Moisture Meters for Wood Floor Installation and Sand and Finish – Part 1

This will be a three-part series on how I use moisture meters on every project to ensure successful installations and sand and finishes. It will also show you how to properly document all of the data collected, in case of any floor failures. When I say document, don’t just write it on a loose piece of flooring. Write it down, take photos of it, and build a spread sheet that you can use for future use.

The first time I set foot on a project, I start gathering data to help me with the process. Not only do I need to document the accurate square footage, linear footages for trim and transition, height of adjacent flooring, and how many vents I will need to order, but I will start taking moisture readings to ensure the success of my project.

At the time of the first home visit, I take readings of the temperature and relative humidity (RH) using a Thermo-Hygrometer (meter #1). I also ask the homeowners questions like, “Is this about the temperature at which you maintain the home year-round?” This is where I start to separate myself from my competition. This info sometimes confuses the homeowners, and they ask questions about the different moisture meters. You will hear things like, “The other guys didn’t do any testing, is this important?” I explain that I am not the other guys, then I educate my customer on why and how. These are my floors, and I want them to perform in your home. I find that all of this testing and time spent sets their minds at ease and builds their confidence in me and my expertise.

Now I have all the information I need to provide the homeowner with a quote. I include the environmental conditions on the estimate for the homeowner, but mainly as additional documentation. I also have started to compile my job site data for use with acclimation later in the project.

When it is time to deliver the material for acclimation, which is always before installation, I have a history to compare the current conditions using the Thermo-Hygrometer. These numbers should be very close to the original readings taken during the estimate. If they are different, then I figure out what changed. Sometimes, it is the seasons or maybe the painters just finished. This is when I take additional readings of the subfloor. In Arizona, it is predominantly concrete subfloors, and so I either set a Calcium Chloride or a Relative Humidity test. I use almost exclusively Relative Humidity Tests (meter #2). This testing method provides the ability to recheck the moisture content in a relatively short time period as many times as are needed throughout the job. This test tells me what moisture mitigation system I need to use.

If I am working over a joisted wood subfloor I will take readings in the subfloor, and when accessible, I test the joists with a wood moisture meter (meter #3). I also use the wood moisture meter to determine the moisture content of my wood flooring. All of these numbers are documented and kept with the original file. I email homeowners the moisture readings. It sounds difficult, but I find that educating the customer from the very beginning makes for happy customers.

In the next blog, I will discuss moisture testing and how to confirm the product and the job site are both acclimated and in their “happy place.”

Jason Elquest is owner of Scottsdale, Arizona-based Blackhawk Floors Inc. and is an NWFA Regional Instructor. He can be reached at jason@blackhawkfloors.com.

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