What to consider when buying a tape measure
Your first considerations should be what you intend to use the tape measure for, as well as the maximum distance that you anticipate measuring with it. The width of tape that you require should also be taken into account, and if you’re going to be working in an environment where the tape measure is bound to take a few knocks, choose one with a metal case rather than a plastic one.
If you want a tape measure for sewing, look for a “sewing tape”, which is typically 5 to 10 feet in length. Sewing tapes were traditionally made of cloth, but these days are most commonly made from plastic-coated polyester or fibreglass. Bear in mind that fibreglass is more durable than plastic-coated polyester, as it does not stretch or tear as easily.
For land surveying and other outdoor measurements, look for a surveyor's tape measure. These are usually open-reel, with a flexible tape, and can be wound manually. Surveyor’s tape measure blades are typically made from fibreglass because it is flexible, durable, stretch-resistant, heat-resistant and water-resistant. Most surveyor’s tapes can measure distances of up to 300 feet.
For carpentry, construction and measuring large items such as furniture and bathroom fittings you should use a metal tape measure – sometimes called a carpenter’s tape measure. These usually have a semi-flexible steel blade that can be held rigid or bent, with a metal clip that hooks over one end of the object to facilitate measuring. These usually retract automatically, but sometimes need to be wound up using a crank. Carpenter’s tape measures typically measure distances up to 25 feet. However, extended length tapes, which can measure up to 100 feet, are available.
A laser tape measure can be used to accurately measure distances up to 650 feet – depending on the model – as well as calculate area and volume. They are idea for those in the construction industry, but can also be useful for hobbyists and home owners. Some laser tape measures are capable of storing your most recent measurements so that you can refer back to them later.
If you are going to be using a manual metal tape measure by yourself, make sure that you get one with a locking mechanism to prevent the tape from retracting while you’re in the middle of taking a measurement. It is also easier to measure long distances/lengths alone with a tape measure with a wide and thick blade rather than with a narrow bladed one.