Why You Need a Moisture Meter
Moisture meters test the moisture (water) content in a piece of wood or other types of material. They are a common tool for professional woodworkers and hobbyists alike.
But you may be wondering:
Do I really need one?
In short, the answer is yes! A moisture meter, whether a pin meter or a pinless meter, is essential to your wood project since moisture is one of the key factors in damaged wood.
To help you make an informed decision, we’ll answer the following questions:
- What could happen if you don’t have a moisture meter?
- How will a moisture meter benefit you?
- Do you need a moisture meter if you’re not a professional?
What could happen if you don’t have a moisture meter?
Not having a moisture meter to check your materials may not only hurt your project; it may hurt you or your customer.
Let’s break it down.
It can hurt your project
Not using a moisture meter can hurt your woodworking project because wood must be at the right moisture content (MC) to prevent damage.
How does this work?
Wood absorbs and releases water to match the relative humidity and temperature of its environment. If a piece of wood has not acclimated to its final moisture content, it will continue this process. It will swell or shrink, potentially ruining its appearance and usability.
For example, hardwood flooring needs to have an MC reading appropriate for its environment and within 2–4% of the subfloor. Using a moisture meter to check for these numbers is essential.
Otherwise, the floor may eventually experience significant problems such as cupping, crowning, or gaps between the boards.
With furniture, changes in moisture content can lead to cracking and warping, fasteners coming loose, and glue not holding well—problems that you or your customers will not want to deal with!1
It can hurt your efficiency
If you don’t have a moisture meter, you’ll be hindered from accomplishing your projects.
Here’s the reason.
If you don’t check the moisture content of your wood before purchasing it, you may end up with wood that has a far different moisture content from what you need. As a result, you’ll have to spend time trying to sell the wood, or you’ll have to acclimate it yourself.
And unfortunately, acclimation can be time-consuming. You may be unable to finish the project for weeks or longer!
It can hurt your wallet
Wood that you don’t measure with a moisture meter may end up costing you extra money in the long run.
For one, if the wood has the wrong moisture content, having it dried will cost more.
Or if you use the wood without acclimating it, it may damage your project. You may have spent money on wood that you can’t sell or use yourself.
It can hurt you or your customers.
Aside from the inconvenience of a damaged product, failing to use a moisture meter may pose some risks.
Let’s say that you have an ongoing water leak under your kitchen sink, and the water slowly seeps onto the hardwood floor.
Without a moisture meter, you may not notice the water that has soaked into the wood, and over time, the wet wood becomes the perfect breeding ground for mold. The mold releases its spores into the air and may cause you or others in your home to become sick.
Thus, not using a moisture meter can be an issue of safety.
It can hurt your name
When you don’t use a moisture meter, you risk creating a bad name for yourself. If customers receive products that eventually show damage, they may complain to you—and tell their friends.
Now that we understand how not having a moisture meter can hurt us and potentially hurt others, let’s look at the benefits of this tool.
How will a moisture meter benefit you?
A quality moisture meter with easy-to-use features and quick results—such as the Bessemeter DS500—can simplify your projects. You’ll become a more effective and reputable woodworker too.
- Save time and money because you’re purchasing wood that will not create project failures
- Create high-quality products
- Build trust with your customers by always producing high-quality products
- Detect early signs of problems before they affect you or your customers
Save time and money
Using a moisture meter will help you handle your time and financial resources wisely.
As we’ve already discussed, having to acclimate wood can be expensive and/or time-consuming. Wouldn’t it be so much better to use that time working on projects?
Create high-quality products
Checking moisture content can ensure your products turn out first-rate.
This starts with knowing the desired moisture content (the equilibrium moisture content or EMC) for the product’s final destination. Then, you’ll be able to compare this number with the readings on your meter as you’re preparing to buy wood.
The meter also comes in handy when you need to check MC throughout the process of your project.
Build trust with your customers
When you use a moisture meter to build high-quality products, your customers will come to trust you.
If you run your own business, you know how important reputation is! Pleased customers become some of your best promoters.
And your moisture meter can assist you in dealing with unhappy customers too. By keeping a record of moisture meter readings, you can show them that you followed correct practices. They will value this effort and be much less likely to blame you for issues with a product.
Detect early signs of problems
A moisture meter can be useful not only for creating projects but also for handling issues related to flooding or water damage. It can detect excess moisture, helping you to assess the damage and fix it.
Do you need a moisture meter even if you’re not a professional?
A moisture meter will help give you the best results, regardless of whether you’re a professional or not. Even so, certain factors will determine whether you need one. Here are some questions to consider:
How often do you work with wood?
If you work with wood on a consistent basis, a moisture meter is a great investment that will quickly pay for itself. But if you’re on a one-time project, you may decide it’s not worth the money.
How much are you spending on the project?
If you’re putting a lot of money into quality materials, it would be a shame for them to be ruined. You wouldn’t want your musical instrument to crack or a piece of furniture to start warping.
Are you drying your own wood, or is it already dry?
If you’re drying it, you’ll need a way to check its progress.
How concerned are you about damage?
When it comes to certain projects, slight damage may not matter. This may be the case with building materials for a deck or a playhouse; it’s okay if they show some cracks in the wood.
Some construction workers also don’t worry about moisture content when framing and find it easier to just fill cracks—and other issues they can address—in the drywall.
But when it comes to crafting a gift for your loved ones, you will want the very best for them. Use a moisture meter so that your creations stand the test of time and become treasured heirloom pieces.
Take your woodwork to the next level with a moisture meter
Because water and moisture affect wood so much, having a moisture meter can save you the hassle of long-term problems. You’ll be more effective in the project you take on and earn a reputation for top-notch woodwork.
And even if you’re not a professional, a wood moisture meter can take your work to the next level. You’ll make your project decisions with knowledge and confidence.
Ready to find a moisture meter for yourself? Check out our shop for cost-effective options that will get you accurate moisture readings.
- “Moisture Content of Wood in Use,” USDA Forest Service (↑)