How to Read a Tape Measure Correctly (Hand Tools DIY)

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A tape measure is a commonly used measuring instrument which is used to measure size and distance. It is also termed as a tapeline or a measuring tape. It is similar to a ruler. However, unlike other rulers, it is flexible in nature. Its flexibility allows us to measure curved and cornered surfaces, which is not the case with normal rulers.

A measuring tape can be used to measure numerous things. It can be used at home for general measuring purposes, construction sites, tailor shops, and so on. The material from which a measuring tape is manufactured can range from plastic, cloth, metal strip, etcetera. It is also transportable and very easy to use. It is also available in varying lengths as per our requirement.

An overview of tape measurement

Tape measurement

There are different standard measurements such as centimeter, meter, and inches, which are included on a tapeline or tape measure. The tape measure is divided into various parts, and each part is labeled specifically. Every part is considered for retrieving measurements with precision.

Here are the few commonly asked questions and their answers which will help you measure accurately:

What are the various parts of the measure?

We should understand the tape measurements accurately and the functionality of a tape measure. To be more precise with the measurements, we must know the various parts of the tape measure.

There are various parts named differently, which you will come to know about as you read further. Here are the four most important parts or components of a tape measure:

The hook

There is always a small metal strip attached to a tape measure at the end. This is basically known or called a hook or a tang. This hook helps to push against the object and retrieve measurements from the edge. Make sure to attach the hook properly at the edge of the object to be measured. Now, it becomes easier to get precise measurements.

The housing case

Usually, the tape measure is held in a container made up of plastic or glass fiber. This container keeps the long tape assembled and prevents damage. This container can basically assure the durability of the tape measure and protects it from moisture as well. The container or case is called the housing case.


The flexible portion of the measuring tape on which markings are done is called the blade. The blade is the base component of a tape measure. It has marks of different sizes representing different measurements. These are standard measurements such as millimeter, centimeter, and inches.

Thumb lock

The thumb lock is the most important part of a tape measure or the measuring tape. It helps to keep the tapeline stable while performing the measurements. The thumb lock is there to ensure that the tapeline doesn’t get dislocated at the time of measurement.

What are the lines on a tape?

Tape Measure

The first thing which you notice on a tape measure is different lines marked with numbers. Some of you might think, what exactly these lines are or what do they represent. Between the larger marks or lines, you must see sixteen smaller marks. This is the upper side, which is called imperial measurement.

Here, the larger lines, marked with numbers, represent measurement in inches. The smaller lines in the middle are meant for the accuracy of the measurement. Hence, we can usually measure up to 1/16th of an inch.

Now, on the lower side, you will see other smaller lines marked with numbers. Thus, the lower side is called metric measurement. So, these lines represent measurement in centimeters. And you will also notice ten smaller marks between each centimeter. These marks represent the measurement in millimeters.

Following are the measurements which you need to remember:

  • One foot equals twelve inches.
  • One meter equals a hundred centimeters.
  • One centimeter equals ten millimeters.
  • One inch equals 2.54 centimeters.
  • One meter equals 3.3 feet.

What is the easiest way to read a tape measure?

So here’s what you need to do if you are using a tape measure for the first time. For correct measurements, a tape measure is the foremost thing required. A correct tape measure has sixteen smaller marks between the gap of one inch. Hence, before using a tape, make sure you have the accurate one.

Now you will have to figure out which standard measurement you will need. It can be centimeter, meter, inches, feet, and etc. As mentioned earlier, the measurements written in smaller fonts represent centimeters. And each gap between a centimeter will have ten smaller marks, which stands for millimeter. Hence we say, one centimeter equals ten millimeters.

Likewise, all measurements are taken. Now suppose you need to measure the length of a wooden table in centimeters. To start with, stretch the tape and hook the metal slot to one edge of the table. Now read the last measurement, then, if you get ninety centimeters and five millimeters. That is ninety small marks on the metric side and five smaller marks from the middle. Then the measurement would be 90.5 centimeters. This is the easiest and most accurate way to measure using a measuring tape or tape measure.

More about the measure

More about the measure

We know now that using a measuring tape, we can find the length, width, and height of any particular object. The measuring tape was first invented by Chesterman in 1829. This design was further improved by Alvin J Fellows in the year 1868. The very first measuring tape was a flat metal with measurements marked on it.

One more interesting thing to know about the measuring tape is, it was first sold for seventeen dollars. It was sold in the United States of America for the very first time by Chesterman himself. There are also some other features on the tape measure which you should know about. You will see roman numerals on the tapeline, which refer to different classes of measurement.

The roman numerals represent the most accurate measurement and likewise. The tapeline also has the manufacturing year mentioned in it. It is indicated by a capital M. If you notice properly, CE is also written on the tape measure.

Here the CE represents the regulation of the European Union. Also, the small black diamonds which are marked on the tape measure represents or indicates standard spacing.

Summing up

A tape measure is a very handy device and provides accurate measurements once used correctly. Also, it is extremely easy to use it once you know the basics of measurement, which is already written in this article.

Another takeaway from this article is, it is also essential to know about the different parts of the tapeline. Knowing about the parts and their uses will make measurements a cakewalk for you. The best thing about using this tool is, it does not require a very professional approach.

We hope this article has helped you in getting a good idea about how to read the measurements correctly.

Bonus video: How to read a tape measure without looking like an idiot

Thank you for reading!

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