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Learn how to read a tape measure easily and print out this handy pdf for future reference!

How to Read a Tape Measure + PDF Printable for Reference

I have an exciting project coming up!

But this project entails the use of a tape measure. Actually, some of my past wood projects have used a tape measure.

So I thought it would be helpful to write a post on how to read a tape measure. I’ve also included a handy printable pdf that you can print out, hang up, and refer to as many times as you need until you get those numbers memorized!

First of all – reading a tape measure can be confusing! All those little lines! What do they mean?

For me, the easiest way to learn is to memorize the numbers. And the best way to memorize the numbers? To study them. Look at them. A LOT.

Trust me, after looking at a tape measure reference guide so many times, you will automatically memorize those numbers.

How to Read a Tape Measure

How to Read a Tape Measure + PDF Printable for Reference

Let’s start from the beginning. What is a tape measure?

A tape measure is a length of tape (usually a bendable metal) with markings (or ticker marks or lines) on it at certain intervals that you use to measure. It’s like a flexible ruler.

Tape measures come in all different sizes! You can buy them in lengths of 10 feet, 16 feet, 25 feet, 30 feet, 33 feet, 35 feet, 40 feet and so on.

Some tape measures just denote the inches and feet and the other ticker marks are left undefined.

There are also tape measures that give you all the other numbers too – and those can be MUCH easier to read.

up close view of tape measure markings

There are even tape measures with a digital reading! So you don’t really have to think about what the measurement is and count all the little lines. It can be dizzying!

Standard tape measure markings

You will find 16 little lines in between the inch increments. The lines are different sizes – the smaller the line, the smaller the measurement. For instance, the inch marks are the largest lines and the sixteenths of an inch are the smallest.

Here’s a little video in case you would rather watch …


  • 1-inch increments
  • 1/2 mark increment (spoken as half an inch, etc)
  • 1/4 and 3/4 increments (spoken as a quarter of an inch, etc)
  • 1/8, 3/8, 5/8, 7/8 increments (spoken as one-eighth of an inch, etc)
  • 1/16, 3/16, 5/16, 7/16, 9/16, 11/16, 13/16, 15/16 (spoken as one-sixteenth of an inch, etc)

You will also find some tape measures that include the 1/32 markings as well (which is 32 little lines in between the inch markings).

Tape Measure PDF Reference Guide

How To Use A Tape Measure

Ok, now that we have discussed all those little lines and what they mean, how do I go about using a tape measure?

Glad you asked …

Simply pull out the tape from and extend it to the end of the object you need to measure. Now, what line did you land on at the end? That’s your measurement. Use this chart above and even an easy read tape measure to accurately define your measurement.

Tape measure pdf printable

Click here to download and print this handy tape measure PDF.

Hang it up where you think you need it, or just pull it out when you’re working on a project. I promise you – that eventually, you won’t need this. You will have these numbers memorized. And you will be able to speak in tape measure language. 🙂

What’s the best tape measure? Popular Mechanics broke it down pretty well.

Knowing how to read a tape measure is so handy, especially when working on home projects.

Check out a few of my favorite home projects here:

I hope this gives you guys some good insight into reading those tapes measures. It’s really not that hard! Check back here often for more fun home projects (keep your tape measure handy.)

xo Karen