Moisture Meters: Take the Guesswork out of Drying

  • finishing
  • moisture content
  • moisture meters
  • staining

One of the most common questions that comes with selling Red Cedar decking is “how long should I wait before I stain?”. This is a tough question. Despite what a lot of people think, there isn’t a correct period of time that cedar should dry for before taking stain. There is however, a tool to determine when the time is right to slap on that first coat of finish. That tool is a moisture meter, and in this article, we’ll look at what a moisture meter does, how to use it, and where you can pick one up.

If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you read my article on Wood and Water before diving into this one

So what is a moisture meter, anyways? As the name suggests, it’s a tool we can use to determine how much water is trapped inside a material, as a percentage of the material’s dry weight. There are two types of moisture meter, and they both work off a similar concept. The first, and most common, has two pins that get stuck into the material. The device contains a battery, and when the pins are in the material it attempts to create a circuit. By measuring the resistance in that circuit, provided by the material, the meter determines the moisture content. The limitations of these meters is obvious, as it does leave a small imprint in the board, and they can only measure a single point at a time. The other type of moisture meter is what’s known as a capacitance, or pin-less meter. Capacitance meters are a bit more complex, but they work of a similar idea. The meter arcs an electromagnetic field through the material, and bases its measurement off properties of that field. The advantage of capacitance meters is that they don’t leave any marks in the material, and they can quickly and easily take measurements from the whole length of a board.

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