Last updated: August 19, 2021

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Welcome! The tape measure is a widely used product, both in the home and in construction and textile manufacturing, as it makes measuring work easier and more efficient. The question is, which of all the models and brands is the best?

We will show you the different types of tape measures and their characteristics, so that you can choose the one that best suits your interests and budget. It is important that you take into account every detail to make the best purchase decision.




Summary

  • Measuring tapes are flexible rulers, graduated with units of measurement and their divisions, which are used to measure different elements and distances.
  • They range in length from 1.5 m to 100 m, depending on use, and are often used in construction as well as in everyday life.
  • They are made of different materials, such as metal, plastic and fabric, which divide measuring tapes into soft and rigid.

The Best Measuring Tape: Our Picks

Buying guide

Tape measures are flexible rulers, graduated with units of measurement and their divisions, used to measure different elements and distances.
(Photo: Teeraphatsakool/ 123rf.com)

What are tape measures and what are their advantages?

A tape measure, also known as a flexometer or tape measure, is a measuring instrument consisting of a thin sheet of metal, plastic, fibreglass or millimetre cloth, which allows the units of measurement and their divisions to be observed.

This flexible graduated tape, which can be rolled up for ease of use and transport, is also used to measure lines and curved surfaces. The units on tape measures change according to the country, e.g. a length of 1.5 m in the Anglo-Saxon system would be 60 inches (which equals exactly 1.52 m).

The tape measure is a widely used instrument because of its practicality, simplicity and size, as it is rolled up on itself and can be stretched to measure and then picked up with a crank or button. There are also tapes that roll up on their own as soon as you stop using force to hold them.

Advantages
  • Measuring tapes make measuring work easier because of their length and millimetre design
  • they are practical and easy to use
  • they can be moved from one place to another, as they roll up and take up very little space
  • there are tapes of 1.5 m and tapes of up to 100 m, so they adapt to all functions and spaces
  • they can measure lines and curved surfaces
  • They are usually very durable
Disadvantages
  • Rigid tape measures are more difficult to handle
  • Another disadvantage of rigid tape measures is that they are often cumbersome for measuring non-straight surfaces
  • Soft tapes, such as sewing tapes, have a shorter life span
  • Metal tapes can hurt the skin during use
  • They are often not very practical for measuring long distances

How long are tape measures?

The length of the tape varies according to its intended use; if it is for domestic use, a rolling tape measure of 3 to 5 metres will suffice, but if it is needed, for example, for carpentry activities, a tape measure of 20 m will be necessary.

On the other hand, if it is for sewing work, a 1.5 m tape will suffice. If what we want to measure is a field or land, then what we should have is a surveyor's tape, which measures approximately 50 or 100 m, and comes with winding handles, which make the work easier when we stop using it and roll up the unfolded tape.

Rigid or soft tape measure - what should you pay attention to?

Tape measures can be divided into two types: rigid and soft. Depending on the reason why you want to buy it, you should pay attention to some aspects:

Rigid Soft
The most common rigid tape measures are those made of metal, steel or, in some cases, of alignment of several metals (the so-called Invar tapes) they are the tapes made of cloth, linen and soft plastic
In the case of the metallic ones, they are reinforced with copper wires to prevent the fibres from stretching or tangling, and they are usually between 20 and 30 m long They have a metal handle at the zero
Steel tapes are made of a steel loop that varies in thickness (from approximately 6mm to 16 mm), and are typically 1 to 50 m long they are very light and manoeuvrable
Invar tapes are made of an alignment of metals and are typically 30 to 100 m long (they are very expensive and delicate) They are very fragile and easy to break
Rigid tapes are often used for construction work, due to their strength and length, but are also used in the domestic environment They are usually used for sewing, cutting and dressmaking work
Within the rigid tapes we could add the carpenter tapes made of folding wood, which are hardly used anymore because they have been replaced by fibreglass or metal tapes The standard size of these tapes is 1.5 m
They are very practical due to their short length and lightness They are generally used for more precise work
They are very flexible and adapt to the garment during the making-up process they are marked on both sides, and the beginning of the numbering on one side coincides with the end of the numbering on the other side, so that a measurement can always be obtained, regardless of which end is originally chosen
They are also used by doctors to determine the length of the abdominal circumference of patients

These are just a few features to consider when deciding which tape measures are best for you; more on other factors to consider when making a good purchasing choice later.

Buying criteria: factors that allow you to compare and rate different models of tape measures

Because there is such a wide range of tape measures on the market, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which is the best one to buy. It is therefore important to consider certain factors in order to buy the right tape measures.

Use we will give to it

As we mentioned in the comparison chart, rigid tape measures are usually used in the construction area, due to their strength and length (although they are also used in the domestic area), and soft tape measures in sewing and dressmaking tasks, for example, as they are more flexible, easier to handle and lighter.

It is therefore essential that you choose the tape measure according to the use you will make of it, as a tape or flexometer is not the same for taking small measurements as it is for measuring long distances.

The use will also depend on the measurement and quality. In terms of measurement, if the distances to be taken are small, a 3-metre tape measure will be sufficient; if the distances are longer, 5, 8 and 10-metre models would be ideal. If it is for professional use, we will need a flexometer of 20 metres or more, depending on the use we are going to make of it.

As for quality, this will also depend on the use we give to the tape measure, since the greater the use and the greater the precision requirements, the more important it will be to buy a good quality product, which fulfils the required functions and guarantees high durability.

Width of the tape measure

The width of the tape measure strap is a very important factor, as it will usually determine (together with the thickness of the tape) the ability to hold the tape without bending. This can be tested with the break point, which is how far the tape is able to stretch without bending. A good flexometer tape width is essential when measuring long distances.

The width of the tapes can vary widely but, on average, ranges between 16 and 25mm. The wider the tape, generally the greater the standout (the maximum extension of the sheet without bending or loss of stiffness), while also allowing for larger and clearer numbers, making it easier to read.

Housing

Metal tapes are self-winding due to an internal spring inside a casing which stores the self-winding tape measure. These housings can be made of different materials, such as stainless steel and plastic, among others, which will influence the quality, durability and ergonomics of the tape measure.

The ergonomics will indicate the comfort we will have when working with the tape measure, that is to say, the adaptation; and it will depend on each person to decide the ergonomics of the tape measure that best suits their needs.

It is also important that the flexometer is robust and resistant to the possible knocks and falls that it will suffer, as the more robust the flexometer is, the longer it will last.

One way to determine the robustness of the tape measure is through the material the casing is made of, as there are flexometers with plastic casings, which are cheaper, and there are others with rubberised casings, metal, etc., which are usually more resistant and durable.

The housing can also include different options: a self-locking button to work alone and not hurt your fingers, a belt clip to keep your hands free like a pro, or a magnetic end on the tape for better grip on metal surfaces. If we are going to choose an inexpensive tape measure, because we use them from time to time, hard plastic is enough; they are the ones that we find at very cheap prices or that we get for free in building material stores.

If we are looking for something of higher quality, we can choose metal casings or casings made of steel, stainless steel, or hard plastic, combined with a material such as rubber, which makes them lighter and more resistant; this will give us a more durable measuring tool.

Tape measure tip

Tape measure tips are made of metal and serve as a stop to prevent the tape measure from being pushed all the way into the casing. They are hook-shaped so that they can be attached to protrusions or edges to make measuring more comfortable.

Some tips are even magnetised so that they adhere well to metal surfaces and make it easier for one person to carry out the measurement; otherwise it is necessary to measure between two people, or to keep stepping on the tape measure so that it does not bend, which is quite uncomfortable and complicated.

The tip of the flexometer is an important aspect to take into account, so, first of all, we must check that the nail has a small clearance in the line of the tape, exactly the thickness of the final sheet; this will guarantee precision in both interior and exterior measurements.

Brake piece

Most tape measures have a brake piece which, when moved, allows us to fix the tape measure and prevent it from rolling up; this is why it is an important accessory to take into account, especially when we have to make repetitive measurements.

If the quality of the brake piece is not good, it can give us varied measurements, and if the brake is not strong enough, it can get inside the casing. Make sure that the brake part has a good grip to hold the tape measure in place and prevent it from slipping.

(Featured image photo: Stepan Popov/ 123rf.com)

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