How to read a tape measure

One of the most basic components to any DIY or home improvement project is the reading of a tape measure.  To those who have been doing it for a while it is nothing more than an afterthought.

For those of us who are just getting our feet wet in the DIY and home improvement field, it can feel more getting in a time machine and going back to your 7th grade arithmetic class with that one beady eyed old teacher you just couldn’t stand!

The ability to read a tape measure is more important than any tool you may have in your toolbox.  What good is that hammer or saw if you can’t cut something to the length that is needed or hammer that nail in right where you need it!

I am going to go over a few important tips and tricks to reading a tape measure that should enable YOU with the basic ability to complete almost any minor DIY or home improvement project there is in front of you.

    • Understand what your labeled units are.  Most tape measures that the common homeowner will use (they are usually retractable with yellow measuring tape.)
    • The tape is usually broken down into different units.  The largest being feet, with each foot broken down into 12 inches.
    • Each inch is broken down into 1/16’s.  So that means that there are 16 tiny little tick marks between each inch.  
    • If you look at the picture above you will notice the 16 tick marks between the 3 inch and 4 inch lines on the tape measure.
    • The 1/16 is the smallest fraction on most tape measures.  The next being ⅛ and on down the line to ¼, ½, and the last being a “whole” inch.
    • This may seem daunting but just realize that two 1/16’s=one ⅛.  So that would mean that two ⅛’s=one 1/4.  So that would mean that 4 1/16’s=one ¼.
    • Reading a tape measure is just reading simple fractions.  Go to this math blog if you need to brush up on your use of math with fractions (and don’t feel ashamed!  A lot of us are still not good with fractions!  You are not alone!)


So hopefully this small blog entry will help you out next time you are put on the spot and asked to read a measuring tape.  You have to look at it from the point of view that it isn’t the tape you really have to study, but math and fractions that you need to get a grasp of.  With just a little bit of time and practice you will be on your way to reading a tape measure in no time!

About Kiah

I received my Geography and GIS (Geographic Information Science) degrees from Appalachian State University in the Mountains of North Carolina (Go Mountaineers!!) I own and run my own GIS Mapping and Consulting company called MAPS of Carolina LLC (Mapping and Planning Services of Carolina) I also work as the head of marketing and advertising as well as SEO and social media for an online E-Commerce company based out of Harnett County, North Carolina. The company,, makes really great DIY garage storage shelving kits that are affordable and easy to install. Our kits can provide a home owner with tons of storage that they never knew that they had. I enjoy being outdoors and love to go hiking, fishing and camping. I am a travel nut and have been to Central and South America as well as all over the United States (excluding New England, parts of the midwest, and Alaska and Hawaii) I have a 7 year old female black Lab who is smarter than some humans I know. I love animals and love living in and having been raised in a rural area such as Harnett County, North Carolina. People definitely move at a slower pace around here and it is really a beautiful part of the country! Nothing like spending a day on the Cape Fear canoeing and fishing with a good buddy!
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