How To Check Moisture Content of Wood Without a Meter

wet wood

Moisture and wood go together like bacon fat and an artery. Stuff the one with the other and eventually things turn dark. So, before you use wood, it’s a good idea to know how much moisture there is in your wood. There are two basic ways to measure the moisture content of your wood.

One way is to buy a moisture meter. The other is with an oven and a simple calculation. It would be no fun to write an article explaining how to use a meter, so we’ll focus on how to do it the really long way.

The first step is to get a sample piece of wood from the center of whatever pile of wood you’re using. Wood along the edges is juiced one way or the other by the ambient conditions. Dry air will dry the wood; damp air will leave it moistened.

Low, slow dry heat to wick out moisture

Turn on your oven to about 218 degrees Fahrenheit. A quick word here on the oven you use, by the way. Using this method to measure the moisture content of wood is very accurate, but an oven that isn’t well ventilated can lead to skewed results. It’s important to use an oven that can maintain the most consistent temperature possible and is well ventilated to shunt away the water drawn from the wood.

oven

While your oven preheats, weigh the wood. Write this down somewhere. While accurate, this method also takes a million years (give or take a million years minus a day or so), and you might forget or get beaned in the mush by a meteorite. Point is, you might forget.

Wait to weigh, wait to reweigh

Put the wood in the oven for a whole day. Spend the next 24 hours pondering the advantages to have written down the wood’s weight.

After a day, weigh the wood. Write that number down.

wood on a scale

Place the wood back into the oven for an hour and weigh it again. Keep doing this until the wood’s weight doesn’t change. When it stays the same, the wood has no moisture in it. The overall difference in weight, if you’re curious, was the weight of the moisture in the wood. It’s an interesting number but we’re talking about the moisture content.

And now, for a little bit of math…

To arrive at that number, divide the original weight and divide it by the dried weight, subtract one and multiply that by 100. The number you get will be the moisture content of your wood.

Pop the cork on a bottle of champagne to celebrate your victory over modern technology and its so-called “electronics.”

Just to summarize

It’s not just possible to measure the moisture content of wood without a meter, using the low heat, slow leach power of an oven to remove it is considered overall the most accurate way to do it. Fair warning, though. If you really want to go this route, in addition to it taking a really long time, expect the testing to ruin the wood you’re testing. Call it the negative consequence to putting it into an active oven for a really long time.

The process otherwise is pretty simple. Turn your oven to about 218 degrees Fahrenheit. This is not just optimum to remove moisture, but it won’t leach out the wood’s oils and give you a false result.

Put the wood in and wait about a day. Weigh it and put it back into the oven for an hour. Weigh it again. Keep doing this until the weight doesn’t change. Divide that weight by the original weight, subtract one and multiply by 100. That will give you the wood’s moisture content.

You may also want to read our “Pin vs pinless moisture meter guide”.

About the Author Adam Harris

Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!