Tool Test: Laser Measures
Handheld laser measuring tools are more affordable than ever, but are they accurate enough to replace a tape measure?
Magazine extra: Watch associate editor Justin Fink demonstrate the basic functions of these tools, from taking and storing measurements to calculating square footage.
A tape measure is an uncomplicated tool that performs a simple job well. So when Fine Homebuilding asked me to try out laser measures, I felt like a kid pretending to be Han Solo. The word laser still conjures futuristic imagery for me. I certainly wasn’t convinced that a laser measure might someday replace my tape measure. But after a few months of working with these tools on a day-to-day basis, I feel like I have been living in the dark ages without one.
What they’re good for, and what they’re not
Efficiency is crucial for a solo finish carpenter like me, and when it comes to efficiency, these laser measures are a godsend. If you bought this tool for estimating, it would pay for itself in no time. It doesn’t matter if you are making a materials list for trim, cabinetry, drywall, or exterior siding. Laser measures let you do the job more accurately, and more quickly. They excel in awkward and inconvenient situations, too. No more sliding a tape measure under a sofa or needing someone else to hold the other end. No more open-reel tapes for extra-long measurements, either; the lowest-range tool I looked at can still measure distances up to 150 ft.
But these tools go beyond estimating. Squaring a foundation, laying out wall plates, or measuring between rim boards to find a joist length can be done with less hassle. Even the simplest crown-molding jobs used to involve moving a ladder multiple times with corresponding trips up and down while trying to keep the tape from collapsing or hanging up as I extended it toward a corner. Now I…