.
  • Has cracks in the exterior cladding or bubbling paint.
  • Has windows without head flashing's.
  • If buying or selling (Pre-purchase or Pre-sale).
  • Has any history of moisture ingress.
  • Has a complex design.
  • Has more than one type of cladding
  • Has areas of concern or in poor condition
  • Has any sign of moisture ingress.
  • Has not had an infrared scan before.

Exterior Plaster, Stucco, Roughcast, Inspections of Direct Fixed Plaster Claddings

Infrared showing cladding anomaly (8)
IR detect cladding leak (6)
Infrared Image of Cladding Leak  (7)
 Infrared Image of Gable End Leak

Problems with both direct fixed (Harditex type) cladding systems and solid (mesh type) plaster stucco and roughcast systems are that they all crack as they age, absorb moisture and the paint coating has to be relied on to keep the moisture out. The cement plaster is very moisture absorbent as are the fibre cement backing sheets. Usually if you get a crack in Monolithic plaster cladding you would expect the damp proofing vapor barrier underneath to prevent moisture ingress. My experience has shown that a large proportion of these homes were built with the black paper type building wrap which commonly fails completely when it has been exposed to moisture over time. As a result a large percentage of plaster homes are at risk of serious moisture damage which can cost thousands of dollars to fix and could substantially devalue the property. It amazes me how bad a home can sometimes be leaking without any visible damage or that the home owner can detect or is aware of. The Poly (polystyrene) cladding systems such as Insulclad, although they fall into the same category are a much better in respect that the poly itself is quite water resistant. But, it can still fail especially around windows and transition areas if not flashed properly or because of design issues. Most moisture problems can be detected by simply having regular Thermal Imaging Infrared Moisture Inspection, finding out what needs to be done, fixing it promptly before the rot and mould sets in and following up with regular maintenance. As we have been conducting cladding inspections for a number of years now we also point out (as part of our inspection and report) areas that have been known to fail or may require additional preventive moisture related maintenance to ensure ongoing weathertightness, even though they may not be leaking at the time of inspection. Detect-A-Leak endeavors to keep up to date with current cladding trends and information and attends related seminars. Detect-A-Leak are also members of the Cladding Institute of New Zealand (CINZ). I have come across some early Fibrolite clad homes that have been plastered over to give a more modern look or possibly to hide repairs. Old Fibrolite can contain Asbestos which can be a health risk. Any building built from the 1950′s to 1970′s is a candidate for containing asbestos. If you disturb asbestos containing materials it can become airborne further increasing the risk. If you think your building contains asbestos do not disturb it, seek professional advice.

Avoid the stigma of having your home labelled as a leaky building.

Exterior Cedar, Shadowclad and Plywood Battened Cladding

Rotting shadow clad cladding (2)
Cedar cladding leaks
IR showing shadow clad moisture issue (2)

Problems with Cedar, Plywood and Shadowclad homes are that they rely heavily on the stain for weather-tightness and to protect the cladding from the sun. This stain has to be regularly maintained otherwise the cladding will warp crack and split sometimes at an alarming rate. Most of the time I recommend painting as the paint is a higher build it is going to give better weather protection and last longer. The photo second from the left above shows a complete failure of the stain allowing moisture to penetrate the cladding. The cedar has dried out and split not to mention the window head flashing finishes to short and there were no bungs fitted into the corner battens. Shadowclad plywood is normally treated to prevent rotting but I have come across some that have started to warp split and rot due to the treatment or glue failing, requiring cladding replacement. There has been some bad publicity recently due to these problems and the product has featured on Fairgo on more than one occasion. In some instances Utilityclad (an identical looking seconds product) was sold, supplied and fitted as Shadowclad. Thermal Image scanning has greatly improved our ability to perform cladding moisture inspections.

Avoid the stigma of having your home labelled as a leaky building.

Exterior Brick Veneer and Concrete Block Cladding Inspection - what defects to look for?

IR Image of moisture in blockwook (2)
IR image block wall leak
IR of image chimney leak (2)

Contrary to popular belief brick cladding is not without its own problems. Most common causes of moisture ingress is around the window and head flashing's, often there are none. Brick sills are prone to leaking as was the case in the digital photo above, not to mention the lack of sealant around the pipe penetrations. The right hand IR image is of a concrete block chimney which was not watertight on the exterior and was allowing moisture to travel down into the building. Newer brick homes have had issues caused by the block layers dropping to much grout down into the cavity which then allows the moisture to transfer into the bottom plate. Two-story brick homes with block bases also have a lot of moisture ingress problems where the brick sits on top of the block base or were the brick joins other types of cladding. I find a number of older brick homes suffer from leaks as moisture often gets wind driven into the cavity area through the brick. Over time it can break down the building rap (if fitted) allowing moisture directly onto the timber framing or sometimes the moist damp air is sufficient to float across and cause condensation issues within the home. As always penetrations of pipes etc need regular maintenance and resealing.

Avoid the stigma of having your home labelled as a leaky building.

Exterior Weatherboard Cladding Inspection - what defects to look for?


Timber cladding is one of the better claddings for weathertightness but most weatherboard homes in NZ are now quite old and if they are not well designed or maintained they can leak, particularly around windows, gable ends and doors, check the condition of the flashing's and make sure the are no gaps especially underneath the sill. Also a lot of the older homes can have warped, cracked, unpainted, missing flashing's and rotten boards as well as ground levels that have crept up over the years. (Ground levels should be 150mm below the inside finished floor height if concrete on the exterior and 225mm if it is garden or soil unless it is tanked). Other problem areas are where extensions and decks join the old with the new. Older homes can benefit also with an energy check.

Hardi-Plank and Fibrolite Exterior Cladding

Hardi-Plank is a Fibrolite cladding and is made from fibrocement, which means that it is a combination of cellulose fibres, along with cement-like materials. In other words, it’s partly wood, partly cement. Break a piece of fibrolite and inside you will see a brittle core interlaced with wood fibres. Fibrolite is quite thin, brittle and has little insulation value. Linear weatherboard has now replaced the old Hardie-Plank and is a thicker but still similar type product. Any cracks or damage in the fibrolite are potential leaks and must be repaired promptly. Often the fibrolite can leak around nail fixings and at the sheet joints which either overlap or are covered in a fibrolite jointer or plastic flashing. Fibrolite made prior to 1980 often contains asbestos.

Weatherside Wood Fibre Exterior Cladding

Weatherside cladding is a cladding that looks similar to Hardiplank or weatherboard but the product is made from wood fibre while Hardiplank is a fibre cement product. The glue in Weatherside has been known to fail if exposed to moisture turning the product to mush, resulting in swelling and delaminating of the product. When the problem became public on Fair Go the manufacturer Carter Holt Harvey offered compensation to homeowners for a period of time, but not anymore. If there is hidden moisture in the cladding it's often visible with in the Thermal Image. Owners that take preventative steps now will most likely avoid the damage and depreciation that is very likely to occur if appropriate precautions are not taken. These problems can be avoided by simply having regular Infrared Inspections, finding out what needs to be done and fixing it promptly.

Avoid the stigma of having your home labelled as a leaky building.