Wood moisture meters are a must-have for artisans who have to dry their own wood. However, it can be hard to find the moisture meter that’s right for your project. Shopping online can make that challenge even greater, as you have to determine what’s just marketing fluff, and what features you should take seriously.
Even once you’ve figured that out, you’re left trying to figure out if you’re getting good bang for your buck. That’s not always the case.
We know this can be a challenging problem, and that’s why we’ve created these reviews of the best moisture meters for wood. After reading these reviews and our buyer’s guide, you should be able to get a moisture meter you’ll love at a price you’ll love, too.
|Lignomat Mini-Ligno E/D||1 lb||4.7/5|
|General Tools MMD4E|
(Best for the Money)
|Sam-Pro Tools Dual Moisture Meter||1 lb||4.3/5|
|General Tools MMH800||2 lbs||4.0/5|
The Wagner MMC220 is a great choice for anyone who wants the most accurate readings on the market. This model’s design hasn’t changed in years, and it’s a good example of not fixing a tool that works. It is a contactless moisture meter, which means it can detect a wood’s moisture content without inserting pins into the wood. Instead, lay the meter on the wood and let it go to work. It’s an extremely precise meter, measuring moisture content in .1% increments, which blows away the competition. It also works faster than a pin meter, which saves you a lot of time in the long run.
It can also be programmed to work with all kinds of woods, so if you’re working with more exotic stock, you’re covered. It also scans down .75-inches, which means that it goes deeper than most pin meters, meaning you get a more accurate representation of the moisture content at the center of the wood. The design is hard to learn to use. But, it’s the most accurate and one of the fastest meters on the market, so once you learn how it works, it’s a fantastic deal.
The Lignomat Mini-Ligno E/D is the best of the pin moisture meters on our list. While it doesn’t quite live up to the Wagner pinless meter in first place, it costs about a quarter of what you’ll end up paying for that meter, so this model is a good choice if you’re looking for a deal. It features a wider measurement range than the previous moisture meter, as this model can measure from 6% to 45% moisture content. It also measures in increments of .1%, so it is very accurate.
It is a pin meter, so you have to insert pins into the wood to get a reading. This meter comes with 3/16” and 7/16” pins, so you can adjust to deal with different thicknesses. It’s also very easy to operate as it only comes with two settings. Unfortunately, those two settings only apply to domestic, American woods, so if you’re looking to measure something exotic, you’re out of luck. While the ultimate downside to pin meters is that they leave little holes behind after measurement, but they come cheaper than the competition. Overall, this model is the best pin meter, and Americans get especially great value out of this buy.
The General Tools MMD4E pin moisture meter is a great choice for someone who needs ballpark readings but also wants a great deal. You can get this model for about a quarter of the price of the second model on our list, which means that you’re not going got be out an arm and a leg when you purchase this model. One of the best things about this is that it doesn’t just work with wood. It comes with a drywall measuring function and can also be used to measure the moisture in subflooring, which is a feature that you won’t find in other moisture meters.
It also comes with a bright, easy-to-read display that most people love. The one real problem with this model is that it’s not terribly accurate. The manufacturer lists the accuracy as within ±3%. That good enough for knowing if there’s too much water in your walls, but it’s not accurate enough for drying wood. Installing wood flooring that tested as 10% water, but was 13% water would result in disaster, as it would crack and split as it dried. Overall, this is the best overall model, especially if you don’t need extreme accuracy.
The Sam-Pro Tools Dual Moisture Meter is a good choice for people who need a monster measurement range. It can measure between 0% and 70% moisture, which is massive relative to other moisture meters. It can also measure the moisture content of just about any kind of wood, fiber boards, particle boards, and even concrete. That makes it one of the most versatile moisture meters on the market, and one that’s great if you’re constantly testing different kinds of materials. It also measures temperature, which is good for a lot of tasks that involve drying.
It does have variable accuracy across its range, varying ±1% under 30%, which scales up to ±3% at 60%-70%. That’s not the most accurate meter on the market, but it’s the most accurate where it needs to be the most accurate, and that’s at the lower range. It does have an annoying safety cap that keeps the probes safe, but is a pain to remove, and can be frustrating. Overall, this isn’t the most accurate meter, which sinks it on our list, but it’s still worth checking out for its versatility.
The General Tools MMH800 is a cool concept, fusing a pinless and pinned meter into a single unit so that you can use whichever application makes the most sense at the time. That gives it versatility that you won’t find on most models, even if they’re far more expensive. It also records readings so that you can reference them later. That’s not the most useful feature in the world, but it’s nice if you can’t immediately write down a reading for whatever reason.
However, this meter is unreliable. You can trust it to tell you if something is generally “wet” or “dry,” but you shouldn’t take the percentage readings you get too seriously. There’s also poor-quality control with this unit, which means that you sometimes get a broken unit right out of the box, or have serious issues getting any reading at all, but less an accurate one. It’s not the cheapest model on our list, either, which means it’s pretty poor value. You could get a better moisture meter by spending slightly more or slightly less money and would be happier with your purchase.
We hope that our reviews have already given you some ideas about what you want out of your next moisture meter. If you still have no idea which model is right for you, go ahead and check out this buyer’s guide. We packed it full of good general information about moisture meters, so you can learn everything you need to look before you go to buy.
There are two kinds of moisture meters for wood. The first uses pins, which plunge into the wood to give you an idea of what the interior moisture is like. These models generally have the most accurate readings, but their best feature is that they cost far less than the alternative. However, the downside to these models is that you have to plunge the pins into the materials to get a reading.
That means you’re going to leave small holes, which you may not want to do. You’ll have to work around them, either cutting out the offending section or ensuring that it’s not visible on the outside of your project. If you’re drying wood in stages, you’ll have to measure it multiple times, and that means a lot of holes.
Pinless, or contactless, moisture meters measure while sitting on the surface of the wood. While it might seem like magic, the underlying science is well-understood, and you can count on the accuracy of these models. The big upside is that you don’t have to put holes in your wood. The downside is that these models tend to be far more expensive, but for many people, that tradeoff will be worth it.
Not all moisture meters are as accurate as others. Meters that are accurate to within .1% are the best ones available on the market and having that level of precision will leave you confident in the reading. Most people find that spending a bit more to get the most accurate readings is worth it, but that doesn’t mean it’s true for you.
The next best models are those that are accurate to within 1%. These will generally be reliable enough for most applications, though you don’t get the same peace of mind you get with the models accurate to .1%.
Anything over that level isn’t that accurate, and you might make bad decisions based on that information. If you want to do yourself a favor, don’t buy a model with more than 1% variance in accuracy in the range that you’re going to use.
While the above categories are generally more important, you should still evaluate the other features that come with a moisture meter to determine how good of a deal you’re getting. Most moisture meters work best with wood, but some also work with other kinds of materials, like sheetrock and concrete. This makes them far more versatile, and more versatile tools are worth more, even if they don’t cost more.
You should also keep an eye out for moisture meters that also measure the temperature, as that can be a useful thing to know if you’re drying something, or if you’re worried there’s a hot- or cold-water leak. You can tell better where the leak is by following the changes in temperature, which may be a better guide in that situation than a moisture reading alone.
Some moisture meters also include the ability to record measurements and store them for later reference, which can be convenient in a situation where it would be hard to pull out a pen and notebook. For instance, this could make your job a lot easier if you’re looking for leaks underneath a home where you don’t have your full range of motion.
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The Wagner MMC220 is our top choice for moisture meters, as it’s a contactless meter that works fast, measures deep, and works with all woods. The Lignomat Mini-Ligno E/D comes in second, but it’s the best pin model and has a wide measurement range, which makes it excellent value for the price. Best overall for the money is the General Tools MMD4E which comes with an easy-to-read screen and works with drywall and flooring. The Sam-Pro Tools Dual Moisture Meter can measure the widest range of materials and the widest moisture ranges, but its accuracy issues drop it to fourth on our list. The last entry is the General Tools MMH800, which in theory combines the best of the pin and pinless moisture meters but isn’t accurate enough to be worth the money.
We hope that our reviews and our buyer’s guides have helped you find the moisture meter for wood that is right for you. While it’s not always easy to shop online, we hope that we’ve given you the knowledge and confidence you need to make a great purchase.