Pin vs. Pinless Moisture Meters: What Should I Choose?

As a handyman or handywoman, you’re not going to want to process boards or slabs of concrete without knowing its moisture content beforehand. Excess moisture in your workpieces can lead to rotting and/or instability which can be quite costly to fix. If you don’t have the confidence to gauge the moisture content by eye or feel, then consider investing in a moisture meter.

A moisture meter is a tool that measures the relative moisture content of wood, cement, walls, and whatever other surfaces and materials you work with. This is one of the handiest tools that a professional contractor can own to make sure they’re doing their work according to their blueprints.

If you’ve ever searched for one of these babies online, then you undoubtedly have come across pin and pinless moisture meters. For a first-time buyer, understanding the benefits and drawbacks of each can be confusing, especially if you don’t know whether one is compatible with your work or not. In this article, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to decide which of the two to get.

What is a Pin Moisture Meter?

A pin moisture meter uses two metallic pins to gauge the moisture content of your material. The two pins serve as rods which measure the current between electrodes. The presence of water will allow electricity for flow much more easily than when the object is dry. The device measures the resistance in ohms then converts it into a readable percentage.


The main benefit of using a pin-type moisture meter is that you can get an accurate reading of the location of moisture. Using this tool is kind of like a trial-and-error process since you need to poke at random spots on the object or surface to get a reading. However, when it does detect moisture, then the pins are showing you exactly where it is.

Another advantage that a pin moisture meter has is the ability to gauge the moisture content in any oddly shaped object. Say you want to check how much moisture is in a bale of hay, something that every farmer needs to do to prevent spontaneous combustion. Just prick the pins in and wait for the device to give a percentage reading. You can stick the pins into anything to get a good reading, provided that they don’t snap during the process.


Speaking of snapping, this is one of the major drawbacks of a pin-type moisture meter. The pins aren’t made of titanium, so you need to be careful what you poke with them. This means certain hardwoods, especially when thoroughly dried, should be avoided since the pins will most likely bend or become dull at the points. Thankfully, if the pins break you don’t need to replace the entire tool. You can purchase additional pins from the manufacturer in case anything happens to the stock pins you own.

Another downside of pin moisture meters is they can produce inaccurate readings if the surface of the object you’re measuring is wet. When poking the piece, the pins will draw with them a few droplets of whatever liquid substance is on the surface, causing the pins the go out of whack.

What is a Pinless Moisture Meter?

A pinless moisture meter is exactly what you would imagine. It’s a device that measures the moisture content in wood, walls, concrete, and virtually any other object without having to poke pins into them.

The way a pinless moisture meter works is by using sending out electromagnetic waves that detect the presence of moisture within an area. Many pinless moisture meters can send out waves that reach up to depths of half an inch into the surface of an object.


Obviously, without pins, this device won’t leave any unsightly marks on your workpieces. This is especially handy when measuring the moisture content in walls or wooden floor tiles where even the slightest puncture can be a sight for sore eyes.

Something else that sets this tool apart from its pin-type counterpart is that it can be used on any surface or object regardless of density. Since this tool gives you a reading by touch alone, measuring the moisture content in hard oak or dried concrete is entirely possible to do.

One thing that professional contractors love about pinless moisture meters is that they are a time-saver. This tool allows you to gauge the moisture content in a wide area simply by placing the tool on the surface and waiting for a reading. This allows you to cover a wider area in less time compared to a pin-type moisture meter.


Like anything in life, a pinless moisture meter isn’t perfect. Like the pin moisture meter, a pinless model requires that you use it on a surface that’s bone-dry. Even a tiny drop of moisture on the surface can lead to a false reading.

Next, this tool is designed to be used on flat surfaces only. This means this tool won’t work on bales of hay or other curved objects since it’ll produce a wacky reading.

Another thing to consider is that this tool needs to be calibrated. The good news is that manufacturers also produce calibrating machines which help ensure that your pinless moisture meter is producing readings in accordance with the company’s standards. The bad news is that these machines are oftentimes sold separately.

Pin vs. Pinless Moisture Meter – Which to Get

So if you had to choose between these two types of moisture meters, which would we recommend? Unfortunately, there’s no one-tool-does-all option here. Whether to get a pin model or go pinless depends entirely on your line of work.

For instance, we mentioned earlier that a farmer measuring the moisture content in bales of hay would need a pin-type moisture reader since the pins are poked into objects of any shape. Another line of work that can benefit from a pin moisture reader is woodworking. Even though this tool pokes holes in the surface, these holes are easily concealable or can be sawed off.

As for pinless moisture meters, people who need to measure the moisture content of a large area in as little time as possible would definitely appreciate the quick readings that this tool provides. Those looking to do restoration or home renovation work would also benefit greatly from the no-poke way that this tool works.