Finding the best moisture meter for your project can make the difference between a successful wood project and a disaster.
If you work with wood as a hobbyist or professional you must know the importance of monitoring the level of moisture in your wood. Using wood with either too much or too little moisture is very likely to result in disappointing results, wasted time and wasted money.
If you are a professional wood flooring installer or you make high end wooden products and you don’t consider the moisture content of your wood, you will most certainly experience a damaged reputation and a potential loss of business.
- 1 Meters at a Glance
- 2 Why is Wood Moisture Important?
- 3 How does a Moisture Meter Work?
- 4 What Determines a Top Wood Moisture Meter?
- 5 Find the Best Moisture Meter for You
- 6 Wagner MMC220 Wood Moisture Meter
- 7 Tramex MEP Moisture Encounter Plus Moisture Meter
- 8 Lignomat Scanner SD Moisture Meter
- 9 Best Pin Moisture Meters
- 10 Delmhorst BD-2100 6% to 40% Digital Pin Wood and Sheetrock Moisture Meter
- 11 Lignomat Mini E/D Moisture Meter – Best Value
Meters at a Glance
| Larry's Top Choice
Wagner MMC220 Extended Range Wood Moisture Meter
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| Tramex MEP Moisture Encounter Plus Moisture Meter
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| Lignomat Scanner SD Moisture Meter
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| Delmhorst BD-2100 6% to 40% Digital Pin Wood and Sheetrock Moisture Meter
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| Lignomat Moisture Meter Mini-Ligno E/D
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Why is Wood Moisture Important?
Wood adapts to the moisture content of its environment and swelling or shrinking wood results in cracks, warping and general deterioration over time. If you use wood that is not properly dried and acclimated to its environment it will lead to catastrophic failures of wood flooring, furniture, or any wood project.
The best wood to use has reached equilibrium moisture content, which simply means that the wood is in balance with the relative humidity of it’s environment. It is no longer losing or gaining moisture. So the ideal moisture content depends on the location.
The only way to know if your wood has reached equilibrium moisture content is to use a quality moisture meter.
How does a Moisture Meter Work?
There are 2 kinds of meters:
Pin Moisture Meters
Pin style meters work by measuring the electrical resistance of the moisture in wood. Water conducts electricity and wood does not. The less moisture present the more electrical resistance will be detected, which allows for the calculation of moisture content.
Pin meters have a set of probes or pins that are hammered or pushed into the wood. A small electrical current is passed between the pins and the moisture level is calculated based on the electrical resistance between them.
Pin meters have a few significant disadvantages:
They damage the wood, so you need to test areas of your wood where holes are acceptable, or you need to patch or otherwise deal with the holes for the finished product.
The pin meter measures the area between the pins, so if you want to measure the wood at several spots in order to gain a thorough understanding of the moisture content be prepared to have a lot of holes.
Pin meters are slow. If you have a long board and you want to thoroughly measure the moisture you need take multiple measurements. That means pushing or hammering the pins into the wood, get your reading, and then pulling the pins out, over and over. It’s a tiring process.
Some pins tend to bend and break, and they need to be replaced.
Pinless Moisture Meters
Pinless meters have a flat sensor that is pressed against the wood, so a flat section of the wood is required in order to get a reading. Pinless style meters are a more recent development. They emit an electromagnetic field into the wood and use a sensor to detect how the field behaves.
These non-invasive moisture meters have no probes that need to be forced into the wood. This can be a huge advantage. It’s fast and easy to take multiple measurements across the surface of the wood so they are a great time saver.
A quality pinless meter is going to be more expensive than one with pins. To get a good reading you need a good flat surface to press the sensor against, and sometimes that could be a problem. A couple of passes with a plane might be necessary.
What Determines a Top Wood Moisture Meter?
There are literally hundreds of wood moisture meters available on Amazon. Click here to see (opens in new tab).
A lot of meters, right?
At one time there were only a handful of companies that built moisture meters, but now there are lots of inexpensive meters made in China and other countries available.
You may save in the short term, but if you take your wood work seriously you will be much better off with a higher end product that has been engineered and tested for accuracy and reliability.
If you are a woodworker or flooring installer it is well worth paying more for a truly accurate and reliable instrument that will truly help you to prevent failures.
Here are a few things to look for when trying to find the best moisture meter for you:
It goes without saying that you need your meter to accurately measure the moisture content of your material. High end meters with greater accuracy tend to be more expensive than less accurate lower end products. These lower end products are constructed of cheaper components, less time and energy has been put into ensuring and validating the accuracy.
A meter for firewood doesn’t have to be so accurate, but if you are a fine woodworker, carpenter, or a wood flooring installer accuracy is essential to your work and possibly even you business. If that is you it is worth it to spend the extra money for a truly quality and accurate tool.
Nothing is worse than buying a tool that breaks easily. Even if there is a reasonable warranty period you want a moisture meter that is solid and will last a long time. Lets face it, even the most careful person drops things from time to time, and after your moisture meter hits the floor a few times you want it to keep working.
And of course if you are spending top dollar for a high end tool you want to be sure that there is a reasonable warranty period. The unbeatable 7 year warranty is one of the many reasons for our choice for top wood moisture meter, the Wagner MMC220. Keep reading for more details.
Range of Measurement
The real issue here is how low can the meter accurately measure. If you are a fine woodworker, carpenter, or a wood flooring installer, using wood that has a lower than desirable moisture content can cause as many problems as wood that contains too much moisture.
Due to the high resistance of dry wood it is difficult to get an accurate measurement at or below 6%. Cheaper meters made from cheaper components are not going to be of much help.
The Best Moisture Meter Should be Easy to Use
An accurate and durable but difficult or awkward to use tool is simply not worth it. Sometimes it’s necessary to take measurements in tight places, so features like press and hold can make things so much easier.
Species Setting Adjustment
The best moisture meter will be programmable to work with a wide variety of wood species. The density of wood varies from species to species and this effects the readings. The standard calibration reference is Douglas Fir. In order to get accurate readings when not measuring the moisture of Douglas Fir it is necessary to apply a correction.
A good moisture meter will allow you to program these corrections, and many provide detailed information with the meter. One of the best resources we have found is linked below in the review of our top rated meter.
Find the Best Moisture Meter for You
We want you to find the best moisture meter for your application. The following meters were chosen based on several factors: accuracy, reliability, usability, and quality of support from the manufacturer.
Wagner MMC220 Wood Moisture Meter
- Extremely accurate
- Range: 5% – 32% Digital Display
- Programmable for a wide variety of wood species
- Calibration Block available for verification
- 7 Year Warranty – Excellent support
The Wagner MMC220 Wood Moisture Meter gets our top rating. It is used by many professionals for good reason: it is fast and extremely accurate. You can trust this meter to measure the actual moisture in the wood.
The pinless technology doesn’t damage the wood and allows for very fast readings. It has a depth measurement of 3/4″, and surface moisture will not effect the readings, it only measures the moisture in the wood.
It is programmable to account for the specific gravity of any wood species. The meter comes with a booklet of common wood species settings, but if you can’t find what you are looking for there Wagner provides an excellent database of 1000’s of wood species specific gravity.
Wagner Meters literally invented the handheld pinless moisture meter, and the accuracy of their meters have been verified by several studies. They are a family owned and operated business located in south Oregon, and they stand behind their products.
They are made in the USA.
They are available for support, just give them a call during business hours, and they stand behind their products with an unprecedented 7 year warranty.
If you are serious about your wood products and you require the utmost accuracy and reliability this is the best moisture meter to buy.
Not convinced? Check out this great video from Crimson Guitars about the Wagner MMC220:
“It doesn’t look sexy…but by gum it is sexy!”
Tramex MEP Moisture Encounter Plus Moisture Meter
- Pinless – non-damaging
- Accurate and consistent
- Three ranges of sensitivity: Wood & Timber / Drywall & Roofing / Plaster & Brick
- Measurement range 5% to 30%
- Signal penetration to over 1″
- Press and hold button
- 1 year warranty
The Tramex MEP Moisture Encounter Plus is is designed to work with a variety of different materials, including wood, drywall, roofing, roofing, brick and others. This makes it an excellent choice for a building inspector or general contractor, or anyone who works with wood including wood flooring installers or any woodworker.
It is pinless so it won’t damage the wood, and it can take readings over an inch into the material.
Lignomat Scanner SD Moisture Meter
- Pinless – does not damage the wood
- Dual Depth: 1/4″ and 3/4″
- Measure range is 5% to 99%
- Built in Calibration
- 2 Year Warranty
- Includes: carrying case, one 9V battery, manual and laminated wood group chart
The Lignomat Scanner SD is a wood meter that has 2 sets of calibrations: one for 1/4″ deep and one for 3/4″ deep. Its pinless, so it won’t damage the wood and it comes with a 2 year warranty.
It is programmable for specific gravity between 0.3 and 1.0.
This meter has a lot of excellent reviews on Amazon, and with good reason. It is accurate, fast and easy to use, and extremely versatile for any wood application. It has an extremely reasonable price point for a high end meter.
Some reviewers report that it is not as accurate for moisture content above approximately 20%, and surface moisture tends to effect the readings. If you do choose to go with this meter please keep these things in mind.
Aside from those caveats, this is a great meter, especially considering the price.
Best Pin Moisture Meters
Delmhorst BD-2100 6% to 40% Digital Pin Wood and Sheetrock Moisture Meter
- Pin meter
- 3 scales – can be used on wood, drywall, and a variety of other materials
- 5%-99% measuring range
- Averages up to 100 readings
- Built in calibration check
- Beeps when reading above a value
- 1 year warranty
Our top rated pin meter, the Delmhorst BD-2100 is rugged and reliable meter that has proven itself time and time again as indicated by the may professionals that use it.
It has 3 scales and can be used to measure moisture on a variety of materials.
The wood scale is for flooring or wood building materials. The range is 6% up to 40%, which allows it to be useful in all sorts of different conditions from dry to high humidity and a variety of locations.
The gypsum scale is for drywall, and it measures between .2% and 50%, making the BD-2100 great for home construction professionals and DIYers alike.
The Reference Scale for Concrete, Plaster, and Insulation is designed to measure moisture in other non-wood materials.
This meter is a great choice if you work with a variety of materials, in particular home inspection, construction and restoration.
This meter can also be used with a variety of attachments. It is available alone or as a kit.
Delmhorst BD-2100 Standard Package
The Delmhorst BD-2100 Flooring Package
Lignomat Mini E/D Moisture Meter – Best Value
- Our TOP VALUE choice
- Simple and easy to use
- Range 6% – 45%
- Large and bright LED display
- Lower cost than the other recommended meters
The Lignomat Mini E/D wood moisture meter is a simple pin meter. It measure the moisture content of wood from 6% to 45%, making it a great all around wood meter. It’s extremely accurate thanks to he proven Lignomat technology, but what sets this meter apart form the rest is is it’s price tag. At right around $100 the Min E/D gets is our top value pick for general wood use.
It may not be the best choice if you work with exotic hardwoods. But if all you need is a simple and accurate tool for general use this might be the the best moisture for you.