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The Best Tools for Measuring Distance

Tape Measure on Wood

Pros and Cons of Common Tools for Measuring Distances

Is a digital tape measure sufficient for measuring distances, or do you still require more traditional tools to gauge distances accurately and efficiently? As is often the case in construction, the best tool depends on the job itself. Here is a list of some of the most common measuring tools used in construction and the situations in which they are most and least appropriate to use.

1. Digital Tape Measures

A digital tape measure is also called a laser tape measure. It functions by measuring the time that it takes to register a reflected pulse from an outbound laser beam. Working according to the phase shift principle, it instantaneously calculates the distance the beam has traveled. The device then provides you with a digital readout indicating the precise distance.

Laser Measurement Tool on Wall

Digital tape measures are accurate for both short distances and long distances up to 300 feet. They are also portable and easy to use. However, there are limitations as well. Laser tape measures should only be used indoors, and they only work if there is a solid endpoint for them to reflect a beam against. They also will not give an accurate reading when measuring porous materials that absorb light or shiny, reflective surfaces, such as metal or glass.

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2. Measuring Tapes

In situations where a digital tape measure is not up to the job, an old-fashioned measuring tape is more appropriate. There are two types of measuring tapes. Tape measures are portable tools that can clip to a belt and measure maximum distances ranging from 6 feet to 33 feet, depending on tape length. A long tape measures distances between 100 and 300 feet and unspools from a reel.

Tape Measure on door

Measuring tapes are good backups for situations in which other tools won't work. However, they do not yield the most accurate measurements. Also, it is important to get the right measuring tape for the job, as a long tape is less precise for measuring short distances than a tape measure.

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3. Measuring Wheels

If you need to measure distances exceeding 300 feet, a measuring wheel is probably your best choice. It consists of a handle attached to a calibrated wheel to measure distance traveled and a counter on which you can read the measurements. You use a measuring wheel by pushing it over the terrain you want measured.

Measuring wheels are accurate for long distances and, unlike other tools for determining distance, aren't limited to measuring only straight lines. They are also accurate up to 10,000 feet. However, a measuring wheel is limited to relatively flat terrain.

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Whatever the tools you need for the job, Engineer Supply has what you need. Shop our selection of measuring devices and other construction tools.

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