With the cooler months upon us it’s that time of year again to get those fireplaces going! Whether you’re getting warm and cozy indoors, lighting up a wood-burning stove, or want to start up the fire pit outside for entertaining, your wood needs to be just right for burning. A firewood moisture meter can take the guesswork out of trying to determine if your firewood is seasoned or not.
What is seasoned firewood?
If you’re a novice to wood-burning, seasoned firewood refers to dry wood that has a moisture content of less than 20%. Wood can appear dry from the surface of it but may actually still be wet on the inside. There are a few different ways that you can check to ensure your wood is dry enough for burning. For instance, you can try the old sound check method of banging two pieces of firewood together. If they make a high-pitch sound then you’re good, but if they make a thud sound then they’re still wet inside.
Do I Need a Firewood Moisture Meter?
Yes, a firewood moisture meter allows you to select properly seasoned wood, allowing you extract the optimal amount of heat. Not to mention, it prevent you from burning wet wood — which is something you do not want.
You may be wondering if it’s really necessary to own a firewood moisture meter, especially if you’ve never used one before to burn wood. The truth is, you may not be getting the full effect of your firewood if it has a high moisture content. Why does the moisture content of firewood matter? There are a number of reasons and burning firewood that isn’t well-seasoned could end up costing you more money. When wood has a high moisture content it’s harder to get started and often times goes out more easily. Once you do get it started, it won’t put off as much heat as you’re expecting from a cozy fire which in turn results in going through even more wood.
Another reason you should only burn dry wood is because it can actually be hazardous to burn wet wood in an indoor fireplace. Wet wood, or often referred to as ‘green wood’, can lead to build up in your chimney which can cause a fire. It can also lead to costly maintenance for chimney cleaning services.
What Does a Firewood Moisture Meter Do?
To get a more precise measurement of the moisture content your firewood has, a firewood moisture meter is a fairly inexpensive device that can detect the percentage of moisture that wood has. These are pretty simple to use and fairly accurate when used correctly. They can actually be used for multiple purposes besides just wood. There are two different types of meters that each use their own technology for detecting the moisture content of wood: pin meters and pinless meters. Things just got a little bit more interesting!
Pin vs. Pinless Firewood Moisture Meters
When you’re shopping for an accurate firewood moisture meter there are many claims as to accuracy by big brands and this often boils down to the type of meter. The truth is accuracy will be determined by different factors and the purpose the meter is being used for. The quality and type of wood that is being tested play an important component in accuracy as well as the external temperature of the climate among many other factors. Let’s take a look at these two different types of meters and discuss the differences.
A pin-style meter has two prongs which are inserted into the wood to test for moisture content. These types of meters use electrical resistance to determine moisture content as an electrical current is passed between the two pins. Now to refresh your memory from science class, moisture is an excellent electrical conductor while wood is not; therefore, wood that is wetter will give less resistance against the electrical current. This type of meter measures a smaller portion of the wood within the area between the two prongs so you should test multiple areas for larger firewood pieces.
With a pinless meter, it uses radio waves to scan materials instead, reading the fluctuations in the electromagnetic wave to determine if moisture is present. Electromagnetic technology does not require penetrating the wood making it quicker and easier to use. The meter ‘scans’ the wood, so to speak, by creating an electromagnetic field from electrical waves that are produced by a sensor pad and sends a signal back to the meter determining the moisture content. These may also be referred to as ‘non-damaging’ meters because they don’t put holes in the wood to determine moisture – although if you’re primarily using it for firewood this isn’t really a major feature because it’s just going to be burned anyway.
If you’re trying to determine which of these two is more accurate, you have to weigh in a number of factors. Each type has its own pros and cons but they’ll each perform adequately under the right circumstances. For instance, a pinless meter may be much faster to use for measuring moisture content of a large stack of firewood than having to stick the probes of a pin-style meter into each piece. On the other hand, wood pieces that are inconsistent in size and density can cause variances in moisture content – a factor that is not impacted with the use of a pin-style meter.
Another considerable factor is the proper usage of the meter. A pinless firewood moisture meter has a sensor pad that must be in good contact with the wood’s surface in order to get an accurate reading. This means the entire area of the sensor pad should be touching the surface so if the wood you’re checking has really rough bark or is warped there may be air pockets in between the sensor pad and the surface that will give you an inaccurate reading.
The wettest part of the wood lies in the center so if you’re using a pin-style meter, you may need to split the wood first in order to check its moisture content for an accurate reading. Some pin meters may come with additional external prongs that are longer to penetrate denser pieces of wood like the Lignomat Moisture Meter Mini-Ligno E/D.
Look for Quality
Naturally, you want to ensure the product you are buying is a well-made quality product, because unless you’re a millionaire no one likes to throw their money away. All manufacturers will tell you their product is the best, but just because it has a high price tag and a sales claim doesn’t guarantee quality performance. A key to finding the best firewood moisture meter on the market is to look to reviews.
There’s power in numbers and high consumer ratings can speak volumes. The Dr. Meter MD-812 Digital Wood Moisture Meter, for instance, holds a very reasonable value and also happens to be a number one top seller for quality performance and accuracy.
One limitation to pin-style meters is the risk of the pins becoming stuck in the wood and breaking off of the unit. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on a professional-grade meter, but you should do a little research beforehand to take this into account. Several models such as the one I just mentioned actually include spare pins to use with it for this very reason. Also be sure to look for a warranty.
There is no one-size fits all with moisture meters. The best way to determine what would be the best firewood moisture meter for your needs is to keep in mind the purpose you’re going to be using it for. Also keep in mind the type of wood that you will most likely be using it on to decide which type would be most suitable to get the most for your money.
Recommended Firewood Moisture Meters
Here are some excellent Firewood Moisture Meters to consider:
Documents (PDF) for the Lignomat Mini-Ligno E/D:
- View or download the INSTRUCTIONS.
- View or download the PRODUCT DETAILS.
- View or download the WOOD GROUPS.
The Lignomat Mini-Ligno E/D wood moisture meter is well-constructed, easy to use and tough. It gives accurate and reliable measurements thanks to Lignomat’s advanced measuring technology. The LED display is durable and virtually unbreakable. Another advantage of this firewood moisture meter is it has a bright LED display that you can read even in dimly lit areas. Let’s face it, you might be checking your firewood in the early morning or late at night. If it’s an LCD display you probably won’t be able to read in poor lighting conditions.
The wide measuring range of the mini-Ligno E/D wood moisture meter is ideal for a variety of applications, including: woodworking, cabinet-making, flooring, measuring construction lumber, pallets, drying wood or testing firewood.
✓It also has corrections for 2 wood groupings: Softwood and hardwood and panel products are built-in.
- Bright LED display.
- Ergonomic, durable, rugged design for easy operation.
- A unique shape that fits comfortably in your hand when measuring.
- A measuring range low enough to check hardwood floors (6%)
- A measuring range high enough to evaluate wet lumber (45%)
- A bright, digital display readable even in dark crawl spaces resolution of 0.1% below the critical moisture range of 10%
- 2 settings for wood species corrections.
The Mini-Ligno E/D is ergonomic and fits in your hand when measuring. Compact enough to carry with you in your shirt-pocket. The green cap protects the pins during transportation and acts as a handle when pushing the pins into the wood. The design allows pushing behind the entire meter to insert the tapered pins easily.
Longer pins are stored inside the meter for measuring thicker material. The short pins are ideal for surface or end cut readings and for veneer. When measuring, push the pins into wood. The unique on-off switch between the pins, turns the meter on automatically and the bright LED instantly indicates moisture percentage.
Ideal Materials for Testing: wood and soft building materials such as sheetrock, plaster and gypsum.
Applications: Construction, water damage, repair, inspection, maintenance.
If you need a wood moisture meter for your home then I recommend the Lignomat Mini-Ligno S/D instead of the Mini-Ligno E/D . It’s specifically geared towards home inspectors, architects, contractor, painters and homeowners. It’s better suited if you’re in the restoration and remediation industry. This moisture meter is for detecting mold problems in your home.
The Dr. Meter MD-812 is a very popular wood moisture meter because it’s a well-made product that works reliably. Not to mention the fact that it includes a nice carrying case, an extra set of pins and a battery. It’s very affordable and for the average homeowner this is a very good choice.
- Measuring Range: 5%-40%, Accuracy: +/-1%
- Ability to store data and measured values in memory.
- Low power indicator.
- Ability to select 2-pin or 4-pin sensor.
- Modular sensor pins.
- Manufactory/Brand: Dr.Meter
- Testing Range 5% – 40%
- Digital large size LCD display
- Test Range: 5%-40%
- Accuracy: +/-1%
- Data held in memory for easy reading
- Powered by one 9V battery, and has a low-power indicator
- 2-pin or 4-pin sensor
- Ability to change the sensor pins based on application
- Dimension: 130Lx64Wx32H(mm)
- Small size, easy to operate and carry
- Dr. Meter Moisture Meter
- Carry Bag
- Operating Manual
- 9V Battery
- (2x) Spare Sensor Pins (Total 4 Sensor Pins Included)
- Moisture range for:
- Wood : 6%-42%
- Other material : 0,2%-2%
- Temperature : 0-40°C
- LCD Display
- Level battery indicator
- 1,5V LR44 battery or equivalent X4
- Weight : 50g
General Tools & Instruments | Moisture Meters
General Tools & Instruments has been around for a very long time. The company began as the brainchild of Abe and Lillian Rosenberg in New York City, 1922. Originally they were called General Hardware Manufacturing Co., the company specialized in the wholesale of “hard goods,” offering a full-range of domestic and professional items from clothesline pulleys and screen-door hardware, to specialty hand tools.
Today, they are also a leading manufacturer of wood moisture meters. You can learn more about the company on their website.
Whether you’re a professional contractor or a conscientious home owner, General’s ultra-sensitive moisture meters help you to easily detect hidden leaks in wood, concrete, plaster and carpet. Available as both analog and digital models, the meters provide accurate moisture level readings and are great for new home inspections, locating roof leaks or even selecting dry lumber at the yard.
Includes: Battery and manual.
Materials: Wood/timber and building material IE; brick, concrete, drywall, plaster, etc
Note: If the meter has not been turned on for a while, you have to hold down the on/off button for 4-5 seconds to turn the unit on.
View or download the MANUAL for the MMD4E firewood moisture meter.
- 99.9 count LCD w/0.4 in. high digits.
- Wood/building materials selection switch.
- Low, Medium, and High moisture sounds and on-screen icons.
- High accuracy and resolution.
- Data hold + auto power off + low battery indicator.
- Replaceable stainless steel pins (#PIND4E).
- Powered by “9V” battery (included).
- Overall Moisture Measurement Range:
- 5 to 50% for wood
- 1.5 to 33% for building materials
- Wood Moisture Scales:
- 5 to 11.9% (low)
- 12 to 15.9% (medium)
- 16 to 50% (high)
- Building Materials Scales:
- 1.5 to 16.9% (low)
- 17 to 19.9% (medium)
- 20 to 33% (high)
- Measurement Accuracy: ±3% of reading
- Measurement Resolution: ±0.1%
- Low Battery Level: < 7.5V
- Auto Power Off Trigger: 3 minutes of inactivity
- Current Consumption: < 15mA
- Power Source: 1 “9V” battery (included)
The wide-range MMD5NP enables moisture measurement of a variety of materials without having to pierce the material’s surface. The unit has a range of 0.0 to 99.9% REL (relative) for wood, and 0.0 to 56.5% REL (relative) for building materials. The sensor has a measurement depth of 3/4in (20mm). It sports a jumbo LCD display with intuitive on-screen icons for low/medium/ high moisture content and wood/concrete mode.
View or download the MANUAL for the General Tools & Instruments MMD5NP.
- Non-invasive measurement technique
- Jumbo display
- Wide measurement range
- Intuitive on-screen icons: Low/Medium/High moisture content; wood/concrete mode
- Hold function
- Audible peak reading alert
- Auto Power Off
- Low and very low battery warnings
- Measurement Ranges:
- 0 to 99.9% REL WME (Wood Moisture Equivalent) for wood
- 0 to 56.5% REL for building materials
- Measurement Accuracy/Resolution: ±3%/0.1%
- Measuring Depth: 3/4 in. (20mm)
- Display Type/Size: 99.9 count LCD with 0.4 in.(10mm) high digits
- Auto Power Off Trigger: 3 to 4 minutes with 0% reading
- Low/Very Low Battery Warning Triggers: <7.5V/<6.5V
- Operating Temperature: 32° to 122°F (0° to 50°C)
- Operating Relative Humidity: < 80%
- Power Source: 1 9V battery (included)