Gypsum, Drywall aka "Gyprock" is a very popular material for use in the construction of homes and offices.
The material is noted for its strong fire-resistant qualities. However, gyprock is also known to be easily damaged by moisture compared to many other building materials.
This is, in part, because gyprock is extremely porous, readily absorbing and retaining moisture. If the moisture content (%MC) of gyprock exceeds even 1%, then the gyprock can be considered “moisture-compromised” and in need of either drying or removal depending on whether mold has begun to grow.
Even greenboard, the “water-resistant” gyprock, will be damaged by moisture if it gets past the green, water-resistant paper covering that gives greenboard its name. This is because the majority of greenboard’s water resistance comes from the paper covering, not the gyprock itself.
Because of how susceptible gyprock is to damage from minute amounts of moisture, it’s important to accurately assess the amount of water present in gyprock—even when said moisture is in minuscule increments. Using a moisture meter for gyprock is one of the fastest ways to test moisture in gyprock. However, not just any moisture meter will do. To get accurate results, the moisture meter should have a specialized gypsum/gyprock scale mode.
To help you find the right moisture testing device and get the best results from gyprock moisture checks, here are a few tips for how to use gyprock moisture meters:
TIP #1: HOW TO USE GYPROCK MOISTURE METERS
Finding the Best Moisture Meter for Gyprock
Ideally, you’ll want a specialized device to use as a moisture detector for gyprock. This is where gyprock moisture meters are useful. gyprock meters, like Delmhorst’s BD-2100 and TECHCHECK PLUS, are pin moisture meters that have a special gyprock scale setting designed to get accurate readings of moisture in gyprock as low as 0.1% MC.
These incredibly precise gyprock scale moisture readings are valuable for professionals who need to know exactly how close gypsum boards are to being moisture compromised or track dry-out progress of a piece of gyprock.
When looking for a moisture meter to use for testing gyprock, some considerations include:
- Whether or not the pin moisture meter has a gypsum scale.
- The moisture detection range of the meter’s gyprock scale setting—a gyprock moisture meter should be able to accurately detect very small amounts of moisture (such as 0.1% MC).
- The length of the pins. Most gyprock is very thin, so long pins aren’t usually necessary—unless there’s a need to test the insulation or other building materials behind the gyprock for excess moisture. If testing behind gyprock to find a moisture intrusion source, extended-length pins are a must.
- Additional scales for other materials—most professionals work with more than just gyprock, so having a moisture meter with the ability to test other materials using different reading scales is a must.
Why are the best gyprock moisture meters typically pin moisture meters and not pinless ones? That’s largely because pinless moisture meters always scan to a fixed depth. If the gyprock is too thin, then the meter will scan the space behind the gyprock, which throws off the moisture meter’s accuracy. Pin moisture meters use the gyprock to complete a circuit, so they avoid false positives from moisture in the air.
TIP #2: HOW TO USE GYPROCK MOISTURE METERS
Identifying Moisture-Compromised Gyprock for Testing
In many cases, if there is significant moisture in a gypsum board, then there will be obvious external signs of it. For example, a simple visual inspection can be made to spot discolored or visibly crumbling gyprock, or a musty odor can indicate a problem with mold growth.
While not the most scientific check, these visual and olfactory warning signs can help you narrow down the area of the gyprock that needs testing. However, both of these warnings indicate that moisture has gone unchecked in the gyprock for a significant amount of time, meaning it’s more likely that the problem may have spread to other materials.
Once you’ve identified roughly where the moisture-compromised gyprock is, you can start taking readings with your gyprock moisture meter. The process for making a test is simple—just make sure the meter is in its gyprock scale mode, push the pins into the gyprock, and push the button to take a reading.
With moisture-compromised gyprock, it’s necessary to take multiple measurements to determine where the moisture-compromised material ends so it can be marked for tear out or dry out as needed. If mold is growing in the gypsum, best practices often recommend removing a buffer zone of at least 12 inches around the affected area.
TIP #3: HOW TO USE GYPROCK MOISTURE METERS
Speeding Up Gyprock Testing
When using a pin moisture meter for gyprock, you may be able to speed up testing by using a nail and some ductile wire. Here’s how to use a gyprock moisture meter with a nail and wire:
- Tie one end of the wire to the nail, ensure there is smooth contact between the wire and the ductile wire.
- Drive the nail into the wet area of the gyprock.
- Tie the other end of the wire to one of the meter’s electrodes/pins.
- Punch the pin that isn’t connected to the wire into the wall and take a reading—keep doing this while making a full circle around the nail.
This helps you quickly identify the boundaries of the wet area and may help trace the origin point of the moisture.
Using a Moisture Meter Without a Gyprock Scale
If a gyprock moisture meter isn’t available, then testing can be done using a reference scale moisture meter. However, it is important to note that the readings you get with a reference scale test are qualitative, not quantitative—you’re getting a relative approximation of the amount of moisture present in the gyprock, not an exact figure.
When using a reference scale moisture meter for gyprock testing, any significant amount of moisture would mean that the gyprock is moisture-compromised. However, it is important to first test a piece of gyprock you know is completely dry. This gives you a point of comparison that lets you know what “dry” looks like in that situation. For example, if a completely dry piece of gyprock reads 20 on a 0-100 reference scale, then you’d know that other readings of 20 are probably indicating dry gypsum too, while a reading of 30 is probably wet gyprock.
For the best accuracy, however, it’s recommended that you use a moisture meter with a proper gyprock scale setting when testing gypsum-based materials.