Things to Know Before Buying a Wood Moisture Meter
A wood moisture meter is a handheld device that accurately measures the moisture level of wood. They can help you to identify the best firewood to burn, so less of it goes to waste.
They can also help you to burn firewood safely, as there are some risks that come with burning firewood that is too wet or too dry.
Wood moisture meters are a handy purchase for anyone who works with wood frequently. Whether it’s for DIY, professional use, carpentry or firewood.
Moreover, moisture meters aren’t exclusively for wood, some can also measure the dampness of brick, stone and fabrics.
This kind of product can help you self-assess your home’s dampness, just in case a cowboy trades-person has given a costly quote for repairs. Double checking could save you money, if it turned out your readings were lower than an ‘expert’ had claimed.
There are various features across models, so if you’re looking for the best wood moisture meter but you’re not sure where to start, the following tips will help you make an informed decision:
The Benefits of Using a Wood Moisture Meter
These tools have a wide range of helpful uses.
When it comes to firewood, the moisture content must be below 20% for it to burn well. If you burn wood wetter than this, it can cause a host of problems.
Burning damp wood can cause soot and tar to build up in a chimney, which has sometimes been known to cause house fires. Wet wood also releases a lot more smoke than dry wood, which can unpleasantly fill your living room.
Meanwhile, burning wood that is too dry can create a fire which is hard to control. So, using a wood moisture meter will help you get your fire to a moderate and ideal burn.
If the moisture content is higher than 20%, the wood will have a lower heat output when burnt. If it’s for your own fire this can be costly in the long run, because you’ll need to use and buy more.
Whether you’re selling wood, or just checking what you’ve got in your stores, having a moisture meter helps identify which wood will burn effectively.
If you sell firewood, customers will want to know its moisture content, so it’s great to be able to provide this figure.
If you often work with wood, either professionally or as a hobby, being able to check its moisture content is important for safety reasons. Checking for damp in a wooden structure, timber beams, and plenty of other materials is a crucial stage in the construction process.
Some of the best moisture meters will check other materials as well as wood, such as stone, plasterboard and even carpet. This can be helpful when surveying a house and when checking for a mould problem.
Modes for Various Materials
The first thing you’ll need to think about is what you’re using the moisture meter for.
While some moisture meters just measure the moisture of various materials, others can also read the humidity and air temperature. These features can indicate whether your wood storage area is suitable, as well as checking the dampness of the wood itself.
If you’re only looking for a simple tool which can tell you if the logs you have are ready to use, then a relatively basic moisture meter with as little as one mode will be sufficient.
However, if you want more of an all-round tool, you’ll find that the best moisture meters are also able to take readings from brick, plasterboard, textiles, and other materials. Plus, as mentioned, they can reveal information about the dampness in the air.
These units are particularly useful when doing DIY or assessing building structures.
Some wooden moisture meters, like the Valiant Firewood Moisture Meter will have different modes for different species of tree. This mode is really only helpful if you’re an expert in wood but does offer a more specific understanding of moisture content.
Understanding Moisture Content Readings
For firewood to burn well, its moisture content should be below 20%. To check its moisture levels, you’ll need a meter that can go up to at least 20%, so you know when a log is too wet to burn.
If you dry your own wood, a moisture meter that can take a reading of freshly cut wood will allow you to best plan the drying position and estimate when it might be ready to burn. In these cases, a larger range will give you more information. Often moisture meters range from 5 to 40%.
If the reading is under 10%, there’s a risk that it’s too dry and could produce a fire that burns quickly, and that is hard to control. The further the value is under 10%, the bigger this risk becomes.
Experts recommend burning your firewood when its moisture content is between 10 and 20%.
Helpful Extra Features
There are a few functions that slightly improve moisture meters, but they aren’t essential:
An automatic turn off feature will help your meter’s batteries last longer. Tools with this function will tend to turn themselves off after a few minutes of inactivity.
A hold function will save the reading on the screen. This avoids the frustrating scenario of having crawled into an awkward place to take a reading, and then finding that the reading has disappeared before you’ve managed to wiggle out and check the screen. It also comes in handy when checking poorly lit areas.
A moisture meter that beeps when it takes a reading can be extremely useful to people with a damp problem. Some products, like the Brennenstuhl Moisture Detector, will beep faster when it registers a higher moisture content.
So, in the scenario where you’re looking for the source of the damp, you can keep moving around the room until the detector beeps the fastest – you won’t have to keep checking the number on the screen.
Some of the best wood moisture meters have brightly-coloured lids, so you can always spot them, and some come with spare replacement pins and carry cases.
Most have user-friendly screens that are easy to read, with large-sized digits.
Some moisture meters are more accurate than others. I recommend looking for a meter with at least an accuracy of around 1% each way.
Some of the more high-end models can be accurate to approximately 0.1%.
Accuracy can also be improved by making sure you use the moisture meter on the most suitable setting. For example, if it has functions for different wood types, you’ll get a more accurate reading by setting it for the specific type of wood you’re testing.
Cheaper models will not be able to match the accuracy of higher quality ones. The best advice is to check the reviews of anything you’re thinking of buying, to see how its performance has been rated by users.
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Wood Moisture Meter FAQs
Do I need to test the water content of my logs before burning them?
To burn firewood effectively, either in an open fire or a wood burning stove, the moisture content needs to be less than 20%. Freshly cut timber has a moisture content of between 30% and 60%, depending on the tree species and its growing conditions.
As well as burning poorly, wet firewood will produce lots more smoke than dry wood. So, burning wet wood can create an unpleasantly smoky room. In extreme cases, the conditions caused by burning wet wood has led to house fires.
Burning wet wood is less effective than burning dry wood, so you’ll end up using more of it. Testing its water content before setting up a fire can ultimately save you money, as you won’t be wasting wet wood.
Lastly, if your firewood is extremely dry, it will burn very quickly. Plus, dry fires can get out of control quite quickly. So, it’s worth making sure the wood’s moisture content is just right.
I am buying some timber for constructing shelves. How can I test the moisture levels without making holes in the wood?
A pinless moisture detector is your best bet if you don’t want to create holes in expensive wood.
The circuit inside a pinless moisture meter sends a signal in the form of electromagnetic waves. The waves create an electromagnetic field over the area underneath the sensor. The moisture content is calculated from the signal received in return.
These types of meters are more expensive, but they provide you with a damage-free, reliable reading on smooth wood.
Why is it important to check firewood moisture?
Too much moisture in your firewood (above 20%), won’t burn very well. The wood won’t catch alight properly, burn efficiently or generate much heat. You’ll also end up with a fire that produces a lot of smoke!
If the moisture of your firewood is too low, it burns too quickly. Plus, wood that is too dry can produce a fire which is hard to control. A small amount of moisture is needed to moderate the burn rate.
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