The importance of moisture readings when drying wood floors!

Posted by Matt Buchanan


One of the most common queries that brings people to our site is seeking help for how to dry hardwood floors.  In this blog post, we want to break down the importance of moisture readings when it comes to drying out hardwood floors that have sustained water damage.

But before we do, we want to stress this really isn’t a job for DIYers.  One, you don’t have the right equipment…trust us.  You can’t just lay down air movers and pass warm air over wood floors and expect them to dry if moisture has been absorbed into the wood at the molecular level.  Two, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re likely to cause more damage than you’ve fixed.

So, with that said, there’s a few percentages that are important to understand when it comes to drying out water damaged wood floors:







These are all moisture readings which give you insight into the amount of moisture present in your floors.  Moisture probes or sensors are used by professionals throughout the drying process and serve as a guide to let them know how they’re doing getting the moisture out.  So, what do they mean?


27-29% – Fiber saturation


If your wood floors show a reading with moisture content levels as high or higher than this, it means you’re in trouble.  But you probably already knew you were in trouble, so let’s move on.


20% – Dry rot & mold threshold


20% marks the moisture level above which promotes dry rot growth and below which inhibits mold growth.  If you’re here, it’s better than being at a higher number, but you’re nowhere near done.


16% – Mold inhibited


If you’re below 16% moisture content, congrats!  That means you’re at a level low enough to at least stop mold from growing…but you’re not done!


10% – Average moisture content for wood floors nationwide


All wood types “hold” different levels of moisture, and depending on where you live in the country those levels will differ.  That being said, 10% is the average moisture content for all wood types nationwide and is the goal you’re shooting for in terms of acceptable level of moisture in your floors!


2-4% – Acceptable variance between top layer & subfloor


While it’s important to extract moisture and treat the top level of your wood floors, it’s all for naught if you don’t do the same for the sub-floor.   2-4% represents the acceptable level of variance between the top level of your wood floors and the subfloors.  In other words, if you’ve reach a level of 9% moisture content for your top layer but show a reading of 14% for the subfloor you need to continue drying out the subfloor without continuing to dry the top layer!


1% – Acceptable variance across affected area


Basically this means that you want to take readings at random spots of the affected area and don’t want them to vary by more than 1 degree.  In other words, the goal is an even dry!


The challenge with drying wood floors is many, but it breaks down to:

1) Making sure you get to acceptable levels of moisture for both the top layer and the sub-floor

2) You don’t over dry and cause the planks to separate.  At that point, there is no reverse button.  You’ve permanently damaged your floors and they’ll need to be pulled up and replaced!


We have emergency crews available nationwide!

If you’ve experienced a water loss, please call now for a free quote & fast response anywhere in the United States!



About Matt Buchanan

I grew up in Irving, TX and left for Nashville, TN for college. After college I lived in Washington, DC and then in Cairo, Egypt. After coming back to the states, I spent a couple of years back in Dallas before moving with my wife to Denver!
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