Craftsman Laser Guided Measuring ToolThe tool you need to most easily and accurately calculate things like how much paint, wallpaper, or flooring to buy. This model can add a room's dimensions together for you and figure square footage or cubic feet. Push a button for metric.
Positioning the tool: Hold it against the wall so the bubbles in the two built-in levels are centered. Make sure that no objects― especially anyone's eyes―block the path of the laser beam. (Staring directly into the beam can result in serious eye injury.)
Taking a reading: A laser target is beamed onto the opposite wall; a digital readout then tells you the length or width of the room. If you're projecting onto a soft or very light-colored surface―an upholstered wall, glass, or a curtain―tape a piece of dark paper or cardboard to your target so the tool can sense its end point easily.
2 of 3Wendell T. Webber
Easiest to Control
Black & Decker AutoTapeIf you work in fear of recoil, or if weak hands leave you struggling to operate a standard tape's lock, use this 25-foot-long battery-operated version, which you can extend and retract slowly with a button.
Lightening the workload: Because the AutoTape can be operated entirely one-handed, it's especially useful for solo jobs―when your other hand is writing down multiple measurements, for example, or holding a hammer or an object to hang. It also couldn't be easier. "Just push the button and it rolls out," says Home Depot merchandising manager Joe Di'Orio. "You could measure every part of the room from one spot."
Scaling a high wall: There's no need to drag out a rickety ladder. Instead, starting at floor level, run the tape up the wall (it should lie flush against it) until it naturally bends at the ceiling. Look up and find the measurement that is closest to where wall meets ceiling; you'll be within 1/4 inch of the exact height.
3 of 3Wendell T. Webber
Best With Fabric
Tailors TapeThis vinyl-coated 120-inch tape is flexible enough to curve around furniture, long enough for most jobs, wide enough to hold easy-to-read numbers, and tough enough to last. Flip it over for centimeters.
Handling the curves: Forcing a rigid metal tape measure to hug curves (whether they're on a wing chair or a waistline) results in less-than-precise measurements. A tailor's tape goes with the flow. For example, if you're making your own slipcovers (better-fitting than ready-made and cheaper than custom), it drapes easily and tucks into crevices to mimic the way the fabric will fall.
Cutting the fabric, not the tape: To avoid accidentally snipping your tape in half when you cut, try this tip from Leslie Segrete, host of WE-TV's The Ugliest House on the Block. Lay the tape on top of the fabric to measure, put the top blade of the scissors between the tape and the fabric, and make a notch. Then remove the tape and continue to cut.