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December 2008
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Tape Measure Secrets #2

In our previous episode I explained some basic details about tape measures. There is more.
Two Scales
Here is our tape measure tape. We will pick on 16''. The top scale measures by the foot. This gives a measurement of 1 foot 4 inches.

The bottom scale measures by the inch. Here we have 16 inches. So you will be able to translate between feet and inches quickly. This is helpful when you need a quick calculation of how many feet you need for a series of cabinets, or how much space you need for 6 rows of 7 inch tiles. 

Tape Measure Symbols


On the left is the foot guide, with a black arrow and reversed lettering to see at a glance how many feet  you are at.

In the center is the standard 16'' O.C. (on center layout/framing guide) On
this tape it is red with two little arrows to distinguish it from the
foot guide. The majority of wood and light gauge steel framing for residential construction
is still based on 16'' centers, this is a very handy guide. 

Almost  everything written, designed and built uses 16'' on center
for structure to finish calculations, and the vast majority of panel
products from are based on a 4 foot design. Most of the panel products
are 4×8', from plywood to drywall. There are exceptions, but the majority of you will never need them.

On the right is one of the weirdest things found on tape measures.

On the right is a little diamond at 19 1/4'' which is a little used measuring system called Optimum Value Engineering. 

OVE was a framing system developed by the Forest Products Laboratory about 20 years ago. The theory was that you could  design on a 2 foot module scheme, using studs at 24'' and floor joists and roofing at 19 1/4''. This does save on structure materials like studs, joists and rafters, but because of spacing and other engineering issues, sheathing materials and drywall needed to be thicker resulting in higher sheathing material costs. 

It was pretty much a wash, and in the two projects that I worked on years ago, it didn't seem to be all that optimum. 

Even with today's drive toward a greener building style, OVE is not ready for prime time, and the average houseblogger and remodeler, will not find it useful.

Here are some resources if you want to know more.

Sustainable Building Sourcebook

Advanced Framing Techniques: Optimum Value Engineering (OVE)

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