Tape measures are used extensively in construction and are available in various sizes from 2 metres up to 30 metres long. They are made from thin, continuous metal or reinforced fabric, about 13mm wide, which enables them to be wound up tightly within a spring-loaded metal or plastic case. Fabric tape measures have a tendency to stretch with age and extensive use, and are not recommended where particularly accurate measurements are required. A tape measure of up to 6 metres is small enough to carry on a belt clip or in the pocket. Longer tape measures tend to be used for long-distance work such as measuring boundaries or setting-out for foundations and wall positions. It is usual for a bricklayer to have a small tape (3m to 5m) for day-to-day use and a longer tape (20m to 30m) for larger setting-out tasks.
Most tape measures have dual measurements marked on them in metric and imperial, with metric being the more commonly used. The case for 2m to 6m tapes is usually of a specified size so that it can be part of the overall measurement when measuring, for example, between the vertical reveals of openings.
Tapes should be kept wound up when not in use and a steel tape should not be left lying around on the ground; if it is trodden on, it is liable to kink or split. Pulling retractable tapes fully out of their casing beyond the last graduation is likely to damage the spring-loaded retraction mechanism. Long tapes, when extended and being moved round a site during setting-out, for example, should be carried by two people and not dragged along the ground, as this could result in damage. The tape must be kept supported and not allowed to kink. If working in muddy or wet conditions, it should be run through a clean, dry cloth as it is retracted. A steel tape should also be lightly oiled at the end of each day, to protect it from rust.