Although it’s often overlooked, a moisture meter is one of the most important tools for cleaning up water damage. Whether you’re drying out water damage yourself or you hire a restoration company, a moisture meter is the only way to determine if the area is actually dry. Without one, you could end up with crumbling walls or moldy carpeting. We look at what it does, how it works, and why you need a moisture meter for water damage.
Why You Need a Moisture Meter for Water Damage
It’s easy to overlook the importance of a moisture meter when you’re standing in a puddle of water. While you might think you can tell what’s wet and what’s dry just by looking at it, this often isn’t the case.
Consider a flood in your basement laundry room. While you may think the walls contained the flood to just that room, water might have seeped through the wall. Even if the outside of that wall doesn’t appear wet, it could be wet on the inside.
Overlooking water damage like this can lead to mold and odors over time. Additionally, trapped water will weaken most building materials. The drywall and cabinets will become brittle and are more likely to crumble in the future.
You can purchase a moisture meter from most local home improvement stores, however, they come at a wide range of prices. Less expensive models are usually not intended for water damage and may not be accurate.
A better option is to rent one from your local equipment rental company. In most cases, you can rent a high-quality moisture meter by the day for between $25 and $40, with weekly rates often only $10 or $15 more.
How to Test for Water With a Moisture Meter
If you have water damage, use a moisture meter to check surfaces to see how far the water spread. Test every few inches until you get a consistent reading 3 times. Then move back to the spot where the reading increases and mark it as the starting point.
Even if there was only an inch of water, remember to test up and down as well. Drywall, hardwoods, wood studs, and cabinets will often wick water up from the ground. In some cases, you could have water damage well above the actual waterline.
Once you remove standing water and position air movers and dehumidifiers, use your moisture meter to test surfaces every 6 to 8 hours. This way you are sure surfaces are completely dry. Plus, this will help determine when you need to reposition equipment.
Continue testing for water with your moisture meter until the entire surface returns a consistent reading. In some cases, you may need to test similar surfaces or materials in other rooms to confirm they are completely dry.
How a Moisture Meter Works
Moisture meters measure the electrical resistance between two electrodes and convert that into a moisture content percentage (%MC). Since water is a good conductor, electricity will flow more easily between the electrodes in the presence of moisture. The more water, the less resistance and the higher the moisture reading on the meter.
In addition to the %MC, some moisture meters will also include additional indicators of moisture levels. These are often indicated by colors like green, yellow, and red. Green indicates acceptable levels of moisture. Yellow meaning elevated levels. Red typically means severe moisture levels.
There are three main types of meters. Pin-type moisture meters have two pins that serve as the electrodes. You stick those pins into surfaces you want to test, so they can do minor damage. Pinless moisture meters are not invasive like pinned models, but they are less accurate on wood and drywall. All-in-one moisture meters use both methods for better results.
Understanding the Moisture Meter Scale
Most moisture meters register a value between 0 and 100, with 0 being the low end. However, that’s not to say that 0 is dry and that 1 is wet. Unfortunately, the scale for what is dry varies depending on the surface you’re testing.
For example, dry wood usually has a moisture reading between 6% and 12%. Dry drywall or gypsum board will typically register between 0.2% and 0.8%, while dry carpeting is often between 8% and 16%. Moisture meters usual include a reference scale for different surfaces as a guide.
Normal or dry moisture meter readings for your home will also vary depending on your climate, the current temperature and weather conditions, and other factors. When using a moisture meter to see if surfaces are dry, compare readings from water damaged areas with readings from non-damaged areas.
Get a Free Estimate on Water Damage Now
If you need assistance with water damage, Restoration Local is the nation’s #1 network of restoration contractors. They are experienced in water damage restoration and have the necessary equipment to extract water and dry out your home or business fast.
With listings for both independent companies and major brands like AdvantaClean and Stanley Steemer, we make it easy to choose a water damage company near you now. For emergency response, call 1-888-443-3110 to speak with our on-call water damage contractor nearest you.