If you’ve done any building, repair work or have worked on vehicles, you know the phrase “the right tool for the job” is very true. We inspectors carry and use several tools for our job that many people don’t even know exist. One of those tools is a moisture meter, and I’d like to take a moment to discuss these handy tools and what makes them one of the several “right tools for the job” of home inspecting.
Moisture meters come in two main varieties: pinned and pinless. As their names suggest, pinned moisture meters have pins and pinless models do not. In either case, these meters measure electrical resistance and convert the reading into a moisture content percentage (%MC) of the area of the material being tested. The wetter the material, the less the electrical resistance and the higher the moisture percentage; the dryer the material, the greater the electrical resistance and the lower the moisture percentage.
As you may have guessed, there are two types of moisture meters for a reason. Pinned meters are excellent when a material can be probed with the pins. When leaving small holes in the material is either undesireable or unacceptable, a pinless meter is the best option. If moisture is suspected on wood framing, inserting a pinned meter is a great option; but if moisture is apparent on drywall and the pins would leave unsightly holes, a non-invasive pinless meter is a better bet.
Pinned meters are very good at measuring the moisture content of small, specific areas since the pins probe only those spots. Pinned meters can also detect moisture content in a material to a depth since the pins can be pushed deeper into the material. Pinless meters are capable of measuring the moisture content of larger areas at a time (although the area measured is still small) and they cannot penetrate materials to test internal moisture levels like a pinned meter can.
Many moisture meters can even be set to test on different materials, such as wood or drywall. If the meter is of high quality, it can typically adjust its MC reading fairly accurately taking different materials into account. This, of course, allows for a more true and accurate reading.
Despite their value, most homeowners are not likely to purchase moisture meters, but they are very innovative and helpful tools for those of us in the inspection industry and for anyone in need of a way to measure the moisture content of different materials.
If you have frequent moisture issues or areas that appear to be damp but you aren’t sure, you may want to consider purchasing a decent quality moisture meter for yourself to be able to perform periodic testing. Of course, your best bet is to hire a professional inspector who uses these tools often and knows them well to thoroughly inspect for moisture intrusion problems. In any case, moisture meters are important tools of the inspection trade (and other trades) that can reveal some very important information that property owners benefit from knowing.
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