How to Read a Tape Measure? Learn 10 Amazing Things

How often have you found yourself in a situation where you need to measure an object and there is no tape measure available? It’s frustrating when you realize that the only way to get by without one is to guess, which can easily lead to errors. If this has happened more than once, then read on!

In this blog post we’ll cover how to read a tape measure as well as some other useful tips about using tape measures that will help make your construction or DIY experience more enjoyable.

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Table of Contents

  • What Is a Tape Measure?
  • Tape Measure Basics
  • How to Read a Tape Measure?
    • 1. How to Read a Metric Tape Measure?
    • 2. How to Read an Imperial Tape Measure?
  • Why Should You Always Use The Metric System When Measuring?
  • How to Make Sure That What you’re Measuring Is Accurate?
  • 10 Amazing Things You Don’t Know about Measuring Tape
  • Tips and Tricks for Using a Tape Measure

What Is a Tape Measure?

A tape measure is a simple tool used to gauge the distance from one point to another. There are many different types of tape measures, each with its advantages. A metal or flat-tape measure can be used for more precise measuring and usually has the range listed on the side. This type is often denoted as “F” for feet and ‘I’ for inches so that an 8-foot long metal tape would read “8 Ft.” There are also retractable ones that do not have a range listed on them because they’re measured in either centimeters or millimeters (whichever you prefer). The most common variety is cable style; these come in both lengths (usually 100 or 150 meters) and widths (usually 16mm or 25mm).

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Tape Measure Basics

A tape measure is a piece of equipment used to determine an object’s linear length, height, or circumference. It consists of a long strip which is rolled according to the desired measurements, historically made from fabric and now usually plastic; metal was formerly also used.

Tape measures that are 25′ or longer are called surveyors’ tape measures. Measuring tapes can be classified broadly as either “flat” or “curved.” The flat variety has only one rigid edge and measures the same width up to its blade edge. Curved measuring tapes have two rigid edges that allow them gauging from a point inside or outside of either edge.

The first official standardized measuring tape was issued in France by King Louis XIII on June 18, 1812.

How to Read a Tape Measure?

A person needs to know how to read the measurements on their tape measure. There are two types: Metric and Imperial tape measure, but they’re both very easy!

To use metric measurement, immediately convert it into standard imperial units with one simple step- divide by 10. If your meter is 4 meters long, that equals 40 feet or 12 yards/10′. With an imperial unit, you keep all of the same numbers in place; just replace “meters” with “yards.” For example, if my yardstick measures 3 inches wide, I can see right away from looking at this number alone that there will be 30 inches per foot (3 x 1 = 3). The following sentence shows us how we measure either type of tape

1. How to Read a Metric Tape Measure?

The metric tape measure should have a linear scale printed on which most of the measurements are in millimeters. The inch (or centimeter) fractions of inches and centimeters up to 12 inches or 18 cm next to the millimeter measurements give you other easy conversion values and are found on one side of the blade. If not, they can be easily extrapolated from the endpoints with a calculator. However, you also need knowledge about how to read that scale properly, so you know if it is accurate or not suitable? To read it, first find out where the measuring point is by looking at where one side’s numbers change. This could mean at each whole centimeter or every half-inch, depending on your tape measure.

2. How to Read an Imperial Tape Measure?

Many people have no idea what the numbers on an imperial tape measure mean. But if you are rough carpentry or gardening, you must know.

The meters and centimeters in red on the left side of the length markings are for less precise measurements (say for general installation projects). The meters and centimeters in blue at the right are more precise. There’s also a green dot indicating where to place your thumb when getting an accurate measurement over uneven ground or into tight spaces.

With these guidelines, anybody can take measurements with precision! In other words, different colors represent different scales for measuring length, which is not always obvious from looking at just the color of the marks; there is a green line that indicates where to place

Why Should You Always Use The Metric System When Measuring?

The metric system is international, has unending decimal subdivisions and a unified way of representing quantities. So even if you’re in the US and use the imperial system, your reading will be more likely an approximation as opposed to a pure headcount.

In addition, imperial measurements can only express values for smaller objects like screws, nails, bolts, etc., which can confuse when talking about carpentry.

One advantage that imperial units have over metric units is that they are designed to work well with human hands instead of “rigid” digital instruments or machinery where precise readings are required.

How to Make Sure That What you’re Measuring Is Accurate?

What makes a measurement accuracy is how close it is to the true value or the so-called actual value, and there are three ways to ensure that a particular measurement has that kind of accuracy:

  • Plan your experiment so that your measurements have an adequate degree of statistical precision,
  • Standardize your measuring instruments over time and conditions,
  • Use good judgment when interpreting data.

For a measurement to have any chance of being accurate, there should be consistency between those points that pertain to the measurement. So you can’t just measure one thing and report it as fact; you have to establish a set of standards, whether they be the National Institute of Standards or some other standardization body, to ensure that the data which is returned has been processed appropriately for methods used and equipment employed.

10 Amazing Things You Don’t Know about Measuring Tape

A measuring tape is one of the most valuable tools in your DIY arsenal. It’s also a lot more versatile than you might realize! The following are ten facts that we bet you didn’t know about this indispensable tool:


It’s no secret that tape measures are a handy tool to use when working with building materials, but did you know the curvature of your blade helps keep it rigid and easier for reading? In addition, the curve allows the blade to “stand out” while measuring, which is helpful in cases where there aren’t any flat surfaces.

Black Numbers

A color change or graphical identifier every 12″ on measuring tape is invaluable in identifying the right spot for studs. Stud spacing can be 16″, 24″, and even 36″. When you use a shorter length, fewer studs are needed to hold up your plywood sheet because of these “extra supports.”

Red Numbers

Your tape measure will come in handy when you are building a house. It has lots of red numbers to help you get the spacing just right! With 16-inch intervals, six supports can fit into an 8-foot space, which is perfect for installing sheets of plywood without cutting them down.

Black Diamonds

The black diamonds on the tape are known as stud or joist marks. You’ll often see them at 16″ intervals and 19.2″ intervals, which is because each mark corresponds to one of these measurements: The center of a typical board measures 8ft, so when boards are nailed together for an American building, it’s common practice to use 12′ lengths (8 ft + 4 inches). That way, two people can work with just about any equipment they need to cut pieces that fit into this specific size without wasting materials while doing other jobs such as nailing boards up onto walls where nails have already been hammered in place.

Nail Grab

Tape Measure Nail Grab will be the thing that saves you if your partner is unavailable to hold one end of a measuring tape. If, for some reason, they are not there or unable to do so, simply insert and hammer in a nail on either side (or any other type of fastener) at the designated distance from each other and then hook onto it with Tape Measure Nail grab!

Top Hook

The reason there is an odd-looking hook on the end of your tape measure has to do with how it can be hooked onto anything in any direction. The shape provides you more opportunities than a regular square or circular shaped hook would, which means you’ll have an easier time getting those tough measurements!

Scribing Tool

Did you know the bottom of a measuring tape’s end hook is sometimes serrated? This makes it easier if there are no marking tools around to use. All you have to do for this trick is run your thumb along either side of the serration to make a mark on whatever you’re measuring.

Adjustable End

When measuring an inside area, the thickness of metal or other materials in your calculations should be considered. This is because these metals will shift to fill any gaps and give a more accurate measurement. Always make sure you pull or push the tape so that it’s taut when taking measurements for this reason as well- if not done correctly, your gauge may measure incorrectly due to slack around its edges.

Magnetic End

Tape measures are one of the most common tools in a workshop. They’re used to measure everything from walls and doorways to studs and rafters! But with all that measuring going on, it can get complicated for workers who need their hands free. Thankfully, modern tape measures have come equipped with a rare earth magnet at the end, which is great because now they don’t need both hands anymore!

Tape Housing

Who knew your tape measure had secret measurements on the back? The width of a space you’re measuring is printed right there! So what does this mean for your next project? If it’s an inside job, take care to include that measurement when calculating how long something needs to be. This will save you time and hassle, so jump in today with confidence knowing everything can fit just like it’s supposed to.

Tips and Tricks for Using a Tape Measure

If you are a beginning DIYer, chances are the only thing that comes to mind when thinking about measuring is how big the space might be. That’s where tapes come in handy! Here are some tips and tricks for using tape measures so your measurements will always be accurate:

Measure double fold:

To measure the width of the fabric, roll the fabric and tape it at each end. This method will give you an accurate measurement that includes the fullness of the folded cloth. Add extra for ample folds or gathers.


When measuring, let your thumb stand just above the top edge of your tape measure at all times to guard against over-measuring. The tape should be pulled snugly across any crease on your body (such as under your arm) and then released; otherwise, it will pull in slightly as you take up the slack with your thumb. Most people have 1/2 inch on either side of their actual size, so keep this in mind when ordering clothes online as well!

Study the tape before using:

Measure a short, straight line twice to ensure the first measurement was accurate and you aren’t pulling too much. Then measure a longer stretch of fabric or several curves (for example, over your shoulder) without stopping in the middle. Finally, measure a long piece of cloth with lengthwise stripes or slanting stripes by pulling one end only tautly as you stretch across to the other side with each end held taut equally.

Make it easier to read small measurements:

Pin a thread tail on either side at 1/2-inch intervals along the center crease of your tape measure. This will give you fractional increments if needed for measuring nudie necklines and cuffs and ¼-inch increments for topstitching.

Measure multiple layers:

To measure the length of several layers, place a pin perpendicular to the tape on each layer and pull the pin out when you reach it from the other side of the cloth. This will stop your tape from pulling in. If you measure a bulky fabric in this way, make sure to first subtract 1/2 inch per every 2 inches of thickness for correct readings-for example, if you count upholstery-weight velvet that’s 4 inches thick, You should add 3 inches (two 2-inch layers and one 2 inches thick fold) to get the proper measurement.

Recording measurements:

Use a pencil while taking measurements to be erased or rubbed off easily before using pins to mark the pattern on the fabric.

Measure inseams and lengths:

When measuring inside leg seams and armholes, pin a thread tail at 1/2-inch intervals on either side of the tape so you can have even ¼-inch increments when notching patterns or stitching.

Check your measurements:

After you’ve finished measuring, check the two numbers against each other to make sure they match up. If one is off from the other, that’s an indication that you either pulled too much or not enough when taking a measurement (likely because of creases or folds in fabric) and should recheck before cutting patterns out. Keep in mind how tightly or loosely things are made when ordering clothes online as well!

When measuring long pieces

Take more than one reading if possible while pulling tautly with both hands; then average them together for a more accurate result. For example, it may be better to measure the inside leg of pants with ¼-inch seam allowances three times [pulling tautly between each one] than to measure once and hope you didn’t encounter a crease or fold in the fabric.

To save yourself time, later on, if your measurements are close together, use pins at 1/2-inch intervals along with the tape for even ¼-inch seam allowances.

Press open pleats gather and folds:

When measuring these items used in clothing construction such as skirts, trousers, etc., pull one end tight across itself and tighten both ends evenly while gently easing the folds around corners. This will help avoid pulling extra instead of taking actual measurements!

Save time when you’re not tailoring: Use the tailor’s trick of pinning thread tails with an “X” pattern instead of making indentations.

Final Words

When it comes to the construction industry, many different types of measurements need to be taken. To ensure accuracy, you’ll want to read your tape measure correctly every time. The article provides a complete guide on correctly reading a tape measure, so you’re never left guessing again when taking these critical measurements in the future!

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