15 Types of Measuring Tools Every Homeowner Needs

When I bought my first house, I needed a lot of tools.

I’ll bet you’ve been there too.

When you’re knee-deep in a project and have to make exact measurements for a surface, angle, distance, or temperature…you want the right measuring tool for the job.

I wrote this article to help fix that issue. Here, I’ll break down a list of essential types of measuring tools every homeowner needs.

I’ve organized our “must-have” measuring tools into two main categories –  digital and analog.

You’re free to have strong opinions about keeping their old-school measuring tools or going digital. But don’t worry – every great invention serves a purpose, so every digital measuring tool we’ve included here has earned its place.


Digital Measuring Tools

Personally, I love my digital measuring tools. The digital display makes it simple to get an accurate measurement, so we’re going to start here.

Laser Distance Finder

This measuring device works by shooting a light pulse at a surface and calculating how long it takes for the laser beam to reflect back. It provides accurate measurements up to thirty feet away.

It’s great to determine the exact distance of a wall, or tough-to-reach place, without needing a tape measure. Most laser distance finders can triangulate and calculate other helpful data as well.

Ruler and Laser Distance Measurer

Digital Calipers\Micrometers

I love my digital caliper. I’ve used it in my Gladiator cabinet review to find what gauge steel they used to make the cabinets.

Digital calipers are incredibly accurate, far more so than analog calipers. Both measure the inner or outer dimensions of a physical object. However, analog calipers have etched markings, while digital calipers can record thicknesses of a fraction of a millimeter.

Digital micrometers can measure length, diameter, and thickness.

Both ensure accurate measurements and can convert to/from imperial or metric units, but there are some distinguishing differences.

Calipers tend to be easier to use. Micrometers are designed for maximum accuracy and can outperform digital calipers in precision. Calipers can clamp down on surfaces to mark them for accuracy, while micrometers are purely a measurement tool.

Digital Caliper

Digital Level

I love my digital level. It lets me field-calibrate it so I can always trust the readings, even when establishing a “false zero.”

Let me explain.

Traditional levels are challenging to use on a slope. When you’re not starting from a level surface, it can be hard to figure out what is level in relation to a sloped surface.

You can replicate the same slope or angle every time by establishing a false zero on your digital level.

A digital level is used for complex leveling work, providing calculations for height and related tasks in general construction. Digital levels rely on a bar-coded staff and gravity for their remarkable accuracy. They’re handy to identify false readings from un-level sources.

Digital Level

Laser Level

A laser level is a measuring tool designed to help you visualize a perfectly straight line across larger surfaces.

They emit a long light beam across large surfaces like walls or floors. That’s particularly useful when mounted on a tripod or pole. Your hands are free to make marks or look at different options while you measure.

Think of a laser level as the digital equivalent of a chalk-line.

Laser Level

Digital Angle Gauge

Angle gauges are used to measure angle degrees. This measuring instrument is commonly used in woodworking and other projects that rely on precise cuts.

Since they rely on gravity to provide reliable readings, they aren’t affected if a work area is uneven. Even if the floor is off-balance, they’ll still measure angles correctly.

Digital Angle Gauge

Infrared Thermometer

One of the first “cool tools” I bought was an infrared thermometer. It was essential to measure temperature variances in my garage to see if I needed to install insulation on my garage door.

This is an essential tool whenever you need to check an area’s surface temperature. During the global pandemic, it was commonly used to measure body temperature.

They operate using a lens that converts radiation into energy measured by a sensor.

Digital Thermometer

Digital Manometer

If you own a propane tank, it’s good to have a digital manometer, which is designed to measure the differential pressure of gasses or liquids.

They can also be used to detect gas leaks or to check the pressure coming from pipes. If you’re troubleshooting your HVAC system, this will be a critical tool.


Analog Measuring Tools

Now, let’s look at the ‘tried-and-true,’ classic, reliable analog measuring tools. Sometimes, going old school is more convenient and reliable than you might think.

Don’t overlook analog measuring tools for your next project. 

Tape Measure

The tape measure is one of the most common types of measuring tools that no handyman can live without. The best tape measures are at least 12 feet long and will have both imperial and metric measurements.

They’re best for measuring distances on flat surfaces but can also bend to a corner. When you’ve retracted the right length of tape, you can lock them into position. That can be a lifesaver when you’re alone on a job and need to measure long distances.

Tape Measures

Measuring Wheel

Also known as a surveyor’s wheel, the measuring wheel is rolled alongside the user as they walk from a start point to an endpoint. It uses the wheel’s kinematics to determine the distance.

They’re used primarily in construction and other surveying work where the surface is flat enough to remain accurate.

The design may seem simple, but often, it’s the simplest solution that solves the most significant challenges.

Measuring Wheel

Ruler

Of all the types of measuring tools we’ve covered, none are used more every day than a standard ruler.

They’re great for smaller measurements, draw straight lines, carpentry, cutting, and even drafting blueprints. The ruler is a wonder in its benefits and simplicity.

Most rulers are made of plastic, wood, or metal, marked with imperial and metric intervals on each side.

Square (T-square, Rafter Square, Adjustable, Quick)

Measuring squares come in several forms, but this article will focus on four of the most widely-used formats to keep things simple.

The T-square is used for testing and drawing perfect right angles, typically by a draftsman, and is a crucial tool for carpenters and masons alike.

A drywall T-square is 4 feet long and designed for the dimensions of a standard sheet of drywall. I used a drywall T-square extensively when I installed drywall in my garage.

Rafter squares, or speed squares, are multi-purpose carpenter’s tools. It allows you to know if something is at the correct angle or even if it’s level.

The adjustable square has a fixed metal angle and an adjustable side. This allows you to slide it to the length of the area that needs to be measured, then lock it in that position.

The quick square serves a similar purpose as the others. However, this tool is an enclosed triangle for marking and cutting perpendicular areas.

Square, Tape Measure, and Bubble Level

Bubble Levels

You’ve probably used a bubble level before.

Also called a spirit level, this tool is used to tell whether a surface is horizontal (level) or vertical (plumb).

The ‘meter,’ in this instance, is a small bubble in the liquid-filled vile. The surface is perfectly level when the air bubble is centered between two lines.

This is handy for hanging pictures, installing large cabinets, or lining up large appliances.

Protractor

You’ve probably used a protractor in elementary school to measure angles. However, there are also industrial versions for mechanical engineering applications.

The protractor is an analog angle gauge with a range of angle degrees marked on its surface. This helps give an accurate angle guide in CAD and mechanical drawings.

Protractors are used to measure angles from 0° to 180° and come in different sizes. They’re usually easy to carry in your toolbox or belt whenever you need them.

Caliper and Protractor

Caliper

We’ve already covered digital calipers and how they differ from a micrometer.

Here, we’ll focus on the analog version of this common measuring tool.

Like digital calipers, analog calipers measure objects’ inner or outer depths. Most woodworkers and engineers swear by them. However, there are different versions, such as the dial, vernier, and spring joint calipers. Just to name just a few.

Pressure Gauge

A pressure gauge is a fluid intensity measuring tool used to measure PSI – or pound-force per square inch.

Pressure gauges aren’t just an important measurement tool to have on hand. They’re vital to the safety of jobs that involve highly pressurized liquids, gas, or air.

If you have an air compressor in your garage, you know the value of a good pressure gauge. Some tanks have them pre-installed, but it’s good to have your own pressure gauge in your tool collection.