How to Use a Tape Measure
What is a Tape Measure
A tape measure is a roll of metal tape with measurement markings on and is used for measuring. Usually the tape is yellow and rolled in a plastic case. Tape measures are commonly used in construction, architecture, building, home projects, crafts, and woodworking. They usually come in lengths from 6 feet to 35 feet long. Tape measures may have measurements in imperial and metric, imperial-only, or metric-only.
Reading a Tape Measure
Tape measure markings represent the fractions of an inch. Each large tick represents one inch (1″) and the ticks between represent the following fractions: ^{1}⁄_{16}“, ^{1}⁄_{8}“, ^{3}⁄_{16}“, ^{1}⁄_{4}“, ^{5}⁄_{16}“, ^{3}⁄_{8}“, ^{7}⁄_{16}“, ^{1}⁄_{2}“, ^{9}⁄_{16}“, ^{5}⁄_{8}“, ^{11}⁄_{16}“, ^{3}⁄_{4}“, ^{13}⁄_{16}“, ^{7}⁄_{8}“, and ^{15}⁄_{16}“. To read a tape measure find the number next to the large tick, and then find how many small ticks past it the measurement is. Add the number next to the large tick with the fraction to get the measurement. eg. if your 5 ticks past the number 4 tick then the measurement is 4 ^{5}⁄_{16}“.
What are the Tape Measure Markings
Tape Measure Inch Fractions
See the decimal equivalents for all of the fractions on a tape measure. Also see our inch fraction calculator for converting between decimal and inch fractions.
Inch Fraction Decimal and Millimeter Equivalents
Fraction | Decimal | Millimeters |
---|---|---|
^{1}⁄_{16}” | 0.0625 | 1.5875 |
^{1}⁄_{8}” | 0.125 | 3.175 |
^{3}⁄_{16}” | 0.1875 | 4.7625 |
^{1}⁄_{4}” | 0.25 | 6.35 |
^{5}⁄_{16}” | 0.3125 | 7.9375 |
^{3}⁄_{8}” | 0.375 | 9.525 |
^{7}⁄_{16}” | 0.4375 | 11.1125 |
^{1}⁄_{2}” | 0.5 | 12.7 |
^{9}⁄_{16}” | 0.5625 | 14.2875 |
^{5}⁄_{8}” | 0.625 | 15.875 |
^{11}⁄_{16}” | 0.6875 | 17.4625 |
^{3}⁄_{4}” | 0.75 | 19.05 |
^{13}⁄_{16}” | 0.8125 | 20.6375 |
^{7}⁄_{8}” | 0.875 | 22.225 |
^{15}⁄_{16}” | 0.9375 | 23.8125 |
1″ | 1 | 25.4 |
Tape Measure Tips and Tricks
Using the Sliding Hook
The hook on a tape measure usually slides just a little bit. This is by design to account for the thickness of the hook on the end. This allows the tape measure to be accurate when hooking onto a surface and also when butting the end up to a surface. Be mindful of tape measures that do not have a sliding hook as they will not be as accurate.
Using the Nail Grip on the Hook
The hook on a tape measure often has a small hole or groove in it. This is to allow hooking the hook on a nail or screw so it doesn’t slide of when making long measurements.
Using the Sides of the Hook
Some tape measures have large hooks that can be used to grip surfaces on the side of the hook. Using these can improve the gripping ability of the hook and improve the accuracy of measurements since the tape measure will not need to be twisted to read the markings.
Using the Tape Lock
Almost all tape measures have a lock that will keep the tape measure from recoiling. This is useful if you need to take tension off of the tape measure or if you need to set the tape measure down while it is extended.
Choosing a Tape Measure
There are many tape measures on the market and many serve very different purposes. When choosing a tape measure consider what you’ll be using it for, how long you need it to be, and how much you’d prefer to spend. See our review of the best tape measures to find which tape measure we found to be the best and for reviews on several leading tape measures on the market. Consider using a printable tape measure if you need one quickly or if you’re in a pinch.