LAST UPDATED: July 16, 2019
Best Moisture Meters: Detect Damp Wood and Sheetrock with Ease
These top moisture meters will help you identify wet materials
The Review Team
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PUBLISHED 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 popular with contractors and building inspectors, as well as DIYers and those who enjoy woodworking. Check out our buying guide and moisture meter reviews to find the right 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 2020
This device functions both as a pin and pinless moisture meter. The pinless pad can be used to scan for moisture behind a wall or under a floor, while the pin feature can pinpoint problem areas and leaks. It works on brick, concrete, drywall, plaster, and carpet. It displays moisture content as low, medium, or high, and has an accuracy of +/- 3 percent. It works on a 9V battery and has an automatic shutoff.
This moisture meter is easy to use and is very accurate. It beeps to indicate moisture level, so if the level is really low the beeping will be slow, but it beeps faster with more moisture. The LED-backlit display is large, clear, and easy to use, and the unit as a whole is solid and well built. The pins are sharp, and the product comes with an extra set in case you need them.
One downside is the pins can easily unscrew, fall off, or break when inserted into certain hardwoods. Also, the plastic around the pins appears a bit flimsy. There have also been some complaints that it's difficult to completely insert the pins into some materials.
This pin-type moisture meter displays the percentage of moisture content in wood on three levels: low (five to 12 percent), medium (12 to 17 percent) and high (17 to 60 percent). The LED-backlit display features a hold function, memory function, maximum/minimum moisture measurement, temperature, and automatic power-off. It comes with a two-year warranty.
This durable and sturdy moisture meter is compact and simple to operate. The bright screen allows you to see moisture reading during the day, and you can see the display just as well when it's dark. It takes only a few seconds to get a reading, and it's very accurate. It also features an extensive calibration table for wood. As a bonus, it comes with batteries as well as the screwdriver you need to remove the back cover for installing them.
One of the only downsides to this product is the cap protecting the prongs may be a little difficult to take off. There's no good way to grip the protective cover to remove it, which may be problematic for an elderly individual and could possibly damage the pins. Also, to get the best readings you need to precisely calibrate it and consult a large chart/table.
This inductive and pinless moisture meter is noninvasive and non-marring. It's precise and includes options for 10 different grades of timber density between four percent and 80 percent. It has a maximum error of one percent relative humidity (Rh) + 0.5. The Tavool meter can measure a thickness up to 1.96 inches. It also comes with a large, digital LCD screen, an automatic shutoff, a temperature calibration prompt, and a 12-month replacement warranty.
This user-friendly device works well right out of the box as long as you adjust for the density of appropriate materials. It's easy to calibrate and gives you consistent/repeatable measurements on a variety of different woods. The readouts are super fast and within one percent. Also, the density chart in the directions is great.
While you can use the meter to check for wet drywall/sheetrock, it doesn't contain any instructions on how to do so. Another problem is it needs to calibrate every time you use it, which requires you to remove the battery and press a specific button sequence.
This General Tools digital moisture meter is a pin-type device with visual and audible alerts. The company also offers other models that are pinless and/or have Bluetooth capability. The MMD4E allows users to detect the moisture in wood, drywall, and other surfaces.
This device is easy to use. It features a large backlit LCD that you can freeze to lock in a reading. It has an automatic power-off function as well as a low-battery indicator. It comes with extra pins, a nine-volt battery, and a protective cap that can also be used as a calibration checker. It provides low, medium, and high moisture alerts and green, yellow, and red visual alerts. One button switches between building material and wood mode, and it beeps faster the wetter the surface is.
However, some people don't like the auto shutoff feature because it can turn off in the middle of a task. It can also be tough to read the backlit display if the unit is on an angle.
One of the best things about this Proster handheld wood moisture meter is its incredibly low price. If you don't have a lot of extra cash or aren't sure how much you'll use this type of device, it's a good option. You can use it to test the water content of wood, firewood, cardboard, paper, and more. This pin-type device requires a 9V battery and comes with two test probe pins.
The electrode pins measure wood within a 0 to 99.9 percent range. The device also has an accuracy of plus/minus 0.5 percent. Another great feature is the four modes, which break wood types into four groups. It covers about 50 wood species so that you can get a more accurate reading. The large HD LCD screen displays the results, while the auto power-off feature saves battery power. It's also ergonomically designed for comfort and made of durable ABS plastic.
Some users complain that the various modes don't seem to make much of a difference, while others note that it should include even more wood options. It may also not be the best device to use for furniture work.
The SAM-PRO Dual Moisture Meter 2.0 is a professional-grade device with a substantial LCD screen that's easy to read. It also has a flashlight so that you can use it in poorly lit areas. The device has an ergonomic design and maximum, minimum, scan, and hold functions. It also has four material modes: hardwoods, softwoods/carpet, drywall, and concrete. It provides temperature and moisture readings for more than 100 different types of materials.
When you test material, the meter displays easy-to-understand high or low readings. Many users choose this device for its ability to detect leaks in walls for mold prevention. It's also helpful for checking the moisture content in lumber and seasoned firewood. The unit comes with a long-lasting nylon storage case, replacement probes, and batteries. The company also provides a lifetime replacement warranty.
One downside is that it may go through batteries quickly. Several users have also reported that the lid is difficult to open. It may also lack instructions, so you'll have to go online to figure out how it works.
On the higher end of the price range is the Protimeter Surveymaster. This dual-function moisture meter features a pin design and ergonomic, one-handed operation for checking moisture on and below the surface of buildings and other structures. It's a professional moisture meter popular with home inspectors and insurance adjusters. While it provides pin moisture measurements, it also has pinless measurements that reach up to 20 mm under the surface area.
It features search and measure modes that differentiate between surface and subsurface moisture. The non-invasive search mode allows users to examine moisture levels in walls and floors. It has a depth of 3/4 inch and features durable construction to last a long time. The backlit display is also large, making it easier to read.
One downside is that it's a little bigger and bulkier than the previous model. Another complaint is that the cap covering the pins is a bit flimsy and falls off relatively easily.
This pin-type moisture meter from General Tools is designed for contractors, homeowners, and woodworkers who wish to locate moisture and water damage in various locations, including under carpeting, tile, wood floors, and in masonry. It has two modes so that you can find moisture in a wide range of areas, such as tight spaces, corners, and uneven material. It has a spherical sensor that measures moisture as deep as four inches.
The device displays information on a large LCD screen as well as a 40-dot tri-color LDE bar graph. It holds data, has a low battery warning, and automatically calibrates. You can turn off various functions, including auto power, backlight, and beeping sound. Overall, it's a good mid-range option that is reliable and easy to use.
One downside with this device is the battery may not last very long. Also, where you place your hands may affect the readings. Some users also complain that changing the settings can be a bit of a hassle.
This moisture meter from Wagner is a pinless model that's accurate, good quality, and versatile. It features an on-demand calibrator for convenience and ease of use. The manufacturer also provides a seven-year warranty for the pinless sensor, known as IntelliSense Technology, which provides users with peace of mind.
One of the best things about this device is that the environment and the wood's temperature have nearly no impact on its operation. It has a relative measurement mode for items that are not solid wood, and you can also use it on treated wood and other types of materials. Overall, it's accurate and consistent when it comes to different wood species and their drying times. It's also easy to change density to adjust between species.
Unfortunately, the manual lacks information about using the relative mode. It's also a little pricey compared to some other models on the market. There are also some more sophisticated options available from Wagner should you want more functionality.
The NoCry Digital Moisture Meter detects moisture, relative humidity, and temperature in wood and building materials using a built-in sensor. You can test ceilings, floors, and walls, as well as firewood and carpentry projects. The meter has four measurement modes that can be adjusted for 100 different materials, including hardwoods, medium-density woods, softwoods, and construction materials (i.e., cement and drywall).
This device has an auto-calibration feature, so you don't have to worry if the ambient temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit isn't met. Since you don't have to calibrate the tool manually, it's a lot easier to use. The LCD screen has two brightness settings and displays data in Fahrenheit and Celsius. It also displays the active measurement and remaining battery life. The best feature, however, is it's incredibly low price.
The biggest problem with this device is a soldering issue that keeps some units from functioning correctly. The company will replace the unit or refund your money if you inadvertently receive a defective device. Another problem is the probes may have difficulty penetrating hardwoods.
- 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.