How to use a Tape Measure

Learning how to use a tape measure properly is an essential life skill. I’m forever seeing people using this simple tool wrongly and in this article I want to address the most common mistake I see – the difference between taking inside and outside measurements.

You can watch the full video here:

How to use a Tape Measure properly

My favourite metric-only double sided tape measure

Blatant plug for my own stuff, you can buy my favourite metric only, double sided tape measure from my little shop – just click here. Thank you!

How to use a tape measure?

Let’s say you want to measure 500mm from the end of a piece of wood. Simple, hook the tab over the end of the piece, pull the tape measure back and make your mark at 500mm – simple!

OK, so now let’s imagine there’s a wall at the end of this piece of wood so you can’t hook the tab over the edge. Fine you say, just hold the tab on the end and take a measurement as normal. BUT if you’re now pulling the tape measure back from the tab you’re holding there’s a reasonable chance you’re doing it wrong and you’ll have an inaccurate measurement.

Simple Rules For Using a Tape Measure

If you’re taking an OUTSIDE measurement, in other words one where you can hook the tape measure end over something, then PULL the tape back towards you from the hooked tab.

If you’re taking an INSIDE measurement, in other words one where you can’t hook the end over something, then you need to pull the tape out to the desired length and then PUSH the whole thing towards the tabbed end. This will automatically adjust for the thickness of the hooked tab that you’re no longer using and you’ll have an accurate measurement.


Test it for yourself next time you measure something! If you still get two different readings it’s time to buy a new tape measure!

How To Use a Tape Measure

Metric-Only Double Sided Tape Measures

My favourite tape measure by a country mile is the Advent Vice-Versa Metric-Only double sided measuring tape.

Advent Vice-Versa Tape Measure

This has a few major advantages:

  • It’s double sided
  • It’s metric only
  • It can be used left or right handed
  • The end hook can be used either way around

You can buy a Gosforth Handyman branded double sided metric only tape measure from here or you can find more products I use here.

Last updated: 18 Dec 2019
Originally published: 17 Jun 2016


Andy Mac
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