Tag Archive for: binoculars

Pole Camera or Drone?


Members of the public and vendors often see us with cameras on tall poles at the front of houses.  It’s strange to see a fully grown man with a giant “Selfie Stick” as lots of people call them!They are intrigued by what we are doing and ask questions.

We have been using pole or mast cameras on every Building Survey we’ve carried out since 2012.You can see us using a 6m mast in this early video.  Over the years we have continued to refine and develop the mast camera.  Now  they can be up to 15m high, as can be seen in this incarnation from 2013.

Over this time, the cameras mounted on the 10m fibreglass poles used by all our surveyors have really come a long way. They now have tilting, panning heads to allow us to look behind parapet walls and in other hidden places.They are also much lighter and easier to handle for safety.



Strangely, the uptake of this technology by surveying firms in the UK has been very limited.  We pioneered the technique in Bristol!  We are still the only firm in Bristol offering this as standard in our Building Surveys -not as an added extra at a premium cost. The others tend to look from ground level with binoculars, which isn’t going to provide a comprehensive view. You will not be able to see the tops of chimneys, second storey flat roofs or behind parapet walls. Nor into the valley or butterfly roofs that are very common in Bedminster, Clifton, Easton and Totterdown .


The main question we are asked is why don’t you use a drone? The answer is that we don’t need to use more complicated access technology to gain a similar view.

Most importantly, we need to view the sarking felt, which should lap into the gutters on a standard roof. This felt has often decayed just beneath the roof tiles; it is very rarely visible from ground level.  From taking the pole camera out of the car and setting it up, we can see this area within a few minutes.  Setting up a drone takes time.  Imagine manoeuvring it into place to hover right next to the tiles.  Getting the camera perched in the gutter looking upwards. This manoeuvre would require significanttime and skill.  And the potential for tile or gutter damage by the drone is a possibility!

The pole camera allows us to see the tops of chimney stacks and also the tops of parapet walls. It also shows other areas of complex roofs that we want to inspect in detail.  So why complicate the process by using a battery powered vehicle that cannot be used under certain conditions?Only the very expensive models can operate when there is high wind or excessive rain or in certain geographical areas.



This should be seen in the wider context of drone use. The current call for registering and licensing drone pilots would add another layer of cost and complexity. This is not warranted in the surveying of residential property. We would not be able to use of them near Bristol airportor sensitive sites such as the MoD. There are also the general privacy concerns. Our cameras only look at the house we are surveying, not at the back gardens of an entire street. Hence our camerasdon’t cause alarm to people sunbathing in what they though was the privacy of their back gardens!

The real skill lies not in taking the picture, but in being able to analyse what the picture means…


Pitched Roofs


Pitched Roofs

Roof repairs can be very expensive, not just the materials and manpower, but will possibly require scaffolding as well. So take binoculars or a camera with a powerful zoom to enable you to visually inspect the roof covering.  You can do this at any time, without the agent having to be present. As always, look at the neighbouring roofs see if they have recently been re-covered, a good indicator of when yours will need doing.

What is the roof covering ?

Next, focus on an individual tile and try to determine what it made of, clay (older) or concrete (more recent). In some areas, older properties have real slates. Concrete tiles indicate a post-war roofing replacement. Is there anything special or unusual about the type of roof tile? Some tiles such as Triple Deltas and Bridgewater tiles are not as readily available as more common types such as Pantile or Double Roman.Hence they are more expensive to repair or replace.

Can you see any defects?

Are there any slipped or missing tiles? These indicate a lack of routine maintenance but also water ingress is very probable.  Water can cause damage in a timber loft space which can be very expensive to repair! If there is some lighter colouring of the surrounding tiles, this may indicate a more recent break or slip.

Is the roof a “patch work quilt” of differing colours of tiles? Probably someone has made many repairs and it may be time to replace the roof covering completely. Also, look out for small grey tags known in Bristol as “tingles”; these metal (usually lead) clips are used to secure individual tiles and they indicate localised repairs have been carried out. If you see any grey coloured tape, this is normally called ‘flash band’ and is used as a temporary repair. However, it is simply a sticky tape and cannot be considered permanent – the defect should be properly repaired, not just taped over!

Can you see any ‘lifted’ tiles, ones that are not lying flat? If so, there could be a problem with the roof structure beneath. Where the property is in an exposed elevation, the tiles may be vulnerable to lifting by wind and regular repairs will probably be required.

If there are a great many slipped tiles, possibly the roof is suffering from ‘nail fatigue’; the nails have started to rust away and can no longer hold the slates in place.Although such failures may occur in a localised area initially, it is highly likely to occur more widely in the near future.

Man-made regular roof ‘slates’ can be asbestos containing. They are fixed centrally with a single nail and may start to ‘ cup’ or dish. When this happens, the life span of the roof covering  becomes  very short.

Get an overview of the roof structurally

Finally, try to check the structure. Look at the condition of any mortar such as along the ridge or the hips. If the mortar is missing, this indicates lack of routine maintenance.These areas will require repairs at the very least and possibly more extensive remedial action.

Is there any ‘dishing’ to the roof covering?Do the tiles lie in a straight line? If not, this suggests an inadequacy in the roof structure beneath, possibly very costly to remedy.