Prove Roof Moisture with Thermal Imaging on Drones

The most recent buzz on the street is that “storm created openings are the only thing that gets paid in Texas. High resolution inspection, thermal by air and by hand, coring to prove the findings.” As professionals in the industry, no matter what your role is, you are always looking for new tools to add to your belt to help make your job easier and prove roof conditions clearly to the property owner or insurance provider. The insurance providers are now making the phrase “a picture speaks a thousand words” a reality, meaning you have to provide them with the evidence that most clearly reveals and proves moisture!

The evidence you gather helps you determine if an insurance or warranty claim is possible or decide if the roof can be repaired or replaced. Gathering this data and information to make an educated decision often comes at a cost, but in most situations, can save property owners and other companies a lot of time and money. There are many professionals in the commercial roofing industry. Many of them are not even directly involved in handling the repair or replacement of a roof system. Public insurance adjusters, lawyers, engineers, inspectors and obviously roof construction companies are just to name a few. All of these professions utilize a “set of  tools” to accomplish there job efficiently and effectively…

Traditional Tools

Physically walking and inspecting the roof will never be replaced as the best way to gather hard data on roofs. You can identify problems from the surface where there is ponding water and soft spots under the roof system. You can then follow up your suspected problem areas with core sampling to learn the roofs construction and identify if there is moisture present in those areas. Other methods also include the use of moisture probes and dec scanners.

All of these tools are necessary for effectively performing a complete study on a roof. But why would you spend hours inspecting an entire roof for minor details when you can now collect evidence to help you narrow in on where your search needs to take place? Thermal imaging is not a new technology, but there are new and unique ways to deploy the technology to gather more data quicker and safer than ever before.

New Tools – Drone and Plane Thermal Inspections

Thermal Roof Inspection Mod Bit Roof

Drones. The buzz word across many industries today. If you are a professional in the roofing industry and your business does not take advantage of drone technology, you are really missing out on a resourceful opportunity to help your clients. Drones can provide you with a perspective you would not have otherwise obtained. You can drastically reduce risk by targeting specific areas for physical inspection to save time spent on a roof.

Drone technology has come a long way since they were first introduced just a few years ago to the marketplace for professional application. Longer battery life, better cameras, and even the implementation of thermal imaging on drones have made it’s capabilities unmatchable compared to alternative inspection and data collection methods.

So what can it do? Drones can capture both thermal and visible images of a roof for detailed review and inspection. This data helps you narrow in on where problems exist within the roof system. This collection of data can be used to:

  • estimate costs for repair or replacement.
  • process detailed reports to prove conditions in legal or insurance battles.
  • calculate if 20% or more of the roof is compromised.
  • learn where physical inspections should be conducted based on the thermal scans.
  • perform moisture and core sampling to verify suspected moisture.

Click here to review a sample report from a recent project: Sample Roof IR Inspection

Types of Roofs that can be Inspected

TPO (Thermoplastic Roof Systems) roofs are typically white, can be mechanically fastened, fully adhered or point affixed applications, contain various types of insulation, and are well adapted for harsh weather climates. The material is highly reflective. In warmer climates, property owners can qualify for tax breaks by using these roof systems on commercial properties in efforts to help reduce energy consumption. Due to the reflective nature, these roofs can be hard to image with thermal cameras and many thermographers are scared to take on these roofs. Because most of the heat is reflected, it cools off faster than other roof systems after the sun sets. Just because these roofs are challenging and reflective does not mean they are impossible to inspect. Catching the roof at just the right time and utilizing an experienced thermographer will give you the desired results for the inspection.

Locate Roof Moisture with Infrared

EPDM (Ethyline Propolyne Diene Terpolymer) roofs are a single ply rubber membrane that is highly tolerable of harsh weather conditions such as hail and heavy sunlight. These systems can be ballasted, mechanically attached, or fully adhered. These roof systems, like TPO’s, can be difficult to inspect due to the nature of the membrane’s composition. Just like with TPO roofs, many thermographers are afraid of these roofs due to the difficulty of getting the right information, but with the proper time and conditions, along with an experienced thermographer, the appropriate data can be collected for the inspection.


Thermal Roof Scan Houston TX

BUR (Gravel Built Up Roof Systems) roofs are comprised of multiple layers including felts, fabrics, or mats that are laminated together with bitumen, with either asphalt or coal tar pitch. The application incorporates alternating layers of plies and bitumen and the surface is layered with a gravel application, mineral cap sheet, or a weather resistant coating. These roofs present a different set of challenges for thermal imaging. Since many of these roofs are typically covered with gravel, the displacement of heat in the cooling process is different and can be hard to locate. We often recommend that the areas of concern are cleared before a thermal inspection is performed, but a roof scan can be conducted with an experienced thermographer and proper conditions.


Inspect Mod Bit Roof Moisture

Mod Bit (Modified Bitumen Roof) roofs are a blend of old and new technology to bring you an elite roof system that is highly resistant to physical abuse and heavy foot traffic. These systems are comprised of asphalt reinforced by either polyester or fiberglass. Two different polymers APP (Atactic Polypropylene polymer) and SBS (Styrene Butadiene Styrene) are used to modify the elasticity and temperature flexibility of the membrane. Of the roof systems that exist that are capable of being inspected, this one is the most friendly of them all.


Provide in House or Contract Out

So now your probably thinking this is a pretty cool resource and you want to take advantage of it, right? You have 2 options. Either take on the technology in house or contract it out to a professional. There are obviously pros and cons to both options.

Thermography is more than just taking a picture of a roof and identifying where water is. You have to understand the science of it to effectively capture what is inside the roof and know how to interpret it. The camera’s job is to identify temperature differences on the surface of the roof, not specifically identify water inside it. This means there are many variables that come into play and other objects and atmospheric conditions that can create false exceptions that the inexperienced eye would not be able to differentiate.

In order for your drone thermal inspections to be reputable, stand up in court, be valid in an engineering report or in insurance eyes, you must have your level 1 (or better) thermographers certification along with a good understanding of what your doing. The last thing you want to do is put together a report with false information. For legal drone operations you must have your UAV pilots license and follow the rules under Part 107 set by the FAA. Anyone who has the slightest understanding of thermal imaging knows you have to perform your inspections in the evening just after dark. The FAA prevents you from being able to do so unless you have a waiver to operate at night, 107.29 Daylight Operation. Flying a drone is not as simple as many think. Providing the service in house requires a lot of time and effort to do it right. If this is the route you pursue, I highly encourage you to do it right. Where problems arise flying drones “illegally” is in the event something goes wrong. If a lawsuit arises from suspected peeping or the drone crashes causing personal injury so the use of  personal injury attorneys in Texas is necessary in these cases, your insurance will not cover you if you do not have proper insurance or have proper licensing and authorization from the FAA.

Bringing drone services in house has the potential to save your company time and money. We can assist you in determining whether your company is large enough to realize the savings. Many companies have implemented successful in house programs, but it is not always appropriate.

Alternatively, you can work with professionals who are already setup and established to do the job right with proper certifications and knowledge. This allows you to provide a valuable service and means your following the rules. This route can be more costly over time, but can save you a lot of time and headache implementing a new program when your main focus is selling roofs, working with insurance companies, and processing engineering reports for your client. It is difficult to be a jack of all trades and be the expert at them all.

Click here to see a recent case study we performed on a 400 square roof in Houston, TX.

Click here to learn more about drones and thermal imaging. Tarillo Vue can help you provide this service, if you want to learn more, give us a call today at (214) 842- 6000!


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