Best Moisture Meters: Detect Damp Wood and Sheetrock with Ease
These top moisture meters will help you identify wet materials
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BY Noelle Talmon / LAST UPDATED ON July 16, 2019
While many people use moisture meters to measure the water content of wood, some models can also be used on drywall and concrete. They are versatile devices and are popular with contractors and building inspectors as well as DIYers and those who enjoy woodworking. Check out our buying guide and moisture meter reviews below to find the best tool for the job.
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Benefits of Moisture Meters
- They detect damp building materials. If moisture levels are too high, the wood or other building material you’re working with can expand, warp, or become brittle. Water damage can become a big problem in just a short time.
- They're cost-effective. It's better to detect damp wood, sheetrock, or concrete sooner rather than later. It can be very expensive to repair moldy drywall and other issues if they’re not quickly diagnosed, while a moisture meter is not very costly.
- They identify wet firewood. If you burn a lot of firewood to heat your home or for other purposes, the best moisture meter can detect damp wood, which can produce heavy soot and won't burn as well as dry wood.
Types of Moisture Meters
This type of moisture meter uses two pins that sink into the material and determine what the moisture levels are inside using an electrical current. A hardwood moisture meter with pins is usually very accurate, and it’s also less expensive than a pinless meter. The downside to pin-type meters is you will leave small holes in the wood or other material you’re testing.
The best pinless moisture meter is also known as a contactless moisture meter. You check the moisture of a material by measuring it on the surface with a sensor. It typically measures about ¾ inch deep. This type of meter is quite accurate, and you don't need to put any holes into the material. One drawback is it costs more than a pin-type moisture meter. Also, it may not accurately measure thicker or tightly packed materials.
Based in Carson City, Nev., Calculated Industries has been manufacturing specialty construction calculators and digital measuring tools since 1978. Its products have been used by more than 10 million professionals. One top product is the Calculated Industries AccuMASTER Duo Pro Pin & Pinless Moisture Meter.
Japanese company Ryobi Seisakusho Co., Ltd. was founded in 1943, and it manufactures products for the automobile, electronics, and telecommunications industries. It operates 12 manufacturing facilities in six countries, including one in Shelbyville, Ind. One popular product is the Ryobi Digital LED Pinless Moisture Meter.
General Tools has been designing precision specialty tools for nearly a century. Founded in New York City in 1922, the company offers over 1,000 products, including digital test and measurement tools. One recommended product is the General Tools Digital Moisture Meter.
Lignomat started selling moisture meters and kiln control equipment in the United States in 1979. Today, it offers pin meters and pinless moisture meters, moisture meters for concrete, lumber dry kiln controls, and a variety of wireless monitoring devices for moisture and humidity conditions. One popular product is the Lignomat Moisture Meter Mini-Ligno E/D.
Moisture Meter Pricing
- $25-$70: You can purchase a decent moisture meter without spending a lot of money. Those for general use typically cost less than $100, and a cheap moisture meter may be as little as $25.
- Over $70: Professional contractors and those who require meters with an extended range and consistent results can expect to pay at least $100 or as much as $300.
Moisture detection tools have varying levels of accuracy. Premium, top-rated moisture meters will have an accuracy within 0.1 percent, but they tend to be pricier. The next best moisture meter is accurate within one percent, and it is useful for most projects. Devices with more than one percent of the variance in accuracy tend to be less effective.
Are you looking for the best moisture meter for firewood or one that will work on concrete? Not all moisture meters can take measurements on all types of materials. Some can be calibrated to detect moisture in wood only, while others can be used on drywall and concrete as well.
- Digital Display: The best moisture meter will have a digital LED or LCD display. Meters with this feature tend to provide more accurate measurements than analog devices. Some models light up when the device detects a certain level of moisture content. They will flash green for low or zero moisture, yellow for medium, and red for high.
- Moisture Range and Depth: Moisture meters can read between 0.2 percent and 60 percent of a material's moisture content. Some are more exact than others, so depending on what you're using the device for, you may require a product with more precision. Meters can only measure to a certain depth. For example, pinless meters generally measure ¾ inches deep but do not work well on really thin boards.
- Ease of Use: The best moisture meter will quickly display the information you need. The screen should be simple to read and have a backlit display for better visibility. Also, make sure the menus are easy to navigate so you don't have to constantly switch functions to get the job done quickly and efficiently.
- Added Features: A good-quality digital moisture meter will also display temperature, which is helpful if you're investigating a possible hot or cold water leak. By following the changes in temperature, you can better pinpoint the leak. Other meters have options such as keeping track of measurements with a memory function.
Best Moisture Meter Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- More versatile models of moisture meters will allow you to select a specific model based on the material you are using, such as drywall, softwood, masonry, hardwood, or cement, to measure moisture.
- The best moisture meter for drywall will include reading for gypsum. This is a major compound in drywall and can disintegrate if it gets too moist.
- To get the best and most accurate readings, consider using both pin-type and pinless moisture meters. Fortunately, some brands contain both functions, which give you a more precise reading than devices that only provide one method of measurement.
- If you have problems with moisture in your home, install exhaust fans. They prevent the buildup of hot air, which can create condensation.
- A water leak detector will alert you if your walls get damp from a burst pipe, and this may be a good solution if you have problems with your plumbing.
- Other ways to reduce moisture, humidity, and condensation include installing a kitchen range hood and putting dehumidifiers in areas of your home that are prone to dampness.
Q: How do I use a moisture meter?
A: If you have a pin-type moisture meter, turn it on and select the mode you want. Then push the pins into the surface at a perpendicular angle and take the reading. With a pinless meter, simply turn it on and place the sensors on top of the material to get a reading.
Q: Do moisture meters detect mold?
A: Even the best moisture detector doesn't have a "mold" setting, but it can identify pockets of moisture that may contain mold spores.
Q: Can I use a moisture meter both inside and outside?
A: Most moisture meters work within a designated temperature range, such as between 32 degrees and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use them both indoors and out; just make sure the battery isn't low so it functions to the best of its abilities.
Our pick for the best moisture meter is the Calculated Industries AccuMASTER Duo Pro Pin & Pinless Moisture Meter. It's a versatile, dual moisture meter because it functions as both a pin and pinless device. It works on brick, concrete, drywall, plaster, and carpet. It's also easy to use and very accurate.
For a less expensive option, consider the Tavool Wood Moisture Meter.