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How to Read a Tape Measure the Easy Way & Free Printable!

Knowing how to read a tape measure in its entirety is really important if you are doing any kind of woodworking or home project. And I’m going to share the method that I think is the easiest way to learn how to read a measuring tape in inches.

Reading a Tape Measure for a home improvement project

This post may seem really simple and you may already know how to read a tape measure. But, as I shared in my woodworking for beginners post, often times specific measurements aren’t pretty even numbers like 13 inches or 13 1/2 inches. They are usually like 13 7/8 inches or 13 11/16 inches. So, really knowing how to read a tape measure in its entirety is important and that’s why I decided to create this simple tutorial along with a handy, free tape measure printable!

Note, this post contains some affiliate links for convenience.

Types of Tape Measures

Let’s start with a look at one type of tape measure, which is my favorite, the easy read tape measure:

one type of tape measure with the eighths of an inch markings

This type of tape measure has the whole inch numbers labeled, as well as the eighths and quarters of an inch labeled, like 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, etc, which makes reading a tape measure much easier. But, sometimes your measurement ends up falling on one of those little lines with no number markings.

And then there’s even the more basic tape measures like the one below, which just has whole numbers and a lot of varying line sizes. Well, that can be a bit more confusing and take longer for measuring until you can quickly read and understand what those lines mean.

close up of a tape measure

How to Read a Tape Measure The Easiest Way

Overall, standard measuring tapes show 16 line markings for down to a sixteenth of an inch. And many also show line markings for down to 1/32 of an inch.

So, what’s the quickest and easiest way to read a tape measure with all those lines? I think the easiest way is by understanding and learning what the 16 markings of an inch stand for by using a visual infographic with each marking labeled. And I’ve created an easy to read tape measure printable infographic (in both color and black & white) that you can print out and keep handy for quick reference until you have the tape measure markings memorized or in case you forget!

A tape measure infographic with measurements labeled

As you can see in the above tape measure infographic, the line markings from longest to shortest represent:

  • The whole number measurements, like 1 inch, 2 inch, 3 inch, etc
  • A half of an inch
  • The quarters of an inch: 1/4 and 3/4
  • The eighths of an inch: 1/8, 3/8, 5/8, 7/8
  • The sixteenths of an inch: 1/16, 3/16, 5/16, 7/16, 9/16, 11/16,13/16, 15/16

Anyways, to keep it simple, just use the printable guide and you’ll have the tape measure markings memorized in no time! And you can of course buy an easy read tape measure to make it even easier!

Well, that’s my quick and easy method for how to read a tape measure! I hope this simple how to post and printable have been helpful!

Oh and one more tidbit of information in case you didn’t know, when you see measurements written with a ” symbol, that stands for inches and a ‘ symbol stands for feet. So, 15″ means 15 inches and 15’ means 15 feet!

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