Understanding Thermal Tracking and Ghosting.

So, what exactly is thermal tracking or ghosting and where does it come from? Ghosting is the buildup of soot, dust, dirt and other debris on your walls and ceilings. It can have a ghostly appearance like in the horror movies. Except it’s not an evil spirit! This issue is also known as “ghost stains,” “bridging” and “thermal tracking”. It creates weird patterns along exterior ceilings and walls, particularly around wall studs and ceiling rafters.

As cold air pushes through the walls, it creates condensation and attracts floating particles. These particles stick to the frame and fasteners in the walls and ceiling. The particles trapped by moisture can be an accumulation of different materials (as mentioned) like soot, dust or even mould spores. The main cause of ghosting is most commonly people burning candles in the interior of a premises. There are possibly other causes as well. Potential appliances or even incense may be the root of this problem, by causing back drafting. In our professional opinion and using our experience we believe candles are the main culprit here. On a premises you can have what we call studs and wooden ceiling rafters in your walls and roof. These are going to be the coldest part of a structure (in general) as they are not insulated. Wood and metal are obviously terrible insulators when you compare them to genuine insulation. They are therefore giving up far more heat than the rest of a structure and end up being the coldest part of the premises. That being said they will be the areas more prone for soot to accumulate and get stuck via condensation through a process called thermal bridging.

So, what exactly is the problem with this? Well, realistically if soot accumulates it will cause not only a cosmetic issue but a lingering scent as well. Black soot should not be underestimated. Its particles can enter your body through ingestion, inhalation, or your eyes and skin, causing health and breathing problems. Unfortunately, you can’t just paint over an oil-based soot and expect it to disappear for good. Evidence is it will generally return in the future, especially on your ceiling boards. The sad reality of this is you’re going to have to have the affected areas professionally cleaned, drywall sanded completely and then painted. The interior of the premises will also have to be relieved of aerosolised particles using air purifiers. When you first notice a house that has ghosting lines on the ceiling the uniformity can make you think that the problem might be a mould issue. The difference is in the composition of the material that is making a shadow. If the problem is mould, you will see a fungal growth on your ceiling or wall. If the problem is ghosting, the shadow will be comprised of dirt, dust, soot, and other organic material. Best and real solution in the future is just to simply stop burning candles so much.

“Perth Restoration Services Are A Fully Certified IICRC Firm. We Pride Ourselves In Saying We Truly Are Your Friends In Flood, Fire And Restoration.”

— Sean Thomas, Head Technician/Owner


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