The Ultimate Guide to Buying the Best Moisture Meter for You
A moisture meter can help you determine the moisture content of your wood, which means that you can safeguard your projects from moisture-related failure—one of the primary reasons why wood projects, whether flooring, furniture, cabinetry, or musical instruments, go sour.
This page is a comprehensive moisture meter buying guide for moisture meters. You’ll find both pin and pinless meters featured here along with all the details you need to choose the right meter for you.
Specifically, we’ll be talking about:
- What a moisture meter is
- Why you should have a meter in the first place
- What to consider when buying a moisture meter
- Why our moisture meters might be exactly what you need
Let’s start with a brief discussion of what a moisture meter is and the difference between pin and pinless meters.
What is a moisture meter?
Moisture meters measure the moisture content (MC) inside a given piece of wood. This is a crucial process, no matter the woodworking project, but we will get to the “why” of moisture meters in a moment.
For now, let’s talk about the two varieties: pin moisture meters and pinless moisture meters
Pin moisture meters have two metal pins that must penetrate the surface of the wood. Moisture measurement occurs when an electric current passes through each of the pins.
The meter picks up how much resistance occurs when the electric current passes between the pins, and since moisture is a great conductor of electricity but wood isn’t, the wetter the wood, the lower the resistance and vice versa.
However, pinless meters have no pins and measure moisture content in a completely different way.
Rather than penetrating the wood’s surface with metal probes, pinless moisture meters measure moisture content using a sensor pad on the back and by releasing electromagnetic waves.
This means that pinless moisture meters are nondestructive, making them especially useful for flooring and cabinetry, while pin meters are usually more useful for projects with curved sides (think round stock). And you can also use pin meters on the backside of projects where the pinholes will not be exposed to view.
Now that you know about the two types of wood moisture meters, let’s briefly talk about why moisture meters are so important.
Why do I need a moisture meter?
In short, if you don’t want a moisture-related failure in your project, you need a moisture meter.
But maybe it would be better to answer this question by stating what might happen if you don’t use a moisture meter:
Your wood might become unsightly
Wood is hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs or releases moisture as the environment around it changes. This also means that wood will swell or shrink as it absorbs moisture or releases moisture.
Using a moisture meter can help you know when your wood’s moisture content reaches the equilibrium moisture content, which is the point at which the wood’s MC matches the moisture level of its surroundings. This is helpful for regulating how much your wood swells and how much it shrinks.
For wood flooring, if the MC isn’t measured with a moisture meter prior to purchasing your wood, and during and after installation, then the swelling and shrinking can cause large gaps, crowning, or other issues in the wood floorboards. And in furniture, changing moisture content can cause cracking, warping, and many more problems.
You might waste your time and your money
Not using a moisture meter prior to purchasing wood can mean moisture-related failures later. Not only is installing wood floors or constructing a piece of furniture without measuring moisture a possible waste of time, but it’s also a possible waste of money.
How? Well, if the wood is damaged beyond repair, then materials and other resources have been wasted. Furthermore, if projects continuously go wrong, your clients might begin to question your reputation, resulting in long-term distrust between you and your clients.
And of course, the opposite of these points is true as well. If you do have a moisture meter, you can properly anticipate the changes that your wood will undergo and take the necessary steps to ensure that no problems develop. If you have a moisture meter, you can protect your money, time, and resources. If you have a moisture meter, your clients will benefit from your work and will spread the word!
Needless to say, a moisture meter is a crucial tool if you want project success. But which kind of moisture meter should you buy? We’ll answer that question next!
What to consider when buying a moisture meter
Knowing what you’ll get from a pin or pinless meter as well as knowing what you should expect from your meter makes the buying process effortless and, ultimately, more rewarding for you!
Here are some things to consider when purchasing a meter:
Holes vs. no holes
Asking yourself whether or not you want small pinholes in your project is important because this can help you determine which kind of meter you need.
If you’re working with projects where small pinholes can be hidden or remain undetected, a pin meter might be an acceptable option for you.
If you’re working with a large volume of wood such that taking measurements with a pin meter would create a lot of obvious pinholes, you should probably opt for a pinless meter.
With moisture meters, what you pay for is what you get. When you invest in a good meter—pin or pinless—you can build up your reputation and ensure the accuracy of your projects.
It’s worth mentioning that pin meters tend to be less expensive than pinless meters, so if you’re on a tight budget, a pin meter might be best!
Types of surfaces you work with
Are the surfaces that you often work with smooth or rough?
If you often work with flat, smooth surfaces—cabinets, flooring, tabletops, drywall, etc.— then a pinless meter is a great option.
Because a pinless meter’s sensor pad needs to be completely flush with the wood in order to provide an accurate reading.
If, however, you usually work with uneven, rough, or debris-laden surfaces—turned leg tables, smaller musical instruments, surfaces in demo sites—then a pin meter may suit you better. The pins are able to be inserted and read moisture even if the surface of the wood is not completely flat or clean.
Ease of use
Having a meter that is fast and easy to use is important because if it’s easy to use, you’ll probably use it more often. And if you use your meter more often, you have a better chance of project success.
Pinless wood moisture meters have a tendency to be much more effortless than pin wood moisture meters. This is because there are fewer “parts” that you need to worry about.
For example, with pin moisture meters, it’s likely that you will break the pins at some point. That means you need to keep extra pins on hand at all times and learn how to replace the pins.
Another thing to consider: if you often work with harder woods, inserting the pins into the wood can be quite difficult!
Time is an important factor no matter what project you are working on. No one likes to waste time, and picking the right meter can help you avoid that.
The volume of wood that you are working with paired with your meter can have a large impact on the amount of time you spend taking measurements.
For example, if you regularly work with large volumes of wood, such as with flooring and cabinetry projects, it will take a long time to repeatedly insert pins in several places of the wood. In that case, a pinless meter is going to be much more time-efficient.
If, however, you are working with smaller volumes of wood, then you might only have to take a few readings, so using a pin meter would not take too much time.
Input for species and correction chart
This is crucial. Whether you are working with a pin or pinless meter, the species of the wood can alter the MC reading that you get. For pin meters, the chemical composition of the wood skews the reading. For pinless meters, the density of the wood skews the reading.
That’s why you need to make sure that your moisture meter has an input for species or comes with a species correction chart. Some inexpensive meters don’t have those at all, which can ultimately hurt your project by providing you with incorrect information.
A species-input feature or a correction chart is a sign of a good, reliable moisture meter.
Does the meter have storage for your readings, or are you going to have to keep track of your readings yourself?
While not a “deal-breaker,” recording and storing your readings yourself can be a hassle and time-consuming. Check to see if the meter you are thinking of purchasing can store readings.
If not, check to see if the meter can at least “hold” your readings to give you ample time to record them yourself.
A quick summary
You might want to choose a pinless meter if:
- You work with large volumes of wood
- You work with smooth, flat surfaces
- You work with a variety of wood types: hard and soft
You might want to choose a pin meter if:
- You work with smaller volumes of wood
- You work with rough surfaces or projects with curved edges
- You work with softer wood
- You’re on a budget
Guide to moisture meters
Now, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for! You want to make sure that your moisture meter strikes the perfect balance between getting a quality meter and not paying an arm and a leg for one.
Some of the common factors of the meters listed include:
- 2-year warranty
- Hardshell carrying case
- Hold function for your readings
So let’s explore each of the meters below and give you all the details you need to pick the best moisture meter for you.
Bessemeter S300 ShallowScan Pinless Meter
The S300 ShallowScan Pinless Meter is a great choice for people doing projects that don’t require deep wood moisture measurements. If the planks you are working with are thinner, this is the perfect meter for you.
You can measure to a depth of 0.25” which is perfect for wood flooring planks and cabinetry. It also takes MC readings between 6% and 32%. The design makes the meter easy to hold in your hand, and, all around, it will make your job easier.
Bessemeter D300 DeepScan Pinless Meter
Unlike its ShallowScan counterpart, the D300 DeepScan meter is great for projects that work with thicker pieces of wood. Measuring at a depth of 0.75”, this meter is great for projects like tabletops, butcher blocks, chairs, etc.
It displays MC readings between 6% and 32% and offers readings nearly instantaneously. Also, just like the ShallowScan meter, this meter comes with a calibration verification device, allowing you to check the calibration of the meter quickly and effortlessly.
Bessemeter DS500 DualScan Pinless Meter
The DS500 DualScan Pinless Meter is the best of both worlds! It’s essentially a combination of the ShallowScan and the DeepScan.
It has all of the essential features of the two previous meters: calibration reference, species adjustment, 2-year warranty, MC readings between 6% and 32%, a hardshell carrying case, and a hold function for your readings.
But, it also has both shallow depth and deep depth readings. This meter takes readings at both 0.25” and 0.75”. If you find yourself doing projects with wood of various thicknesses, this meter is going to give you the MC readings you need to make your projects successful in the long term.
Bessemeter has most every type of meter you need to make your projects last longer, look better, and satisfy your client.
Whether you are looking for a pin meter or a pinless meter, Bessemeter has your back. Our value plus our quality can’t be beat. And now that you have the information you need to make a good purchasing decision, all that’s left to do is click Add to Cart.