Skip to main content

How to Measure

“Measure twice, cut once.” It’s a tenant so important to carpentry (and life!) that Katie Whitaker, founder and lead handy-person at Handyma’am, has it tattooed on their forearm. But that’s not all there is to measuring correctly–and we tapped Katie to share their pro tips for getting your numbers right (and get them to name drop their favorite tools, too!).

Getting Started

Write everything down

“When I measure for a project, I make a rough sketch of the area or object and write the measurements around the sketch itself. It’s easier to remember when you can see it,” Katie says.

Get to know your tape measure

They shared that most tape measures have a “little bit of wiggle room (usually ⅛ – 1/16 of an inch)” at the end of the blade where the hook attaches to the tape. This means that the hook itself moves each time the tape measure is moved. To help mitigate error, they say “it’s best to pick one tape measure and stick with it for the whole project to avoid any measurements being off by that small amount.”

Katie on the job building a cabinet.

Tips & Tricks

Don’t forget to leave room for the blade

If you’re cutting lumber, do a test cut to see what your blade tolerance is. For most circular saws, it’s about an 1/8th of an inch.

Measure from the baseboard

If you’re hanging art on the wall, Katie says they “usually measure from the top of the molding up–that way, your measurements are level even if the floor or ceiling is not.” 

Take your time

Accuracy is key! It’s a good idea to plan out your measurements before you start and make notes for yourself. Survey the wall or object and make note of things like molding, power outlets, or light switches. Add those to your drawing so you don’t forget to account for them in your final plans. 

Use the bend!

“Tape measures are designed to bend and using that bend can help you reach higher or wider with more accuracy,” they advise. 

Try to keep your tape level

If you’re measuring long distances, a sagging or crooked tape can cause your measurements to be off by inches! Use the floor, baseboard or wall corner to help keep you in line.

Katie’s Favorite Measuring Tools

16 Foot Magnetic Milwaukee

“My absolute favorite tape measure! The magnet on the end will stick to studs, making it easy to span large walls without the blade sagging. It doubles as a stud finder and the blade is wider which means the numbers are easier to read and the tape is less likely to bend or sag.” 

*note: No matter what tape measure you select, a good tape measure should have a metal blade, double sided numbers and a good locking lever. Self locking blades can be nice, but they don’t last as long and are more likely to slip or retract.

Available for purchase at Home Depot

Bosch Laser Level

“This is a must for gallery walls, shelves, or other projects hanging multiple things. It comes with a handy clamp that you can use on just about anything–it’s self leveling, so you never have to worry about being level.

Available for purchase at Home Depot

DIY + Inspiration

Pressure Washers: Types + How to Use
Get to Know Katie Freeman
Top 6 Places to Feature Handmade Tile with Fireclay Tile
Stay Up To Date With Us
Positive vibes. No mansplaining. Ever. Follow along to learn about the newest Pros on the MBuild roster, our favorite DIY + renovation tips, and stories about badass women in the trades. Let’s build the matriarchy one project at a time.