How to read a tape measure and what different markings mean

Top down view of two tape measures on wooden table top
(Image credit: Steven Jenkins)

If you don’t know how to read a tape measure then you have come to the right place. Here we breakdown the different elements you will find on a standard UK imperial/metric tape measure. We reveal what each of the measurement markings and other difficult to decipher marks mean. 

Most of the action on a tape measure sits at the end that first makes an appearance when you use it, which makes perfect sense. Alongside the default measurement marks you will probably be wondering what is the diamond on a tape measure and what do the roman numerals mean among other questions. 

Steve Jenkins

Steve Jenkins is a freelance content creator with over two decades of experience working in digital and print and was previously the DIY content editor for Homebuilding & Renovating. 

He is a keen DIYer with over 20 years of experience in transforming and renovating the many homes he has lived in. He specialises in painting and decorating, but has a wide range of skills gleaned from working in the building trade for around 10 years and spending time at night school learning how to plaster and plumb.

He has fitted kitchens, tiled bathrooms and kitchens, laid many floors, built partition walls, plastered walls, plumbed in bathrooms, worked on loft conversions and much more. And when he's not sure how to tackle a DIY project he has a wide network of friends – including plumbers, gas engineers, tilers, carpenters, painters and decorators, electricians and builders – in the trade to call upon.