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Laser Measure Vs Tape Measure

You will agree with me that a good distance measuring device is an essential part of any engineer, woodworker, architect, contractor, and DIY enthusiast tool kit. This is because these professions require a great deal of distance measurement accuracy that only the right distance measuring tool can provide. There are lots of distance measuring tools available on the market today, but the real challenge comes when it’s time for you to select the right distance measuring tool for your work.

As technology evolves, the classic tape measure is almost considered an anachronistic tool in a modern high-tech workshop especially with the invention of the laser distance measure. Here comes the question: is a laser distance measure a perfect replacement for your traditional tape measure? Which of these tools is more accurate, easier to use, and promises to increase and enhance your productivity?

In this edition, we are going to compare the tape measure with the laser distance measure and show you what they are and how they work. We are also going to explore their accuracy and efficiency and discuss the benefit of one over the other to help you select the best tool for your job.


Tape Measure

A tape measure, also known as measuring tape is a narrow strip with linear-measurement markings (both metric and imperial units) that are intended for taking distance measurements. It can also be described as a flexible ruler with marked graduations in metric (meters and centimeters) and imperial units (feet and inches) measurements.

Tape measures are one of the most common distance measuring tools that are still in use today. They are made from different materials such as cloth, plastic, fiberglass, and metal. The tool was invented by James Chesterman in Sheffield, England in the year 1829, but was not widely accepted until the 1940s. It was originally intended for use in tailoring but made its way into different walks of life and professions such as carpentry, electricians, metal works, architecture, survey, real estate appraisal, interior designing, etc.

Tape measures are very common on the building site

Types of Tape Measure and How They Work

The main aim of this article is to compare the traditional tape measure with the laser measure. But we cannot achieve success without having a proper understanding of how these tools work. In the case of a tape measure, the operation of the tool is influenced by the type of the tool being used. In this section, we will take a quick look at the types of tape measure available and how they work.

The basic types of tape measure include:

  1. Spring return tape measure
  2. Long tape measure

Spring return tape measure

This type of tape measure is also known as a pocket tape measure. These tape measures will fit in your pocket due to their small sizes. They come with a hard case that is about three inches wide, and the actual tape (known as the “ribbon”) which coils up in the case. The ribbon is fairly stiff yet flexible and remains in the case until you stretch it out when you need to take measurements.

Spring return tape measure has a spring mechanism that returns the tape (ribbon) into its case for convenient storage whenever the tape is pulled. The tape is ¼ to ¾ inches wide and one foot to fifteen feet long while the larger ones can go up to 35 feet in length. The ribbon has a tang (also known as end hook or end piece) on its end to attach the tape to the object to be measured.

Pocket tape measure usually comes with a locking mechanism which makes it easy for a single person to operate and take distance measurements, especially when used with its end piece and spring mechanism feature. Specialists in professions such as carpentry, metal works, and interior designing often use this type of tape measure. However, they are not the ideal tool for surveyors, real estate appraisers and contractors who require distance measurements that are longer than 35 feet.

There are several types of this Pocket tape measure with different unique features that are designed for a specific trade or use. Some of these Pocket tape measure available on the market today include:

Keyring tape measure:

If you’d love to have your tape measure with you wherever you go and take the measurement while you are away from your regular or larger distance measuring tool, then this type of pocket tape measure is for you. They come with a key ring to hold your keys and are usually significantly smaller and lighter in weight than the other available types. They are ideal for projects that require short distance measurement such as interior design but are not suitable for surveying and building project that involves the measurement of long distances.

Auto-lock tape measure:

This type of pocket tape measure comes with an automatic locking mechanism to stop the tape from returning into its case when it is extended. This allows for a single person operation and accurate measurements as you will be able to place it where you need to measure without having to hold the tape to stop it from retracting. When you pull the tape out of its case, it remains locked until you press the release button. This will give you the chance to operate your tape measure with just one hand, so you wouldn’t have to fight with it while tackling a project.

Magnetic tape measure:

If you are a builder or an electrician who will be taking or checking distance measurements by attaching your tape measure to a piece of metal, then the magnetic tape measure might be perfect for you. This type of tape measure comes with a strong magnet at the end of the tape (end piece) which will stick to a metallic surface and bear the weight of the tape while you take measurements.

Rust-resistant tape measure:

Just as the name implies, rust-resistant tape measures features a lower amount of metals and higher amount of rust-resistant materials to make it less susceptible to rust damage. They are ideal for use in damp places and outdoor jobs especially in areas with higher risk of rainfall.

Digital tape measure:

This type of tape measure comes with the imperial and metric marking as well as the conventional end piece that we are all familiar with, and that’s where the similarities end. It features a large easy-to-read display that allows its users to choose their unit of measurement and take digital readings from the screen instead of reading the blade. This eliminates the error of misreading the blade and can also help to store or recall measurements with its inbuilt memory.

Long tape measure

This type of tape measure offers longer distance measurement that cannot be attained with the use of pocket tape measure. They very flexible and are available in different lengths such as 25, 50, 75, 100, 200, 500 feet. They are designed for builders, surveyors, engineers, and real estate appraisers and are ideal for finding the distance or angle between two points and creating land maps.

Unlike spring return tape measures, long tape measures usually come with a big case and hand crank that allows its users to crank the tool to wind up or return the tape into the case for convenient storage. They also come with a hook slot (end piece) that allows its users to latch onto an anchor point and might require a two-person operation, especially for long distance measurement.

How does tape measure work?

Like we said before, tape measures come with an end piece and markings on both sides of the tape to facilitate accurate reading of measurements. They all have the same working principle but are available in different scales based on the use they are intended for.

To operate the tool, the user will latch the end piece or hook of the tape firmly onto the anchor point or on the edge of the material to be measured. The tape is then extended, and the value of the distance between the two points are taken from the markings on the tape or the LCD screen of the tool in the case of a digital tape measure.

Spring return tape measures may not require two-person operation since they feature metal tapes that may not bend or stretch while taking measurements. On the other hand, long tape measure features flexible materials that may require proper stretching by two users to ensure that the tape is in a straight line to avoid error while taking the measurements.

Tape measures: how accurate are they?

All tape measures are not the same. But their accuracy is the most important factor that should not be avoided when deciding on the right distance measuring tool for your work. Tape measures are available in the increments of either 1/16ʺ (one-sixteenth of an inch) or 1/32ʺ (one thirty-second of an inch). The most common type of tape measure increments available on the market are those with 1/16ʺ.

The accuracy of the tape measures decreases a lot over long distances

Tape with this blade increments is used for construction and general application. Tapes with 1/32ʺ blade increments are rarer and are used in engineering or other applications that require a higher level of precision. However, some factors affect the accuracy of the measurement taken by tape measures, these include:

  • Materials used in manufacturing the tape
  • Tolerance level
  • Temperature
  • Hook accuracy
  • ISO Rating

Materials used in manufacturing the tape:

The accuracy of the tape measure is a function of the materials used in its production. Some material used in making tape measure and their accuracy are discussed below.

Linen or cloth:

Linen or cloth tape is made up of a varnished woven linen strip that is about 12 to 16 mm wide and comes in a leather case which contains a spindle where the tape is wound unto. This type of tape measure is available in lengths of 10 to 50 meters and are mostly used for taking offsets.

Although linen or cloth tapes are very light and handy, they are subject to variation in length, and this renders them inappropriate for measurements that require high accuracy. Moreover, they shrink when exposed to dampness and can stretch and may remain elongated permanently when they are pulled. They are not durable, and the figures on the tape fade very quickly, so care must be taken when using them.

Metric woven metallic tape:

This kind of tape is made from metal wire and yarn. The metal wire is made from stainless steel, copper, or phosphor bronze while the yarn is made from good quality linen or cotton. The tape is 16 mm wide and is available in lengths of 2, 5, 10, 20, 30, and 50 meters.

Metric woven metallic tapes are better and more durable than linen or cloth tapes. They are designed for taking subsidiary measurements and offsets but are not suitable for precise works. According to IS: 1269 – 1958, the tolerable error in the length of this tape when place on a flat surface, under a tension of 9.8 N should not go beyond the following limits.

Tape length (meters).Probable errors (mm).
30± 15.0
50± 20.0
3± 3.0
2± 1.5

Additionally, the tolerable error of 20, 30, & 50-meter tapes from their beginning to the lengths stated below should not go beyond the following limits.

Length (m).Tolerable error (mm).
50± 30
30± 20
20± 15
10± 10
Metric steel tapes:

This type of tapes is made of stainless steel or steel and is used for precise works. The tape is available in lengths of 1 to 50 meters with 20, 30, and 50 m as its most common lengths. The linear markings are made on only one side of the tape at every meter, decimeter, centimeter, and five millimeters.

However, the tape’s accuracy can be affected by temperature; they are also light and fragile and can easily get damaged.

Metallic steel tapes are one of the most common tape measures
Invar tapes:

Invar tapes is an alloy of iron containing 64.5% steel and 35.5% nickel. These tapes are available in various lengths and are used for works that require the highest level of precision due to their very low coefficient of heat expansion. Invar tapes are however delicate and pricey, so they should be handled with care.

Fiberglass tapes:

These tapes are also used for precise works and useful for various applications due to their unique features such as non-conductivity, flexibility, non-corrosive properties, tensile strength, and heat resistance. They are also durable, easy to store, and available in different width, length, and thickness. However, their accuracy can be affected by the tension and temperature of their operating environment.

Tolerance level

The tension or pull force applied on a tape measure can affect its accuracy. However, the ability of a tape measure to withstand pressure and tension depends on the material used in its production. The accuracy of tape measures is generally classified according to their level of tolerance within prescribed limits.

In Europe, professional measuring tapes are categorized in EU Class 1 (most accurate) and EU Class 2. The tapes are subjected to heat and tension to identify their level of tolerance and categorize them according to their accuracy class.

Fiberglass tapes are measured at 20 N pull force and 20 °C and Steel tapes at a pull force of 50 N and 20 °C. While Class 2 tapes are suitable for most users, Class 1 tapes are regarded the highest level of precision and are used by professionals who require little bit extra accuracy.

The table below shows the tolerance level and accuracy of the steel tape measure.

Tape length (m)Class 1 (mm)Class 2 (mm)Class 3 (mm)
100± 10.1± 20.3± 40.6
50± 5.1± 10.3± 20.6
30± 3.1± 6.3± 12.6
25± 2.6± 5.3± 10.6
20± 2.1± 4.3± 8.6
15± 1.6± 3.3± 6.6
10± 1.1± 2.3± 4.6
8± 0.9± 1.9± 3.6
5± 0.6± 1.3± 2.6
3± 0.4± 0.9± 1.8
2± 0.3± 0.7± 1.4
1± 0.2± 0.5± 1.0

Temperature

There are significant differences in temperature between the periods of the day (morning, afternoon, and night) and between winter and summer. These differences in temperature can affect the length of tape and hence, the accuracy of the tape measure. This changes in tape length are common in steel tapes measures due to the linear expansivity of its construction material (steel) as temperature changes.

It is important to know the deviation of measurements for various temperature especially if you’re working with a steel tape. The table below shows the change in length of a steel tape measure at 20⁰C temperature deviations.

ΔT10⁰C20⁰C30⁰C
L (m)ΔL (±mm)
10012.424.837.2
506.212.418.6
303.77.411.2
202.55.07.4
101.22.53.7
81.02.03.0
50.61.21.9
30.40.71.1
20.20.50.7

Where:

  • ΔL = length change and calculated with the formula ΔL = L x ΔT x α
  • L = length of the tape measure
  • ΔT = Change in temperature and it is calculated using the formula ΔT = T₂ – T₁
  • T₁ = 20⁰C, so ΔT is the temperature differences from 20⁰C
  • α = coefficient of thermal expansion (12.4 x 10⁻⁶)

Example: If the temperature of the job site is 40⁰C, ΔT will be 20⁰C. So, the change in length of a 10 m long steel tape measure used on the job site will be 2.5 mm.

Hook Accuracy

The movement on the end-piece or hook of tape measuring devices is not always the same. These end-pieces or hook can become slack and move over time thus affecting the accuracy of their measurements. If you believe that there is an improper movement in the hook of your tape measure and you need to take a very accurate measurement, you can perform a simple technique known as “burning an inch.”

To do this, you have to line up one end of the item you want to measure with the 1-inch mark on your tape (you might even decide to line the end of the item you want to measure with 2 or 3-in mark on your tape). After taking the measurement, subtract the extra inches you added to get the actual measurement. This will help to avoid the error from the hook.

ISO Rating:

Apart from the difference in scale and materials used in manufacturing the tool, there can also be a variation in the standard of quality followed by different brands in their tape manufacturing process. The first thing to look out for when shopping for an accurate tape measure is its rating from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The tool manufacturing process should be in accordance with ISO 9001 which is the standard quality system for tape measure production and accuracy.


LASER DISTANCE MEASURE

A laser distance measure (also known as laser distance meter or laser meter) is a contemporary handheld distance measuring tool that relies on the optical measuring process to calculate distance. This optical distance measurer determines the distance between two points with the help of its laser technology and provides the readings in digital form on their display.

Laser measures are easy to use. They offer a superior level of convenience in that they are faster and support one man and one hand operation without having to drag tapes about as it is the case with tape measures. Laser distance meters are very portable and are used by different people from different professions such as:

  • Interior designing
  • Contractors
  • Architecture
  • Real estate appraisers
  • Woodworking
  • Plumbing
  • Electricians and
  • Homeowners (DIYers)

How Does Laser Distance Measure Work?

A laser measure works by shooting a laser beam (pulse of laser light) from a point to a target and measuring the amount of time it takes the light to reflect off the target and return to the tool to calculate the distance between the two points. The optical method of distance measurement (otherwise known as “pulse” measurement) used by laser measures relies on a working principle known as the “time of flight” which is based on the speed at which laser light travels through the atmosphere of the earth.

Since the speed at which laser light travels the atmosphere is fairly constant, the tool can then calculate the distance between itself and its target with this criterion using the formula D = ct/2.

Where:

  • c = the speed of light.
  • t = the amount of time takes the light to reflect off the target and return to the tool.

Due to the focus of the laser light (i.e., the unbending nature of light) and high speed at which it travels, this calculation is very accurate over distances of miles or feet, but the accuracy tends to decrease with farther or much closer distances.

The speed of light is 3 x 10⁵ km/s, so to calculate the distance of (say) 1-in, the tool must measure the amount of time it takes to reflect off the light from the target back to the tool in the order of billionths of a second. You don’t have to worry about this as the technology is reliable and well established.

How to Measure with a Laser Distance Measure

To measure distance with a laser distance measure, you have to start by pressing the power button to switch the tool on. Then, line up the tool at one end of the object or line you intend to measure (according to the measuring reference position) and place a target (which is usually a solid like a metal or plastic object) at the other end. If you want to measure the distance from a point to a wall, cabinet or other solid objects, you don’t need to add a target, but if there is no target at your endpoint, you can add one to reflect the laser light to your laser distance measure.

The next thing is to aim the tool (the laser light) at your target and press the “measure” button. Keep the tool in a fixed position until it records a measurement which will be displayed on its screen. Once the tool records a measurement, the laser light should go off. For additional measurements (like volume, area and indirect measurement) utilize the tool’s onboard functions to get the readings.

Note: Each model and brand are different, so you need to take time to read and understand the user’s guide that comes with your tool before you operate it.

It is very fast to measure with a laser measure. Press “on”, then point at the target and finally press the calculate button.

Factors That Affect the Accuracy of Laser Distance Measures

The accuracy of laser distance measures is one of its biggest advantages. Its measures with high accuracy at a resolution of about ± 1/8 inch, ± 1/16 inch, or ± 1/25, the resolution of some models can even go up to ± 1/32 inch. However, the accuracy of these devices can be affected by some factors which include:

  • The target
  • Atmospheric distortions
  • The sensor (receiver)

Let us explain these in detail.

Target reflectance:

Laser measures accuracy depends on the reflection of the original pulse back to the sending device. Therefore, the accuracy of laser measures depends on the ability of the target to reflect and return the laser light to the sending device. However, the degree at which different materials reflects light varies. While some have lesser degrees of light reflect-ability, others can reflect light to greater degrees.

A target that tends to diffuse (scatter) light or absorb it will reduce the possibility of reflecting the original laser pulse to the tool for calculation. In this case, especially where the target scatters light, you should make use of a laser measure with a “phase shift method.”

Atmospheric distortions:

Although laser beams have high energies and are very narrow, they are affected by the same atmospheric distortions that affect white light. Achieving high accuracy of measurements for distances that are more than 1 km in desert terrain or objects near greenery may be difficult due to these atmospheric distortions.

One of the atmospheric distortions that can interfere with the measurements of laser distance measures is the background light. When the sensor of the device mistakes some part of the background light for the reflected laser beam, it will result in an incorrect distance reading.

That is why most laser distance measures employ some method to reduce the interference of background light and interference signals from the tool’s environment to ensure reliability. For instance, a laser measure that is intended for use in Antarctic conditions (where the high intensity of the background light is expected), uses a mixture of split beam frequencies, narrow bandwidth filters and very small iris (sensor with a small aperture) to block out background light interferences as much as possible.

The sensor:

As we said earlier, laser measures sends out a laser pulse and records the amount of time it takes for the pulse to reflect back to the tool. The tool comes with a small iris (sensor or receiver) whose main function is to detect the reflected laser beam. The type and width of this sensor can determine the sensitivity and ability of the tool to detect the reflected laser beam for calculations as some sensors can be affected by temperature.

For instance, a laser measure that has a sensor with a wide aperture will detect the reflected laser light faster than one with a very small aperture especially when a target that scatters light is used. However, a sensor with an aperture can detect the background light and mistake some part of this light for the laser light reflected by the target. So, it is important to know where you will be using your laser distance measure before you buy one.

Laser measures that are designed for outdoor use where the background light is expected to be very high and can interfere with the readings tend to come with larger sensors with special features that help to filter out interference signals. On the other hand, those intended for indoor use tend to come with a sensor that has a small aperture and may not be equipped with extra features to withstand a lot of atmospheric distortions like those that are specially designed for outdoor use.

Other factors that can affect laser distance measure accuracy include temperature and the angle at which the laser light hits the target surface as it can affect the amount of light returned to the sensor.


Tape Measure Vs. Laser Measure

In this section, we will compare these tools and highlight the aspects where one shines over the other.

Accuracy

Tape measures are generally accurate to ±1.6 mm (1/16 inch) without counting the error due to temperature fluctuation, twist, and sag. Long tapes tend to decline to ±12.7 mm (1/2 inch) at 10 m (33 ft.). Laser measures are generally accurate to ±1/8 inch at 91.5 m (300 ft.). However, some models are accurate up to ±1 mm (1/25 inch) at 100 m (330 ft.) while some models can even go up to ±1 mm (1/25 inch) at a distance of 500 m (1,640.4 ft.) or more.

Some manuals (both tape measures and laser distance meters) recommend that you verify the accuracy of your tool periodically by measuring ten times with the tool at a known distance using a fixed target to check for deviation. We positioned our target (a hardwood block) at 15 and 30 feet away using a FatMax tape. After that, we crosschecked with a Fisco Class 1 tape, then took 20 shots each with four different laser measure models (Fluke 424D, Leica DISTO E7400x Bosch GLM 80, and Stanley TLM330).

We repeated the test the next day using a white target plate and found that all the four models stayed within their claimed limits. They all passed the test and display their reading in feet, fractional inches, decimal feet, inches, and metric units and only strayed within the known distance limit by ±0.01 to 0.03 inches. All measurements were taken within the tools’ operating temperature, and we appreciate the accuracy and resolution of these distance measuring devices as well as their high repeatability.

Both the tape and laser measure fared well according to the result of our test, so crowning the most accurate one here is a herculean task. For outdoor measurement, the tape measure shines especially at the distance where the laser dot becomes invisible due to an excessive amount of the background light when used during the day. You won’t have to worry about finding the laser dot or spend extra money to get special glasses to make the dot more visible.

Laser measures beat the tape due to their resolution and the ability to take accurate measurements over longer distances without bending, sagging or twisting (conditions that are common with tape measures). Also, you don’t have to worry about the linear expansivity due to the changes in temperature as most professional laser measure can function normally within the operating temperature of -10 to 50°C.

Winner = Laser measure

However, tapes are the best when it comes to short distance measurements, transferring dimensions, and making several marking at short intervals.


Ease of use

Both tools are easy to use. However, laser measures are easier to use as they display readings in digital form in your choice of the unit via its screen, this eliminates the error of misreading the tape. Digital tape measure also has this feature, allowing you to take readings from the screen instead of counting the little lines on the tape. However, it may require two-person operations to drag, and hold the tool to get accurate readings especially when measuring over long distances (just as with other tape measuring devices).

Laser measures only require a one-person operation; this means that you can operate the tool without help. The laser light will do the work of moving from one end of the measuring range to the other, so you don’t have to walk long distances and drag the tape about to get a measurement. These laser light are always dead straight, even for long distances, thus eliminating error due to sagging and twisting of the tape.

Laser measures shine in low light condition. Using or reading a tape at night can be difficult and can even lead to an error of misreading the tape. Most laser measures manufacturers considered this and created models that come with a backlit display feature to improve reliability, and readability in poor lighting conditions even in the dark. So, you don’t have to wait till the morning or till you have enough illumination before you can take distance measurements.

The laser light is visible, and most models include an intelligent end piece to facilitate accurate measurements, this means you can measure without worrying about the issues with hook accuracy that often affect tape measures. Laser measures also come with inbuilt memory that can store measurements for quick recall, something you cannot find in a traditional tape measure (except in the digital tape measures which are even not as common as their traditional brothers). With this feature, you can go to your job site without any writing material to take down the readings.

Winner = Laser measure


Speed of measurement

Laser measures are much faster in this regard. You don’t have to poke anything where it shouldn’t be poked or access the other end of the measurement range or even trek long distances and drag the tape along with you before you can take accurate measurements. The laser light will do the job for you – just point the laser to your target, press the record button and your readings will be in front of you.

Some laser measures are equipped with digital Point-finder camera and On-screen Targeting Cross Hair feature for accurate point to point measurement. With this feature, you can target and select two points and measure the distance between these points even if your targets are many miles away from you.

This reduces the amount of time that could have been spent on walking and dragging a tape with you over long distances, as well as the time spent while climbing up on a ladder or steep surfaces to get a measurement. The time can be channel into other important operations thus, improving your productivity.

The measurements provided by laser measures are easy to read on their display which is even faster than counting the little lines on the tape. Another benefit of using a laser measure is that it allows the users to record measurement in their choice of units without the need to do any calculation to convert the readings.

Winner = Laser measure


Durability and ability to withstand harsh conditions

Tape measures are more durable than laser measures, especially if you take into account their lower price

The durability of your distance measuring tool matters a lot. The main culprit that causes the damage to distance measuring devices is water, shock, heat, and dust.

Laser measures models come with different Ingress Protection (IP) rating that indicates how resistant they are to dust and moisture. It is important to find a model that offers the protection that suits your need. For instance, a DIY enthusiast can go for a cheaper tool with an IP40 rating, while a professional contractor can go for a tool with IP54 or IP65 rating for optimum protection against water and dust that can damage the tool.

Tape measure also offers rust-resistant tools which are ideal for professionals that work in damp areas, so both tools passed in this regards. However, Laser measures can suffer screen damage or breakage of the external casing or the internal component when dropped accidentally. The internal component of the tape measure (tape) hardly breaks when it is accidentally dropped, and some even feature rubber casing which made it easy for them to withstand the shock. And if the tape breaks, it can still be used for measurements by using a simple technique known as “burning an inch.”

Winner = Tape measure


Ease of calibration

To ensure that your distance measuring tool is providing you accurate distance readings, you will have to calibrate it. This can be achieved by comparing the tool with a physical measure like a yardstick or another tape measure.

For tape measures, this can be an easy task which you may only have to adjust the hook and tighten it with a plier to ensure its accuracy as most tape inaccuracies are because of the movement in their hook. You can even use the “burning an inch” technique to take your measurements if you cannot resolve the movement in the hook of your tape measure.

But in the case of laser distance measures, you have to return the tool to the manufacturer for readjustments if the tool is inaccurate, but this may take more time and effort. Returning the tool to the manufacturer may not even be a feasible idea especially if the maker or its dealer is far from your area or not in your country, so you may be forced to look for another distance measuring tool to tackle your work.

Winner = Tape measure


Taking complex measurements

Have you ever been faced with the need to take measurements in hard to reach areas? For instance, you have no ladder, and you need to measure from the floor to the ceiling or top of a building, or you want to measure up for a pipe or cable run under a building where there is no line of sight between the beginning and the end of the run. Using tape for this measurement will be a complex task, you may have to do some calculations and even end up with an error.

But with a laser measure, you can use the built-in compass, 360ᵒ tilt sensors, or the Pythagoras functionality to get the Hight of your ceiling or building just by measuring your distance from the base and ceiling, or the top of your building. The tool will work it out for you! Similarly, you can get the length of the cable or pipe, calculate area and volume, and even measure the size of your roof without wasting time or doing some complex mathematical calculations.

Some laser measure comes with digital documentation support and design software that is compatible with mobile devices which make them the best tool for architects, real estate appraisers, and interior designers. Laser measures with these functions can take pictures with their cameras, overlay measurement on it, and save it in JPG, CSV, DXF, DWG, or TXT format and export it to your smartphone or PC CAD programs. This will not only save time but also make your work more efficient. Unfortunately, you cannot achieve nor perform all these functions with a tape.

Winner = Laser measure


Hazards

Tape measures are generally safe for use. However, the edge of steel tapes can be very sharp and can result in a nasty cut if it is grabbed roughly by the sides. This injury is rare and can be avoided by proper handling. Another possible issue regarding the safety of tape measures is when they are used in awkward positions, like measuring from a point on a wall or building to another while climbing up on a ladder or over wet or steep surfaces.

Laser measure uses its laser beam to calculate the distance so, climbing a ladder or accessing a ceiling to take the measurement is not necessary, and this brings some safety benefit. However, laser measure emits laser light with high energy that can damage the eye, burn the skin, accelerate skin aging, cause skin cancer, and can even lead to fire hazards. The damage caused by laser light depends on how you use the tool and the class of laser it belongs to.

Most laser measures make use of the class 2 laser beam which is safer. But you will have issues with your eyes if you stare at the beam for a long period of time or if you stare directly at the source of the laser beam.

Winner = Tape measure


Affordability

Although there are a few models of tape measures that offered for sale at an amount greater than $1000 (most especially the long tapes), you can still find some (pocket tapes) that cost less than $10. Laser measures are a bit costlier with the cheapest tool starting a little above $17 (which we still consider cheap).

You can get a standard tape from a recognized brand with something less than $50, but laser measure with this price range may not be suitable for your job. You may have to spend a few hundred bucks to get the professional grade tool that your job requires. Also, some laser measure may require some accessories like tripods, target plate, and a pouch to carry and store the tool which often adds to their cost.

Another thing to consider is the cost of operation and maintenance. Laser level runs on batteries to power the tool, and this can be an additional cost. On the other hand, traditional tape measures require no battery, just extend the tape, take your readings, and you are good to go! No need to worry about having low battery juice on the job site, recharging the device, or even buying an extra battery to supplement the one you have.

Winner = Tape measure


Conclusion

In this post, we have examined the accuracy of tape and laser measures as well as the factors that affect their accuracy. We have also compared the tools and highlighted their strengths and weaknesses, which can serve as your guide when the time comes to select the best tool for your application.

Laser measures value lies in their versatility, speed, convenience, and safety in hazardous conditions and this makes them one of the best things that happened in the world of distance measurements. However, we recommend that you add both tools to your toolkit as the tape can be your saving grace where the laser measure lags and vice versal.

If, after reading this post, you think it would be useful to buy a laser measure, you can visit our post Best Laser Measures for Architects, where we go over the best laser measures for both big and small projects and both indoor and outdoor use.

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