The 3 Best Tape Measures According to Professional Builder Jordan Smith

Whether you are doing general construction work, framing, or even finer work like finish carpentry, measuring tools are an essential part of your toolbox. But the tool you’ll reach for the most is the tape measure 

“If there’s one tool that you use all the time—every single day—as a contractor, it’s going to be the tape measure. When you measure a remodel and you’re giving a quote, you use a tape measure. When you’re cutting lumber, you use a tape measure. You use a tape measure for absolutely every part of the building process—from estimate all the way through the final punch list.” – Jordan Smith

When choosing a tape measure, there are some must-have features you should look for, but you’ll also need to consider your own preferences and job type. 

5 Must-Have Tape Measure Features

Some tape measure features are non-negotiable, like a good standout length, solid body, and durable tape. Make sure that whatever tape measure you buy includes these essential features.

A tape measure is only one of the essential tools you’ll need on a construction site. Learn more about the most important construction tools—and how to use them safely—in MT Copeland’s online class, taught by professional builder and craftsman Jordan Smith.


The Top Three Best Tape Measures, According to Professional Builder Jordan Smith

The best tape measure for you will depend on a few personal preferences and the job type you do most frequently. Jordan’s top three tape measures have all of the non-negotiables and maintain their standing as industry favorites year after year.

Best for General Construction, With Auto Lock 

The Stanley FatMax 30 is the modern classic professional’s tape measure. It’s a tougher version of the popular Stanley Powerlock but with a wider tape and therefore a larger standout. The auto lock feature means that the tape will automatically stay in place when extended without having to push any lock buttons. 

Best for Framing and General Construction 

The Milwaukee STUD has all of the features of the Stanley FatMax but without the auto lock. Many builders (including Jordan) prefer to regulate the extension and recoil of the tape with their finger for extra quick movement. Also an industry standby, it is slightly lighter than the Stanley and has a competitive standout.

Best for Carpentry

The FastCap ProCarpenter is a tape measure designed with finish carpenters in mind who are often taking small measurements that must be exact. It is customizable for reading preferences including reverse reading (readable on either side of the tape from right and left), an area to take notes directly on the tape, metric options (including reverse reading), and even metric and standard combo tapes. Features include:

Optional Features for Your Tape Measure

While a standard tape measure is a great tool, you’ll get the most out of your tape measure by choosing one that is made for the way you work. Different types of lock mechanisms, fractional read tapes, or specialty left-handed tapes are all optional ways to customize your tape measure to the way you work.

Tips for Using Your Tape Measure

More Toolbox Recommendations

Get Jordan’s complete class on choosing and using essential construction tools in MT Copeland’s Hand Tools online course

MT Copeland offers video-based online classes that give you a foundation in construction fundamentals with real-world applications. Classes include professionally produced videos taught by practicing craftspeople, and supplementary downloads like quizzes, blueprints, and other materials to help you master the skills.

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