Why Timberlab Trusts Wagner’s Orion Meters

Tiberlab construction project

Hidden Creek Community Center in Hillsboro, Oregon, is a mass timber construction project that Timberlab accomplished (photo courtesy of Timberlab).

When you’re working on a high-stakes project, you can’t risk the damage that comes with excess wood moisture—whether swelling, warping, mold, or rot.

Clayton Peirce understands this reality well. He’s the assembly manager for Timberlab, a company out of Portland, Oregon, that specializes in mass timber construction. Mass timber consists of multiple solid wood panels that are nailed or glued together and then used in construction. Timberlab receives the raw billets and prefabricates them so that they’re ready for assembly when they arrive on the job site.

Timberlab has quite a portfolio of projects, including providing more than 100,000 lattice pieces for the Portland Airport Terminal Core Project. Other projects include:

  • Monmouth City Hall in Monmouth, Oregon
  • The Thesis Center in Portland, Oregon
  • Sunnydale Community Center in San Francisco, California
  • A building on the Micron Technology, Inc., campus in Boise, Idaho

Clayton’s role is to manage the assembly team that pre-fabricates the beams and columns coming through the facility. We talked with him about the importance of moisture testing in this process and why Timberlab has chosen to use Wagner’s Orion meters.

Let’s see what he had to say.

Why Moisture Testing Matters for Mass Timber Construction

Assembly of mass timber

At Timberlab, Clayon Peirce manages the prefabrication and assembly of mass timber for construction (photo courtesy of Timberlab).

When we asked Clayton about moisture testing, he was quick to say: “With wood, moisture mitigation is one of our largest issues…. If there’s excess moisture, it causes swelling in the wood. It can cause mold, mildew, or rot if left for a long time.”

For that reason, his team measures the moisture content of every billet that comes in for pre-fabrication. They prefer the billets to be between 12 and 18% moisture content before they go through the CNC machine.

Here’s why.

“Wet fiber is more flexible, making it harder to cut. And wet fiber also doesn’t evacuate as well, so if the machine makes sawdust or cuts chips off, those wet chips or sawdust don’t go away from the drill bit. They bind up next to the drill bit and make the tools wear out much faster,” Clayton explained.

The Timberlab team has also seen other negative effects of wood with too high of a moisture content.

In the past, they’ve cut wood that was over 18% moisture content and allowed it to dry for a while in their shop. Then, they wrapped it up and put it in the yard for a few weeks before they sent it out.

But one hot summer when temperatures were over 100° F, the wood began to dry really quickly. Since it already had drillings and holes in it, the parts checked and cracked—making them unusable.

Now, the team is careful to get every billet below 18%.

Timberlab and the Orion Pinless Wood Moisture Meter

Moisture measurement for timber building

Moisture measurement is essential to the successful construction of a mass timber building (photo courtesy of Timberlab).

The Timberlab team keeps an Orion meter in their shop and uses it to check the moisture content of every single raw billet before it goes through the CNC. In Clayton’s words, it’s “essential for testing and documenting our mass timber.”

If there’s ever a concern about the wood’s moisture content later on in the process, all they have to do is quickly scan the wood again.

Clayton shared that the team appreciates how lightweight and easy to use the meter is, allowing them to program the different species of wood for accurate readings. For their purposes, it’s also important that the meter doesn’t just measure on the surface, but goes ¾ of an inch deep into the material.

This gives them a much better picture of the wood’s moisture condition.

Something else that has made a big difference in Timberlab’s experience with the Orion meters is our seven-year warranty. More on that next.

How Wagner’s Seven-Year Warranty Benefited Timberlab

What happens when a product essential to your production process quits working all of a sudden?

It can be a frustrating experience, to say the least! Here at Wagner, we understand that even the best of tools can malfunction. And in those cases, we want to minimize the inconvenience it causes our customers.

“One day, the moisture meter didn’t work,” Clayton shared. But he decided to check with Wagner since his Orion was still under its seven-year warranty.

“It was so easy to go on the Wagner website [and] find the contact. I called [and] talked to a person right away who was very helpful. They instructed me on how to send it in and where to send it to. They checked it and contacted me right away.”

Within a week, Clayton had a functioning meter again.

“Their seven-year warranty is outstanding and they also back it up with fantastic customer service. Pleasure to work with all around!”

For Timberlab’s assembly team, strong customer service is crucial since they “go through a lot of tools.”

Clayton explained: “Sometimes we need replacements or we need answers, and it’s great to have folks who back up their products and make quality products [and] tools that last—and if not, they can help us out.”

What Could Moisture Measurement Do for Your Business?

As we concluded our time with Clayton, we asked him whether he would recommend Wagner Meters to other businesses in the timber industry.

He didn’t hesitate:

“Absolutely. I think you guys make a great product and stand by your tools. It’s great. It’s been very helpful to us.”

If you’re in the timber industry—or any wood industry where moisture is critical—how might a high-quality pinless moisture meter make a difference in your work? We’d love to support you in producing the highest quality of products. Email us at info@WagnerMeters.com or call us worldwide, toll-free at 855-401-9241.

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