10 Marking and Measuring Tools for 2021
Inadequate construction work from contractors continues to rank high on the Consumer Federation of America’s (CFA) annual Consumer Complaint Survey Report. Even if you’re the most skilled contractor around, poor-quality equipment can diminish the quality of your work. Marking tools and measuring tools are foundational for skilled contractors, especially those who are obsessed with delivering the best end product for customers.
Whether you’re taking on a new woodworking project, replacing plumbing for a remodel, or taking on a roof repair, marking and measuring tools in carpentry help provide precision to your projects.
Must-have contractor measuring and marking tools include:
- Steel tape measures
- Folding wood rulers
- Measuring wheels
- Depth gauges
- Carpenter’s pencils
- Carpenter’s chalk
- Marking chalk
- Chalk line savers
- Mason twine
- Flagging tape
Tool redundancy is always a concern, but you’ll find plenty of situations where one measuring or marking tool doesn’t quite fit the bill for the job. Who knows? Some of these measuring and marking tools may become your go-to option for this year’s contracting, carpentry, and woodworking jobs.
4 Must-Have Measuring Tools for Contractors
Consumer forums are filled with complaints about contracting work, although far too many start with measurement issues. Getting measurements wrong can lead to all kinds of problems, including blowing past budgets while you try to remedy problems and eating into your profit margins. Get precise measurements the first time around with the right tools, including steel tape measures, folding wood rulers, measuring wheels, and depth gauges.
Steel tape measures
Durability is the name of the game for steel tape measures. Unlike paper or even wood, steel will last for years thanks to the durability inherent in its material. By design, steel tape measures are space-saving tools that you can easily carry with you almost anywhere, whether it’s onto a roof or through a crawl space.
Most steel measuring tapes have automatic or manual retraction functions that pull them back into the holder, regardless of the tape measure’s length. That flexibility helps lead to some incredibly-long and durable measurement tools, like the Keson ST Series Heavy Duty Steel Blade Measuring Tape.
Given the extreme mobility of a good steel tape measure, it’s easy to overlook the importance of keeping several folding wood rulers handy. Keep in mind, steel + electricity is a bad combination, so you’ll want something less conductive when working on electrical systems. And as versatile as steel tape measures tend to be, their tendency to bend at the worst possible times can lead to inaccurate measurements.
Folding wood rulers may not have the high-speed rewind functions of a steel tape measure, but they easily avoid some of the drawbacks of their metallic counterparts. They don’t have the bending issue inherent with steel tape measures thanks to the rigidity of the wood material and you don’t need to worry about using a wood ruler around wires.
Consider some of the following folding wood rulers:
- 2 Meter Wood Ruler with Metric Measurements
- 6 Foot Wood Ruler - Engineer's Design
- 6 Foot Wood Ruler with Brass Extender
- 6 Foot Wood Ruler with Inside Marking
Various folding wood ruler features will improve your measurement performance of impact the effectiveness of the tool. Metric-based folding wood rulers deliver finer measurements, for example. Meanwhile, versions (such as the Keson 6 Foot Ruler for Brick and Mason with a vertical brick mason scale) provide additional features that enhance contracting work.
The most prominent downside to folding wood rulers is that they’re limited in length compared to steel tape measures. The lack of flexibility means they’re going to take up more space, despite the folding function. You also aren’t going to find many 100-foot-long folding wood rulers, but the improved measurement accuracy for the wood rules can help compensate for a lack of flexibility or available length.
For best results, make sure you have a combination of both folding wood rulers and steel tape measures that are suited to different types of contracting work and scenarios.
Get a quick, initial area survey with a contractor-grade measuring wheel. These tools aren’t for precision but will help you get a good idea about the distance between two points. When purchasing a measuring wheel, we recommend you opt for a version that includes:
- Heavy-duty wheel design for rough terrain
- Easy-to-read counter with both imperial and metric measurements
- Ability to record thousands of feet
- Telescoping handle for easy height adjustment and transportation
- Safety reflector for nigh measuring
- Stabilizing kickstand
All of these features are available in the Keson Contractor-Grade Measuring Wheel. Depending on your needs, you may find some value in other types of measuring wheels, such as dual-wheel designs or electronic versions with digital readouts.
Some of your work in 2021 may require a good depth gauge for precise measurements of holes or crevices. Thankfully, this is a tool that does not need to be overly complex or crazy expensive. Most standard depth gauges will work with just about any weight you attach to them and easily cost less than $15 per gauge.
You could explore digital depth gauges, but most contractors likely won’t need to invest that type of money into this type of tool. A high-quality, flexible depth gauge with graduated numbers on both sides will deliver the precise depth measurements you need in most scenarios. You can often buy depth gauges in packs of 10 or more.
6 Must-Have Marking Tools for Contractors
All contracting work requires precise measurements. But marking your measurements in a clear and easily-identifiable way ensures that you hit the right spots once you pull out the saw or drill. Carpenter’s pencils and carpenter’s chalk are standard materials for most of us but don’t overlook the need for marking chalk, chalk line savers, mason twine, and flagging tape.
Pencils are a dime a dozen, right? Your standard #2 will get the job done, but probably not the way you want. Carpenter’s pencils are thicker and have denser lead points than traditional graphite pencils. This creates a fuller mark that’s far easier to see. Traditional pencils were designed for writing words on smooth surfaces. Trying to use them for carpentry and contract work often results in broken points (and frustration).
Simply put: Get a box of real carpenter’s pencils. If you’ve been relying on your kids’ school pencils you’ll immediately notice the difference a good carpenter’s pencil will make in your measurement marking.
As with carpenter’s pencils, carpenter’s chalk has a slightly different material design that makes it better suited for the task. It sticks to materials far better, is less likely to wash away, and you can easily paint over it once the job is done.
Carpenter’s chalk is often designed with shapes that reduce splintering or break when marking surfaces. Half-moon carpenter’s chalk is comparatively inexpensive and will mark readily on any surface, including concrete, wood, PVC, metal, and asphalt.
Marking chalk is one of the most interesting chalk tools you’re going to find on the market. This is designed as a powder and helps mark out long, straight lines, specifically between two points you’ve already measured and marked elsewhere. It works like this:
- Pour the marking chalk into a chalk reel line device
- Identify the marked points you’ve marked off using a pencil or chalk
- Extend the line reel between the two points
- Pull the line to apply the perfectly straight chalk line
This is a real time-saver and ensures you absolutely straight lines when you need to mark spots beyond a foot in length.
Chalk Line Saver
All chalk, including carpenter’s chalk, is designed to wash away. However, there will be times where the chalk marks and lines you’ve made need to last longer than you anticipated. For this, consider adding chalk line saver to your arsenal of marking tools.
Chalk line saver is exactly what it sounds like. Typically available as a spray, chalk line saver will place a clear coating over your chalk lines that protect them from the elements (including wind and rain). Chalk line saver also preserves your chalk lines from human activity, including the occasional vehicle tire or shuffling work boot.
Chalk line saver is a simple solution that can keep you from losing hours of work having to redraw your lines.
The name might suggest a focus solely on masonry, but mason twine is something every contractor should have handy. Given chalk is only useful on surfaces, mason twine will help you keep a straight and level line for anything above a surface. E.g., if you’re building a fence or a wall, extend a mason line to identify necessary height until the structure is complete. This will compensate for unlevel ground issues where you need to dig to different depths to meet the same above-ground height, among other things.
Flagging tape serves a similar purpose to marking chalk, with one exception: you can attach it to anything. Use flagging tape to mark boundaries or identify areas that need special attention. This could include flagging trees that need to be removed or pipes that need to be replaced for a contracted job, among other uses. Flagging tape is multi-functional and often a handy go-to item for quick marking objects or areas you need to return to later.
The right measuring and marking tools will help you deliver the best service to your customers or complete your personal projects with exacting precision. Avoid bad reviews by starting out all contracting work on the right foot by making precise measurements and perfectly-placed marks.