How to Choose a Tape Measure

The ability to extend the blade more than 10 feet without support is one indication of a good quality tape measure.

A good tape measure is one of the first tools that any handy person should buy because it’s so useful for many jobs. Whether you’re hanging a picture, installing a shelf, measuring for some new flooring or measuring how your kids are growing, a tape measure is a must-have piece of DIY gear. Here are the three most important tips to keep in mind as you choose and use a tape measure:

Tip#1: Understand How Tape Measures Work

This seems simple enough, but there are tricks to the tape measure trade. First, never let the retractable end of the tape slam into the tape case full force. Always ease the tape back into the case with your hands by restricting the spring pressure as the tape slides inwards. Your tape will last longer and stay more accurate if you eliminate all slamming.

Second, all tapes have a locking button that anchors the tape blade where you want it. Learn to use it. It’s handy. Slide the locking button every time you need to hold the tape blade where it is, resisting the internal springs that normally pull the blade inwards. Extending and locking the blade is the easiest and most accurate way to measure internal dimensions between two surfaces.

Tip#2: Buy the Right Size Tape Measure

Some people find that a 16-foot tape measure is ideal for a variety of jobs, but don’t just buy this size without thinking. If you never measure things more than, say, 10 feet long, then a 12-foot pocket model will be perfect for you. The shorter the length of the blade on a tape measure, the smaller the case and the easier it is to keep in your pocket. Self-retracting tape measures go up to 35 feet long. Specialty tape measures with a crank handle and cloth-type tape “blade” can go up to 100 feet long and are favoured by home builders and serious DIYers.

Tip#3: Buy the Right Quality of Tape Measure

This tape measure was part of a torture test involving a half-ton truck. Watch the video above to see how the test turned out.

There’s a big difference in the quality of cheap tape measures compared with more costly, name brand options. And as with so many tools, paying more now for a good tape means money saved later because of longer tool life. And when you buy, choose a tape with either Imperial graduations or metric, not both. Single-system tapes are easier to read because the blades aren’t as crowded with numbers, and you’ll never have to worry about accidentally reading centimeters when you should be reading inches. Global providers such as RS Components offer a large selection of tape measures and distance measuring tools around the world online.

Still unsure about what tape measure to buy? Send me an email and I can help.

Posted on September 5th, 2019

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