5 Things Not to Do When Measuring Moisture in Wood Flooring

You’ve got a pretty good idea of what to do when measuring moisture in wood flooring, but have you thought about what not to do? Have you thought about what mistakes are the most expensive? Or the most time-consuming? Or worst of all, the ones that ruin a reputation!

By simply knowing what to avoid, you could save yourself from ever having those issues in the first place. And wouldn’t you like to be the one known for doing the job right, the first time?

Of course you do!

Which is why you’ll want to understand these 5 mistakes to avoid so you can be successful on every flooring job.

#1. Using the wrong wood moisture meter

How disheartening would it be to know you are ready to do right by your customer and test for moisture, only to find out you have the wrong meter? Talk about disappointment, frustration, and wasted time!

First off, realize there are different meters for different materials. There are meters in the marketplace that were designed to measure moisture in products that are not wood—and they’re not interchangeable. So, if you know you need to test wood, invest in a meter that measures wood properly. And make sure you invest in a reliable, accurate, and fast meter. There are some bad apples out there.

Then, compare pin vs pinless meters. Pin meters use two metal pins that must physically penetrate the wood’s surface in order to take a moisture reading. Non-damaging pinless meters take moisture readings through sensor pads that are placed on the wood’s surface but do not physically harm the board. Since pinless meters don’t cause damage to the wood, an accurate pinless meter can be much more practical for projects such as wood flooring. However, if you are measuring wood with uneven surfaces, a pin meter is a very good option.

And don’t forget about the cheaper meters. They might be enticing, but stay strong. A cheap meter doesn’t always mean, “Yay, I’ll save money!” More than likely, they mean, “Oh no, this reading might not be accurate. Now what?” Then you may end up needing to purchase a dependable meter, so you’d have to spend more. Better to make an initial investment in a meter that will give you peace of mind.

#2. Not taking enough readings

pinless moisture meter for woodworking

Don’t skimp on readings—make sure you take enough readings to get an accurate picture of the moisture content of your wood flooring.

If you fail to take enough readings, then you’re not getting an accurate picture of the moisture levels in the floor or wood panels.

Bottom line: Taking just an occasional measurement won’t provide quality data.

You want to test the whole batch of flooring, as much of the floor as possible—especially the areas prone to having more moisture exposure. The National Wood Flooring Association has guidelines for how many readings should be taken.

And with non-damaging pinless meters, you get readings so quickly, it’s not hard to take a bunch.

#3. Not using the correct species setting

It’s obvious that different species of wood would have different properties, such as their specific gravity or density. To account for this, a good wood moisture meter offers different species settings to ensure accurate readings.

But if your meter doesn’t allow for those differences, the readings you get may result in poor decisions about applied finishes or the wood’s readiness to be installed.

With an accurate, reliable wood moisture meter that allows you to easily change species settings, you’ll know you’re getting accurate readings even when measuring the MC of different species.

#4. Not knowing your environment’s EMC

Many people believe that the final moisture content of the wood should be between 6 and 8 percent MC. This is true in most cases. However, your wood must reach equilibrium moisture content (EMC) before being installed. So, if you go and take MC readings of the wood, but don’t know the environment’s EMC, those readings may not be helpful. If your installation is in a desert environment or by the ocean, adjustments to the standard final MC may be necessary.

Don’t go in blind. Start by determining the environmental EMC first, which can be done once you know the average ambient relative humidity and temperature. Then you’ll have your number to compare to, and your readings will make sense. You’ll know if you need to wait longer or if you’re good to install.

#5. Not saving the data

wood moisture meter with app

The best moisture meter is the one you’ll actually use, and for wood flooring, this means using a non-damaging pinless wood moisture meter.

Imagine a photographer taking beautiful photos but not saving them in a file. Pointless.

Why take readings if you’re not going to save them? Those are your insurance. If anything happens to the floor, go back and look at the readings—that will help you figure out your next steps.

And the data could even keep you from a lawsuit by showing that you adhered to the proper procedure for taking moisture measurements.

Ultimately, keeping thorough records of all your data only helps your reputation. When future customers see that you operate with integrity, your reputation will speak for itself.

Some meters have a data recording and storage feature that can make saving the readings much easier.

The best meter is…

…the one you’ll actually use.

Sounds simple, but if you end up buying a moisture meter that’s confusing to use or one that takes too long to get readings, you won’t use it. Because, after all, the worst thing you could do is not use a meter at all.

So do your research. Find the moisture meter that meets your needs, includes important features (such as species settings), and is in your budget. Then, use it.

And if you’re looking for one that has all the bells and whistles—a true one-stop-shop meter—then consider the Orion 950. Since this meter can do everything you’ll need for nearly every job, it’ll quickly become one of your must-have tools.

Previously published in Tomorrow’s Contract Floors magazine

Last updated on February 14th, 2022

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