Q: I need to do a camera inspection of a concealed space in my home. Is there a micro inspection camera that will allow me to see behind walls, in ceilings and other places with minimal disruption? I know doctors use tiny inspection cameras to see inside a body as they do certain surgeries, and that's what I'm looking for.
A: Have I got great news for you. Several digital inspection cameras on the market can do exactly what you're describing. The technology has been around for several years: The plumbing industry uses inspection cameras to assess the condition of sewer pipes, saving the expense of digging up and exposing a sewer line.
A sewer inspection camera is really handy, but I doubt you would want to buy one, as they are so specialized. A camera for pipe inspection typically is equipped to take a video of the entire journey through the sewer pipe. What's more, many are equipped with measuring devices that allow you to pinpoint where pipes are damaged, their location indoors or outdoors, and often the depth to the broken or damaged pipe. It's best just to hire a plumber who has this equipment.
But you can do your own digital-camera inspection with a different tool that is equipped with a small camera head and a flexible 3-foot cable. This camera inspection system is handheld, sports a color display and takes digital photos and video.
This tool works great as a wall-inspection camera. All you have to do is drill a 3/4-inch hole in the wall for the camera head, then slip the tool into the dark cavity. The camera head is equipped with LED lights to illuminate dark spaces so you can clearly see images on the color screen.
This micro-inspection camera has a 3X zoom, and the picture on the screen is self-leveling. The lithium-ion rechargeable battery produces four hours of run time, more than enough time for most tasks.
The 3.5-inch color LCD screen produces 320 by 240 pixel resolution. The photos or videos you shoot while the camera is in the concealed space are recorded on a common SD card. Once you're finished, you can download the images to your computer to save, view and share (with contractors, for example).
The drawback? This camera inspection tool is somewhat expensive. The SeeSnake by Ridgid, for example, retails for about $250. You might want to consider purchasing it with family members or friends who would share the tool. You won't use a micro-inspection camera every week, but when you need it there is no substitute.
Tim Carter is a licensed contractor. To view previous columns or tap into his archive of information and sources of building materials, go to askthebuilder.com. You can write to Tim Carter at P.O. Box 36352, Cincinnati, OH 45236-0352.