While less exciting than using a circular saw or electric screwdriver, owning a reliable tape measure is a must for anyone interested in repairing or improving upon their home as almost every project you may undertake will involve some kind of measuring.
The recommendations in this guide are based on thorough product and market research by our team of expert product reviewers. The picks are based on examining user reviews, product specifications, and, in some limited cases, our experience with the specific products named.
Crescent Lufkin Black Widow L1025B
With a large 1 and a quarter-inch wide and 1-inch deep hook at the end of the Crescent Lufkin Black Widow's tape, this tape measure is able to hold on to any edge that you might hook it to. While the width of the tape is similar to the Stanley FATMAX (allowing for easier horizontal measuring without the tape twisting), the hook stability and the high-contrast print on the Black Widow's tape bumps it into first place.
The Black Widow's unique, high-contrast fluorescent-green-on-black printed measures, printed on both the top and bottom of the tape, is easy to read in dim lighting or under daylight conditions. This distinctive print on both sides of the tape measure allows for a reading to be taken no matter which way you hold the Black Widow, making it the most versatile and useful of any of the tape measures I found.
While most of the tape measures in this guide scuff easily after being dropped, the Black Widow remains unblemished, thanks to its protective, easy-to-grip rubber body.
However, I find that the coating on its tape did show signs of wear after being rubbed down with sandpaper. If wear on your tape is more of a concern, Stanely's iconic FATMAX might be worth a closer look. That said, the Black Widow outclasses the FATMAX in every other way.
The mylar polyester film on the Stanely FATMAX's tape is heavy duty, leaving barely visible scratches on its measures even in hard wear. In addition to this protective film on the tape, the FATMAX has an additional clear plastic layer on the first three inches of tape, providing it with additional protection. Compared to other tape measures that had the paint completely worn off the aluminum blade of their tapes after wear, the lack of damage to the FATMAX is really impressive. The lines printed on this tape measure's blade are large, easy to read, and include extra markings for studs for construction users.
The FATMAX's ranking was hurt by the fact that its hook has a smaller surface area than our main pick's does, making it more difficult to keep it in place while measuring.
The Milwaukee 48-22-6625 comes with some helpful markings on its measure. After the first foot, the markings continue in inches, fractions of an inch, and feet. However, this tape measure's many faults make it hard to recommend.
Its hook was smaller and shorter than both the FATMAX and the Lufkin Black Widow and its tape was thinner. This makes it more difficult to hook on to edges while measuring and when its tape is extended, more prone to bending. Additionally, after dropping this tape measure, I found that extending or retracting the tape caused it to make a wheezing noise. This speaks to a potentially poor build quality.
If you like the way Milwaukee marks the 48-22-6625's measuring tape but can't stomach its faults, check out the MulWark MLK-53752. The markings are similar, marking out feet, inches, and the fractions for each inch. It features a magnetic hook and, like the Lufkin Black Widow, The Mulwark's measures are also printed on the bottom.
However, I was annoyed by the MulWark's rubber wrist strap: It was stiff and kept poking me as I used the tape measure. If you buy the MulWark, consider cutting off the strap. It makes this tool a lot more pleasant to use.
If you prefer a tape measure with minimal measurement markings, making room for larger, easier to read numbers, the Craftsman Chrome could be right for you. The black-on-white print on its tape is large and easy to read, with red accents to highlight each foot along the tape. The tape's hook is identical to the one found on the Stanley FATMAX and Dewalt DWHT36107. However, the tape itself isn't as thick as either of these tools, causing it to quickly droop and bend, once extended.
when dropped the Craftsman's case easily presents scuffs or dents, presenting an argument against its long-term durability.
The Stanley Powerlock has a lot in common with the Stanley FATMAX: the blades on both tools stand up well against abrasion and feature similarly styled easy-to-read measurement text. I like the fact that the body of the Powerlock measures exactly three inches, in length. This makes it possible to easily use it as part of any measurement you're taking—an incredibly useful feature in tight spaces.
Unfortunately, the Powerlock can't match the FATMAX, or our main pick, where durability is concerned. After dropping it, its chromed body shows a number of scratches. That said, its tape and lock button still worked just as well as before I beat it up. I was disappointed to find that while the Powerlock's tape looks similar to the FATMAX's, it's slightly narrower, making it more difficult to read.
The print on the Komelon Gripper's tape is relatively easy to read; it includes fractions for each inch as well as a colored number for each foot, after the first foot of the tape. However, unlike our main pick, the Gripper's tape is only printed on one side. This tape measure stands up to being dropped, not showing a single mark afterward.
The Gripper's name feels like a bit of a misnomer: the hook on the end of its tape was smooth and shallow, making it challenging to hook it onto the edges of some things.
Despite Dewalt's reputation, their DWHT36107 tape measure didn't test well.
The DWHT36107's thin blade makes vertical measuring difficult as it folds over on any length longer than three feet. If the tape folds over, the hook can't engage the edge of what you plan to measure. I was abrasions will take the paint (and the markings) right off of the DWHT36107's blade, stripping it down to bare aluminum. Finally, its thumb lock slows down how fast the blade of the tape measure can be extended but doesn't lock it in place.
The main thing that the Kutir 56-7525 has going for it is that its tape comes with markings for both metric and imperial measurements. After being dropped, the Kutir will start to make a purring/whirring noise inside its case when moving the blade. However, the retraction and extending the tape measure continues to work just fine.
The main issue with the Kutir is the movement of its blade when it's supposed to be locked in position. The tape rolls back, slightly, into the case when the thumb lock is engaged, changing the measurement. Additionally, the hook on the end of its blade doesn't hold on edges when taking a horizontal measurement.
Tape: also called a blade, is the curved metal part that retracts and extends. It's printed with lines and numbers to help you get an accurate measurement of an object.
Hook: the hook is found at the end of the blade. It's attached to the blade by rivets that shift if the hook is pushed or pulled. The shifting movement of the hook should be equal to the width of the hook, to compensate for measurements that include the hook (like inside a box or closet) and measurements that do not include the hook (like when measuring lumber or the outside of a window frame).
Thumb Lock: the button on a tape measure that you press down to lock the tape in position. It provides a useful way to hold a measurement, for a moment, on the blade.
Case: the outside of the tape measure. It protects the blade when it is retracted.
Belt Clip: attached to the back of the case, a belt clip offers the means to keep a tape measure within reach, without the need to tuck it into a pocket. If you do prefer to keep a tape measure in your pocket, just remove the belt clip. It's usually held onto the case by a single screw.
What to Look for in a Tape Measure
When shopping for a tape measure, consider the following:
A good tape measure should keep working despite enduring a fair amount of abuse. Look for one that comes with a rubberized case to protect it from bumps and being dropped. and wear on the blade.
The print on the blade should be covered in a mylar coating to protect the measures from being scratched off.
A hook that's large (at least one-inch wide) and shaped to allow it to hold onto the edge of whatever you're measuring.
Wider blades allow for easier reading of measurements. A 1 and 1/4-inch wide blade is preferable to narrower blades.
A Word About Accuracy
Measuring objects is difficult. Generally, the best you can achieve is an approximation of length, based on the level of accuracy of your measuring tool. Unfortunately, tape measures are not the most accurate of tools. Where a high level of precision is necessary, it's possible to check the accuracy of your tape measure using a tape measure calibration tool, like this one from Lixer Tools.
For most people, the accuracy of a tape measure is only an issue if you're using more than one on the same project: one to take a measurement and then a different tape measure to mark a board before cutting it, for example, Keep things simple: use a single tape measure on a project, whenever possible.
If you do need to use multiple tape measures, calibrate them before starting on your project. An easy way to do this is to use your tape measures to measure from a particular point on a wall, down to the floor. Doing so will quickly illustrate how far off each tape measure is in accuracy, from one another.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.