Wood Moisture Meters Buying Guide: Pinless vs Pin-type

Maintaining proper moisture levels is crucial in woodworking, whether for construction, flooring, or furniture making. Properly treating wood ensures the longevity and quality of your projects.

In this guide, we will cover a lot of topics, so if you want to jump ahead to some important topics, feel free to:

Neglecting the moisture content of wood means ruined projects:

  • Warped cabinets
  • Crowning or cupping of hardwood flooring
  • Damaged instruments
  • Unsightly dining tables

How horrible to have your name attached to a project that went wrong!

That’s where moisture meters come in.

And your work will only be as good as your least accurate meter. So, what’s in your toolbox? A pin-type? A non-damaging pinless?

Maybe it’s time for a new meter—but which one?

Are Moisture Meters Accurate?

High-quality moisture meters can achieve an accuracy within 0.1% of the wood’s moisture content, offering consistent and reliable readings. The accuracy largely depends on the meter’s quality and brand.

The accuracy of the less expensive digital moisture meter can vary from 5 to 20%. These meters are hard to trust.

Lower-grade moisture meters are very inaccurate as numbers are misleading and changing.

The real question is: What qualifies as an “accurate” moisture meter for a wood moisture measurement?

The accuracy of a hand-held meter is determined by comparing the hand-held meter’s moisture reading against the over-dry test results. The closer its reading is to the oven-dry test, the more accurate the hand-held meter is considered.

Yes, wood moisture meters can be accurate within 0.1% of the wood’s moisture content. Most digital moisture meters will only show readings with one decimal place. Lower-grade meters are very inaccurate.

How Moisture Meters Work

Moisture meters assess the moisture content in wood by evaluating its electrical properties.

But how does a moisture meter take its measurements? There are two main technologies used: Pinless and Pin-Type.

What is a Pinless Moisture Meter?

Pinless moisture meters work by using a sensor pad that works in contact with the wood surface but does not physically break or damage the surface to take a reading. orion 950 wood moisture meter

Shop Orion Moisture Meters

How Pinless Moisture Meters Work

Pinless wood moisture meters work with electromagnetic wave technology by using sensor pads that lay flat on the wood. Typically they provide the capability to measure moisture content from the surface down to .25″ or deep depth measurements to .75″.

Pinless meters send out electrical waves at a certain electromagnetic frequency, creating an electromagnetic field under the sensor pad. The waves sent out by the sensor through the electromagnetic field trigger return waves the sensor detects.

These changes in wave movement data correlate to a moisture content percentage and provide accurate readings. Meters using this type of technology are called “pinless meters” because they don’t insert pins into the wood.

They’re also referred to as “non-damaging meters” because there is no need to penetrate the wood. No damage is necessary for an accurate reading.

While density variations in the wood may impact pinless meters’ ability to read waves, they can test a broader expanse of the wood and provide a complete picture of its moisture condition.

How Pin-Type Moisture Meters Work

Pin-type moisture meters use resistance technologies.

Two probes, or “pins,” are inserted into the wood, and an electric current flows between the two pins. The amount of resistance detected in the current as it moves between the pins indicates the moisture condition of the wood.

Because moisture conducts electricity well, the “wetter” the wood, the less resistance to the current flow. The drier the wood, the greater the electrical resistance is.

But pin meters’ accuracy can be affected by variations in the natural chemical composition of different wood species. A wood’s density doesn’t impact the current flow but can interfere with properly inserting the pins.

Moisture meters determine the moisture levels in wood using two primary technologies: pinless and pin-type. Pinless meters utilize electromagnetic waves, preserving the wood’s surface integrity, while pin-type meters use resistance technology, requiring pins to penetrate the wood. Each type has its limitations: pin meters can be influenced by the wood’s chemical composition, whereas pinless meters can be affected by density variations.

This Wood Moisture Meter Buying Guide will help you decide.

Which is better: Pin or Pinless?


One of the benefits of a pinless meter is that it’s easier and faster to use than a pin meter. This allows users to have time to take enough readings to get a complete picture of the wood’s moisture level.

A pinless meter measures a wide swath of wood with each test, meaning fewer tests than a pin meter.

The features of pinless meters also allow you to switch measurement depth faster. Higher quality pinless meters come with dual depth measurement options, typically at a quarter and three-quarter-inch depths.

The other main advantage pinless meters have over pin meters is that they don’t cause damage to the wood. Every measurement taken with a pin meter drives two holes into the wood. A pinless wood meter never breaches the surface.


One of the benefits of using a pin meter is that you can test at a wide variety of depths within the wood. Pins come in different lengths, so you can always swap out pins to measure at different depths.

Measuring moisture at multiple depths creates a broader picture of the overall MC of the wood.

The challenge with pin meters is that accurate measurement depends on properly driven pins into the wood.

Inserting the pins properly can take a fair amount of pressure, especially the longer the probe. The denser the wood species, the more pressure is required to insert the pins properly.

The wood’s temperature can also impact the accuracy of the pin meter.

Another drawback: Pin meters only measure the moisture content of the small area between the two probes, which means multiple tests must be conducted at different spots. And even more, tests if you want to switch out pins to measure at multiple depths.

Pinless and Pin moisture meters both have their benefits. Pinless meters are easier and faster to use, measure a wide swath of wood, and don’t cause damage to the wood. Pin meters can test at a wide variety of depths, but accurate measurement depends on properly driven pins, and the temperature of the wood can impact their accuracy. Pin meters also only measure the moisture content of a small area, requiring multiple tests to get a complete picture of the moisture level.

orion 950 wood moisture meter

Do I Need a Moisture Meter?

If you’re an experienced woodworker or DIY enthusiast, a wood moisture meter is essential. It allows you to accurately measure the moisture content of wood, which is critical in ensuring that your wood is of the right quality for your project. With a wood moisture meter, you can determine the exact moisture content of your wood and adjust your project accordingly, ensuring that you end up with a high-quality, durable end product.

Investing in a wood moisture meter may seem like an additional expense, but it will save you time and money in the long run and ensure that your wood projects turn out the way you envision them.

How Much Does a Moisture Meter Cost?

The cost of a moisture meter can vary depending on the brand, type, and features. A basic moisture meter can cost between $20 to $50 and is more commonly used for firewood. At the same time, a quality moisture meter can range from $100 to $500 or more, depending on the brand and features.

We suggest staying away from cheap moisture meters as they’re not accurate and less reliable.

What is the Best Moisture Meter?

Our choice for the best moisture meter is the Orion 950 pinless wood moisture meter.

But truly, it all depends on what you’re looking for regarding meters. Many articles list the best moisture meters, but how can you tell if it’s the right one for you?

Here is your guide to wood moisture meters so you can use them wisely and confidently on all your woodworking projects.

Shop Orion Moisture Meters

What Are Acceptable Moisture Readings

The typical EMC to which wood will be exposed ranges from 7% to 19%. However, that’s too large a range to accept for a specific project.

Most wood flooring manufacturers dry the wood to between 6% and 9%.

The EMC applicable to a specific location depends on temperature and RH variations throughout the year in that region and how controlled the environment will be in the immediate usage area (i.e., is this wood for indoor or outdoor installation).

The wood used for construction has a higher EMC range of 9% to 14%.

Again, this will vary by location and species and is just the typical range.

If you’re building in a dry city like Las Vegas, the local EMC can drop as low as 4%. But wood objects that will spend their lives indoors—anything from violins to tables—will have a more predictable target EMC range of 6% to 8%.

If you’re testing moisture in drywall, read our guide on moisture meters for drywall.

Can a Moisture Meter Reading Be Wrong?

Yes, absolutely. A moisture meter reading could be wrong for various reasons including, but not limited to…

  • It’s out of calibration.
  • The wood’s surface is wet.
  • You’ve entered the wrong wood species.
  • The meter has been damaged.
  • The pinless meter’s scanning plate has been damaged somehow, affecting its ability to contact the wood properly.
  • The pins on your pin-type meter are bent, broken, or rusted.
  • There are flaws in the wood, such as knots in the area of reading, that are affecting the wood’s specific gravity (density).
  • The meter’s batteries are low.

Are Moisture Meters Worth It?

A wood moisture meter is worth the investment for many reasons. A quality moisture meter can provide accurate readings of the moisture content in wood. This way, you can know when the wood is ready for use or needs more time to acclimate.

How to Select the Best Wood Moisture Meter

Many prefer a pinless moisture meter because they don’t want the probes to ruin the wood. The more tests run with a pin meter, the more damage it does to the wood.

Yet, without running enough tests, you won’t understand the wood’s moisture condition accurately.

Quite a conundrum.

There also is no model of the pin meter that can be recalibrated onsite.

Another area for comparison when selecting a moisture meter is the scope of “field features” you find valuable. Since the moisture measurement technology hasn’t fundamentally changed, adding high-value field features is how you can distinguish an advanced moisture reader from a simpler one.

Such extra features can include:

  • having an extended range of species settings
  • calculating EMC for you
  • storing large amounts of measurement data
  • on-site calibration

The bottom line: the process of using a pin meter can be time-consuming, tedious, and exert stress on the physical meter, which tends to result in taking short-cuts when measuring moisture.

Overall, pinless meters are the way to go. But ultimately, it is up to you to determine the scope of your need for a comprehensive moisture meter for wood enhancements.

Read our article to learn the differences between a pin and pinless moisture meter.

In truth, the technology used by pin and pinless meters hasn’t changed significantly over the last two decades.

That’s why the objective tests of Wagner Meter moisture meters, linked below, from years ago remain valid today.

All four of these independent studies, commissioned by Wagner Meters, found that Wagner Meter pinless wood moisture meters were consistently and reliably more accurate in assessing wood moisture content than any meters tested against.

Now that you’ve read the buying guide, and reviewed our moisture meter tests, take advantage of an Orion moisture meter and start using an accurate one.
Buy a Meter Today

If you’re still new to wood moisture meters we have a guide on how to use a moisture meter that can better help you get started.

Avoiding pitfalls in moisture measurement can save you time and resources. Make sure to check out our insightful article, ‘Common Moisture Meter Mistakes,’ to learn about frequent errors and how to prevent them, enhancing your projects’ accuracy and reliability.

Last updated on June 20th, 2024


  1. Adrian Gojan says:

    I am interested in such an Orion 950 device, for measuring wood moisture in the factory. But I have three questions:
    1. To what depth does it measure wood moisture?
    2. Is the measurement done by induction?
    3. What is the percentage of the measured humidity difference, min. – max?

    Thank you in advance,

  2. Adrian Gojan says:

    Up to what depth in wood can the Orion 950 measure?

  3. Mike says:

    What would be a good model for checking RV walls, floors and ceilings?

    • Jason Wright says:


      Any of our meters would work but I recommend the Orion 930 Dual depth meter. Use it in REL mode and measure something you know is dry, then measure against what you want measured and you will see if there is higher moisture content in what you are measuring vs. your dry piece. Use REL mode for walls and ceilings. For the floor, use the two digit number to determine your species selection. That can be found online or in our handout. This will give you actual moisture content percentage in the floor. We also have subfloor settings so you can use those. Hope this helps.

  4. Melissa Cunningham says:

    Can I use your meter to check for moisture after a water leak that went from 2nd floor to basement. We ran commercial fans for at least 5 days in all affected areas. We would be testing through dry wall mostly.

    • Jason Wright says:


      You can use our meters in REL Mode which is “Relative Mode”. This is a zero to 100 scale. 100 being wet, 0 being dry. You would take a baseline reading of what you know is dry, then measure against what you think has moisture. In this case it’s the drywall. It will give you an idea of whether there is higher MC in the drywall than your sample. Hope this helps.

  5. GG says:

    You appear to totally overlook the largest need for readings- Wood framed construction, and when we can cover the walls, floors, and ceilings.
    The readings are made on lumber typically 1.5 inches. The bottom plates, or boards in contact with the floors are typically the most moist.
    I would not buy a meter from a manufacturer that ignores our multi billion dollar industry.

  6. Moisture Testing Auckland says:

    Over this article you will get to know in detail about the Wood Moisture Meters Buying Guide. Things to be considering include many options listed in this link. It is very useful article and would suggest others too. I am sure many people will come to read this in future.

  7. Hi Wagner Sales Team,

    This is Harshad Raveshia from India, we are largest Wooden Pencil manufacturer in India and we are not able to find any accurate Moisture Meter in Indian Market.

    We need many Moisture Meters on our Factory Shop floor to keep on monitoring our Pencil manufacturing process.

    Our actual size of Pencil Wooden Slat is 5.00 Thickness X 75 mm Width X 185 mm Length and we use such 1.5 million slats every day. Right from Round Log cutting to converting it in to Pencil Slat, Seasoning it, Softening by Impregnation process and again Seasoning it and there after converting in to Raw Pencil, everywhere Moisture % play important role!

    Can you suggest us some Good, Sturdy and Economical model which our staff?

    Harshad Raveshia

  8. Ryan says:

    Hello. What is the best way to measure moisture behind tiles or acrylic in a shower area?

    • Jason Wright says:


      If you have an Orion moisture meter, you can put it in relative mode to measure moisture that way since you’re not testing moisture in wood. Try to find a dry spot to get a base reading, and then go from there. If you’re not sure if there are any dry spots, take lots of readings and the higher readings should be your wetter spots.

  9. Ivan Ruiz says:

    Hello I need to read a thin slat of 1/8″ thicknes, is it possible to get some accurate readings with some of your meters? thank you

    • Ron Smith says:

      Mr. Ruiz,

      The model 920 would be the most appropriate. If you’re ONLY going to read real thin stuff, otherwise the Orion 930 would be the best option.

  10. Ken Klein says:

    How does pinless moisture meters work with OSB. Can they read a value or do you have to calibrate a sample via oven drying to get a baseline?
    Thanks for your help

    • Ron Smith says:


      Wagner’s Orion line of handheld moisture meters has a setting for OSB. We developed this using oven-dry data a number of years ago.

      Hope this helps.

  11. marcel casella says:

    Hi , I need a xilohygrometer to measure logs and firewood (with and without bark) Wich device do you recommend?

  12. Laman Ahmed says:


    I am looking to purchase the Wagner 910 Pinless Moisture Meter to my address in Islamabad, Pakistan. Could you give me quotation on the total cost of the product and shipping? Thanks

  13. Franklin White says:

    I like how you mentioned that they are pinless moisture meters for anyone who doesn’t want to put a hole in the tree. I don’t see a point in harming the tree to see it’s moisture level. If you put a hole in it and it ends up not being useful, well now it’s got a useless hole in it.

  14. Ron Smith says:


    Wagner does not have a distributor in Russia, but you can contact Wagner’s long-time distributor in Sweden, Woodcontrol. The main contact is Thomas Henriksson, and his email is Thomas@woodcontrol.se

    Kris, how are you intending to use the meter?

  15. Kris says:

    Hello! We want to buy Orion 950, there is no delivery to Russia. Is there a representative of your company in Russia?

  16. Molly Hermes says:

    I hired an inspector after my newly installed engineered wood floors began end-lifting. The pictures he sent me show the pins of his meter inserted only a tiny bit. Are the readings accurate if the pins aren’t inserted very deep?

    • Jason Spangler says:


      Thanks for the question. The meter will be measuring from the tip of the pin to whatever depth the pins are inserted; whichever area has the most moisture. So it just depends on which area of the wood he/she was trying to measure.

  17. Amit Bachhawat says:

    For measuring woods moisture of a wood sample which is coated with lacquer or paint,
    which type of moisture meter will be useful pin type of pinless?

    • Ron Smith says:

      We recommend a pinless meter. Our Orion moisture meters use IntelliSense technology which takes measurements deep into the wood.

  18. Mario says:

    Bonjour, pourquoi l’appareil qui est calibré à l’usine ne reste pas calibré, merci Mario

    • Ron Smith says:


      All measurement instrumentation can, and will drift from factory calibration over time. This is why instrumentation needs to be calibrated (or be verified for calibration) typically every one or two years, based on international standards.

  19. Hassan Tariq says:

    hello i am manufacturer of soccer balls can i use this meter on pvc or pu material for check the moisture on the sheet or please advice me what meter i used on this pvc and pu sheet for check the moisturising on the sheet.
    and how can i purchase this please your early response will be highly appreciated

    • Ron Smith says:


      Wagner’s handheld moisture meters were designed for wood and wood-based materials, but perhaps I could steer you in a better direction, with the answers to some questions: 1) What is the minimum and maximum thickness of the material you wish to measure? 2) What is the moisture content range for these materials? 3) What is the required accuracy of the moisture measurements? 4) Would it be possible for someone or some company in the US to acquire samples of these materials in the US?

  20. Anil says:

    We have a requirement to measure Moisture content in Door frames & gypsum plasters,Which Moisture meter is suitable

    • Ron Smith says:

      Are the door frames flat or do they have some kind of profile or curve on the surface? What is the narrowest width?

      Next, Wagner meters are typically designed to moisture the moisture content in solid wood. You can, however, get comparative (relative, not actual ‘moisture content %’) measurements of the moisture condition in some non-wood building materials such as gypsum-based wallboard.

  21. rajaneesh raghavan says:

    Is pinned moisture meters are has ISO? can we use it in industries? if there is any policies can we have access to that?

    • Ron Smith says:

      Wagner does not make pin-type moisture meters for wood, but the manufacturers that do make them can inform you as to whether or not they have ISO certification. Wagner is not ISO certified.

  22. kevin says:

    if I think I have a leak in my wall or floor can I use this

  23. Ian roberts says:

    will foil lined wall insulation effect readings?

    • Ron Smith says:

      Yes, could very well affect the readings, causing false high measurements. If you are just trying to obtain ‘comparative’ (relative) measurements to try and find wet areas (vs. normal), then it may not be an issue anyway. I assume you are attempting to determine moisture condition on a wall, and not a wood floor.

  24. Sarshar Ahmed says:

    Hi, I’m impressed the way it works and also it is user friendly. What is the price and how to purchase it. can you ship it via post as DHL / UPS cost is too much.and makes it uneconomical purchase while shipping to country like Pakistan.
    BR, Sarshar

    • Marc Greenwald says:

      Hello Sir,

      You can order it online on this website, we do ship to Pakistan. But at any rate we will be in touch tos see how we can help.

  25. Gerry o Sullivan says:

    Dear sir
    Do u manufacture a machine measuring the strength of wood

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