How to Read a Tape Measure

While reading a tape measure can seem intimidating at first glance, it’s actually very easy when following a few simple steps.  Having a basic knowledge of how to read a tape measure is essential for most DIY projects.  In the case of blind repair, detailed measurements are often required to order the correct parts and string.  Measuring right the first time will avoid wasted time, money and headaches.


Starting with the smaller fractions – The example above shows an inch with markings in 1/16 increments.  This pattern will be similar on most tape measures.  The easiest way to think about these fractions is to start with start with 1 inch, then divide that in half, that equals a half inch – half of that is a quarter, then an eighth, then a sixteenth, and so on.

Moving to the larger increments – The inches and foot increments on any given tape measure will extend for as long as the tape measure is.  For example, a 12 foot tape measure will have 144 inches.  Foot increments are not usually defined unless the measurement is large, say over 12 feet.  For example, a measurement of 46 3/4″ is usually defined as that, and not 3′ – 10 3/4″.  

As a general rule, when measuring, find the inches first, then add the increments down to the nearest fraction of an inch.

Practice measuring a few things around the house, large and small – You’ll be a pro in no time!

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