How to Use a Tape Measure

Learn how to read a tape measure so you can quickly conquer your DIY projects


Learning the proper way to read a tape measure is a crucial skill for anyone taking on DIY projects. This video will teach you the basics of using tape measures as well as a few tricks you may be surprised to learn.

SHOP ALL TAPE MEASURES

Anatomy of a Tape Measure

Tape Measure Anatomy
  • Thumb lock – press the thumb lock down to hold the tape measure at the length it’s extended and prevent it from retracting into the case 
  • Hook slot – a hole at the end of the tape that allows you to latch onto an anchor point 
  • Tape – the ruler part of the tape measure that identifies measurements 
  • Belt clip – allows you to hook your tape measure conveniently onto a belt, tool belt or pocket 
  • Case length – the square-shaped case around the tape, usually around three inches in length

How to Read a Tape Measure

  • The typical length between studs in a wall is 16 inches. This is marked in red on most tape measures. 
  • When measuring a length that backs you into a corner, add the length of the tape measure case to the tape measure’s reading – most tape measures have a 3-inch case. 
  • An anchor point is a screw or nail that allows you to anchor the end of your tape measure. 
  • Draw a perfect circle by anchoring the tape measure’s hook slot onto an anchor nail or screw, engaging the thumb lock, and holding a pencil down flush with your tape measure as you pull it in a circle around the anchor point.

Next Steps

  • Now that you know how to use a tape measure, let’s tackle some projects: