Measuring accurately is crucial for any construction or DIY project, and a laser tape measure can help with accurate measurements. However, it’s important to use them correctly in order to ensure that you get accurate measurements every time. In this article, I will be sharing my knowledge to help you get the most out of your laser tape measure and ensure that you always have the right measurements for your projects.
Whether you’re a professional contractor or a DIYer, the tips I am going to share with you will help you make accurate measurements with confidence. Time and time again.
One of the main benefits of using a laser tape measure is its ability to measure long distances with extreme accuracy. The laser technology used in these tape measures allows you to take measurements with an accuracy of up to 1/16th of an inch or 1.5mm. This can be more accurate than a traditional tape measure. Especially over longer distances. For longer distances in this case, I would regard as being longer than the traditional tape measure, usually 15ft or 5m.
But to ensure that you’re getting the most accurate measurements possible, it’s important to understand the limitations of, and how to use your laser tape measure. With these following tips I will help you understand what you need to avoid and what you need to do to achieve accurate measurements with laser tape measures.
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6 Tips for Accurate Measurements with a Laser Tape Measure.
- Have your Laser Tape Measure Calibrated.
- Check your Laser Tape Measure with a Refence Distance.
- Avoid Heat Haze.
- Use a flat reflective surface.
- Use the end piece for measuring from corners.
- Measure Parallel.
Have your Laser Tape Measure Calibrated.
Having your laser tape measure calibrated is the most important step in ensuring that you’re getting accurate measurements. Calibrating your tape measure involves adjusting and testing the device to ensure that it is providing precise measurements.
If you are using your laser tape measure in a professional manner, then it is often a requirement that it has been calibrated recently. This will often be at specific intervals like yearly or 6 monthly. Not having your laser tape measure can lead to costly mistakes. Did you know that 60% of measurements wrong according to the website totallandlordinsurance.co.uk? Their research found that 60% of the floor plans from estate agents were wrong by an average of 54 square feet. Read the whole article at https://www.totallandlordinsurance.co.uk/knowledge-centre/homes-failing-to-measure-up-to-floor-plans
Having your laser tape measure calibrated regularly will also give you confidence in your measurements. Having a calibration on any measurement instrument is like having an independent check. Even if you know that your instruments are giving the right answers, a calibration certificate gives you and your clients confidence in your measurements. This can be especially important when working on projects where measurements must be precise, such as in construction or engineering.
Calibrating your laser tape measure is a crucial step in ensuring that you’re getting accurate measurements. It helps to maintain accuracy over time, meet industry standards, give you confidence in your work, comply with regulatory requirements and save cost.
Check your Laser Tape Measure with a Refence Distance.
If you are not using your laser tape measure professionally and you don’t require a calibration certificate, then checking your laser tape measure against a reference distance is a simple but effective way to ensure that the measurements you’re getting are accurate. Even if you are a professional then this should still be a check that you carry out periodically. Ideally once a week.
There is nothing difficult in this. All you need is a known distance that you can measure repeatedly. This can be a measurement along a wall in your home or office. A piece of wood that you know the length of. Or you could check it against a traditional tape measure like I show in the images below.
When I check the laser tape measure (in this case it is the Leica Disto A5 that I have had since 2007) I stretch out the tape measure and place the free end against a wall. I then carefully align the base of the laser tape measure on an easy to figure of the traditional tape measure and measure the distance. If both distances are within the tolerance of the devices, then all is good. I have checked this twice at different distances for peace of mind.
If you have more than one laser tape measure, then you can check them against each other. I did this check when I was testing 3 cheap laser tape measures. All the laser tape measures that I tested here were accurate within their specified tolerances. You can see how I checked the three laser tape measures in the image below.
By checking your laser tape measure against a reference tape or distance, you can ensure that you’re getting accurate measurements every time. This can save you time and money by avoiding mistakes and errors, and it can give you confidence in your work. It’s also a good practice to check accuracy of the laser tape measure before starting a big project to avoid any errors during the process.
When ever we are taking measurements, we want them to be accurate. Only once we can achieve accurate measurements can we be precise with our measurement.
What is accuracy and precision?
Accuracy refers to how close the measurement is to the true value.
Precision refers to how close repeated measurements are to each other.
Avoid Heat Haze.
Heat haze can have a significant impact on the path of laser light, making it difficult to take accurate measurements. Heat haze is caused by the rising hot air that distorts light passing through it, my son calls it “the swirlies”. This can cause the laser beam emitted by a tape measure to be distorted or refracted (bent), thus inducing an error in the measurement.
When a laser beam passes through hot air, the light is refracted or bent due to the changing temperatures (and density) of the air. This phenomenon is best known as the oasis in the dessert. The light is bent so much that what appears as a lake in the distance is actually the clear blue sky. You can also see heat haze by looking at the exhaust of a machine or over a clean burning fire.
By looking through heat haze you can see the distortions of the buildings or landscape behind the heat haze. What is important to understand is that the path (the distance travelled) of the light is greater. Laser tape measures work by analysing the time taken for the emitted light to return to the device. The longer the time taken, the greater the distance.
To minimize the impact of heat haze on laser measurements, care should be taken to avoid areas of changing air temperature/density. Consequently, you will find that your most accurate measurements will be done in cool or shaded areas, or during overcast days.
Use a flat reflective surface.
Laser tape measures work by sending out a beam of laser light and measuring the time it takes to return back to the device. For this to work there must be enough laser light reflected back to the laser measure.
But different surfaces reflect light in different ways and by different amounts. Transparent materials can cause all kind of issues for laser tape measures. They can reflect some of the light, the light that does pass through it will be refracted to a greater extent than the heat haze issue described earlier.
And I find that black or dark surfaces are usually the most difficult to get a reading from a laser tape measure. This is because black materials absorb nearly all the wavelengths of light and reflect very little light. This has a greater affect with greater distances.
There is help at hand though. I use a kodak grey card for surfaces that are difficult to measure to. This would include windows, mirrors, dark surfaces far away and also for surfaces that are irregular and scatter the laser beam.
I first came across the kodak grey card when I bought a total station which uses the same technology as laser tape measures. Although the total stations can measure over 10 times the distance of most laser tape measures. But the kodak grey card enables distances to be taken against surfaces that usually can’t be measured against.
Most laser tape measures don’t come with this card as standard. But they are available to buy and don’t cost much either. Here is one that I have that is currently available and allows measurements to be taken easily.
Use the end piece for measuring from corners.
Measuring between internal corners can be one of the most challenging measurements to get accurate with a laser tape measure. Or any other tape measure for that fact.
Some laser tape measures have adjustable end pieces to aid with accurate measurements and this is the easiest way, I think, to measure between corners. This is one of the standout features of the Leica Disto series. One my favourite Leica Disto’s at the moment is the X3 like the one here on amazon as it has one of the longest end pieces available.
The standout feature of all Leica Disto’s is the flip out end piece. This allows you to measure from both internal and external corners easily and accurately. And for the new X3 this end piece has been made longer. This makes corner measurements easier. When the end piece is being used the Leica Disto automatically incorporates the additional length into the measurement.
If you don’t have an intelligent end piece on your laser tape measure, then perhaps the best option is to use a steel ruler with a zero end to measure an additional amount and add this to your measure distance. By placing the laser tape measure as far into the internal corner as possible you should be able to measure the gap behind the base of the laser tape measure and the corner. This dimension can then be added to the total. This method will not be as accurate as a laser tape measure that has an intelligent end piece.
When using a laser tape measure, it is important to know that you are measuring the dimensions that are required. It is very easy to get an inaccurate measurement by not being careful. With a standard tape measure, you can see the distance you are measuring, and this may not always be the case with a laser tape measure.
In nearly all the measurements that we take, we need them to be parallel to something. If you are measuring along a wall, the measurement wants to be parallel to the floor. If it is not then our measurement of the wall will be greater than the actual length of the wall.
This might well explain why that 60% of measurements wrong according to the website totallandlordinsurance.co.uk? Their research found that 60% of the floor plans from estate agents were wrong by an average of 54 square feet. Read the whole article at https://www.totallandlordinsurance.co.uk/knowledge-centre/homes-failing-to-measure-up-to-floor-plans
Additionally, if we are measuring the height of a ceiling then we need to make sure that our measurements are taken vertically. This ensures that the minimum height (usually the correct height) is measured. Therefore, you want to have a laser tape measure with a spirit level bubble built in.
For any measurement to be accurate we must measure parallel to the object or distance of concern. Any deviation away from this will induce an error into the linear measurements.
Accurate measurements with a laser tape measure are not difficult to achieve if you follow the tips outlined above. And being able to repeat those measurements time and time again will give you the precision you need for whatever project you are doing.
Below is a list of the laser tape measures I would recommend or would like to have. There should be one that caters for your needs in this list whether you are a DIYer or a professional.
Recently released by Leica the disto X3 is a rugged site tough laser tape measure. New features for the Leica Disto X3 include a display that rotates, and it can withstand a drop of 2m.
The quoted accuracy for the Leica Disto X3 is plus or minus 1.0mm. This is class leading accuracy.
The Leica Disto X3 can measure up to 150m.
With all these extra features and being site tough, the Leica Disto X3 deserves to be the best all-round laser tape measure.
- ✦ PRACTICAL FUNCTION & HIGHER ACCURACY - Measuring range 50m/165ft,accuracy: ±1/16 inch,unit:m / in / ft / ft + in,and distance, area, volume, Pythagoras (indirect measurement), continuous measurement, addition and subtraction, maximum values and minimum, can meet your different needs.With unique 2 Bubble Levels, providing more precise measurement compared to one bubble.
- ✦ LARGE LCD BACKLIGHT SCREEN & Mute Setting - Large backlight screen provides users with a better visibility.Mute setting allows your different needs .With accuracy up to ±1/16inch, the portable laser measure can perfectly finish a measure task ranging from 0.16 to 165 feet. Also 4 interchangeable units among m / in / ft/ ft+in are designed for people with different reading habits.
- ✦ EASY TO USE - Handy and compact mode provide good operating feeling; IP54 waterproof level and dust-proof function protect the laser distance measure to the maximum extent,It's suitable to use everywhere.
- ✦ WIDE APPLICATION - With multiple measurement modes like distance, volume, area measurement, continuous measurement and measurement by Pythagoras, the laser level is ideal for home, construction and industries, especially in large areas such as rooms, apartments, buildings, real estates, factories, warehouses, etc.
- ✦ Package Contents & Warranty - 1*S2 50m/165ft Laser Distance Meter; 2 AAA Batteries; Package Box; User Manual; 30-Day RETURN refund guarantee.
- Precise distance measurement - quicker than using a measuring tape
- You can set it to use different tilt units. Select in the settings “Units inclination” and choose between ° , %, in/ft and mm/m
- Full colour screen and digital Pointfinder with 4x zoom - perfect for outdoor use
- Extremely robust, designed for use on construction sites. IP65 Rating
- Bluetooth Smart Ready so it easily transfers measuring information to other devices such as the iPad and iPhone simply and can be used with the Leica Disto Sketch app
- This unit contains a Class II Laser with 1mW output
- Simple two button operation with no sacrifice to professional quality with all Leica geosystems products
- Meets accuracy standards of the Leica Disto family by maintaining +/- 1/16" (2mm) accuracy
- Max working range is 120 feet (40M) with the ability to distance track or take simple straight line measurements, metric or imperial units can be selected
- Bluetooth 4.0 provides the ability to work on the fly with connectivity to many apps, including our free Disto sketch app
- Leica Disto sketch app offers the ability to create simple floor plans or overlay lines and measurements within a Picture to keep you organized in the field, available in iOS & Android