Common Moisture Meter Errors and Solutions

Imagine that you are in the middle of a woodworking project and all of a sudden, you start getting moisture readings that seem “not quite right.” Maybe, the reading seems too high, maybe too low, or maybe, there is no reading at all.

Because moisture assessment is so important to ensuring the success of your project, it’s unsettling to feel like your meter might not be serving you the way it should.

In this article, you’re going to learn:

So let’s jump right in!

How to tell if you have a moisture meter error

You might suspect that your moisture meter is giving incorrect readings, but how do you actually know?

Well, there are a few methods that you can use to determine if your moisture meter is providing incorrect readings.

Are you…

  1. Following the manufacturer’s instructions properly?
  2. Sure the meter is in calibration?
  3. Seeing readings you know to be inaccurate or seeing no readings at all?
  4. Testing or comparing with another moisture meter’s results?

If any of the above is true, you probably have a wood moisture meter with a reading error on your hands.

Incorrect readings can come up in both pinless or pin-type moisture meters, so the first step in solving the problem is to take inventory of what kind of meter you have.

What are some sources of reading errors in a moisture meter?

Reading errors in a moisture meter can really be broken down into two categories: human error and moisture meter error.

When it comes to human error, some reasons for false or inaccurate readings could be failing to follow the meter’s manufacturer’s instructions for storage, cleaning, and taking readings. If you are using a pinless moisture meter, you want the wood to be free of surface moisture or debris that could skew the moisture measurement.

Other factors like failing to correct for species, not checking the meter’s calibration, or using the meter incorrectly are also examples of human error.

But assuming that you are using your meter properly, what are some other sources of moisture meter reading errors?

One of the primary reasons that a meter might fail to give you accurate readings is the quality of the meter.

If you have a cheap meter, you are simply going to have more issues.

You know the saying, “You get what you pay for”? Well, for moisture meters, that’s especially true.

With a cheap moisture meter, you may have poor species correction (or even none at all). The calibration may also be off, so you never really know if the reading that you are getting is correct.

These meters might make great claims about their accuracy, but their results show again and again that they don’t live up to their claims.

Moisture meter reading errors

Now that we’ve discussed two sources of error, let’s talk about each error you might be experiencing and some possible solutions!

Moisture meter doesn’t read anything

An orange battery for a moisture meterIf your moisture meter won’t display a reading, a couple of things could be the problem. First, it could simply be that the batteries are dead. Take a moment to charge the meter or change the batteries.

If the display does turn on, but the meter won’t read anything, it’s best to call the manufacturer. They may take it in for repairs or send a replacement meter. If there isn’t a replacement or repair program for your meter—for example, if it’s not under a warranty—then you have to weigh the option of whether to replace it entirely.

Also, consider that a higher quality meter, like the ones from Bessemeter, will also have an extended warranty or replacement program. This is definitely something worth considering when shopping for a meter.

Moisture meter always gives the same reading on different boards

If your moisture meter is always giving the same reading, the meter may be damaged.

For a pinless type of moisture meter, you’ll want to check the contact plate on the back. Does it look like it has been damaged? That could be the issue.

Have a pin-type moisture meter? Check to make sure that the meter or the pins aren’t damaged or chipped. If there is damage to the pins, you can insert replacement pins.

Moisture meter always reads dry/wet

If your moisture meter always reads dry or always reads wet, it’s likely that it hasn’t been corrected for species. If a meter isn’t corrected for species, then it can skew the moisture content reading because different species of wood have different chemical makeups and specific gravities that impact the moisture reading.

You can check the instruction manual on your meter to determine how to adjust for species.

Moisture meter false readings

A false reading on your moisture meter is when your meter gives you a reading, but you know it’s inaccurate.

One factor that could cause false readings in pin meters would be not correcting for temperature.

Several other things we already discussed can cause false readings, like not correcting for species.

Low batteries could also be the culprit. When the battery of a meter is low, the meter can’t operate at its full capacity, which might result in an inaccurate reading.

When in doubt…

If you ever have moisture meter readings that you can’t figure out, and you’ve already consulted your manual, then it’s time to contact the manufacturer. They can set you up with the proper instructions and even repairs or replacements if necessary.

And contacting the manufacturer is definitely something you should do if you suspect your meter is broken and doesn’t just have an error that you can fix yourself.

But how can you know?

How can I tell if my meter is actually broken?

Circuitry of an electronic laid out on a tableThere are some physical signs of moisture meter damage.

For example, if your meter rattles when you shake it, then an internal component is broken. Rather than trying to open it up yourself, it’s best to contact the manufacturer.

Also, if the display has portions of it that won’t turn on, has some kind of puncture or impact point, or simply doesn’t turn on (after trying a new battery, of course), then that is another physical sign of damage that should be worked out with the manufacturer.

But maybe there is damage that you can’t see. If you have repeated issues with moisture readings, it might be useful to test with another moisture meter to compare the results. If there is a discrepancy, then, again, contact the manufacturer to discuss repair or replacement options.

How to prevent incorrect readings in moisture meters

A pinless moisture meter with a black case and a yellow calibration verification referenceWhile there are errors that you can’t prevent, like errors caused by circuit problems in the meter itself, there are several errors that you can prevent.

In order to prevent inaccurate readings that come as a result of damage, be sure to properly care for your moisture meter. This means keeping it out of extreme weather conditions, storing it properly in its case, and keeping it from getting grimy by cleaning off any debris, dust, and dirt with a damp cloth and mild detergent if necessary.

You can test for proper calibration by using a calibration confirmation block to ensure it is calibrated. Also, be sure to look at the meter’s species and temperature correction tables.

Lastly, when in doubt, try giving your batteries a change or giving the meter a charge. Sometimes, a simple fix is all you need!

At the end of the day, prevention is key

You wouldn’t leave your smartphone or laptop in the trunk of a blazing hot car or exposed to rain. So why treat your moisture meter that way?

Caring for your moisture meter like the high-tech gadget it is can help prevent inaccurate readings.

And, if you do experience inaccurate readings that simply won’t go away, a good manufacturer will fairly assess the situation and give the next steps you need to have a working moisture meter and project success.

Looking for a solid moisture meter that has good customer service and won’t cause you trouble? Look no further! Check out our moisture meter product page today.