Laser tape measures are becoming more and more popular. And part of this reason is that they are becoming cheaper and therefore no longer the preserve of the professional surveyor. They are still not a cheap as a traditional tape measure, but they are coming a lot closer.
If you are thinking about buying a laser tape measure then I am sure that you will have some questions about laser tape measures. Within this article I hope to answer some of the queries that you may have about laser measures.
The answers that I give to the questions posed are based on my experience of using laser tape measures over numerous years. And knowledge from engineering and surveying on some of the largest construction projects throughout the UK.
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How accurate are Laser Tape Measures?
Laser Tape Measures are very accurate. The most accurate laser tape measures like the Leica Disto S910 will measure distances within 1mm (1/32”) of the true distance. The least accurate tape measure that I know of is the Atolla T201 which is accurate to plus or minus 2mm (1/16”) of the true distance.
But just quoting accuracy figures doesn’t tell the whole story. Any measurements we take are subject to errors, the measurement device is just one source of potential errors. The figures quoted above is for the instruments only.
We should also consider the scale of the measurements that will be taken. By this, I mean the overall distance of a single measurement of interest. This maybe 1m (3ft) or it may be 100m (300ft). The accuracy required for a measurement of 1m (3ft) will be different to the accuracy required for a measurement of 100m (300ft).
If we are only measuring 1m (3ft) then potentially both the Leica Disto S910 and the Atolla T201 will give the same 1.000m distance. But if we were to measure 75m, the Leica Disto S910 would give an answer accurate to within 1mm (1/32”) but the Atolla T201 would not give an answer as It’s range is limited. Even if you could get a measurement with the Atolla T201 at 75m, I would be dubious that the accuracy would be within the 2mm (1/16”) quoted by the manufacturer.
For more information on the subject of accuracy.
What is the maximum distance a Laser Tape Measure can measure?
The laser tape measure with the greatest range is the Leica Disto S910. This laser tape measure can measure up to 300m, that’s about 1000ft. This range is dependent on the conditions that the measurements are taken in and surfaces that are measured too.
The Leica Disto S910 does stand out of the crowd when it comes to its measurement range. Most decent laser tape measures will only have a range of up to 100m or 300ft. And the budget laser tape measures will only measure to 50m or 150ft.
Most of the measurements that are taken with a laser tape measure will be less than 50m or 150ft. And they will most likely be more than 5m or 15ft. Between 5m(15ft) and 50m(150ft) seems to be the sweet spot for speed, accuracy and ease of measurement.
I find that it is usually easier to use a standard tape measure for measuring distances of under 5m or 15ft. The laser tape measure is still good for these measurements.
And when measuring distances greater than 50m or 150ft then the required accuracy of the measurement needs to be considered. That is not to say that the laser tape measure is not accurate, but there are other errors that need to be accounted for within the measurement. Unless I have a sturdy object to hold the laser tape measure against or a tripod then the laser dot can move around a lot as I can’t hole the laser measure steady.
A word of warning about the budget laser tape measures. I found that some of them don’t have the range that the manufacturers claim. This is the case with the Atolla T201 that I bought to see if it was any good. It was one of three laser tape measures I bought to see if they were any good.
Are Laser Tape Measures durable?
Yes, they are. There is no reason why a laser tape measure shouldn’t last numerous years if you take care of it. Buying a good quality laser tape measure is of course key to this. This is one of the reasons I like the Leica Disto laser measures.
I bought my Leica Disto A5 way back in 2007. It was the first (and only for many years) laser tape measure I ever bought. I still have it today, some 16 years later. I do still use it too. It is still accurate.
Why did I choose the Leica Disto all those years ago? Well, Leica is a brand that has a good reputation. I also have a Leica Total Station. So, my experience tells me that they produce good quality, accurate measurement equipment. You should also trust your experience of what brands you like when choosing equipment for yourself and what works for you.
Laser tape measures can be very durable, but like most things it will depend on how well you take care of your equipment. The best advice for looking after laser tape measures is to not store it away in wet condition in any type of sealed container.
Can Laser Tape Measures be used Outdoors?
Laser tape measures can be used outdoors, there are some that are specifically designed for outdoor use. These will have an IP rating to protect against dust and water ingress. All laser tape measures will work outdoors though but the laser measures with limited range will struggle to measure in adverse conditions.
Generally when measuring distances outside the distances we measure are longer than measurements taken indoors. Most measurements taken indoors will be less than 10m (30ft) in length. Most rooms within a building are smaller than this. But going outside the distances that we want to measure will be longer than this.
The length of a football pitch can vary between 90m (295ft) and 120m (393ft). If you were to check the distance between the goals using a Laser Tape Measure then you would need one with a range greater than 120m or (393ft).
This is just one example of a measurement that could be taken with a Laser Tape Measure outdoors but there are many situations that a Laser Tape Measure can be used to take outdoor measurements with speed and accuracy.
What is the difference between a Laser Tape Measure and a traditional tape measure?
A Laser Tape Measure uses a laser beam to measure distance whereas a traditional tape measure uses a graduated rule (tape) with numbers defining the distance. Both the laser tape measure and the traditional tape measure perform the same task. They are both capable of giving the same accurate answers.
Both devices can measure distances to the same accuracy and are also subject to the same errors that affect all measurements that are taken. Improving the accuracy of measurements with either a Laser Tape Measure or a traditional tape measure we need to reduce or eliminate the instrument, systematic and random errors that we have.
Laser tape measures will not replace traditional tape measures, but they can make taking some measurements easy. Laser Tape Measures can only measure in straight lines. Whereas traditional tape measures can flex and measure curved objects. Cloth, or fibreglass tape measures are particularly handy for measuring curved surfaces.
Can a Laser Tape Measures measure in different units?
All good Laser Tape Measures will display results in various units. Most will cycle through the different units until you get the desired unit of measurement you want.
The units of measurement that are available are metres, inches, feet and inches, and yards.
Can Laser Tape Measures measure angles?
Laser Tape Measures can’t measure angles. The professional level Laser Tape Measures do have a tilt sensor in them. This will aid the accuracy of the measurements taken.
Are Laser Tape Measures Expensive?
Laser Tape Measures aren’t expensive anymore. They are more expensive than traditional tape measures but they do have more features than the standard tape.
Be careful buying cheaper Laser Tape Measures though. Some can be a waste of money. I have wasted some of my own money on three cheap laser tape measures recently to see if they were any good. The results were surprising.
You get what you pay for. This is true for so many things in life, if the price appears to be too low then there is probably a reason for it. Discounts and sales aside. You need to understand the value of the laser tape measure to know if you are getting a bargain.
And a bargain is only a bargain if you need it. This is where you need to decide if it is worth purchasing a laser tape measure.
Are Laser Tape Measures Worth It?
A Laser Tape Measure is only worth buying if it makes your life easier and more productive. This is something you need to work out for yourself. But I will help you decide.
First just ask yourself whether you need or want a Laser Tape Measure.
If you want a Laser Tape Measure then buy the one you want. Simple.
If you need a Laser Tape Measure to complete your work then first decide what features you need. Then you need to calculate how much time/money (both are an expenditure and have a cost) a Laser Tape Measure will save you. From this you should be able to come up with a spending limit for your equipment and that will dictate which ones you can choose from.
There is an entire article on this website to help you decide whether a Laser Tape Measure is worth it.
Can Laser Tape Measures measure in tight spaces?
There is a minimum distance that any laser tape measure can measure and this is dictated by its physical size. And also by the physical distance required for the laser beam to return to the sensor. This is also true for traditional tape measures too.
That doesn’t mean small distances can’t be measured with a Laser Tape Measure. It just requires some ingenuity and addition or subtraction. The addition and subtraction part can be performed by the laser tape measure.
Let’s say that you need to measure a gap that the laser measure will not fit into. You could measure the far end of the gap to a board or wall (any surface that will reflect the laser beam and won’t move) and then measure the near side of the gap and subtract this measurement to give you the gap dimension.
Are Laser Tape Measures easy to use?
Laser Tape Measures are incredibly easy to use. Butt it up to the point of interest and push the button and hey presto you have your distance. It is that easy.
And you can have the distance in any format that you want. Metric or imperial. So the laser tape measure can be used by anyone and will provide a distance measurement that you can understand.
Not only do they take accurate measurements they also do them incredibly quickly. (Dare I say, the speed of light!!!). Especially longer distances than it would take with a traditional tape measure where you have to extend the tape, or have someone hold the other end.
And this is the point that makes them easy to use. You don’t have to have a second person to help you with measuring. You don’t have to worry about the tape sagging. And you don’t have to worry about misreading the Tape measure, most Laser Tape Measures will recall the last twenty measurements taken.