Types and Uses of Measuring Tape in Surveying


As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Land surveyors rely on quite a few tools to accurately measure our properties or determine the two-dimensional and three-dimensional position of objects in their field.

The tape measure is one of the most important and most frequently used pieces of equipment in their kits because it is an instrument that is easy to use and that has many different applications in any given work site.

In this guide, we are going to take a look at the different types of and uses of measuring tape in surveying.

Uses of Measuring Tape in Surveying

One of the most critical skills in surveying is the ability to take accurate measurements. There are quite a few different types of tools that can be used for measuring objects and distances. A land surveyor will likely have all sorts of measuring devices like rulers, chains, laser devices, and pocket tapes that can be used for taking large and small-scale measurements.

Out of all these devices, the traditional measuring tape is likely one of the most frequently used items because it has so many uses. Here is a quick look at the times you will likely use this tool.

Take Accurate Measurements in Harsh Climates

Modern tech equipment often fails you when you need to take accurate measurements in harsh climates, wet conditions, or mid-day. In conditions where electronic devices like laser measuring tools won’t hold up, your standard rust-proof pocket tape measure or long tape measure will still hold firm.

Take Measurements of a Slope Distance

Laser equipment is terrific for taking measurements of straight lines. When you need to measure the distance of a contoured surface like a path over a sloppy hill, these tools usually fail since they only take the measurement in a straight line. Measuring wheels or a long measuring tape can be more helpful for these odd and textured surfaces.

Measure Small Distances

It isn’t very practical to set up our laser measuring device with its tripod and accessories if you are only measuring out short distances. A good old spring coil pocket measuring tape is ideal for making shorter measurements or for measuring construction accessories like poles.

Take Offsets

An offset is a specific distance that is taken from either side of a chain line. With offset measurements, you can locate an object that lies in the vicinity of the mainline.

Take Measurements in Wet Areas

Electronic or digital equipment can’t hold up when you take measurements of wet surfaces or in rainy weather. For these types of surfaces, it is best to use a steel rust-resistant tape that will offer accurate measurements without being affected by moisture.

Triangulation Work

This type of surveying method involves measuring the angles formed when you are working with three control points. With this type of method, you only need to accurately measure out one distance and take the angle measurements at the corners. Trichometryh calculations can then be used to calculate the other two distances of the triangle. Invar tapes are often required for these types of measuring works.

Electric Areas

Synthetic tape measures are handy for surveying areas like railway lines or regions underneath electric fences where you can’t use a metal tape or where a laser measuring tape might not function properly.

Types of Measuring Tape Used for Surveying

There are many different types of measuring tapes and devices available on the market and any surveyor will likely have quite a few different types and designs in their collection. Here is a quick look at some of the most common measuring tape types that are useful to land surveyors.



Cloth or Linen Measuring Tapes

These long tape measurers are usually made with a strip of varnished linen that is about 12 to 16 millimeters wide. These tapes are usually sold in varying lengths of 10 to 150 meters that are coiled around a spindle in the center of the device. Shorter tapes can be pocket-sized but longer ones tend to be much too big for your pocket.

The normal linen tape usually has a metal ring at the end that can be hooked around a spike so you can pull the tape out to measure a distance. The tape can then be rolled up using a hand crank that is fitted on the outside of the circular storage case of the measuring tape.

Cloth tapes are light, portable, and flexible but they are not too durable since moisture can make the cloth strip shrink.

Metric Woven Metallic Measuring Tapes

Metric woven metallic tapes are more durable than cloth or linen measuring tapes. These tapes are ideal for taking offsets but they don’t always provide precise measurements.

The tapes are produced in different lengths and can be anything from as short as just 2 meters up to 50 meters in length.

These tapes usually have different markings to indicate different types of distances (centimeter, meter, and decimeter) and most of them include both imperial measurement and metric measurement units.

The lint itself is manufactured from cotton and phosphor bronze, copper, or stainless steel. These materials are then coated in a primer and synthetic material to protect the base materials. This combination of materials makes the tape both flexible and firm at the same time. When you extract the tape, it should have a firm position but it can also be coiled or rolled up for easy storage.

These tapes are usually more wear and water-resistant than cloth or linen measuring tapes and they can sometimes be easier to handle when you are operating solo. But the constitution of materials is prone to stretching and shrinking at different temperatures which can impact the accuracy of the measurements.

This accuracy deviation is referred to as permissible error. In some measurements, these errors are acceptable but for precision work, they can cause a lot of havoc.

Steel Measuring Tapes

These types of measure tapes, or pocket measuring tapes, are ideal for taking accurate measurements in harsh conditions.

Steel tape types are usually made from steel or stainless steel. The tape usually has a ring at the edge that can be hooked around an object so you can draw out the tape from where it is coiled in a casing.

The lint of these tapes can also vary from 2 meters up to 50 meters in length and usually only has markings on one side of the lint. These markings indicate specific distances like millimeters, centimeters, meters and many tapes give measurements for both metric and imperial measuring units.

These tapes are very light and easy to use but their construction also makes them easier to break since the metal lint can be snapped off, twisted, or bent.

Steel measuring tapes are usually spring-loaded so they can automatically retract and have an auto-lock mechanism that keeps the tape from retracting while you are busy using it.

Synthetic Measuring Tapes

Synthetic measuring tapes are made from glass fibers that are coated with PVC. The fiberglass tapes are very light, flexible, and easy to handle. They are available in different lint tape lengths of 5 meters, 10 meters, 20 meters, 30 meters, and 50 meters.

These tapes are great for baseline measurements but they can stretch when pressure is applied to the tape. They can, however, be very handy for taking measurements in the presence of electric fences, railways, and other areas since the materials cant act as an electric conductor.

Invar Measuring Tapes

Invar measuring tapes are required for high-precision measurements or accurate surveying measurements like baselines or triangulation work.

An invar tape is made from alloy that consists of 36% nickel and 64% steel. The materials used for this tape are extremely resistant to thermal expansion which enables you to get accurate readings no matter how extreme the temperature might be.

These tapes are available in varying lengths and are stored around a metal reel. Invar tapes can be delicate and need to be handled with great care.

Laser Measuring Devices

Laser measuring devices aren’t exactly tape measures but can be used to replace these manual tools. A laser measuring device is a type of handheld device that can be mounted on a tripod stand. These measuring tools can measure out a very long distance using laser technology.

The laser measurer sends out a laser beam that reflects on a certain point and bounces back to the machine. By considering the speed of light, the device can then accurately determine the distance between the device and the laser beam.

Laser distance meters are loved by land surveyors and can be very quick and very accurate. Despite their portability and accuracy, you will likely still want to include a traditional tape measure in your kit since these modern tools do have a few shortcomings.

Final Thoughts

There are many uses of measuring tape in surveying and owning a couple of different measuring tape types or designs can make your projects a lot easier.

We hope that this informational guide was practical for understanding the many uses of a simple measuring tape for surveying purposes. If you are also shopping for these different types of tapes then you should have a look at some of the other guides we have on Measure Expert. With our handy site, you can find a wide range of measuring tape types to add to your tool kit.

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.


Keep in touch

Fill in your details and we’ll get back to you in no time.