Here’s Step 2 For How to Measure a House

Here’s Step 2 For How to Measure a House

1024 778 Andy McFarland

How To Conduct An As-Built Survey- Step 2

In my last article, I talked about some basic preparation to consider prior to measuring a house, if your goal is to create an accurate set of As-Built drawings.  As I mentioned, every As-Built surveying project essentially has the same 3 steps:

  1.  Preparation
  2.  Measuring
  3.  Drafting

With this blog, we are moving on to step #2 – Measuring.  My goal here is to keep things simple, sticking with a basic process that anybody can use with simple tools (and a little bit of practice).  Obviously there are much more sophisticated tools and processes that a professional As-Built Surveyor would employ when working for an architecture client, and some projects by their very nature in size, scope and difficulty demand a customized approach which is way beyond the scope of this article.  But I think that for your average Single Family Residence, this process should get you pretty far.

Good As-Built measuring requires a consistent process that you can follow as you move through and around the house.  It can be tempting to simply walk into a room with a tape measure and start measuring whichever feature catches your eye first.  But this approach can leave you vulnerable to forgetting something – and there is (almost) nothing worse than leaving a jobsite, sitting down at your computer to start drafting the floor plan, and then realizing half-way through that you missed a critical measurement and you have to go back to get it.

OK enough jibber jabber!  Without further ado, here’s the basic process that I still use:

  1. Sketch and measure the exterior of the house.  I do each straight section of the house, including doors, which helps place them relative to your interior measurements.  I am right handed so I always go counter-clockwise which makes it easier to hook and pull a tape measure. When you have made it all the way around, you can add up each side of the house to make sure you’re your measurements “close” to within 1-2” on each axis (as long as the house is rectilinear).

Exterior sketch with dimensions.  No doors drawn in this case (I usually would though)

  1. Sketch the house floor plan on a new sheet of paper.  Draw the exterior perimeter first, then interior walls, then additional elements such as windows, doors etc…  A few tips for a good floor plan sketch:
    • If you have graph paper or an architect’s scale you can draw the exterior perimeter to scale (using the exterior measurements you just took). You can even draw some or all of the interior walls to scale as well if you are willing to take some additional measurements before/during your sketching.  The bigger/more complicated the house is, the more helpful this technique.
    • Make sure you have seen the entire house before you start sketching. Your goal is to create a clean, well-proportioned sketch – so you need to know the relative size of all areas, where certain walls line up, any “hidden” or tricky areas, etc…
    • Try to segment the house into areas if possible while you are sketching. For example if the house has an interior wall in the middle that lines up with an exterior wall, draw that wall FIRST.  That way you can be sure your overall proportions are correct while breaking up your sketch into smaller areas.  Think big to small.

Full Floor Plan sketch. Exterior drawn to scale.  Garage omitted to make it fit better

  1. Measure the interior.  My process here is similar to the exterior – Start in a corner of a room and go counter-clockwise around, capturing the dimensions of every segment (wall, window, or door).  I start in one of the corner rooms of the house and then proceed room to room in this fashion, including every space such as hallways, closets, etc…
  2. Don’t forget wall thicknesses!  As you move through an opening from room to room make sure to measure the thickness of that wall.  This includes exterior doors as well.
  3. Take “overall” measurements.  For larger rooms I always take the “X by Y” dimensions across in both directions (in addition to the individual segments in step 3). I also look for anywhere in the house I can take a long dimension that spans multiple rooms – the longer the better.  Overall measurements can be your best friend when you are drafting the plan to help you make everything fit as accurately as possible. Redundancy is the key here.

Full Floor Plan sketch. Exterior drawn to scale.  Garage omitted to make it fit better

  1. Use extra pages for detail.  If you also need to include additional elements on your As-Built floor plan such as millwork, electrical fixtures, ceiling elements, etc… then it will be easier to use a clean sheet of paper so that everything can fit legibly.  You can either:
    • Re-sketch the rooms that contain these elements (Potentially sketching them larger than your 1st sketch to allow for more space)
    • Overlay a vellum sheet on top of your Floor Plan sketch to add the sketch and measurements of these elements.
  2. Take a bunch of pictures!  Even having a process for this will help.  My preference is to proceed around the house in the exact same order that I measured it.

With your Measuring completed, you are ready to move to the final step in creating an As-Built Plan – Drafting.  In my next article a week from now, I’ll cover the process that I use for drafting a house (in CAD) as accurately and efficiently as possible.

Thanks for reading!  Let me know what you think in the comments below!