Moisture content, as the term suggests, refers to the natural qualities of moisture retention in wood. Lumber manufacturers develop methods of measuring moisture content in order to produce lumber with moisture contents that are suitable to the ultimate use of the wood.
Therefore, wood intended for outside decking might require different moisture content measurements than that used for furniture. You need a certain level of expertise and special tools to measure moisture content accurately.
- Determine the reason for measuring moisture content. Wood is a natural, porous material that readily absorbs moisture, but it also has amazing capacities for drying. Wood that has sat in the rain for days can be sufficiently re-dried to usable standards. These standards vary by project, though, so you need to know why the moisture level is important. Additionally, moisture content should be measured in a comparable scenario to the end use of the material.
- Obtain an electric moisture meter that suits the measurements you need to take. If you know that you'll be working with a variety of species and types of wood, you'll need an advanced piece of equipment that is already calibrated with the necessary adjustments for temperature and wood density. Otherwise, you'll find yourself doing endless calculations trying to get an accurate read on moisture content.
- Use the electric moisture meter according to the owner's manual in order to get the most accurate reading. There are two types—Probe and Pinless—and each serves a different purpose. Probe are easy to use and very fast, while pinless are more advanced and leave no mark on the wood itself. Prober are more accurate at different depths, while pinless is better for thinner materials where wood damage is not acceptable.
- Understand the readings. Your lumber provider can tell you what moisture percentage is suitable for a variety of uses. For instance, subflooring should have a moisture content of less than 12 percent in order to be suitable for work. Any higher, and drying steps will need to be taken to prevent unnecessary damage or problems later on. Know what you are doing with the wood and communicate with your provider to determine whether or not your moisture reading is acceptable for the particular job and treatment you intend to do.