Is My Moisture Meter Just for Wood?

If it was made for use with wood materials, then the short answer is yes. Wood moisture meters are designed and calibrated to indicate the moisture content of all types and species of wood and won’t work in the same way with other materials.

But there’s a caveat to that answer.

Many moisture meters can work with other materials, but not to the same level of accuracy as with wood.

Maybe you’ve noticed damage in your wood floor and are wondering whether moisture is coming up through the concrete subfloor. Or perhaps you have a water leak from your upstairs bathroom and want to figure out whether the moisture problem has affected the drywall. In these cases, a meter for wood may do the job.

This page will look at more specifics for using a wood moisture meter on different building materials. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Let’s get into it!

Can a wood moisture meter work on other types of materials?

Though wood moisture meters are specifically for wood, they can measure some other materials on a relative scale. This means that the moisture reading won’t be an accurate number, but it’ll indicate the amount of moisture in one area compared to another.

To use this relative measurement range, take a reading in one spot of a material that you know is dry. That reading will be your baseline for the levels of moisture.

As you measure in other areas, you’ll know that anything around or below that number is also dry. And anything above that has high moisture content.

A wood moisture meter can give these relative measurements on drywall, concrete (if it is not too wet), siding, and some linoleums. If concrete is too wet, it can cause some meters to read higher than the top of the scale.

In most cases, moisture meters can also read through paint, especially if the paint is newer. However, if you’re working in an older home with metal-based paint, the metal in it may skew the reading.

And speaking of factors that can skew readings, a wood moisture meter won’t work well on pressure-treated wood because of the chemicals that can affect measuring.

Here are some more details on the different materials you may be wondering about.

Can a wood moisture meter work on drywall?

A yellow Bessemeter wood moisture meter

In most cases, wood moisture meters work on drywall (gypsum), but they aren’t calibrated to it, meaning that the measurement won’t be exact. Instead, you’ll be able to determine which areas have more moisture than other areas.

That means the moisture meter is helpful for moisture detection but won’t provide an accurate reading.

Many wood moisture meters have a special relative mode for drywall that measures its wetness on a scale from 0.2 to 50 (with 0.2 being the driest and 50 being the wettest).

For more accurate measurements, though, you’ll want to use a drywall moisture meter.

Can a wood moisture meter work on concrete?

Yes, wood moisture meters work on concrete—but only on a relative scale (usually from 0 to 100). And they may only give the concrete’s moisture levels on the surface. In addition, very wet concrete may create a reading that is too high for your meter.

And unfortunately, using a wood moisture meter won’t pass the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards for testing concrete.

Thus, the meter’s most useful function is showing where moisture is located so you can place more accurate concrete moisture tests in those places.

The two main tests approved by the ASTM are:

  1. Calcium chloride (calcium substrate) testing
  2. In situ relative humidity testing

Of these two, in situ relative humidity testing is the fastest and most accurate way to go when you need to know exact moisture measurements for concrete.

Can a wood moisture meter work on soil?

No, a wood moisture meter won’t work on soil. The best moisture meter for that purpose is one for soil.

Can a wood moisture meter work on carpet?

Yes, wood moisture meters are useful as moisture detectors for carpet. In fact, carpet cleaners use them for detecting pet urine.

When using the meter on carpet, it’ll be in relative mode, allowing you to see where moisture is higher in certain areas than in others.

Can a wood moisture meter work on vinyl or laminate flooring?

Yes, as with many other non-wood materials, wood moisture meters usually work on vinyl or laminate flooring in relative mode.

Can I detect mold with a wood moisture meter?

Wood moisture meters aren’t able to detect mold growth, though in certain materials—such as wood and drywall—they can indicate excess moisture and potential problem areas where mold might grow.

But for mold detection, the safest option is to reach out to a building inspector or a professional from an organization like NORMI (National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors) or IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification).

What materials do Bessemeter’s products work on?

Bessemeter moisture meters are calibrated to work for wood, but they can measure drywall and concrete in a relative mode. Thus, you’ll be able to determine if one part of the material is wetter than another. Just keep in mind that these readings will not reflect the actual moisture content percentages of the material.

This function comes in handy when detecting a leak or deciding where to place more precise tests, such as the in situ relative humidity test for concrete. Even so, you may want to consider purchasing a meter made just for concrete since wood moisture meters may only work on drier concrete.

Use the right moisture meter for your needs.

All-purpose tools are handy. Wouldn’t it be great to need only one type of moisture meter for all the materials we need to measure?

But when it comes to getting accurate meter readings, you’ll want a tool with the specific design and calibration for your needs.

One especially critical factor in accurate readings is the quality of the meter you’re using. Learn about the differences between cheap and high-quality wood moisture meters and how they can affect in your work.