How to Read a Tape Measure




Introduction: How to Read a Tape Measure

Learning how to read a tape measure is an important skill to learn, whether you're doing home projects, teaching your kids or students, or looking to get into the skilled trades in some capacity. We here at Construct-Ed (online learning for construction and trade skills) wanted to share this infographic we made as a fun, visual way to learn how to read a tape measure. (Use this infographic for your own website!)

Oh, and if you don't like reading, or don't want to learn from this cute owl...skip to the bottom where we put a video. But seriously, what fun would that be?

Step 1: Learn What the Tape Measure Markings Mean

Here's the main markings we'll be looking at: (notice that if you're writing the measurement of inches or feet in number form, you put ' for feet, and " for inches.

  • The foot (e.g. 1', 10')
  • One inch (1")
  • Half inch (1/2")
  • Quarter inch (1/4")
  • Eighth inch (1/8")
  • Sixteenth inch (1/16")

There are definitely more exact measurements that get even more precise - 1/32" and so on, but for this into tutorial we'll stick with these basic ones. Got these measurements down? Great! Let's move on to...

Step 2: Learn How Many "markings" Are in an Inch

This little guide is for the non-skilled-at-math out there, so if you're not good with fractions and all the lines on the tape measure just seem jumbled to you...don't worry, this little trick will help you out. Here's the thing- if you don't know how many markings of each kind of measurement are in an inch, you can't really read the measurement accurately right?

The above guide shows you that you can look at the second number in the marking (example: 1/8" or "one-eighth of an inch) where the "8" is the second number (1/8). That means that once you've learned Step 1, and know what the 1/8" marking looks like, you know that there are eight 1/8" marks in that inch.

Take a look at the image above for help, and then let's move on to the reading step and give it a try.

Step 3: Read Your Measurement

OK, time to give it a try and read your measurement. Don't get discouraged if you don't understand at first. We put a video below that goes into more detail, and it's gonna take a bit of practice to get comfortable with.

Read the picture above to walk through the process step by step. Remember: you want to read from the biggest measurement to the smallest. For example, "Three and one half inches (or 3 1/2")" or "2 feet, 3 1/2".

Take a close look at step 3 and 4 in the picture above. You can see that we identified that the closest marking to the object we were measuring was a 1/8" marking. So all we had to do then was ask, "how many 1/8" marks are there up until the end of the object?" There were 3 little 1/8" spaces or markings.

Step 4: Still Need Help? Watch the Video!

Watch this video for more help and explanation. In it, we'll also give you some practice tests you can do along with us to help you learn. Also, you can read more detail on how to read a tape measure and get this infographic for your own use.

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    5 years ago


    but i cant see the marks on the tape


    5 years ago

    cool ! I am very used to decimal system and whenever I have to deal with measuring in english, I had some headaches before this !


    5 years ago

    Where have you been all my life? My brother is a professional Cabinet Maker & can do measurements easily. I'm the math dummy in the family! Great instructable! Do More!


    Reply 5 years ago me, I was NO math wiz. Thanks for the encouragement.


    Reply 5 years ago