There are many good reasons for checking the moisture in your drywall – to determine if your new drywall is safe or decide if existing drywall can be saved. Drywall is very sensitive, even small amounts of moisture, becoming unusable if it’s too saturated. You want accurate readings of moisture content, so which is the best moisture meter for drywall?
Several different moisture meter types exist. Luckily, unlike many drywall tools, moisture meters can be used far beyond just drywall and measure the moisture content of many materials, including wood flooring, plaster walls, masonry, carpet, and more.
The number one pick for measuring moisture in drywall is the Klein Tools ET140 Pinless Moisture Meter because it is relatively inexpensive and has great product reviews highlighting its accuracy in measuring drywall specifically. It’s also very easy to read and has an auto diagnostic feature that alerts you when the moisture content is too high.
Sometimes you need different features in your moisture meter, and there are plenty of great products on the market made for more specific applications.
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Moisture Meters In This Review
What Make A Good Moisture Meter?
Contractors, woodworkers use moisture meters and all sorts of DIYers to assess the moisture content of various materials for quality, check house moisture levels, and determine when it’s appropriate to install flooring. It’s important to know that your drywall is fit for installation before you hang it. Drywall that has been exposed to moisture is crumbly and soft and more prone to mold. Every moisture meter measures the percentage of moisture either relatively or as a quantitative measurement.
There are different methods to measure the moisture content in different materials. Some of these methods are more invasive than others, and some moisture meters are more accurate when it comes to certain materials. When choosing a moisture meter for your drywall, it’s important to look for the following:
Type of moisture meter.
Moisture meters come in three categories – Pin moisture meters, pinless meters, and multi-functional. A pin-type moisture meter can be used for drywall, but it is a destructive method of testing because you have to puncture holes into the sheetrock. More preferable is a pinless meter or one that’s capable of performing both pin and pinless readings. The dual pin/pinless are the most versatile moisture meters, but the trade-off is a higher price tag.
How accurate is the moisture meter?
Drywall is considered moisture compromised if the level of moisture exceeds just 1%, so having an accurate moisture meter is very important. Very high level, professional models (some costing more than $1,000) can get close to a 0.01 percent accuracy. However, the lower-end models can still detect major problems in your drywall and still provide a useful and accurate moisture content reading.
The best and most accurate moisture meters can be well over $500, even reaching over a grand. This list focuses on more affordable options within reach of the average DIYer. These are generally still accurate enough for most applications – like determining if drywall is safe to use, deciding whether to keep existing drywall and finding the exact location of a moisture problem. The accuracy levels of these meters fall around five percent, while very high-end digital moisture meters are as accurate as 0.01 percent.
How many materials can it read?
Some of these readers allow you to select the type of material you’re reading. Since most people working with drywall will hand out plenty of other kinds of materials, the multi-functions are very useful. Some moisture meters do not have different modes and will only give you a relative moisture content measurement. This can work if you have a known dry spot to compare it to.
You’ll want a meter that is both easy to use and easy to read. More complicated meters make the likelihood of a bad reading much higher. Pick a moisture meter that has good usability reviews, or your purchase is nearly useless.
Moisture meters are a fairly expensive piece of equipment, with delicate parts (for pin moisture meters). You want your moisture meter to be able to stand up to a day of work, which might include some drops. These moisture meters are designed to withstand impacts from standing height, but some are tougher than others. If you’ve got a super steady hand, this might not be a consideration.
Some of these moisture meters include carrying cases, and some don’t. It might not be a dealbreaker for you, but they do have to be handled with care when they’re in your toolbox so the display isn’t crushed or scratched and the pinless meters back panel isn’t damaged.
Some moisture meters can read a massive measurement range, especially moisture content in wood products -with maximum moisture percentages from 50% to 100%. When you’re buying a moisture meter for drywall, it’s not likely that it will ever be useful. Anything even approaching the high end of these meters read would be detectable just by feeling or looking at the drywall. If you have other applications that require a wide measurement range, you may have good reason to spend a few hundred dollars more.
Best Reviewed Moisture Meters
Here are some of the top-rated moisture meters on the market right now.
Klein Tools ET140 Pinless Moisture Meter
- WATER LEAK DETECTOR detects moisture content from leaks and flooding
- PINLESS MOISTURE METER measures moisture content in building materials
- NONDESRUCTIVE DETECTION up to 3/4-Inch deep using Electromagnetic field (EMF) technology
This non-destructive moisture meter came in at number one for a lot of good reasons. The Klein gets great reviews for being easy to use and easy to read, with a large, bright display. It’s non-destructive, reads up to 3/4 inch below the surface, and give at-a-glance readings with LED bars. You can check lots of drywall very easily before you hang. It’s also got good marks for durability and can withstand drops, bangs, and bouncing around in your toolbox.
If you need a moisture meter that will also read the moisture content of wood, this model does fall short. It measures four building material types – drywall, masonry hardwood, and softwood, whereas other meters can specify the exact type of wood.
For a drywall moisture meter, this is fantastic and comes very reasonably priced. If your only concern is testing percent moisture content in drywall, this is the moisture meter to buy.
- Pinless, non-destructive moisture detection
- Hold, low battery, and auto-power off functions
- Built to withstand a 6.6 foot (2 m) drop
- Nine LED bars indicate moisture range
- Modes: drywall, masonry, hardwood, and softwood
- Bright reverse-contrast display
- Detects moisture content up to 3/4-Inch (19 mm) deep
- Includes 9V battery
- 1-year manufacturer warranty
Calculated Industries 7445 AccuMASTER Duo Pro Pin & Pinless Moisture Meter
- ESTIMATE MOISTURE CONTENT QUICKLY AND EASILY – detector offers ideal dual functions of pin and pinless sensors in one. Use the pinless pad as a quick “ranging” feature to scan a large area for suspect areas without leaving holes. Then, switch to pins to quantify moisture level at various depths
- PERFECT FOR HOME INSPECTIONS – Use the pad for quick non-invasive pinless scanning to find locations with higher than average moisture behind a wall or under a floor. CAUTION: Powerful pinless pad sensor measures to ¾” but can be influenced by materials up to 2 inches below subject material (e.g., metal screws, nails, workbench supports, etc.) Keep fingers clear of pad scanning area. Use pad to detect variations from normal and use pins to quantify it.
- CHECK LUMBER AND HARDWOOD BEFORE BUILDING AND WOODWORKING – Use the pins to know the moisture content of your wood to make sure you’re not using damp, moist wood on your projects to avoid cracks, splits, warping. Ensure wood flooring has acclimated before installing
This dual-function moisture meter is a bit more expensive but has many great features for the price. It’s easy to use on just about any wood or building material and the ability to use it pinless or as a pin-type meter. The big LCD gives lots of information – easily see the type of material, moisture measurement, low/medium/high indicators, battery indicator, and lets you freeze readings for convenient viewing. There’s even an option to get an audio alert for high moisture readings – making it very quick to use over a large area.
Users mention that this moisture detector gives inaccurate readings, reads lower than other more expensive meters, and works better to take relative readings. Useful if you already have a baseline measurement, you’re looking for the location of moisture, you’re monitoring material for moisture content.
This is a versatile and well-priced meter. If you’re buying a meter to do your drywall inspections or need to monitor after a flood or find problem spots in your drywall, this is a great tool to have around.
- Pin and pinless sensors in one
- Protective cap
- Accuracy ±3%
- Optional audio alerts
- Large, easy-to-read backlit display.
- 1-year limited warranty
General Tools MMD4E Digital Moisture Meter
- HUMIDITY SENSOR: Our handy meter tool can quickly determine what level of remediation is needed to keep your family safe from black mold. High levels of dampness that go untreated are the leading cause of harmful fungus growth in the home.
- WATER LEAK DETECTOR: Finding the moisture content in your wood or drywall is the first step in early prevention. Continuously check and test suspicious water stains around the house so you can determine whether the area is wet or has already dried. Low, medium and high moisture tones and on-screen icons, Reading HOLD button
- MOISTURE READER: The mold test features large 0.3" high digits in a backlit LCD for quick and easy detecting. Our mildew scanner includes extra 8mm stainless steel pins, a protective cap that doubles as a calibration checker, and a “9V” battery.
As far as pin-type meters go, this General Tools digital meter is one of the most affordable moisture meters. You can easily check drywall and other building materials between 1.5% and 33% moisture range – more than enough for more of your drywall needs. Users love how easy it is to use and gives relatively accurate moisture readings for such a low-priced tool. Users specifically praise this meter for giving accurate readings in drywall. It takes a 9-volt battery, and users report it has excellent battery life.
This meter only takes pin moisture measurements – so it’s better used to find pockets of moisture or detect leaks in walls. If you’re testing lots of different materials, especially wood, there are more precise meters.
Get this if you don’t have a lot of drywall to check, and you need it to spot excess moisture occasionally. It’s a good meter that will take precise readings at an affordable price.
- Pin-type meter
- Low/Medium/High LED alerts for moisture content
- Range: 1. 5 to 33% for building materials
- Backlit LCD
- Freeze readings
- Auto shutoff feature
- Replacement probes included
- 9v battery included
- 1-year warranty
Tacklife Digital Moisture Meter
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This is the most affordable moisture meter on the list. It’s a good general tool that you can use for a variety of materials and applications. It has a durable design that keeps it in good shape even after a drop and comes with its own carrying case.
The big drawback of Tacklife is the variable accuracy across moisture ranges. It might not be a big deal for drywall, where the acceptable moisture level range is much lower. Still, if you need something that accurately measures quantitative moisture content at high levels, you will want a higher-end model.
This is your moisture meter if you want an inexpensive meter that will do the very basics.
It will work on all sorts of material, and having a moisture meter handy is nice for everything from checking firewood, monitoring water leaks, and checking drywall.
- Accuracy: ±2%;
- Ambient temperature measuring available
- Seven modes
- Protective pin cap
- Anti-slip cover
- Ergonomic design
- Auto power off after 10 mins of inactivity
- Battery included
- Carrying Bag
- Includes two replacement pins
General Tools MMD7NP Pinless Digital Moisture Meter
- WOOD MOISTURE METER: Prevent water and moisture build-up with our humidity reader. It can quickly determine what level of remediation is needed to keep your family safe. High levels of dampness that go untreated can cause hazardous living conditions.
- PROTECT YOUR WORK SURFACE: This tool has no pins, so it won't mar, scratch, or damage walls. It features auto-calibrating, a 2" diagonal backlit LCD screen, a 3-color LED bar graph, a hold button, and an audible alert for fast and accurate detection.
- DEEP READER: It can read the levels up to 3/4" (19mm) deep into the surface with a broad measurement range of 0 to 53% for softwood, 0 to 35% for hardwood, and relative readings for wallboard, drywall, and masonry.
Another quality product from General Tools. This pinless meter is a quick and non-destructive way to check drywall for overall moisture content or pinpoint leaks and moisture damage. It’s easy to use and read, with a large, streamlined display.
It’s a little on the expensive side (for a lower-end model), but it is a pinless meter.
Get this moisture meter if you need a pinless type that reads all sorts of materials and gives very easy-to-read results. It’s for quick checks when you don’t want to poke holes in your new drywall.
- Pinless, non-destructive
- Visual and audio alerts
- Relative reading for building materials
- LED bar graph
- 2-inch LCD screen
- 9v battery included
- 1-year warranty
A moisture meter is your friend if you’re checking for damaged drywall, inspecting the quality of drywall before you hang, or trying to find the source of a leak. They can be tricky to use and confusing if you’ve never bought a moisture meter before. The pin meters and pinless moisture meters use different technology to detect the moisture in your materials and offer different accuracy depending on the type of material.
Pin-type vs. Pinless Moisture Meters
A Pin-type meter uses two prongs inserted into the material and reads the electrical current flowing between them. It can detect moisture at different levels and is most commonly used to measure moisture in the wood.
It is very useful for finding a specific moisture point because it’s reading from just the tip of the pins. If you’re looking for leaks in walls, or the source of rot, moisture, or water damage, pin-type meters will be more useful.
You’re already looking for damage, so you don’t have to worry about putting holes in your walls, and you’ll be able to tell the different levels of moisture throughout your drywall panel quickly. This is also something you could use a less advanced meter, with only relative moisture content readings.
A pinless moisture meter measures moisture content by sending out an electromagnetic signal across a small surface area. They are most commonly read as a relative moisture level and are non-destructive, i.e., you don’t have to poke a hole in your drywall to get a reading. Pinless meters are useful for quickly checking a board before hanging it to make sure it did not become moisture compromised and to detect damage where it’s not obvious just by looking.
Dual moisture meters might be one of the best types of moisture meters for your average DIYer. You can use this meter on drywall without damaging it or use the pin function if you need to pinpoint a problem spot. They offer the best of both worlds but are often a bit in the higher price range.
Using a Moisture Meter
Pin-type moisture meters need to be inserted into the drywall to get a reading. If there is a ‘drywall’ or ‘sheetrock’ mode, use that, but often a less expensive model will only have a relative scale reading. In that case, you will need to take a baseline reading on a piece of drywall you know to be 100% dry.
You can also increase the range of measurement of a pin-type meter with a little ingenuity. You can use a nail and ductile wire to find the boundaries of a wet spot: attach the ductile wire to a nail and the other end to one of the pin sensors of your moisture meter. Drive the nail into the center of the problem area, place the other prong in different places around the nail to feel the damage’s size and location.
Pinless moisture meters read moisture content from the back panel. Often they do not have a function for sheetrock, and you’ll have to take a relative reading again. They need to be held flush to the surface and measure ¾ inch to 1 inch deep. If you are trying to read covered drywall, readings become less accurate.
If you discover that your drywall has wet spots or that you’re picking up high moisture readings, it can sometimes be salvaged. If you haven’t yet hung your drywall, it’s recommended you not use it, but it’s up to you.
Drywall that is under 17% moisture can be saved. It’s important to dry it quickly to avoid mold growth and further deterioration. Put a fan in the area, and of course, do not cover the drywall in any way until you take an acceptable moisture level reading. Drywall shouldn’t be at higher than 17% for more than 72 hours before it’s completely, irreparably damaged.
Always check for the source of the moisture. This might mean removing the drywall panel anyway. Water-damaged drywall will crumble and fail, especially with repeated contact with high moisture levels.
Though plenty of moisture meters can take moisture level readings on a wide range of materials, you’ll find that your moisture meter is defaulting to wood. Many have several modes of operation that cover different types of wood and non-wood materials like concrete and sheetrock/gypsum/drywall. This is the easier type of meter to use – and will often have some indicator if you’re drywall moisture reading is too high.
Since you’ll likely come across other applications for your moisture meter, it’s not a bad idea to opt for one that can automatically read different types of materials just by changing the mode.
Can I Use a Wood Moisture Meter for Drywall?
Nearly every moisture meter will have a way to measure drywall. Often a moisture meter will be marketed as a ‘wood moisture meter’ because of A) that’s a very common application and B) it may have settings for various wood species. Some meters will only have a relative reading for non-wood material, but the vast majority have modes for several popular materials. Certain moisture meters accurate
How Does a Moisture Meter Work?
A moisture meter either works by detecting the conductivity between the two prongs (pin-type meter) or detecting an electromagnetic current through the surrounding material (pinless). You have to puncture the material to get an accurate reading with a pin-type moisture meter.
What is a Normal Moisture Reading for Drywall?
Relative humidity will affect readings, but ideally, the drywall moisture content is below 1%. It is called drywall, after all. Anything under 17% isn’t damaged yet, and can still be used/saved.
Do Moisture Meters Detect Mold?
Moisture meters can detect drywall and other materials that are wet enough to facilitate mold growth. While a regular moisture meter can’t tell you if mold spores are present or mold is growing behind your drywall, it can indicate where you should look if you suspect hidden mold.
Can you Measure the Moisture of Covered Drywall?
A pin-type moisture meter is better at detecting the moisture of drywall that’s been finished. Some pinless meters are supposed to read under, say, a layer of paint or plaster, but for the most accurate reading, you should use a pin-type meter. Many come with extended pins that are even longer to penetrate the layer you’re trying to measure.
Can Moisture Meters Measure Behind Drywall?
Pin-type moisture meters sometimes come with extended pins so that you can do just that. If you want to measure the moisture content in the framing without removing any drywall, you can use the longer pins. Though some pinless moisture meters claim to measure moisture in drywall up to an inch deep, accuracy falls off well before that.
Does Temperature Affect the Moisture Meter?
Yes. Most moisture meters will take accurate moisture measurements in a temperature range between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, with variable accuracy between freezing and over 100 degrees. Pin-type meters are more sensitive to temperature changes, and high-end models will often come with a temperature correction chart for more accurate measurement in extreme temperatures.