How To Read A Tape Measure

Any activity that deals with a layout requires knowing how to read a tape measure. Measuring what you are doing is an important step. Instead of using a ruler or yard stick, and moving them frequently to measure longer distances, a tape measure is the preferred tool. There are many types of tape measures, some of the longer variety are fiberglass, others are made from steel. The application will determine what kind you are using, and all are read in a similar fashion.

  1. Take the tape measure in one hand and pull the tape out. Some tapes have a fold out hook, others have an "L tab" to hold on to corners. Most also have a hole in the tape that can fit over a small nail.
  2. While keeping the start of the tape at the location you want to start the measurement, move the tape measure to the end of the measurement. You may need a friend to hold the starting end of the tape.
  3. Read the number at the tape measure. It's best to keep the tape as straight as possible to avoid introducing measurement errors. You can read in feet and inches on one side of the tape or metric on the other side.

For extreme precision work, there are formulas to correct for expansion of tape measures with temperature change. For example, steel tapes can expand or contract as the temperature fluctuates. However, over a very short distance this error isn't something to worry about.

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