Tape measure tricks for all handymen & renovators

By Rhiannon W

Updated: July 30th, 2019

It's one of the most practical inventions ever, full of hidden features you probably never knew existed!

How are your tape measure skills? Surprisingly, a tape measure is one of the most practical inventions ever, full of hidden features you probably never knew existed that will make the odd DIY home improvement job so much easier!

Check out all the things your tape measure can do:

1. The ‘screw grab’

You probably already knew that you could hook (or clip) the end of a tape measure over the edge of a surface and walk backwards to extend the tape out, but have you ever wondered what that little slot in the metal hook is for? That little slot is a ‘nail and screw grab’, which neatly slips over the flat head of a nail or screw to help you hold the tape in place when you’re flying solo.

tape measure nail screw grabSource: diy house help

2. The scribing tool

Another neat little feature that makes home repairs and odd jobs easier is the serrated edge of the metal hook on the end of a tape measure (not all have them, so check). By dragging it back and forth on a surface, you can mark out a measurement down to the millimetre.

tape measure serrated hook
Source: AXMINSTER Tools & Machinery

3. The hook has ‘play’

Clearly, the hook must be our favourite part of the tape measure because we keep talking about it, but here’s one more…  You’ll notice the hook on the end of the tape has some ‘play’ or wiggle room on it, and the end centimetre of the tape may be slightly smaller than a true centimetre. This is because depending on whether you’re measuring on the outside or inside of something, you’ll want the hook thickness to either be counted as part of the measurement or not; therefore, there is movement each way of about a millimetre or so. This movement is called ‘play’.

Tip: Most tape measures come already calibrated for accurate measurements, but depending on how critical the measurement you need is, you might want to check how much ‘free play’ is allowed and calibrate the tape.  Getting this done professionally can be a costly exercise, so why not get one of Airtasker’s expert Handymen to take a look at it for you for a great price?

tape measure hook play
Source: AXMINSTER Tools & Machinery

4. The tape has measurements

Well duh! But seriously, stay with us…  We live life by the metric system here in Australia, but it is still common for imperial measurements to pop up every now and then, such as the plans you got off the internet. So it’s quite handy that tape measure tapes are often marked out by centimetres and inches, and broken down further into fractions (e.g. 1/4 inch).

stanley tape measure
Source: AXMINSTER Tools & Machinery

5. The length of the tape measure ‘housing’ counts

The housing (i.e. the hand held container that ‘houses’ the tape) can actually be a very handy sidekick for home repair jobs. If you’ve ever tried to measure the inside length of something, you’ll know it can be quite difficult.

Well, good news – the housing of the tape measure is often marked with a measurement of length (e.g. 10cm) that you can use to make life a bit easier. Instead of trying to measure the inside of something corner to corner by bending the tape, position the tape measure inside and draw the length of the tape out from surface to surface. Take note of the measurement on the tape (e.g. 65cm) and add it on to the length of the tape measure housing (65cm + 10cm = 75cm)… and voila, accurate measurements!

tape measure body inner length cornersSource: AXMINSTER Tools & Machinery

6. Some tape measures are better than others

Depending on what you want to use it for, there are different lengths of tape measures available that are better for some jobs than others. For example, an 8m tape is great for the hobbyist doing small home improvement jobs like cabinetry, but for bigger jobs like outdoor and construction, you might need something longer and possibly stronger.

You can get tape measures with magnetic hooks, blade locking mechanisms, and ones that can do a ‘stand out measure’ for hooking objects far away (i.e. you stand in one spot, and use your hand to extend the tape; it holds its weight and extends horizontally). This is getting into advanced handyman territory though; watch yourself!

tape measure range
Source: Pro Tool Reviews

Now that you’re armed with insider information, it’s time to show your tape measure skills off to your friends. Have you got any other tape measure tricks to share with the rest of us amateurs?



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  1. Graeme Nightingale

    Thankyou Rhiannon, Some great tips there. Shows me that you are never too old to learn.

  2. Anonymous

    Learn something new everyday with a common tool. Well done Airtasker, keep them coming!

  3. Barbara D

    The housing measure hint is a true bonus. Thank you!

  4. sjtubby@outlook.com

    Good tips. Especially about housing and screw grab. Thanks.