Moisture Content

How to Check Moisture Content of Wood – Step-by-Step Guide

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Anybody who works with wood should understand that wood contains moisture. Not only that, but it also interacts with the moisture in the environment.

If you’ve ever tried to stain the wood before, you must remember waiting for the wood to dry before you stain it, right?

Well, the reason for waiting for the wood to dry is simple. Wood interacts with the atmosphere and the climate. This means, if the surroundings of the wood are humid, it will take longer to dry.

But, if the surroundings are dry, the wood will dry quicker.

Stating that, however, does not help you understand how to check moisture content of wood.

Before we talk about how to measure the moisture content, you must know some things. First of all, there is a long way to understand how to measure moisture.

The topic is too wide and too complex. For the sake of making it easy for you, we will list out the things you will need to make use of the wood.

Steps to measuring the moisture content of wood

The easiest way to check the moisture content is to make use of a meter. Here is what you will need:

  • A piece of wood.
  • A moisture meter.

Step 1: Read the manual

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The first step to measuring moisture content is to understand how the meter works. Before you think about understanding how to check moisture content of wood, read it carefully.

This will give you the right information to correctly make use of the meter.

Step 2: Using the meter

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Next, you need to ensure that the meter is placed on the wood.

Before using the meter, remember to clean the surface. Ensure that the surface does not have droplets of water or dirt.

Step 3: Read the meter

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The meter will tell you the exact value.

What to remember when you’re using a moisture meter?

Using a moisture meter is one of the easiest ways on how to check moisture content of wood. But then again, it is just as complex as well.

For your wood pieces to be used for furniture, flooring, or construction, it needs to reach EMC.

EMC stands for equilibrium moisture content. Given enough time, every piece of wood will reach a point when it is not absorbing moisture from the environment.

You should not measure the moisture content of the wood pieces before the piece reaches EMC.

Allow the wood to reach EMC.

Apart from this, you need to ensure that you have the right meter for the job. Some meters are designed to measure the moisture content of thick wood blocks, while others are suited for thinner ones.

Also, to get an accurate reading, you should input the type of wood you’re using the meter on.

What is the acceptable moisture content in wood?

When you think about how to check moisture content of wood, finding an easy way to measure is not all that you need. You also need to understand what is the right level of moisture content for your wood.

The right moisture content, EMC, for your wooden structure will depend on the area it will be used. Here is a list that will help you out:

  • For areas with humidity between 19-25%, the EMC should be 5%.
  • For areas with humidity between 26-32%, the EMC should be 6%.
  • For areas with humidity between 33-39%, the EMC should be 7%.
  • For areas with humidity between 40-46%, the EMC should be 8%.
  • For areas with humidity between 47-52%, the EMC should be 9%.

Before you decide to work on the woodblocks you have, make it a point to let the wood come in terms with the location’s atmosphere.

If you fail to do so, the structure will not turn out as you expect it to.

To sum up, here is what you need to remember about the acceptable moisture levels in wood:

  • The percentage of moisture content for indoor and outdoor use will be different.
  • For interiors, the lumber’s moisture content can be anywhere between 6% to 8%.
  • For outdoors, the lumber’s moisture content can be anywhere between 9% to 14%.

Another method for measuring moisture content in wood

When it comes to finding methods on how to check moisture content of wood, remember there is nothing easier than using a moisture meter to measure it.

But if you don’t have access to a moisture meter, you can try something else.

Oven Dry Testing

This method is one of the oldest methods on how to check moisture content of wood. You need a kiln to measure the moisture content.

Put the wooden block in the oven and wait for the wood to begin drying. Before you put it in the oven, weigh the block.

When the wood begins to dry, weigh the block again. Once you have both the numbers, you can subtract the before and after weights to come to a number. This number is the moisture content of the wood.

It is an exceptionally time-consuming process, and you will need a special oven. Also, the wood you use to test the moisture content can potentially become useless.

Conclusion

When it comes to testing the moisture content of the wooden blocks, you need to be careful with the meter.

Always make sure that the surface is clean of water. Make it a point to find the right meter for the wood you have.

You can even make use of pin-type moisture meters to come to an accurate value. The thing with pin-type moisture meters is that they are easy to use.

You can simply insert the pins on the surface of the wood that you want to check. Make sure that the pins are inserted in alignment with the grain and not against the grain.

As for pin-less moisture meters, these are easier to use. These meters eliminate the need to insert the pins in the wood’s surface.

All you need to do is, wipe the surface of the wood and scan the wood. It is like scanning a plate or using a barcode. Turn on the meter as you scan the wood, and you’ll get a reading.

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