How To Read A Tape Measure For Dummies

If you’re new to the world of DIY, woodworking or construction, you might be intimidated by the tape measure. But fear not! In this article, we’ll break down the basics of how to read a tape measure for dummies like you.

The Basics

First things first, let’s go over the basics of a tape measure. A tape measure typically consists of a long, flexible strip of metal or cloth marked with measurements. Most tape measures are 25 feet long, but they can come in different lengths. The tape measure is divided into inches, feet and sometimes even centimeters. The inches are marked with small lines, while the feet are usually marked with longer lines and numbers.

Reading Inches

When it comes to reading inches on a tape measure, things can get a bit tricky. Each inch is divided into 16 parts, so the smallest line on your tape measure represents 1/16th of an inch. The next longest line represents 1/8th of an inch, and so on. To read inches on a tape measure, simply identify the longest line that falls to the left of the object you’re measuring. For example, if you’re measuring a board that falls between the 2 and 3 inch marks, you would read it as 2 and 3/16th inches.

Reading Feet

Reading feet on a tape measure is a bit easier. Each foot is marked with a number, and the corresponding inches are marked with smaller lines. Simply identify the longest line that falls to the left of the object you’re measuring to find the number of feet.

Common Questions

What if I can’t see the numbers clearly?

If the numbers on your tape measure are hard to read, try using a magnifying glass or taking a photo with your phone and zooming in.

What if I’m measuring something bigger than my tape measure?

If you’re measuring something larger than your tape measure, use a piece of string or ribbon to measure the length, and then measure the string with the tape measure.

What if my tape measure is bent or damaged?

If your tape measure is bent or damaged, it might not give accurate measurements. Consider buying a new one or using a straight edge to check for accuracy.


Learning how to read a tape measure might seem daunting at first, but with a bit of practice, it will become second nature. Remember to take your time, double check your measurements, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. With these tips, you’ll be measuring like a pro in no time!