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Why Test for Moisture Content (MC) in Wood?

Knowing wood’s MC is crucial to prevent costly wood project failures or customer complaints. Why?

As part of its natural beauty and appeal, wood is a hygroscopic material, meaning that it will continuously lose or gain moisture from its environment. The same cellular structure that lets a living tree absorb moisture up its length also means that it can retain or release water after it has been sawn, dried, and finished.

That process can cause problems in your woodworking projects. Swelling, checks, cupping, gaps at joins, or even finish failures can all be related to a MC that is too high or too low compared to its environment. No one wants their time and resource investments to result in a warped chair, a buckling wood floor, or a moldy carpet.

The good news is that measuring the MC of wood is a simple and cost-effective way to minimize those costly failures. Companies like Wagner Meters, Delmhorst, Protimeter, Tramex, or Lignomat make a variety of wood moisture meters (also called moisture detectors) with features to help all levels of wood workers from the hobbyist to the professional. Most are handheld meters with digital displays and can be found in pin- or pinless-type moisture detectors. (For a comparison of the technology of the two types of moisture testers, see Moisture Detector Technology.) Wood moisture meters can be calibrated for various wood species and measure moisture below the wood surface for greater accuracy.

The right wood moisture meter is a vital tool for the woodworker at any level.