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What to do if you forget your Tape Measure

Sometimes it’s good to blog about useful stuff which isn’t all about design software and standards. Stuff which can really help someone out in their day-to-day life and get them out of a frustrating situation, but which is still relevant to the industry in general.

So, this blog is all about what to do if you are on site and realise that you've forgotten your tape measure.

We’ve all done it. Realised that we need to take a measurement and have no means to do so. But, fear not, it can be done if you know how (and can remember), with these proven methods.

Measuring with body parts

tape measure 1

The ever-trusty hand: the average of your palm measures about 4 inches, or roughly 100 millimetres.

Put your best foot forward: your foot measures about 12 inches in length, or approx.. 300 millimetres.

Your forearm from elbow to fingertip: your extended forearm measures about 1.5 feet. That’s 460 millimetres.

From nose to your fingertips: the space between from your nose to your fingertips when your arms are outstretched is around a yard (36 inches or 915mm). 

The space of one complete stride: also known as a pace, it measures around 58 inches, which is just short of 6 feet or 1470mm. This was a trusted method in the Roman Empire, and their construction and engineering landmarks have withstood the centuries.
NOTE: These substitute measurements are meant to be used as estimates and shouldn’t be taken as a precise measurement, as we do all vary.

You can also measure large distances using your thumb and eyes. The length of your arm is roughly ten times the distance between your eyes. With this fact in mind, you can measure the approximate distance between yourself and almost any object as follows:

• Hold your arm straight out, thumb up
• Close one eye, align your thumb with distant object
• Switch eyes (don't move your thumb!)
• Your thumb will seem to change position

For this to be useful you need to know how long, wide or tall things are - here is a list of several helpful markers:

tape measure 2

• Small cars are 4 m long
• Large cars are 5 m long
• Cars are about 1.8 m wide
• Adults are about 1.8 m tall
• A 5-year-old is about 1 m tall
• A normal doorway is 2 m high and 0.8 m wide
• A truck and trailer is about 20 m long
• The width of a small house is about 8 m
• The width of a large house is about 12 m
• The height of a single-storey house is about 5 m
• The height of a two-storey house is about 8 m
• Tall buildings have about 3.5 m for every storey

So that’s all fine and dandy but now there is an easier and more accurate way… use your phone!

Air Measure

tape measure 3

AirMeasure is an Augmented Reality measuring toolkit, which can be downloaded as a free iPhone app. There are similar apps available for iOS and Android.

This fantastic little app lets you measure anything from small distances to far away points and heights - with several key features:

• Surface Mode: for measuring along horizontal planes like a floor or table etc.
• Air Mode: great for turning your phone into a traditional tape measure where the rule is physically moving with the device.
• Floor Plan: trace the outline of a room and get a floor plan.
• Laser Level: level any picture or shelf by projecting a virtual laser on a wall

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