How City of Austin Inspectors Use the Orion 950 Moisture Meter

What can city inspectors do to reduce the amount of mold complaints in rental housing?

How can they prevent mold growth after a water intrusion?

These were questions the Austin Development Services Department needed to answer. We spoke with the assistant director, Daniel Word, who shared with us the solution they found:

Wagner’s Orion 950 moisture meter.

Let’s find out why they chose the Orion 950 and how it helped solve mold issues.

The Problem

After Austin’s city council raised a concern about the amount of mold growth complaints in rental housing, the development services team began researching how to best deal with the underlying issue. Word shares,

“We recognized that mold is the result of moisture in a building where it’s not supposed to be.”

In rental housing, mold was a common problem after a moisture intrusion event, such as a leak from a dishwasher line, an overflowed sink or toilet, or a roof leak. Moisture would end up in places like wall cavities, flooring, ceilings, or cabinets.

The maintenance department for the rental dwelling would often deal with surface issues, such as water stains or mold growth that had already occurred. They might remove visible water with water extractors and set up some fans for a while.

“But,” Word points out, “did they open up the walls? Did they open them up long enough to actually get them dry? Did they apply any kind of chemical treatments?”

The maintenance staff often didn’t take the time to fully dry the materials and prevent further mold growth.

So the city inspectors needed a way to know whether the job had been done properly.

And that’s where the Orion 950 comes in.

The Solution—A Reliable, Multifunction Moisture Meter

A single moisture meter has equipped City of Austin inspectors to help prevent long-term issues with mold in rental housing. After a water intrusion event has occurred and the maintenance staff has addressed it, the inspectors come in with their Orion 950 meters. This allows them to make sure the job was done thoroughly and completely.

They take relative moisture measurements by comparing a dry area of the wall—or ceiling or floor—with the area that was recently repaired. A significant difference in the readings between the two places indicates that the moisture issue hasn’t been fully addressed. The moisture meter gives them a “better idea of what’s happening behind the wall.”

They’ll know whether the repair was done well or whether moisture was left in a cavity.

According to Word, having this knowledge gives the inspectors “a level of confidence that when they close out a complaint case about one of these water intrusion issues…they shouldn’t need to return for the same problem.”

In addition to helping assess moisture issues, the Orion 950’s temperature and relative humidity sensor has also come in handy. Word notes that the RH readings make a difference in investigating complaints about air conditioning. He adds:

“The temperature readings are also helpful because we get complaints about lack of heat, and our code has a 68-degree standard that the heating has to provide. [The Orion 950] is a quick, easy way for us to take a temperature reading in a room and determine whether it’s 68 degrees or not.”

In this way, the moisture meter functions as a thermometer and hygrometer, saving the inspectors from carrying a different tool for each purpose.

Why City of Austin Chooses the Orion 950

According to Word, he and his team had specific criteria when looking for a moisture meter. One of the biggest criteria was that it would be pinless. Here’s why:

“Being on the government side of things, we don’t want to be putting any kind of damage onto private property. So we weren’t going to be inserting pins or anything like that.”

So they selected the Orion 950 pinless moisture meter for a reliable, non-intrusive testing option.

But there was also another big reason behind this choice: the meter’s ability to self-calibrate, ensuring the accuracy of its readings.

As an enforcement agency, the Austin Development Services Department sometimes has to write citations and may even end up testifying in a municipal court. A common tactic of an opposing attorney is to question the accuracy of the measurement tool used:

“How do you know that device you used was even accurate?”

Word explains that “with the [meter’s] ability to self-calibrate, we can say, ‘Immediately prior to using the device, I used this calibration table—it comes with the device.’”

In his words, it’s vital to have “tools that we can stand behind.” The Orion 950 fits that bill.

Aside from these two major benefits, Word and his team were impressed with the meter’s seven-year warranty.

And they appreciate that the device is handheld and portable with a sturdy case.

How Could a Moisture Meter Make a Difference for You?

The Orion 950 moisture meter allows City of Austin inspectors to address moisture intrusion complaints with confidence and efficiency. They can leave each case with assurance that they’ve done their due diligence in assessing the problem.

So, what could a moisture meter do for your work as a home inspector? How could it make you or your team more effective?

We’d love to help you consider your options. Contact us today or visit our shop to learn more about the Orion 950.

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