The first step in any carpentry project is the taking of accurate measurements. Even though it seems big, buy a 25-foot steel tape measure with a 3/4-inch-wide blade for general use. Most tape measures are retractable, so the tape returns easily. Make sure your tape has a locking mechanism, so you can keep it extended to a desired length. A belt clip is also essential. Wider tapes normally have a longer standout – the distance a tape can be extended before it bends under its own weight. A long standout is an extremely useful feature when you’re measuring without a partner to support the far end of the tape. Open a tape in the store and extend it until it bends. It should have a standout of at least 7 feet.
Tape measures are commonly set in 1/16-inch increments along the top edge and 1/32-inch increments for the first six inches across the bottom. Select one with numbers that are easy to read. “Easy reader” tapes feature a fractional readout for people who have difficulty reading a measurement calibrated with dash marks. Most tape measures feature numbers that are marked or labeled every 16 inches for easy marking of studs. A high-quality tape measure also has a twoor three-rivet hook to control the amount of play in the tape, ensuring your measurements are as accurate as possible.
The end hook on a tape measure has between 1/16 and 1/8″ of play so that the hook pushes in for taking an inside measurement and pulls out for taking an outside edge measurement. The hook end should not be used when an extremely accurate measurement is required. For precise measurements, use the 1″ mark as your starting point (called burying an inch), then subtract 1″ from your reading. Using the hook end, measure 5″ from the end of a board. Then measure by burying an inch (shown).