How to Measure Almost Everything - EngineerSupply

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How to Measure Almost Everything

Many professionals depend on quick accurate measurements. Whether you are an engineer, surveyor, designer, architect, realtor, contractor, construction worker, estimator, or in another profession you know that you could lose business, time and money due to an incorrect measurement. There are so many methods and tools available for measuring how do you know which tool to purchase for your measuring needs? Keep reading for a brief guide on selecting the best measuring tool.

Laser Measurers

Laser distance measuring devices work by sending out a laser beam of light and tracking how long it takes for the beam to return to the device. It uses this information to instantly calculate the distance from the laser measuring tool to the object you selected with the beam. Not only does it display distances instantly and accurately, it can track measurements, and make simple calculations (like adding measurements, subtracting measurements, calculating indirect heights and automatically calculating area). You can set the laser measuring device to measure from the front of the device or the back to allow you the most accurate measurements. Why take a chance with errors when you can have the perfect measurement at the click of a button? Laser measurers are used by many different professionals including: painters, realtors, estimators, contractors, and more. For more detailed information see our guide: All About Laser Measuring Tools.

Laser measuring tools are ideal for: Measurements you have to take without any help; interior room measurements; finding areas of walls (ie: when deciding how much paint or drywall is needed to purchase for a job); measuring the height of a building; measuring the height of an object on a window on high story of a building when you cannot reach the object to hold up a measuring device; and more.

The device can be used outside but you will not be able to see precisely where the laser beam is pointed. Picture turning on a flashlight on a sunny day... the light will be on, but you won't be able to see the beam. To make up for this, some laser measuring devices add a viewfinder for you to look through and aim the beam to wherever you want to measure.

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Measuring Wheels

Measuring wheels should be used when a distance estimate is needed. Simply roll the wheel along the surface you want to measure. They work in a wide variety of settings whether indoors or out. A simple guide for choosing a wheel is that large wheels are for rougher terrain, while smaller wheels are for measuring smooth surfaces like interior rooms, concrete sidewalks or gym floors. Measuring wheels can either have a digital or mechanical measurement recorder. Digital measuring wheels can do simple calculations and switch between measuring scales. Mechanical measuring wheels use a tally-like device to track measurements and will never need batteries. But if you purchase a mechanical measuring wheel you will need to choose a single measuring scale at time of purchase. Measuring wheels are used by landscapers, engineers, surveyors, fence installers, realtors, range operators, construction workers and more. Measuring wheels are good for rough estimates: such as to measure field lengths for outdoor sports (including baseball diamonds, archery and shooting ranges, football, soccer fields and more); to estimate the amount of fencing needed when constructing a fence; to estimate amount of gravel or concrete needed to complete a sidewalk or driveway.

Calipers and Micrometers

Calipers are a great tool to measure diameters of different objects, such as pipes, wires, screws, distances between small areas, holes. They are versatile tool that can be used to measure interior and exterior diameters, step and depth. To measure, spread the jaws of the tool in the space that you want to measure and the measurement will show on the read out. We offer both mechanical and digital calipers. Mechanical calipers are great because they never require batteries, and the digital calipers instantly display the exact measurement and allow you the option to switch between metric and inches measurement modes.

A micrometer, often shortened to Mic, is like a caliper but is used for smaller, more precise measurements. To adjust the tool and take measurements you twist the right side of the tool while the adjustable arm moves the distance to be measured. Our micrometer measures in 1/1000 of an inch and measuring range is between 0 to 1 inch.

Calipers and Micrometers are good for small precise measurements: the size of a screw, the distance between to small objects such as a holes, it can measure the inside or outside diameter of pipes and tools.

Electronic Builder's Levels

A builder's level is a very standard tool and one you that cannot be without. The concept for the tool is rather simple: a ruler shaped tool with bubble vials to determine if surface is level. The longer the level the more accurate you can measure. Many manufacturers have taken this simple starting point and added some more features to make this tool even more of a necessity for your tool box, here's some options you'll see on our levels: glow in the dark bubble vials (working in low light conditions, this glow in the dark vial is a must!), a built-in electronic inclinometer (which can measure angles as degrees, millimeters or as a percentage), torpedo laser level (good to use on pipes, has a threaded tripod mount and a magnetic mount). All the vials on our levels are sturdy, reliable and shock-proof. This tool is ideal for leveling objects and raised surfaces such as decks, tiles, flooring, shelves, pictures etc. and for getting the right angle on diagonal tile, chair rail, handrail banisters and more.


An inclinometer or clinometer is used to measure slope, angle, pitch, elevation, tilt or incline. Different clinometers will display measurements in degrees, millimeters or percentage. Clinometers have different measuring ranges that vary by model but are typically 0-90 degrees or 0-180 degrees. Good for determining the incline of pipe slopes, determining elevation of gravity fed mechanical devices such as gravel, feed or water dispenser or storage devices.

Measuring Rod Rulers

A measuring rod ruler is a telescoping stick marked with a measurement readout. As you raise and lower the rod the measurement will show on the rod and also in a small window on the back of the stick. If you are using a measuring stick with multiple telescoping sections be sure to fully extend the highest section and before moving down to the next extension. While measuring rod rulers and surveying grade rods or level rods look similar the difference is how they measure. A measuring rod measures the total length of the extended rod from end to end, whereas the grade rod measures from a specific point to the ground. However, we have a couple of dual-purpose grade and measuring rods. Measuring rods can be used to measure vertical distances, but can also be used to measure horizontally. Good for measuring grade (elevation or decline) of earth, great when used in conjunction with other tools such as rotary laser, visual sight levels and clamp on laser detectors.

Measuring Tapes

Measuring tapes are one of the more commonly used tools, right up there with the hammer. Not only is it a tool used by homeowners, do-it-yourself enthusiasts, but it's used by professionals in almost any field imaginable, builders, contractors, realtors, flooring installers, estimators... the list is practically endless. To use simply pull out the coiled tape to desired measuring distance and read the measurement indicated on the tape. There are many factors to determine which tape will meet your exact needs, but here's a quick guide to help you know where to start when picking out a measuring tape. Measuring tapes come in two basic casings forms. Closed casing is typically a handy pocket sized tool to measure relatively short distances. Open casing is great for exterior measurements, because it measures longer distances, has a carry handle for quicker retraction of tape, and allows debris to be easily be cleaned out. The blade (or tape) is commonly made out of 2 basic materials: metal, which is more durable and has a longer life expectancy, will not stretch over time, but is affected by extreme heat. Metal blades will also conduct electricity so make sure to choose fiberglass if you are going to encounter electrical hazards. Fiberglass blades are less expensive and you will never have to worry about rust, but they can stretch if you pull too hard on the tape. The most important thing to consider when you decide which measuring tape to purchase is the mode of measurement you need to utilize, we carry 3 standard measurements: Imperial (English) 8ths/inches, Metric and engineers 10ths/100ths. Metric measurements are typically the standard measurement in almost every country except the USA. Imperial measurements are the standard in the USA. The "8ths" means that every inch is divided into an 8th of an inch. The engineers standard means that every foot is divided into 10ths and 100ths. Don't worry if you need more than one measurement standard since we offer dual tapes. Just turn the tape over to switch measurement modes. For more in depth details see our guide on how to pick out a measuring tape. Measuring tapes are one of the most well-known measuring tools. It can be used to measure wood length, floor dimensions, window openings, house foundations, the list is endless.

Electronic Distance Measuring (EDM) and Total Stations

The back bone to surveying has always been measurement. Electronic distance measuring has revolutionized the modern surveying industry. EDM measures how long it takes a beam of light to reach an object and return, giving an instant readout of the distance to a specific point. A total station is data collecting surveying tool, like a theodolite but with built in EDM. It features an optical scope to aim the beam of light and an electronic "brain" component to calculate distances, store information and more depending on the model's capabilities. Total stations are capable of recording thousands of measurement points which can be transferred to a computer. They are known for reducing errors, resulting in faster, reliable more accurate measurements in less time. Although EDM is an essential tool for surveyors it is also used by law enforcement, hydrographers, construction surveyors, photogrammetrists, geophysicists and geodesists.

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Plan Measurers

Plan measurers are used to measure straight distances on blueprints. If you need to measure the length of a room, area of a floor, stretch of road, or any other straight distance on a blueprint, map, drawing or smooth surface the plan measure is the perfect tool for you. Plan measurers work almost like a measuring wheel but they put all their computing power into the palm of your hand. Most digital plan measuring devices can perform simple calculations like area measuring, recent measurement tracking, adjustable scale (see specific products for complete list). Some digital models have direct input to your computer, eliminating another step that can introduce errors into your measurements.

Scale Tape

A scale tape is a small measuring tape used to measure distance on plans and blueprints. Estimators tapes are not very long since the focus is on small precise measurements. They come in a variety of scales depending on your specific need. Our unique Triangular Scale Tape features 3 blades that has multiple plan scales on each blade. one tape has up to 12 different scales.

Area Planimeters

Area planimeters are used to measure the area of uncommon shapes on blueprint. A perfect example would be a body of water or a sand trap on a golf course. It can find the area of any shape as long as it has a closed loop to travel on. It's easy to use, just set the scale, and trace along the perimeter of the object on the blueprints. The planimeter will calculate the distance based upon the movement of the wheels (or arm) on the device. Digital planimeters do not have a limited area it can measure like arm planimeters. They can also be used to do calculations like calculating averages, adding and subtracting. It has an adjustable scale and will measure to custom scales. It can be set to measure in feet or meters. To watch a planimeter in use check out our video: Planimeter measuring tool. Planimeters are used by medical professionals, x-ray specialist, architects, contractors, surveyors, designers, engineers, even shoemakers, the list is practically endless.

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