A tape measure is one of those essential household items that every home toolkit should have, as it can be used for sewing, taking body measurements, surveying, building work and more. That's why we've created this handy buying guide to help you pick the right one for the task at hand, whether you're a professional or a DIY enthusiast.
We've also ranked the 10 best tape measures to buy online at Amazon, Argos, John Lewis and eBay, to make sure your measurements are on point every time ― regardless if you work in cm or inches! From metal retractable tape measures to laser gadgets that provide digital readings, our list of recommendations comes from market-leading brands like Stanley, Milwaukee, Hanmer and Am-Tech.
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Tape measures come in varying shapes, sizes and types to suit the different ways that people need to measure items or spaces. Tradespeople and those working outside will likely require a surveyor's tape, which is perfect for measuring long distances.
Probably the most popular type for general use is the pocket tape, which is ideal for DIY enthusiasts as well as professional builders. This small tape usually features a stiff blade enclosed in a protective outer case with a clip, allowing it to be hung from tool-belts and bags.
Lastly, tapes designed for sewing or tailoring are incredibly lightweight and easy to use, due to their flexibility and lack of a case. If the tape you buy does happen to come with a case, make sure you check its weight as you don't want it to be too heavy when sizing up awkward items and checking body measurements.
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Tape measures can be made from a variety of materials. Those with a stiff steel blade are popular with builders and DIY enthusiasts as they provide excellent durability and value for money. Steel blades are usually wrapped in a bright-yellow nylon coating for added strength. Where possible, look for a stainless steel blade as this will minimise corrosion.
Next, we have fibreglass tapes which are ideal for surveying work. This material is renowned for its flexibility, strength, and heat and abrasion-resistant qualities, so it's great for use outside as well as in a workshop.
Lastly, sewing tapes come in less rigid materials such as PVC, plastic, polyester or fibreglass. These can all withstand a lot of use but are also flexible enough to be placed around body parts if needed.
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When shopping for a tape measure, one of the most important factors to consider is the length of the tape itself. This can range from 150 cm to 100 m and as you'd expect, different lengths work best for certain situations.
Sewing tapes are generally the shortest of the bunch, with 150 cm being the industry standard, whereas basic pocket tapes for home use start at 3 m. Those designed for professional use can range from 5 to 10 m.
Surveyor's tapes are the go-to option for anyone who requires some serious distances measured, such as scoping out that new garden feature or even a football field down the park. They're usually around 30 m in length but can go up to 50 or even 100 m.
These days, it's more than likely that you'll find both the imperial and metric systems on your tape measure. Although the imperial system was the standard for the UK for well over 150 years, the French metric system was adopted here in 1965 and has mostly outgrown the imperial system in terms of popularity and practicality.
So, if you need to work with both systems, be on the lookout for double-sided tapes that feature inches on one side and centimetres and millimetres on the other.
Laser meters are rechargeable tools that offer plenty of measuring possibilities and length. They work by projecting a red line towards a wall or object and giving you a digital reading of the total distance.
Hence, they're a brilliant tool for figuring out a room's square metres, volume or simply checking the total distance between two points. With the lights dimmed, they can produce a workable line of up to 40 m, but this distance is considerably less when used in a bright space or outdoors.
If you like the sound of a laser meter but don't want to lose out on a regular tape measure's benefits, you're in luck ― many laser meters come with blade tapes too. This dynamic duo will keep your measurements razor-sharp and means your work will always be accurate.
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FatMax Tape Measure
A Lightweight Premium Tape Measure for the Dedicated Builder
150 cm/60 inch Tape Measure
Features Coloured Decimetric Zones and a Handy Press Stud
Laser Tape Measure
A Rechargeable 40 M Laser With 5 M of Tape
An Affordable, High Quality 30 M Surveyor's Tape
Magnetic Tape Measure
8 M of Metric Tape With a Strong Magnetic End
2 Soft Tape Measures
A 2-Pack of Flexible Fibreglass Tapes
Fibreglass Surveyor's Tape
An Extra Long Surveyor's Tape Available in 50 or 100 M
5 m Tape Measure
A Pocket-Sized Tape With a Sturdy Nylon-Coated Steel Blade
Body Measure Tape
A Retractable Tailoring Tape for Body Measurements
Tough Lock Tape Measure
A Lockable 5 M Tape That Uses the Metric System
American brand Stanley is the world's largest supplier of hand tools, so it's no surprise that we've selected their much-loved FatMax tape as our top product! Coming in 5, 8 and 10 m lengths, the FatMax is a certified classic for anyone who regularly needs to measure items or surfaces.
Featuring both metric and imperial systems on the one side, this is a no-fuss tape that's simple to use. The mylar-coated blade is durable too, providing up to 10 times more resistance to wear and tear than regular metal. 10 metres long and weighing in at just 160 g, the lightweight FatMax is every builder's favourite tape!
Prym is a brand that's well-known for creating high-quality haberdashery products. It's Germany's longest-standing family-run business, dating back to 1530! So, this is a tape measure that you know you can trust when it comes to sewing and crafts.
The design has coloured decimetric zones, which make it easier to read and will help to minimise measurement mistakes. The press stud will also keep this polyester blended tape in perfect condition by eliminating any chance of it getting twisted and bent out of shape.
If the idea of a laser meter caught your attention in the buying guide, then this terrific tool by Hanmer is for you! It has a built-in, rechargeable lithium battery that will guide your line markings for up to five continuous hours when fully charged.
The laser's measurements are configured and easily read from the top of the tape in digital form. Plus, the included 5 m of tape features a hardwearing nylon coating and a magnetic end. It also shows the metric system, making this product a complete measuring machine with a digital edge that'll enhance any builder's day.
We're convinced that for the incredibly low price, this 30 m surveyor tape by Am-Tech is one of the best options that you'll find online! The fibreglass, double-sided tape has been finished with a reinforced metal ring, allowing you to hook the casing onto your chosen point and start reeling out the tape.
As the case is constructed from rubber, it has an ergonomic design that's made to fit perfectly in the hand and will easily resist being knocked or dropped. Don't hang about deliberating on this one, pick it up today!
Milwaukee is a market leader in the tool industry, producing a popular selection of builder's drills and tools for close to 100 years. Their magnetic tape may not have the same acclaim as their drill range, but that doesn't make it any less of a good product.
This is a compact tape that comes equipped with 8 m of strong, nylon-coated steel blade ― plus, it has a heavy-duty magnet riveted to the end. This powerful magnet will ensure that builders and DIYers alike can get the job done swiftly and with confidence!
Professional tailors and sewing specialists should definitely consider this 2-pack of flexible, case-less tapes by Alfya. Both are made from fibreglass and are 150 cm long, which is the tried and tested industry standard for tailoring.
Furthermore, each tape is double-sided, so you can use the metric system for certain garments and the imperial for body measurements. A fantastic set of tapes that's certainly worth the low price!
If it's length you're searching for, we recommend this high tensile fibreglass surveyor's tape from British brand Draper. It's available in either 50 or 100 m, so you could even measure out an area the size of a full-sized football pitch if needed!
The tape's winding mechanism will help you reel in all those metres in a breeze, ensuring your time spent squaring up is easy. The only hitch is that the case is made entirely of ABS plastic, which is fairly strong but isn't entirely indestructible.
Tolson has packed a lot of great features into this pocket tape's construction, especially considering the affordable price. The biggest pro is that the blade benefits from the traditional pairing of a yellow nylon coating with black and red numbers, making the measurements very visible.
Also included are some rubberised, impact-resistant points on the case, which help to prolong the tape's life. The overall quality isn't quite to the same high standard as the pocket tapes at the top of our ranking, but this is still a well-made item that's worth checking out.
This 150 m tape by LiteTour has a uniquely sleek design, making it a must-have for sewing enthusiasts who want their workspace to look good. The fact that it's retractable and comes in a solid case also makes it stand out from the typical tailoring tapes around.
One thing to be aware of is that the tape itself is black, which can make it much harder to read the measurements. Some shoppers may therefore feel that this option is a little too style over substance.
This inexpensive pocket tape comes equipped with 5 m of lockable tape to help you size up everyday measurements with ease. Unfortunately though, the tape is white instead of the industry-preferred yellow, making it a little harder to spot the measurements from a distance.
Also, this particular tape by Coral only offers the metric system, so it won't suit those who prefer to work in feet and inches. Despite this controversial choice, we think it's a budget-friendly buy.
Written and researched by Connor Macanally
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