It was hard to not notice the five o’clock shadow around the light fixture. My buyer had not noticed it, and when I brought it to their attention I asked them if they knew what it was. They in turn asked me if I knew what the discoloration meant.
I said, “sure I know what it means.” I had already pulled my ITID (the one absolutely essential home inspection tool) out of my bag of tricks and used it successfully. “ITID” means: Internal Thermal Imaging Device (you know the cheap version of those fancy expensive thermal imaging cameras that one can buy from FLIR or Fluke). Because I have such a device, I knew what the dark area was from. One of the strengths of my ITID is that I get to run through other possible causes of the marks–like maybe the area had been patched or painted in relation to the installation of the light fixture.
But after ruling out those possibilities, I concluded that perhaps when they installed the fixture they never re-installed the insulation around the fixture.
It sure looked like “ghosting” typical of an uninsulated ceiling areas. Because the black area is “cooler” than the surrounding surface. Cooler surfaces will collect any dust that circulates by it in the air.
To back up what my ITID saw, I merely had to check for missing insulation in the attic.
Well just like the expensive devices, my ITID while correct–did not tell me the “entire” story.
There was missing insulation all right–but it was missing because of the insulation baffle around the light fixture. This is an older fixture that is not rated to be buried in insulation–like what would be required in modern construction.
My recommendation was to replace the old X-Rated ( the “X” stands for extra heat loss) can-light with an IC-Rated can-light. The “IC” stands for “Insulation Contact” and comes stamped on any can-light that is rated to be buried in insulation.
As you can see from the ghosting around the can-light in the first picture–if you have several of these in your insulated ceiling, it can add up to a very large area of under insulated ceiling.
Without the black staining around the can-light there would likely have been no reason, in the context of a Standard Home Inspection, to scan the area with a thermal imaging device–but the defect would still have presented itself when inspecting the attic. Whenever there are can-lites in insulated ceilings it is a good idea to bring out what ever tools are at your disposal to get a clearer picture of what is going on.
When the ice damns form, that is not the time to find out.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
If you enjoyed this post, and would like to get notices of new posts to my blog, please subscribe via email in the little box to the right. I promise NO spamming of your email!