Let’s Learn How To Read A Tape Measure

You're reading Let’s Learn How To Read A Tape Measure, posted on Thursday, May 27th, 2010 at 12:03 am in Uncategorized, on BrainBloggers at the Science blog. More after the jump.

A measuring tape is a instrument used to take the dimensions of an object or area. Tape measures come in different sizes and lengths ranging from smaller sizes of three feet or below to over one hundred feet in length. Regardless of the length of the tape measure being used you will typically find them in two sorts that is METRIC or IMPERIAL. The selection is yours to make for either one but probably the selection will be influenced by what you are measuring or by the country you live in.

How To Read A Tape Measure

Required Tool

Tape Measure

Required Material

Area or surface to be measured


Usage just requires you to pull out the tape and measure what you want and then release for it to auto-retract or roll it back up by hand based on which variety you are using. If it is an imperial or metric tape measure there is no trouble reading the primary numbers, but there may be some problems reading the notches used for measurements between the numbered measurements. To differentiate between the two, imperial is measured in inches and feet while metric is measured in millimeters and centimeters.

Imperial tape measures are in sequence from one inch to the maximum length of the tape with notches in between each number meaning one-sixteenth of an inch. An easy way to read the notches is to think about the measurements out of sixteen at all times and then divide the number by two. Thus counting the notches at the start of the tape measure we have zero, then one-sixteenth of an inch, then two-sixteenth and so on until you reach sixteen-sixteenth, where you would either continually divide by two until you have one remaining. Or divide the upper sixteen by the bottom as they are multiples of two.

As such reading all the notches from zero to one inch you would have 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, 15/16, and 1. Every 12 inches you go up on an imperial tape measure you will probably see the quantity of feet including the quantity of inches that you have measured. Since this has been typically regulated but might not be there in all brands of tape measures.

The metric tape measure is a bit easier to read than the imperial tape measure as the metric system is made to have all numbers divisible by 10. A comparison would be that the imperial uses inches and segments of an inch and feet; sections of an inch are divided into sixteen, and then twelve inches equal one foot.

With metric 10 millimeters total one centimeter, and then 100 centimeters make a meter; all numbers are divisible by 10 and the notches on a metric tape measure between 0 and 10 instead of 16. This means you can quickly check for the measurement between zero and one centimeter by counting 0.1, 0.2, 0.3 etc until 0.9 and ultimately 1.0 centimeters. Any number above would go on 1.1, 1.2 etc until 2.0 centimeters, and the tendency would continue along the complete length of the tape measure.


The imperial and metric standards are completely different, and while in some cases you may be able to convert between the two it is extremely inadvisable. Persons in the auto-mechanics field may inform you that you may be able to find an imperial measurement that matches a metric measurement and vice-versa. But they will also say to you that the tools used may not match properly because of juxtaposing the two standards. For best outcomes you ought to stick to one standard and if you are following a guide in a book or online use the outlined measurements and standard.

Here you can find more information on how to read a tape measure.