How To Use A Tape Measure Properly? The Best Ways To Learn!

All homeowners regardless of their degree of competence, have measuring tapes in their toolkits. Most of them use them to measure the length of rugs needed for rooms and hang paintings. But are you utilizing them to their maximum potential?

Here are some fundamentals on how to use a tape measure, as well as some tips and tactics you probably didn’t know.

The Basics Of Using A Measuring Tape

The tape measure lengths range from six inches to forty inches and beyond. The most typical interior projects that require shorter tape lengths are hanging paintings and measuring cabinets.

Some large-scale work, such as framing, patios, and outdoor projects, is best done using longer tapes, such as those of 25 inches and longer.

Let’s first define the fundamental components of tape measures. Ready? So here we go:


  • The tape is the coiled, yellow (or occasionally white) ruler that is marked with all the numerical measures. 
  • The broader the tape, the more powerful it is. In comparison to a short, narrow tape, a broad tape may be stretched farther without collapsing and will endure longer.
  • Additionally, tapes are curled to ensure that they maintain their shape even when stretched out to enormous lengths. To get an accurate measurement, always flip your measuring tape such that the edge rests level on the surface.

Push Button Stop

  • Your tape is attached to a flat spring wrapped around a post within the housing. 
  • This spring is responsible for the tape recoiling once it has been stretched. 
  • Once your tape is stretched, hold it in place by pressing the lock button.

Housing and Belt Clip

  • The “housing” is the casing that holds the tape. It is made of plastic or metal and prevents the coiled tape from stretching. 
  • A belt clip is nearly often located on the rear portion of the housing for convenient access when working on a project.

Hooked End Tab

  • Its primary purpose is to hook steadily onto the tip of whatever you are measuring.
  • It also prevents the tape from disbanding within the housing as it recoils.

How To Read A Tape Measure?

One might feel a little disoriented when looking at a tape measure: There are many small lines. 

  • The most important thing to remember is that the measuring unit’s size and the line’s width, or hash mark, coincide. 
  • The larger the unit of measurement, the longer the line. Smaller increments correspond to shorter hash marks.
reading a tape measure

Tape Measure Marks

1′′: Inches are the most easily read measurement on a tape measure. The line runs the whole length of the tape, and each inch is announced by a large, bold number, making it easy to count as well as keep track of your measurements.

After then, each additional unit of measurement is almost nearly cut in half:

1/2′′: One inch is divided into two half inches. Between the full-inch lines, the half-inch marker is the next longest line.

1/4′′: One inch is divided into four quarters. Quarter-inch marks are somewhat shorter than half-inch markings. A half-inch is equal to two-quarters of an inch.

1/8′′: There are eight-eighths of an inch in one inch. The eighth-inch markings rank second in terms of length. One-quarter is equal to two-eighth inches.

1/16′′: One inch is divided into sixteenths of an inch. The smallest line on the ruler is this one. One-eighth is equivalent to two sixteenth marks.

12′′ or 1 Foot: You will see a black arrow at every 12 inches to indicate that you have reached the one-foot, two-foot, three-foot, and so on marking the full length of the tape. The addition of all those discrete inches is made simpler by these useful markers.

How To Use A Tape Measure Properly?

Start by positioning the end tab at the first end of the object or area you wish to measure, and then extend the tape until you reach the last point. After that, obtain a measurement reading. To calculate the length, add the increments together. 

use a tape measure properly

Here’s what else you need to know about how to use a tape measure –

1. The Loose Hook Means Something

  • The hook on a tape measure is the most misunderstood element. Many beginners mistake this for a damaged tape measure, even though a fully functioning hook needs to be loose to glide back and forth.
  • The thickness of the hook itself determines how far it moves. The hook’s sliding motion enables the tape to precisely measure both the inner and outer measurements.
  • A tape measure shortens the first inch by 1/16 “to consider the hook’s thickness. When measuring an interior measurement, such as the width of a doorway, the hook is pushed back against the blade. The hook’s thickness is added to compensate for the missing 1/16 inch”.
  • The hook moves out 1/16″ to make up for the lost 1/16″ when measuring an exterior measurement, such as the length of a board.

2. Tape Measure For Calculating Outside Dimensions 

Fasten the Tape

  • When you get the tape extended to the desired length, grab the hook and pull it out of the housing.
  • Firmly secure the hook to the object’s edge. Keep your tape taut and straight.
  • When measuring, make an effort to hold the tape as straight as you can. 
  • You can also use an anchor point by driving a fastener into the exterior edge of the object and then, secure the fastener by wrapping the hook’s hole around it.

Lay the tape Flat

You won’t obtain an accurate reading if the tape is not as flat as possible. To ensure that the edge of the tape rests level on the surface, you might need to twist it or slightly push it.

Lock the tape

You may now lock your tape measure if it has one. Otherwise, firmly grip the tape with your hand.

Measure and make a mark

If you are preparing for a project, examine the tape measure and trace the surface as closely as you can to the tape.

If you’re marking the surface, draw a “V” with a pencil by placing the bottom point on the measurement. A “V” is more precise than a single line.

Unfasten the Lock

When withdrawing a tape measure, use caution. If you slam the tape or hook back into the housing too rapidly, it may be destroyed. 

Your hand may potentially get sliced by the tape’s edges, which would hurt like a paper cut to the worst degree you’ve ever experienced!

Slowly disengage the lock to ensure that the measuring tape can safely coil into the housing without accidentally snapping back.

3. Tape Measure For Calculating Inside Dimensions

  • It might feel tempting to extend the tape a bit more than required so that you can bend it to fit the inner dimensions of the object you are measuring.
  • However, it will not give you an accurate reading and will damage the tape as well.
  • Rather, place the housing against the object’s side, remove the hook and hold it against the other side.
  • On the casing of a measuring tape, the length of the housing is indicated. This method provides a precise reading while also protecting the tape from harm.

Cut an inch

You may even “burn an inch” for additional precision. Instead of starting your measurement at the hook, start at the 1-inch mark. Just remember to deduct 1 inch from your reading.

If You Know How To Read A Tape Measure, Using One Is Pretty Easy

  1. Snag the hook or insert it into any edge of the object to be measured.
  2. The tape should be moved over your project until it reaches the required length or measurement. While doing this, try to maintain the tape as straight as possible.
  3. Use the thumb catch to keep the tape from pulling back.
  4. Decide on the value of your measurement and record it.
  5. When measuring, the object’s edge can fall inside two of the blade’s lines. And then round up to the bigger measurement to prevent cutting too short.
  6. The locking feature of a tape measure is excellent for swiftly determining whether something will fit perfectly in a certain location or for preserving the established value for subsequent measurements.

Additional Tape Measure Tips And Tricks

Tape Measure Tips And Tricks
  1. When measuring, make sure the tape is as straight as you can make it. You won’t obtain an accurate reading if it sags.
  2. Use a “v” (rather than a single line) to indicate your measurement if you want to be precise, placing the bottom point squarely on your measurement.
  3. When you’re through with the tape measure, try not to smash it back into the housing at full speed. As the tape recoils, it’s a good practice to lay your finger below the tape on the housing to act as a cushion between the tab and the housing. Better still, reel it in carefully to avoid injuring your finger.

How To Purchase A Tape Measure?

There are several types of tape measures, each with its unique set of features. When looking for a measuring tape, take into account the items you need to measure, the distance you need to measure, and your spending limit.

  1. A wider tape is typically stronger and longer lasting than a narrower one.
  2. Is it simple to read the measurements?
  3. Do you require a measuring tape with inches and centimeters?
  4. Would you like a cassette with fraction labels?
  5. What does it feel like in your hand? Is it easy to operate? The neighborhood home improvement business will let you test out tape measurements.
  6. Which hand do you prefer using while taking measurements—your right or left? The numbers on the tape measures that are sold in many stores can only be read when you use your right hand; otherwise, they are upside down. A left-handed tape measure is available for purchase online if you prefer to use it that way.

FAQs On Using A Tape Measure

1. What do the lines mean on a tape measure?

In a standard tape measure, you can see 16 little lines within each inch increment. These lines can be of various sizes. With decreasing size of the lines, the unit of measurement also decreases. For example, The inch marks on the tape measure are the largest unit while the 1/16th of an inch represents the smallest unit.

2. Do you start at 1 or 0 on a tape measure?

You can start at 1 however keep in mind to subtract 1 from the final reading. 

3. What is L * W * H?

L*W*H stands for Length*Width*Height. Here, height is basically the vertical length of the block you are measuring. 

Using Tape Measure Like A Pro

Any project involving woodworking, carpentry, or home renovation requires the use of a tape measure. Now that you’ve learned how to use a measuring tape, it’s time to put your new knowledge to use.

Take out your tape measure and begin your next project! You’ll soon be measuring expertly and consistently producing accurate results.

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