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Moisture Meters for Home Inspectors

As a home inspector, you already have a lot of tools. Among the pieces of equipment that are likely included in your kit is a flashlight, electrical circuit tester, ladder, knife, tape measure, screwdriver, and much more. These tools aren't optional, either they are simply part of getting the job done. Without the right equipment, even the most talented inspector in the world will struggle to evaluate the safety and longevity of a building. In order to be successful, a good inspector needs the right tools by his or her side.

With that in mind, you should add a moisture meter to that list above of required equipment. A moisture meter, as you might guess from the name, does a great job of evaluating the level of moisture within a specific material. Water can be incredibly damaging to the structure of a building when it is allowed to enter places where it was never supposed to be. A big part of your job as an inspector is to make sure that the dry areas of the building are actually dry, and a moisture meter is the right tool for that task.

How It Works

Getting a reading on the moisture content of a specific material is not an easy task. There are two basic types of moisture meters on the market today that you can use to deal with this job pin, and pinless. Each option is capable of giving you an accurate reading, and each has its own specific strengths and weaknesses. Take a moment to learn a little bit about each option before deciding which will be better for your needs.

Pin Moisture Meter

It shouldn't be much of a surprise that a pin-type moisture meter uses pins to take the measurement in question. These devices have two pins which are inserted into the material that is being measured, and an electrical current is passed between the pins. Based on the resistance that is found, the meter will be able to offer you a moisture content percentage reading. In order to put that measurement into context, you will need to know what readings would be considered dry for the same material. Since there will always be some level of moisture present in a material like wood, for example, you need to have a baseline measurement against which you can compare your results. With a good pin meter and a basic knowledge of the materials being measured, you can quickly gather the information you need.

Pin meters are easy to use and typically rather accurate, but they do come with drawbacks. First, and most obviously, is the fact that you will have to damage the material you are measuring in order to get a reading. Inserting the pins will leave two holes in the surface of the material. Although these holes are generally rather small, they will still be a blemish that cannot be ignored. Therefore, using a pin meter to measure exposed wood beams in a basement may be fine, but using it to go through a finished surface probably is not an option.

Pinless Moisture Meter

Without the pins, this type of meter has to take a different approach to measuring moisture within a material. To do so, a pinless meter emits electromagnetic signals in order to get a reading of the material in question. This technology is perfect for getting a reading without doing any damage at all to the surface of the material. However, the reading will not be as location-specific as it is when a pin meter is used (which can be a good or bad thing, depending on your needs).

When trying to decide between a pin or pinless style meter, it is ultimately your needs that will be the determining factor. Think about the types of materials that you have needed to measure during recent jobs? Would you be able to pierce the surface of the material with two pins without a problem? The matter of being able to take measurements without leaving a trace is what leads some inspectors to prefer the pinless style in the end.

Some Simple Tips

If you have never before used a moisture meter to take readings on an inspection job, you will want to have a good idea of what you are doing before heading out into the field. Obviously, taking and recording an incorrect reading could lead to the wrong overall conclusion about the condition of a home or other structure. If you think a building has water damage when it doesn't, or vice versa, you are going to provide the incorrect information to your client.

So, before putting your meter into action, you should carefully read the included manual to make sure you know how everything works. Ongoing maintenance is important when it comes to a moisture meter, so be sure to clean it after every use and store it in a dry place to avoid any water damage which could compromise the electronics. It is also important to have good batteries in your unit, as old batteries could lead to an incorrect reading. As a matter of habit, consider carrying an extra set of the appropriate batteries with you just in case the power level in the meter starts to fade.

Accessories are Available

You can often purchase extra attachments for your moisture meter in order to expand its list of capabilities. One of the most-popular attachments is a set of longer pins that can be plugged in to a pin-type meter for a deeper measurement in the material at hand. The average moisture meter includes rather short pins as part of the unit, so it may be helpful (and even necessary) to carry a set of longer pins in case the job should call for such a measurement.

Another Meter Option

Most of your moisture reading needs will probably relate to materials such as wood, but this category of tool extends into the ground as well. Specifically, you could add a soil moisture meter to your collection of equipment if you would like the ability to test the ground around the base of a structure. Obviously, excess water around the base of a building is a sign that trouble could be building below. Rather than trusting your eye to check on the moisture level in the ground, turn that job over to a quality soil moisture meter to find out for sure what is going on under the surface.

If you are serious about your job as an inspector and you should be then you will need to have the best tools at your side to get the job done right. Quality equipment is essential to success in this profession, as you need to be able to trust the readings that you are getting when compiling your report. As far as picking between a pin and pinless moisture meter, that is a choice that you might not even have to make. These tools are not extremely expensive, so the best path may be to simply add one of each to your toolbox. With both options at your disposal, you will always have the right tool available to get the job done and give your clients the information they need.

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