A wood moisture meter is a handheld device that will accurately measure moisture levels in wood. Moisture meters will help you identify the best firewood to burn, so less of it goes to waste.
These devices also help you burn firewood safely. There are some risks that come with burning firewood that is too wet or too dry, as you’ll see below.
As well as being useful for firewood, moisture meters are also a handy purchase for anyone who works with wood frequently. They can be used on various wood materials whether it’s for DIY, professional use or carpentry.
Most moisture meters aren’t exclusively for wood material either; some can measure the dampness of other building materials including brick, stone and fabrics.
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 problems.
Burning wood with a high moisture content 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.
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, measuring moisture levels 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 meters can be used for measuring moisture in other building materials as well as wood, such as stone, plasterboard and even carpet. This can be helpful when surveying a house, checking for mould, or preparing for construction.
Measuring Various Materials
The first thing you’ll need to think about is what you’re using the moisture meter for.
Some moisture meters only measure moisture levels, whilst others 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 read moisture content and tell you if the logs you have are ready to use, then a basic moisture meter will be sufficient. It’ll only need to have one mode and take accurate moisture readings.
However, if you want more of an all-round tool, you’ll find that the best moisture meters are also able to take moisture 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, 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.
Pinless Moisture Meters
If you’re using the moisture meter for DIY instead of testing firewood, you might want a pinless moisture meter. Instead of requiring two metal prongs to be pushed into the wood, pinless moisture meters use electromagnetic wave technology to measure the wood’s moisture level.
This means that a pinless moisture meter won’t mark the wood, which is useful if testing wood that will be on display – like shelving and doors.
One of the drawbacks of pinless moisture meters is that they show the moisture levels over a vague area. Pin meters, on the other hand, measure a specific spot and are sometimes considered a more accurate meter.
Measuring Moisture Content
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 estimate when it might be ready to burn. In these cases, a larger moisture range will give you more information. Look for moisture meters range that from 5 to 40%.
If the meter is detecting moisture under 10%, there’s a risk that it’s too dry. This could result in a fire that burns too quickly, and 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%.
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.
- 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.
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 moisture detectors are accurate to approximately 0.1%. These are only required for professional work.
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 meters, but they still give valuable insight. 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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