Using a measuring tape is not as easy as it may sound and unless you know how to correctly read its markings even the best effort can end up being off – and a measurement that is even slightly off will not work correctly.
How to read a tape measure
Even experienced carpenters may not be aware of how much information they can get from a retractable metal tape measure.
The tape is held by the plastic or metal housing which can itself serve as a fast measuring tool by having the base used to measure short distances (the housing length will be marked on the base).
The tang, or clip or hook, is a metal clip located at the end of the tape and indicates zero when the measuring tape is being read.
On the front of the housing is a button that ensures the tape is locked in place when pressed, stopping the tape from retracting or being pulled out any further.
The blade is actually the technical name for the tape itself and can be utilised by pulling the tang and then stretching it across the required measuring distance and then reading the symbols and numbers on its face.
On-centre wall stud spacing is indicated by red squares every sixteen inches.
On-centre joist spacing is indicated by the black diamonds that are situated every 19 3/16 inches which allow for the quick identification of joists without the use of a stud finder, which can be particularly useful when nailing floorboards.
How to use a tape measure
The tang should be pulled from the housing and hooked onto the item intended to be measured. The tape should be stretched across the item and then the lock pressed. Watch where the tape comes into contact with the end of the item as the nearest line on the former through to the end of the item represents the final measurement.
Once the measurement has been noted the tang should be unhooked, with the tape held by your hand to avoid recoil, and the lock pressed to release it. Let the tape slowly go back into its housing.
A tape measure’s first inch is actually 1/16 short, as the metal tang is precisely 1/16 of an inch. This allows for inside-edge measurements to remain accurate. For outside edges, the tang slides out 1/16 when hooked to an item to allow for accurate measurement. This feature is known as true zero.
When a measuring tape is read the item’s edge may lie between two lines on a blade, so to make sure to avoid cutting too short round up to the bigger measurement.
The housing should be used for interior measurements rather than bending the tape, which can result in an estimate rather than a precise measurement.
A measuring tape can also be used for more purposes than most people would probably surmise so it is important to have a full and comprehensive understanding of how to use a measuring tape.