Tape measure buying guide

Tape measure buying guide

Jennifer, Self-taught DIY enthusiast, Manchester

Guide written by:

Jennifer, Self-taught DIY enthusiast, Manchester

13 guides

If you want to take fuss-free measurements, you'll need to find tools to measure up! From tailor's measuring tapes to retractable and surveyor's tape measures, you're sure to find the right type of tape measure for your task. Follow our guide to find a tape measure that rules!

Important features

  • Length
  • Accuracy and material
  • Quality
  • Case
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3 different types of tape measure

Tape measures, also known as measuring tapes, feature among the most traditional measuring tools used around the house, in the workshop or on the job site. Tape measures can come with a range of features including auto-lock, magnetic hooks or belt clips. You can even find digital tape measures equipped with little screens to display your measurements directly; these models make it very easy to read measurements but, while practical, are not commonly used on the job site.  All in all, the classic tape measure is still generally the preferred option! Each of these different types of tape measure will also vary in terms of length.

1. Tailor's tape measure


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As the name suggests, these tape measures are mainly used for sewing and may be 1 or 2 metres long. 

2. Non-retractable tape measures

Open reel


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Handy for large-scale jobs, open reel measures are used to measure greater distances. These models feature a hand crank and a blade made of steel or fibreglass.

Surveyor's


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These tape measures can be used for even greater distances and are especially useful for surveyors

3. Retractable tape measures


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The blade retracts into a metal or plastic case by means of a spring held on the inside of the case. These tape measures generally have a blade measuring 2 to 10 metres in length.

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Tape measure accuracy and material

1. Accuracy


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In the UK, measuring tools are generally classified in terms of accuracy by the European Weights and Measures Regulations. Tape measures are classified I, II or III depending on their level of accuracy. Class I tapes are the most accurate. The accuracy of a tape measure is usually noted on the blade just next to the length. This will also affect the price of your tape measure. For a reliable tool, go for class I or II. Avoid anything below this level for tasks that demand precision.

2. Material

In terms of material, fibreglass is generally used for flexible blades while steel is used for rigid blades. No matter the material, the blade will usually be given a rust-resistant treatment and may even be insulated to protect you from electric shocks. These types of coatings will make your tape measure more expensive.

Tape measure width and quality


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The width of the blade varies widely, and can range from 16 to 25 mm.

In order to choose the right width for your tape measure, you'll need to look at its stand-out. The stand-out basically refers to the distance a tape measure can be extended before it bends. Of course, the thicker the blade, the longer the stand-out.

The following options will offer enhanced quality:

  • A Mylar polyester film will prevent scratches and extend the lifespan of the blade by about ten times compared to a traditional blade;
  • Thermoplastic Blade Armor coating increases the strength of the first three inches of the blade (the most fragile part);
  • a fluorescent blade is handy for better visibility in dark places. 

Case material and features


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Tape measure cases come in a range of materials from stainless steel and plastic to two-material cases for greater strength and user comfort. Some mid-range to high-end models feature a thermoplastic, shockproofABS case.

The tape measure case may also offer different features such as an auto-lock which is handy if you're working alone and don't want to trap your fingers! A belt clip will allow you to keep your hands free and look every bit the pro, and a magnetic blade tip will come in handy for measuring metal objects. It's entirely up to you to choose what kind of features you need!

Mid-range tape measures


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Cheap tape measure do have their uses, but aren't necessarily the most practical to use and don't offer the best quality. The hook tends to come loose and the blade accuracy is usually off by anything from a few millimetres up to a centimetre.

It's therefore a good idea to choose at least a mid-range tape measure which will be able to withstand a few impacts along the way!

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Guide written by:

Jennifer, Self-taught DIY enthusiast, Manchester, 13 guides

Jennifer, Self-taught DIY enthusiast, Manchester

I didn’t receive any special training, I learned everything on the job as it came up. And what a joy it is to be able to do little jobs around the house that we love so much. That is, until the moment we decided to move and had to do everything; from the floor to the ceiling, from the kitchen to the bathroom...In short, you become as good as a pros. So today, my friends don’t hesitate to call me when they need help. And when you dip your toe in, there’s no turning back. It’s a true passion that drives us to take on the challenges, to have an idea in mind and see it come alive with just a few tools. And a passion is even better when you can share it. So, whenever I can give you a little advice, it’s with great pleasure that I do it.

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