Evaluating Moisture Content in Recycled Wood

Reclaiming old lumber for new projects is an eco-friendly building practice.  Repurposing wood is not only great for the environment, but it can also be an effective way to cut costs.  However, before you make a firm commitment to a do-it-yourself wood working project, there are a few things to consider.  It is extremely important to measure the moisture content (MC) of reclaimed wood before manufacturing it into a finished product.

While it is safe to assume that manufacturing and installation experts have run a moisture meter over the wood prior to its initial building application, recyclers must keep in mind the same warnings that wood installation experts reserve for everyone: verify wood MC levels in order to avoid costly and frustrating problems with your finished product.

Wood is a hygroscopic material that must reach equilibrium moisture content (EMC) in its new home in order to deliver unwavering product performance for life.  EMC depends largely on the relative humidity (RH) and temperature of the surrounding air. When the RH increases, wood absorbs or gains moisture; when RH decreases, wood loses or releases it.  Because of these constant fluctuations, a wood moisture meter is an excellent investment for any woodworking enthusiast.

Measuring wood MC is important for three main reasons:

  1. Initial wood MC readings tell you the existing state of moisture in the reclaimed wood and allow you to determine if the wood is ready for manufacturing.
  2. When reclaimed wood comes from various sources, it can be helpful to identify and separate wood pieces that do not have the same or similar MC values.
  3. Installers can monitor the MC of the wood flooring until it is at the correct EMC for fail-safe installation purposes.

Furthermore, measuring each reclaimed wood piece with a moisture meter gives you a visual indication of the presence of wood defects, such as knots.  If these issues are not fully addressed and resolved, reclamation may include some rehabilitation costs.

When dealing with moisture saturation, a wood moisture meter can make the difference between success and failure of the end products, as moisture problems that remain undiscovered or unresolved can jeopardize your project.  Shortly after project completion, you may discover cracks, splits,shrinkage, gluing failures, cupped or curved panels or othermoisture-related problems.  Thankfully, a simple MC check helps to pinpoint where your moisture-related problems are so that they can be resolved prior to and during the manufacturing process.

Wagner Meters has designed a diversified line of wood moisture meter products for water vapor management in all wood species.  The company has developed a pinless, electromagnetic wave technology to provide precise MC measurements in a fraction of the time required for other meters.  Wagner Meters offers a seven-year warranty for the entire MMC and MMI wood moisture meter product lines.  The Model MMI can store MC spot-check results, allowing installers to record and monitor the wood’s MC for future reference.

Should you continuously worry about moisture content?  Most often, the reclaimed wood reaches its EMC in its new home.  Even though almost every wood floor will endure some expansion and contraction as seasons and RH levels change, these changes and movements will be negligible.

Categories: Eco-friendly, Moisture Problems, Relative Humidity | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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