How to Care for Your Wood Moisture Meter
Scott hopped out of his car, grabbed his toolbox, and rushed to the job site. He was on a tight deadline with this hardwood floor installation, and every minute counted.
At the site, the building materials were stacked where they’d been acclimating. Not wanting to cut corners, he pulled out his pinless wood moisture meter to verify they were ready.
He pressed the scanning plate on a flat surface of the board. Nothing. The screen was black. What was going on?
And then, he remembered—the low battery warning had been on his screen for many days now, and he’d ignored it, thinking he’d take care of it later.
He didn’t have any extra batteries on hand, and his other moisture meter was in his shop at home. What a headache!
Don’t make Scott’s mistake.
A moisture meter is a key tool and an investment you don’t want to suddenly find yourself without—especially in a time crunch.
Here are some ways to care for your moisture meter so you don’t end up in the same situation. We’ll look at:
- Why you should take care of your moisture meter
- 7 tips for caring for your moisture meter (including some tips for different types of moisture meters)
Why you should take care of your moisture meter
Caring for your moisture meter is essential to protecting the investment you made and making sure it gives you moisture measurements when you most need them.
It’ll benefit you by:
- Stretching your investment
- Ensuring you get accurate readings
- Saving you money
- Saving you time
After all, your moisture meter will give you the most accurate readings when it isn’t dirty, damaged, or wet.
Otherwise, you could be getting false readings and not even realize it. You might think your piece of wood has reached the equilibrium moisture content (EMC) when, in reality, it hasn’t.
The result could be a project that begins to show moisture damage after a few months.
And what about the financial aspect?
If you have a good-quality moisture meter, you might have spent a decent amount on it—anywhere from $100 to $500. With that investment, you want it to last as long as possible. And though the warranty may be good for a year, you don’t want to have to spend money soon after that.
Think about the costs of getting it repaired, too. The more often your moisture meter quits working or has problems, the more you’ll spend trying to get it fixed.
Caring for your moisture meter will also be a big time-saver in the long run.
When you have to deal with a problem in the middle of a woodworking project—like Scott’s situation—that’s time taken from the project. Not to mention the potential for frustrated customers!
You may have to run to the local hardware store for replacement batteries, call the manufacturer for troubleshooting help, or wait for repairs or a replacement.
Not ideal when you’re working against a deadline.
Convinced you might be able to improve how you care for your moisture meter? Let’s look at some tips for doing just that.
7 tips for caring for your moisture meter
Caring for a moisture meter doesn’t have to take much time at all. A few minutes and some forethought are all you need.
We’ll look at the following seven tips:
- Store your meter in its case
- Treat it gently
- Keep it dry
- Clean it regularly
- Replace the batteries
- Care for the pins (pin meters only)
- Care for the sensor plate (pinless meters only)
1. Store your meter in its case
When you’re not using your moisture meter, keep it in its carrying case. Some moisture meters come in a rubber boot, but the case will provide that extra layer of protection from impact and keep dust, dirt, and other particles from getting into it.
2. Treat it gently
For one, avoid letting it get thrown around or dropping it (especially on that concrete subfloor!). You may not want it bouncing around in the back of your vehicle as you maneuver a bumpy road, either. Again, as mentioned in point 1, store it in its case if you can.
Second, don’t leave the meter out in extreme weather, sitting in the hot sun, or being exposed to the elements. Just because it’s a moisture meter doesn’t mean that its fine electrical parts like water in the form of rain.
That’s where our next point comes in.
3. Keep it dry
Avoid submerging your moisture meter in water or even leaving any droplets of water on it. Sometimes, wood will have excess moisture, such as dew or condensation. But many moisture meters won’t do well with the surface moisture, so make sure to wipe the wood off and keep your meter dry.
4. Clean it regularly
Keep your moisture meter free of dirt, dust, and other things that might affect its readings. Simply use a damp cloth with a mild detergent for a quick wipe-down. But don’t submerge it in water or leave water on it. Remember—moisture meters don’t like water!
Sometimes, pitch from wood can get on the meter as you’re using it. To get rid of the pitch, you’ll want to rub a little bit of an oily substance, such as margarine or butter, on the spot. The sticky pitch will usually come right off.
5. Replace the battery when it’s low
Don’t wait until the battery doesn’t have any charge left. Using a moisture meter with a low battery may affect the readings you’ll get.
So how can you know your meter’s battery is low?
On some moisture meters, the code “BAT” will appear on the screen. Others will have a low battery icon or an audible alert.
If you’re not planning to use your moisture meter for a while (more than 30 days), remove the batteries from the meter to avoid them losing their charge during that time.
6. Care for the pins (pin meters only)
If you have a pin-type moisture meter, you’ll want to inspect the contact pins or electrodes once in a while.
If they’re dirty, clean them with a damp cloth, just like the one you used for the rest of the meter.
But sometimes, pin meters may need a little more maintenance. The pins should be sharp to easily go into the wood. But over time, they might lose some of that sharpness or even break. That means it’s time to replace the pins.
A good rule of thumb is to keep extra pins and a wrench on hand so that you’re always prepared if your pins have a problem on the job.
7. Care for the sensor plate (pinless meters only)
In pinless moisture meters, the sensor plate is the part of the meter that goes on the wood and measures moisture content. To make sure your readings are accurate, check the sensor plate for any scratches or dents.
When you use it, press it firmly, but don’t force the sensor plate to scrape against the wood surface or slap the meter against the wood.
After use, inspect the sensor plate and clean it with a damp cloth to remove any dirt if necessary.
Maintenance is one part of getting accurate readings
With a few more tips under your belt for caring for your moisture meter, you can be confident that it’ll provide you with many years of quality service.
That is, if it’s a quality meter to begin with.
Caring for your moisture meter is great! But keep in mind that if you paid very little for a cheap meter, all the care in the world won’t raise its level of quality. A cheap meter is still likely to give you questionable results when you measure moisture.
A good quality meter and proper maintenance techniques are your duo for success.
Learn more about the differences between cheap meters and high-quality meters, and identify which one you have.