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Building Materials with High Moisture Content Not Enclosed

    Scope Images
    Check the moisture content of wall materials to ensure materials are dry before enclosing walls with drywall and siding.

    Do not install drywall if framing and/or insulation materials are damp.

    • Inspect framing, sheathing, and insulation for dampness before installing drywall and other wall materials that would limit the framing and insulation’s ability to dry out. 
    • Test the framing with a moisture meter to ensure the lumber moisture content is ≤18%, as recommended by ENERGY STAR.
    • If damp, allow materials to air dry or dry with fans before enclosing the walls.
    • Follow the manufacturer’s specifications when installing wet-applied insulation products to ensure an adequate amount of drying time.

    See the Compliance Tab for related codes and standards requirements, and criteria to meet national programs such as DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home programENERGY STAR Single-Family New Homes, and Indoor airPLUS.



    Moisture that gets trapped inside a home during construction can lead to mold and mildew (and associated indoor air quality issues) as well as rotting and failure of structural elements. There are several ways moisture can get into buildings under construction. Lumber and materials can arrive at the site wet, they can get wet due to rain or snowfall during construction, or they can sit on wet ground unprotected. These materials must be allowed to dry out before the drywall is installed. The most common wet building material is dimensional lumber used for framing. This material usually arrives at the jobsite early and will be exposed to the elements longer than other building materials. See the guide No Visible Signs of Water Damage or Mold for ways to protect materials from water damage at the job site. There are also many construction materials, like cement, concrete, wet-installed insulation, and fluid-applied flashing, that are installed wet and must be allowed to cure and dry before the house is closed in. Builders should follow manufacturer's instructions for drying times and allow plenty of time in the construction schedule to accommodate those drying times. If interior walls are enclosed (e.g., with drywall) when framing materials and insulation are wet, the trapped moisture can lead to problems for the home. Therefore, it is essential to do the following before enclosing the interior walls:

    • Test the moisture content of building materials and ensure that lumber does not exceed 18% moisture content. 
    • Follow the manufacturer’s drying specifications for wet-applied insulation products.
    Wet-Applied Insulation that is Still Drying.
    Figure 1. Wet-Applied Insulation that is Still Drying. The dark spots on this wet-spray cellulose insulation indicate that it is not dry, and it must be allowed to dry completely before the wall is enclosed.


    Measuring Moisture Content of Framing Materials

    If framing materials appear wet, you must test them using a moisture meter. Moisture meters will give you a reliable benchmark to evaluate whether or not the materials can be safely installed in the home. 

    To test the moisture content of wood, you can use a resistance meter. A resistance meter measures the moisture by sending a small electrical charge through two probes inserted into the lumber. If the wood is wet, the charge will pass easily between the probes; dry wood offers greater resistance and less charge will pass (Curkeet 2011). Some moisture meters have additional features that allow the units to be calibrated for different kinds of wood, but usually at a higher cost. In general you can expect to spend between $500 and $650 on a moisture meter that will be suitable for residential construction (PNNL 2012). 

    How to Use a Moisture Meter (Curkeet 2011):

    1. Insert the probes at least 1/4 inch into the wood to get an accurate measurement.
    2. Insert the probes parallel with the grain of the wood.
    3. Do not try to test wood on the ends; this will not give an accurate measurement.
    4. Test in multiple locations along the lumber to get an accurate assessment. The meter only measures the moisture content between the probes. Although moisture can saturate an entire piece of lumber, it also can only impact a small section; therefore, you should test multiple areas of the wood to ensure the entire piece is dry enough to install and enclose.
    5. If the material has a high moisture content, allow it to dry until it is under the required moisture threshold. Use dehumidifiers, fans, and gentle heat to shorten the drying time and lessen the impact on the construction schedule (EPA 2013). 
    Meters for Measuring Moisture in Building Materials.
    Figure 2. Meters for Measuring Moisture in Building Materials. It is important not to enclose the interior of a wall (e.g., with drywall) if a high moisture content is detected in either the framing members or the insulation products.


    Follow Manufacturer’s Specifications When Drying Wet-Applied Insulation Products

    Some insulation products, such as fiberglass batts, are supposed to be dry at all times. However, other products, such as open cell and closed cell spray foam insulations, are wet applied. It is critical to ensure these wet-applied products are fully dried (and cured, if required) before enclosing them. Follow this overall guidance:

    1. Apply insulation per manufacturer’s directions.
    2. Allow insulation to dry and/or cure according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Although this will depend on the type of insulation used, in general allow as much access to airflow as possible for drying. If recommended, a fan can help speed drying times. However, this can impact any curing that may need to occur, so be sure to check with the manufacturer first.
    Ensuring Success

    It is critical to ensure the materials in the wall cavity are dry before being enclosed. When in doubt, use a moisture meter to determine exactly what percentage of moisture is in the material. Also, be sure that any wet-applied insulation is fully cured so you do not trap moisture in the wall assembly.


    No climate-specific information applies.

    Right and Wrong Images
    A moisture meter verifies that the moisture of the framing is below the recommended 18%.
    A moisture meter verifies that the moisture of the framing is below the recommended 18%.
    Wrong – this framing material has a moisture content above 18% as shown by the moisture meter
    Wrong – this framing material has a moisture content above 18% as shown by the moisture meter


    The Compliance tab contains both program and code information. Code language is excerpted and summarized below. For exact code language, refer to the applicable code, which may require purchase from the publisher. While we continually update our database, links may have changed since posting. Please contact our webmaster if you find broken links.


    ENERGY STAR Single-Family New Homes, Version 3/3.1 (Rev. 11)

    National Water Management System Builder Requirements

    4. Water-Managed Building Materials. 
    4.5 Framing members & insulation products having high moisture content not enclosed (e.g., with drywall).19

    Footnote 19) For wet-applied insulation, follow manufacturer’s drying recommendations. EPA recommends that lumber moisture content be ≤ 18%.

    Please see the ENERGY STAR Single-Family New Homes Implementation Timeline for the program version and revision currently applicable in your state.


    DOE Zero Energy Ready Home (Revision 07)

    Exhibit 1 Mandatory Requirements.
    Exhibit 1, Item 1) Certified under the ENERGY STAR Qualified Homes Program or the ENERGY STAR Multifamily New Construction Program.

    Existing Homes

    Follow the guidance provided in the Description tab regarding testing the moisture content of lumber and other construction materials before installing them in existing homes as part of a remodel or addition.

    For more information, see the U.S. Department of Energy’s Standard Work Specifications regarding wood moisture.


    More Info.

    Access to some references may require purchase from the publisher. While we continually update our database, links may have changed since posting. Please contact our webmaster if you find broken links.

    Case Studies
    References and Resources*
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    Publication Date
    Guide describing details that serve as a visual reference for each of the line items in the Water Management System Builder Checklist.
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
    Publication Date
    Website providing the technical specifications and related documents for home builders, subcontractors, architects, and other housing professionals interested in certifying a home to the EPA's Indoor airPLUS program requirements.
    *For non-dated media, such as websites, the date listed is the date accessed.
    Contributors to this Guide

    The following authors and organizations contributed to the content in this Guide.

    Building Science Measures
    Building Science-to-Sales Translator

    Water Managed Building Materials = Interior Moisture Control Materials

    Technical Description

    Wood, drywall, and other building materials are susceptible to moisture damage in areas exposed to water such as bathrooms, sinks, and even entry areas. Water-resistant materials should be used in these areas. Tile and stone are water resistant when installed with cement-based underlayment and moisture barriers. Carpet should not be used in damp areas. Fiberglass-based wall board is an option in potentially damp areas such as basements. 

    Interior Moisture Control Materials
    Sales Message

    Interior moisture control materials are appropriately selected for better protection at locations exposed to water. What this means to you is peace-of-mind knowing your home has a comprehensive set of measures that minimize the risk of water damage in your home. Wouldn’t you agree every home should have full water protection?

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