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Tape measure tricks for all handymen and renovators

By Airtasker

Updated: October 22nd, 2021

A tape measure is one of the most practical inventions ever. Read on to find out more on how to make the most of this highly useful tool.

How skilled are you with a tape measure? A tape measure is one of the most useful items when it comes to DIY home improvements. But are you really making use of all it has to offer?

To tap into all the features of this essential tool, here’s a list of  all the things (other than the obvious!) that your tape measure can do:

The ‘screw grab’

You may already be aware that you can 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. It’s hugely helpful as it holds the tape in place when you’re working alone.

tape measure nail screw grabSource: diy house help

The scribing tool

Another handy feature that makes home repair and DIY projects easier is the serrated edge of the metal hook on a tape measure. By dragging it back and forth on a surface, you can mark a measurement down to the millimetre.

Not all tape measures have this, but it’s worth investing in one that does if you do a lot of DIY work.

tape measure serrated hook
Source: AXMINSTER Tools & Machinery

The hook has ‘play’

Clearly, the hook of the tape measure is highly valuable and here’s one more use for it. 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.

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. There is movement each way of about a millimetre or so. A professional handyman would refer to this movement as ‘play’.

Most tape measures are already calibrated for accurate measurements. For a critical measurement, you may want to check how much ‘free play’ is allowed and get the measure tape calibrated.  Get a few quotes for this and other handyman help on Airtasker.

tape measure hook play
Source: AXMINSTER Tools & Machinery

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.

Luckily 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.

Next, 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

Not all tape measures are made equally

There are different lengths of tape measures available that are more suitable for some jobs than others. For example, an 8m tape is great for small home improvement jobs such as cabinetry. For bigger jobs such as outdoor or construction, you may 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).

tape measure range
Source: Pro Tool Reviews

Have you got any other tape measure tricks to add to our list? Let us know in the comments section below.

For help with handyman services in London, find a DIY expert on Airtasker.



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