Learn how to read a tape measure fast, and easily in 4 steps.
Learning how to read a tape measure is an important skill for anyone to know, especially if you’re thinking of entering in to construction or the skilled trades. The good news is that it’s very easy, and can be picked up with a little practice in no time. It’s important to know that when reading a tape measure, you always read from the biggest measurement to the smallest, or from the biggest number to the smallest.
Ready to get started? OK- watch the video, or keep reading below and let’s talk about the little lines (the markings) on the tape measure…
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Reading the markings is easier than you think!
Even if you’re not good at fractions, we’ll help you get started.
When it comes to the markings on the tape measure, there will just be two or three numbers you read for your entire measurement: the foot marking (only if the object or distance you’re measuring is 12 inches or longer), the inch marking, and then the exact measurement line that is closest to the length of the object you’re measuring.
Here’s the markings you need to know to get started:
- The half inch
- Quarter inch
- Eighth inch
- Sixteenth inch mark
Don’t be intimidated, we’ll show you exactly what these lines look like, and what they mean so you can easily look at a tape measure or a ruler, and know which line you’re looking at (even if you’re bad at fractions!).
As a side note, you should also know that there are even smaller and more exact measurements available on certain tape measures that we didn’t list here. These smaller, REALLY SPECIFIC lines are used in professions where measurements need to be very exact. For example, a carpenter might measure to the 32nd (1/32) of an inch. But in this post we’ll show you how to read the basic tape measure lines you’ll most likely need.
At the end, we’ll give you a test so you can quiz yourself and practice. This post will also help if you if you’re just looking to learn how to read a ruler. At the end of this, you should be familiar with reading the fractions and what they mean.
Ok- here’s what those tape measure markings, or lines, look like:
- Foot (example: 3′)
- Inch (example: 2″)
- Half-inch (example: 1/2“)
- Quarter-inch (example: 3/4“)
- Eight-inch (example: 7/8“)
- Sixteenth-inch (example: 1/16“)
OK – now that you know what the measurements look like on the tape measure, and which markings are which, it’s time to put it all together to read the tape measure measurement:
How to read a tape measure: read the biggest marking to the smallest.
Here’s how to read a tape measure fast and easy, in just 4 steps:
- Find the “foot” (ft) mark (if what you’re measuring is one foot or longer) that is closest to, or slightly less than the end of the object or distance you are measuring. If applicable, this foot mark will be your starting number. Example: “2 feet”.
- Next, find the nearest inch mark (the longest line on a tape measure), closest to or slightly less than the end of the object or distance you are measuring. This inch mark will be your second number. Example: “4 inches”.
- Finally, find the exact line (in between inch marks) that lines up exactly with the end of the object or line you are measuring. Example: “Three eights” or “3/8”.
- Read your measurement: starting with the biggest number (foot, or inch) moving to the smallest. For example: You’d say “2 feet, 4 inches, and 3 eighths”.
That wasn’t so bad was it?
So, the basic lesson is: start with the biggest marking, and move to the smallest. OR, another way to say it is- start by reading the name of the biggest line (the foot line or inch line), then read the next biggest line, then read the smallest line.
Here’s a video we made you to show you how to read a tape measure or ruler. We made it so you can follow along, and even included a practice section at the end where you can quiz yourself and practice reading objects on the screen.
Ready to practice? Watch the video for a tape measure quiz:
Here’s a visual you can share on your website, or share on Facebook!
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And remember, practice makes perfect!
Created in Connecticut, the tape measure is one of the most useful inventions of all time. To better understand how to read the tape measure fractions, and the individual markings, just keep practicing. Use the video above as a refresher, and start grabbing a few objects around your house to practice with. Quiz yourself by performing test measurements with items around your house or the job site. You can also play the ruler game, which will help you practice learning the measurements and fractions. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be reading a tape measure without thinking about it!