Measured Survey – How to Measure a Building

Measured Survey: How to measure a building​?


A measured survey is a survey carried out on a building or site in order to produce accurate drawings, such as plans, elevations and sections. These drawings can then be used as a starting point for any design work. 

A measured survey can be carried out by an architect or designer, or in more complex buildings or projects, a survey company may be employed to carry out the measured survey. There is a range of technical equipment available for complex surveys, including 3D lasers, GPS equipment and more. However, for smaller scale projects, it is perfectly possible for a survey to be completed with a tape measure (or disto/laser measure), pen and paper. There are also a number of apps available for the phone or ipad that can assist in the survey process. 

In this post, I would like to share some of my experiences with carrying out measured surveys on various buildings from small domestic houses, to farms and even large disused industrial buildings. 

You can download this complete guide to measured surveys, along with our measured survey checklist by scrolling to the end of the article!

Before the measured survey


Before even going to the site, try and find out as much about the building as you can. Check out google maps to get an idea of shape, orientation, street view etc. In some cases you can almost sketch out the building before you even arrive on site for the measured survey. Its nice to arrive to do a survey with a bit of familiarity, and understanding of the building.

Another great resource is the planning portal, the UK’s planning department system access. The planning portal gives you access to planning applications both current and completed, which in some cases include floor plans and various drawings such as site plans, elevations and so on. Any information you can find on the site relating to your building would be useful so it is worth taking a moment to do some investigations here.  The local authority website of where your building is located will be a good starting place for this.

It is also important to know why you are measuring the building, as this will determine how detailed your final drawings will need to be. Are you only required to draw plans? Or will you need elevations and sections? If you are needing to draw sections, do you know where the sections need to be taken? Is the drawing for internal renovations, external extension? Is it for planning permission, construction? Will you require visuals? If so, good photographs will be important. 

Health and Safety


Finally before attending a site it is important to know if there is any health and safety requirement or risk assessment. It is unlikely for smaller projects but with more formal construction sites it could be a possibility. Also consider the lone working policy, are you visiting the site alone, is the site unoccupied, do you need to report to the office that you have arrived and departed? Make sure you check on these things before visiting the site to carry out your measured survey. 


Arrival on site 


The first thing I do when I arrive on site to do a measured survey is have a look around the entire building, so you can get a feel for the layout, where the rooms are, stairwells, etc. This is helpful for when you start to draw out the building. 

Sketch out


Depending on the size of the building you are surveying, you may want to break it up into sections, so each page you have a part of the building, so that you can draw it out at a large enough scale to add your measurements/dimensions. You can either draw each part as you go – draw, measure, next area, draw, measure, next area etc. Or you can draw out the whole building then go round and take your measurements. Whatever works for you.

If you only have a tape measure, it is usually best if there are two of you, but you can do it alone, it will just take a bit longer. With a laser however, it is pretty easy to get everything measured alone.

Make sure you start by labelling your notebook or sheet of paper with the project name and either room name, section of building, floor number etc. It might seem obvious now but when you have pages of survey drawings sometimes it is difficult to figure out what is what. You may also find you are not going to be the person drawing up the survey, so making sure everything is well labelled and clearly noted will be really helpful. 

I don’t tend to draw a huge amount of detail as generally it doesn’t really add anything. Here are a few of my drawings. Not the neatest or prettiest in the world, but I can generally make sense of them!

Measured Survey Sketch

A tip on drawing, I use a three colour pen to draw out my measured surveys. I use one colour for general drawing and measurements, then another colour for window information (cill height, window head height), and finally another colour for all heights and levels – ceiling heights, floor levels, steps etc. This is really useful when you are back at your desk trying to figure out what the random numbers are floating around on your drawing.



Start your measuring in one corner of the room and work your way around in a clockwise/anticlockwise direction. This way you won’t miss anything. It is also wise to take a few diagonal measurements to help with accuracy.

Take your measurements at a height where you will pick up the features like windows and doors, usually at about 1m high. It is helpful to take running measurements, along with a full measurement of each wall. Running dimensions mean that there is less chance of making mistakes. It may be more time consuming on site, but I always try and take as many measurements as possible. I would rather spend an extra hour on site doing this, than having to go back again the next day when I realise I have missed vital dimensions.

Make a note of wall thicknesses, which will vary internally and externally. Take to site some stiff card and some tape, so that you can tape up a target for the laser if required. This is really handy.

Measured Survey Room survey

Useful symbols


Here are some ways of representing the measured survey information that I use, feel free to use and adapt to suit you.

Measured Survey Useful symbols

Measuring a room


When measuring a room, I would tend to get a couple of overall measurements of the longest walls, along with some diagonal dimensions in case the room is not square, then more detailed measurements of wall to window, window width etc. working your way around the room.

Where possible try to get an overall measurement between two rooms. Using your laser measure from one wall in one room, through the door to the wall in the adjoining room. This helps with linking the building’s rooms together.

Measured Survey Overall measurements

Measuring heights


Don’t forget to measure ceiling heights, and if possible pick up the floor thickness (usually possible to do in a stair area), which will help with elevations and sections. I usually use a different colour to show all heights, which helps when drawing up your survey back at the office. Make sure you take note of any ceiling height change, any beams or structural elements, picking up the underside height of the beams as you go. Try to note where the ceiling height changes wherever possible. 

Measuring doors and windows


Measuring doors, I usually measure the door size, and the general outline frame details. Be mindful that the doors are likely to be the same throughout the building so you may not need to measure every door, but there can be variations. Remember to measure the height of the door and note up on the drawing.  For windows, I measure the structural opening rather than the frame. If there is something in front of a window that stops you measuring the cill height, some furniture or a kitchen worktop for example, you can measure the ceiling height and the cill to ceiling height to work out the cill height. 

How to measure stairs


Stairs need to be considered in both plan and section or height terms. In plan, we can easily measure the width of the stairs, and the tread or going of the steps. We can count the risers and make note of any landings in the stair. Depending on the complexity of the stair, sometimes it is worth sketching it out separately on a larger scale for clarity. 

Make sure you take as many measurements as possible to demonstrate the link between the two floors. When measuring the risers, ensure you take into account the nosings of the steps. Count the steps and mark on the drawing, especially when there are landings on the stair. 

For the stair height, if possible measure the height from the top of the stair to the bottom, the overall height. You can then divide the height by the number of risers which will give you the individual riser height. Additional dimensions such as ceiling heights from landings, any cill heights of windows on landings and any distinguishing features should all be noted where possible. 

Measured Survey Stair survey

Roof measurements


Finding roof heights and details can be difficult and is very dependent on the building. Here are a few tips on how to measure the roof height. If possible it is best to have a disto/laser measure when taking dimensions for roofs.

Externally, try to take a floor to the underside of eaves measurement. Check whether the ground level varies around the building and find some constant that you can measure from. We sometimes use the dpc as a good constant to measure external heights from. In addition to this, if the building has a gable, try to take a floor to the underside of ridge measurement too. This can be hard in daylight with the laser, but persevere!

Next, if the building is brick built or has a uniform facade (regular stonework, blockwork etc), take good flat photographs, and use these to count bricks/blocks and then work out distances from there. Be sure to take a couple of measurements of the bricks/blocks and mortar individually so you can work out the overall.

Internally, make sure you are thorough with your floor to floor, floor to ceiling measurements. 

If you can gain loft access this is ideal – make sure you have safe access and it is safe for you to enter the loft space. You can then get underside of ridge measurement from the top of the ceiling joists, and take measurements of the rafters etc. Treat this area in a similar way to any other room, get as many dimensions as you can safely, and take heights and dimensions of purlins and any other features worth noting. With this information you will be able to work out the approximate height of the roof, and consequently the angle. Some laser measures can provide angle measurements using in built inclinometer.

Make sure you get some levels too, take a measurement from the finished floor level inside the loft down to the floor level below. 

Hipped roofs are more tricky, but often come together when you have floor areas, eaves heights and internal measurements from the loft access.

Make sure you take photographs of the roof space too, useful when trying to recall rafter and purlin positions and other little details that may have been missed in the poorly lit roof space!

Measured Survey Roof survey

How to measure for drawing a section


You can draw up most of a section from the measured survey you have carried out to create floor plans. There are, however, a couple of things to look out for when surveying for a section. If you know the part of the building you will be taking a section of, it is an idea to check all ceiling heights on that section line. Make sure you also have the room widths, window heights and any other measurements of elements that will be revealed in the section.

How to measure for elevations


Sketch out the elevations and measure key features to help you. If you are using a laser measure, try and measure the eaves and if possible ridge height. If the ground level varies, take a constant feature on the elevations, for example a window cill, and measure to the ground from this point around the building. This will show the changes in ground level. Most of your elevations will be possible to draw from the floor plan, but pick up any features that are external only. Take note of any steps, ramps, changes in level and anything that won’t have been picked up from the internal survey. Again, take loads more photographs.

Measured Survey Gable end measurements

Taking photos for a measured survey


Usually after measuring either a room/area I then photograph the entire room – focusing on any difficult or complicated areas. I tend to take far too many photos but I’m sure it pays off. It is always a great help when you are back at your desk trying to draw up the scribbles. In some cases I would take a video of each room, which is quite useful as you can pause it to check any particular details. I sometimes find with photos, there is always one photo that you haven’t taken, and it’s always the one you need!

Take photos of the outside of the property from various angles and if necessary from down the street too. Depending on the reason for your survey, sometimes photos from a distance can be useful for planning, or perhaps for creating a street view visual of the proposed plans.  Once you have returned from the site, make sure you sort your photos into folders, ie, inside, outside, by room etc. It makes life much easier when you are drawing up the plans to be able to quickly find a photo for reference. 

Measuring angles


One method we use to measure angles of strange shaped buildings is triangulation.

Measured Survey Angles

The image above shows how to carry out this method. Pick a point on one wall (A) and measure to the corner. Pick a point on the second wall (B) and measure to the corner. Finally, measure the distance between the two points on the wall (C). This will give you the measurements of all three sides of the triangle. From this you can either work out the angles, or draw it up in cad more easily.

I have also written another article about measuring angled walls – check it out here. 

Tools and Equipment


Firstly there are a few essential items you need when you carry out a measured survey.

Laser measure

In an ideal world you need to get yourself a laser measure. I don’t know how I would have done half of my measured surveys without one. They are super simple to use and really accurate. They save so much time as well.

Don’t forget spare batteries too!

I use the Bosch which has always been good, but the Leica is another brand that is well known, but perhaps a little more pricey. Stretch to what you can afford.

Architecture Presentation Board Templates Bundle
Architecture Presentation Board Templates Bundle

Tape measure

Sometimes you just need an old fashioned tape measure. Moreover, if you don’t have a laser measure then you will need to make sure you have all sorts of suitable tape measure equipment. A tape is useful for shorter dimensions over a laser which can be tricky for those tight spots. 

Architecture Presentation Board Templates Bundle


I tend to use an A3 sized clipboard if it is a large building, and a smaller A4 if it is a small building. Use what works best for you, obviously the larger paper you use, the easier it will be to get all your measurements down without getting into a total mess.

Architecture Presentation Board Templates Bundle


Lots of paper!! Don’t underestimate how much paper you might need. Sometimes you may draw a general layout, but need another few pages for things like column positions, elevations, services etc.

You can also use a hardback notepad with squared paper, this will mean you don’t have to use a clipboard and the squared paper helps with sketching out your plans. It comes down to personal preference.

Pens and Pencils

I always make sure I have a good selection of pens and pencils on a measured survey. I have started using one of those three colour pens now which is really helpful – more on that later.

Camera or phone

Totally invaluable for a site survey – make sure you have a reasonable camera with full charge.

Site Gear – Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Depending on the site, you may need your hard hat, high visibility jacket and site boots, make sure you check this prior to arriving on site. 

Surveying with your tablet or phone

There are now many apps for your tablet or phone that can assist with measured surveys. We have a separate article that explores apps and kits for measured surveys in more detail. You can find it here.

Other notes


If you come across an area that is technical or difficult to present in your drawing, I sometimes draw it at a large scale and cross reference it. This allows you to create a more detailed sketch of the difficult area to refer back to.

Try to ensure your laser is as level as possible when taking measurements. If you need to take smaller measurements, it is often better to use a tape measure so make sure you have one to hand. 

Try not to rush the measured survey. I have been on surveys when the building is cold, dark and pretty spooky, and I wanted to get finished as quickly as possible. The problem is, by rushing it you will undoubtedly miss crucial details and possibly have to return at a later date. 

Be particularly careful on site when you are working alone on your measured survey, especially if you are in old or unstable buildings, working in loft spaces etc. Use your judgement on what is safe to survey.  Take spare batteries for your laser, just in case they run out mid survey.

When measuring external information, be sure to take note of site boundaries, and any neighbouring property information that might be useful. 

Measured Survey Checklist & Guide

We have put together a comprehensive measured survey checklist that you can use when you visit a site to carry out a measured survey. Along with the checklist, you can get access to this guide too as a handy PDF.

Just enter your details below!

You might also be interested in:


We also have lots of other survey related content. Be sure to check it out:

The Best Apps For Measured Surveys FI
How to measure and draw angled walls



I hope this post helps you when you have to carry out your measured surveys.

If you have any other useful tips – please feel free to share them in the comments below.

Thank you!

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  1. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

    • Great info, I agree with everything you’ve written. I would also add…

      I would personally never trust a room to be 90 deg in the corners, so triangulate every room to ensure it is within the tolerance you’ve set (based on the scale of the finished drawing & its usage).

      Always get overall dimensions of rooms, if you have missed a dimension you can often work it out from the overall dimensions.

      Always measure at a consistent height (chest height is normally good), old buildings may not have vertical walls, this evens out the measurements.

      Always take some duct tape & stiff card if going out solo, that way you can tape up a target for the laser measure when you cannot see the end of the wall with the laser.

      I always have a small pocket knife with me, to remove the odd leaf (with owners consent) if the laser cannot see where I need it to outside.

      however many photo’s you want to take, take some more! you can never have too many, try to get as many as possible square on to the building, often you can work out a missed dimension using a photo & the rest of the dimensions as a guide.

      Always try & get a photo of the whole elevation to help you work out where the other photo’s are from & try to make your photos overlap when you take them (inside & outside), this again makes them easier to locate them & helps you to catch the vital detail you didn’t know you needed to get a photo of.

      If you are taking a lot of photos that will look the same, particularly outside, consider sketching a site plan up & marking each photo with a sequential number and an arrow (40 trees or garden walls all look the same when you get back to the office!). When you get back to the office, just list out your new numbers against the ones the camera used, they should obviously list out in the same order.

      Finally, sort out your hundreds of photos into folders… outside, inside, the patio, etc. whatever works; its far quicker searching through 20 shots of the patio, rather than all the photos, and you wont have time to rename them all to logical names (but consider renaming things like the full front elevation, again to save time later).

      • Ben, thank you so much for adding your comments and tips, really appreciate it. Great stuff.

    • When drawing an existing building with an extension in mind would you draw the existing house as it actually is (i.e., it’s an old house so rooms etc are bound to be out of square) with the emphasis on the outside walls? I say outside walls as these are obviously going to be built on to.
      I hope this makes sense

      • Hi James, I would always advise to draw the survey (existing) as accurately as possible. This may mean that there are some strange angles and things not quite square. It is always useful if the drawing is as accurate as it can be, then the issues can usually be resolved on site.

  2. Great Advice. I am starting of drawing plans for Planning and Building Regulations applications. I am ok with measuring floor plans etc thanks to your advice, but really struggling with measuring roof heights, hip sizes, pitch of roof etc.

    Can you pass on any advice?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Mark, Thanks for your comment. Good question – roofs! Often dependent on the building. As a rule I try to get a measurement from ground to eaves (need a disto for this), and ground to underside of ridge if you can get to a gable. Another thing is counting bricks. If you can’t take a measurement to the underside of the ridge, but you can get a measurement to the eaves – you can count bricks on the gable and work out the height from there. Obviously if the building is rendered this is not an option. Another thing is making sure you are thorough with your floor to floor heights internally, and if you have loft access you can then measure the ridge height, measure rafters, and work out from there the height of the roof. I will gather a bit more information and update the post with some more details of roof measuring. Thanks again for your comment 🙂

      • Thanks. I will try to implement these tips on my next project. With regards the disto, i have been looking at these. Which would you recommend? Jobs haven’t took off yet so really cant afford the expensive ones.

        • Hi, I would get the best disto you can afford. I have this one which is really good, but around £80 so not cheap. I would go onto Amazon and check out the reviews for the ones you can afford. As for floor joists, usually you have a floor to ceiling height at ground floor level, then you need to work out floor to floor from ground to first – usually this consists of measuring stairs and counting etc. Once you have these two you can take the ceiling height away from floor to floor height and you are left with floor thickness. You can then figure out the floor joists based on assumptions you can make – i.e., plasterboard ceiling, floorboards etc.

  3. Sorry another question. How do you measure the thickness of the floor joists?

  4. Thanks for all your advice

  5. Hi,

    This is a great article….I’ve been trying to get the hang of measuring up houses and sketching and taking measurements its going really well but for some reason when I start to draw it in CAD the measurements never seem to line up perfectly…always 20-40mm out somewhere! I go back and double check but all seems ok. It’s very frustrating as I can’t for the life of me figure out why??

    Is it because some walls are angle slightly? If so is there a way of accurately and easily finding this out?

    Any help would be appreciated

    • Hi Tom, Thanks for getting in touch. I think you will always find there are slight discrepancies. This could partly be to do with your measuring (if using a laser you could be holding it at a slight angle sometimes which will alter the measurement etc) – or it can also be that rooms just aren’t always perfect. I find the best thing to do is to take a few extra measurements – for example, room diagonals, so that if one doesn’t seem right you can check it against another. I have come across this a few times and it depends on the type and age of the building you are measuring. I would never expect an old building to be completely square/aligned etc. Also you need to consider how important those 20mm are on the scheme of your project….? More often than not it doesn’t make a huge difference, and it will be resolved on site. Hope this helps. 🙂

      • Hi Tom and Emma,

        Another thing to take note is the wall thickness. The wall cladding and sometimes framing can change dramatically, 10mm gib, 13mm gib, 90mm framing – 120mm framing etc (NZ standards). If you’re out by 20-40mm, this can be accumulated across parallel walls and will easily throw you out if you don’t have them there to reference or re-measure. Just a thought anyway.
        Hope you find those missing measurements with ease in future measures.

        • Hi, Thanks very much for your tips – much appreciated.

  6. This is a great resource for architect’s starting out! I have one other question, though. When you measure a multi-story building, especially one with a basement, how can you check that the foundation walls are aligned with the walls of the stories above?

    • Hi Jake, thank you for your question and your comments 🙂
      Foundation walls/basement walls should generally line through with the walls above, as they are providing the support for the walls above.

      However, sometimes this may not be the case. I would suggest you find a common factor on the basement floor and the floor above – for example a lift shaft or stairwell. You will then have a constant position that you can measure from. Then you can take a measurement from this constant to an outside wall on both levels – you will then be able to check that they line through. If they do not line through, there should be some indication of this – i.e., additional structure – columns, beams and so on. So this will also help you figure out where the walls are situated in relation to the stories above. Sometimes there may be external clues, for example access stairs to the basement, or perhaps light wells. These will help you get a feel for what is going on between the ground and basement level.

      Hope this helps – any more questions don’t hesitate to ask. All the best, Emma

  7. Hi.

    Could you explain how or give an example of how to use the triangulation method of finding out an angled wall? Maybe a picture and your working outs?

    From the picture above I understand the principle but unsure how to actually use it and input it into cad.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    • Hi, thanks for getting in touch. Leave it with me and I’ll see what I can do. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can 🙂

    • Hi Tom,

      As promised – I have made a little video that explains things a bit better. Any more questions don’t hesitate to ask. All the best, Emma

  8. I work for a Building Surveying and Planning Consultancy Firm called A1 Planning Services Ltd. as a Construction Technician. Over the years I have completed a BTEC Level 3 NVQ in Construction and the Built Environment; a BTEC Level 4 HNC in Construction Management and Design and I am currently in my third year studying BSc (Hons) Degree in Building Surveying at UWE.

    One of my modules I am undertaking this year is “Procedures and Practice – Work Based Learning.” By the end of March 2016 I am required to produce a 2500 word project report on a chosen work-based procedure in which I have to critically review it in terms of relevant statutory requirements and professional/industry good practice. I have selected to explore and critically analyse Measured Building Surveys as it is an activity I engage with on a regular basis.

    For the report I have to include at least 5 sources of reference that will act as the basis of the critical analysis. I have just read this article and have found it most useful for my report. I am enquiring as to who has written this article so that I am able to reference it?

    Thanking you in anticipation,
    Charlotte Rea, SCIOB, SIConstM.

  9. Hi there. I found your article very useful. It is a great starting point for someone who gets into building surveying.
    I carry out measured surveys for big retailer. My problem is that they require detailed RCP with lighting fixtures , services, emergency lights etc. I find it very difficult especially with lights position. Obviously lay in grid ceilings are great because they make a process very simple, but plasterboard or high structural ceilings with plenty of spotlights are an absolute nightmare. Please can you give me some advice for accurate ceiling surveys?

    • Hi Greg, thanks for getting in touch. Agreed, reflected ceiling plans are a tough one, and to be honest I have not needed to carry out these types of surveys. I think that often these would be sub contracted out to a survey company with the specialist equipment to deal with such issues. If I was to carry out a RCP survey, I would absolutely make sure I had my disto/laser measure. This would be very useful in plotting light positions, as you can accurately place the laser below the light fitting by using the laser beam to position correctly. You can then turn the laser horizontal to find a point of reference to take a dimension. I think I would probably do this for services too. It all depends on level of detail and accuracy required – what will happen to the existing building, is your survey for renovations etc? If a highly detailed plan is required I would assume there should be room in the budget for specialist surveys to be carried out – or there has to be a degree of acceptance to tolerances with a more basic measured survey. Hope this helps a bit – all the best with your surveys. If you come across any other ways to do RCPs let me know – it would be great to hear any other ideas. Thanks, Emma

  10. This is good article. I’m a Architectural Technician, I do lot of measured surveys of residential buildings for extensions, conversions and alterations, I use a Leica Disto D510 on a tripod it has a lot of useful functions for measuring roofs.

  11. Great article – but please can you explain how you would measure the thickness of a floor ? And what are standard thicknesses of typical floors, both residential and commercial properties.

    Once in a blue moon I might have to do a site survey, and floor thicknesses are something I always wonder how the pros do !

    Thanks once again for a great article – I’ve subscribed to your site 🙂

    • Hi Jez,
      You’re welcome. Floors can be tricky – but there are a number of ways you can figure out the floor thickness. First place to look is stairs. Stairs create an opening in the floor that often means you can actually measure the floor thickness. This isn’t always the case but useful if you can use that. Another thing you can do is use the windows. If you measure window to ceiling height on the ground floor, then window cill height to floor on the floor above you get an overall distance (excluding floor thickness). You can then go outside and measure the distance between ground floor window head and first floor window cill. Subtract the first measurement you did from the external measurement and you will be left with the thickness of the floor. Tricks like that can be handy if you are struggling to find the measurements of certain areas.
      Hope that helps.
      Good luck!

      • Hi Emma,
        Nice article. In regards to using window cills to measure floor levels, this is assuming internal and external window cills are the same which due to the detailing is rarely the case in Victorian buildings for instance. If you look at a typical window section there is usually a step in the construction.
        I also use a Dewalt laser level that shoots out horizontal and vertical plumb lines. I plonk this on say a half-landing of a stair and measure down to the floor then again on the floor above and with floor-to-ceiling heights you can get floor levels pretty accurately. You can get cheaper plumb lasers but the dewalt one works the best by far.
        I also use this to relate internal and external levels across thresholds as I find this is the trickiest part of the survey.

        • Hi Peter, Thanks very much for sharing – great tips. Much appreciated.

  12. when measuring an odd shaped room where the walls are also not straight how many diagonal measurements is best to take i want it to be as accurate as possible

    I assume the more the better

    is there any tool out there that can do this for you

    • Hi there Richard, yes the best option is to take as many diagonal measurements as possible. As far as tools are concerned, one option you could look at is Othograph.
      Best of luck! Emma

      • Ive just started referencing this site and wanted to comment on how useful it is – thanks to all contributors.

        I measure a lot of old barns for conversion and never have i had a square room. the Old pythagoras 3 4 5 gets used a lot. And quite simply the more measurements the better. try to always if the room / buildings are require it pick a couple of fixed points, either part of the building or even staff in the ground at a fixed notable distance and take measurements to corners, windows, doors, and the set them out as a radius on your drawing and use the intersections.

        Floors are reasonably tricky, but usually down in the stair well or subtraction from window measurements. I would say 80% of measurements need are taken from inside and a few external references to give thickness of walls, eaves height, offsets to boundaries etc.

        There will always be a discrepancy if you use autocad or similar as it is too accurate for survey drawings. they other guy in our office is paper and pen and he laughs at me when i get stressed over 75mm gaps in a range of barns, at 1:100 that is less than a pen width on paper….

        Like everyone I keep hoping to learn some tips to speed surveys up and cut down anomalies, but there is quite a few times i revisit sites to check layouts and take more measurements, especially when its a really angled site in a market town and has very little line of sight and we are trying to see if we can build a house in there… all part of the process in being thorough and accurate, well that’s what i tell myself

        • Hi Richard,
          Thanks so much for your comments and tips. Always good to hear other peoples ideas and experiences. Much appreciated. Emma

  13. THANKS

  14. Hi, great site you have here! I’d like to give you a tip which has saved me so much time. I use a straight lines pad when drawing floorplans, the backing is dimpled so your pen follows the grooves in a straight line. I think there is only one place to buy them online. Google search straightlinesuk and you should find it. Quite expensive but well worth the money!

  15. Hi I am looking for a surveyor that can measure house dimension for planning application, any recommendation? Please get in touch with me, thanks.

    • Hi Rex. If you happen to be in South or West Yorkshire, I could help.

    • Hi Rex,

      We can help you on this. We provide professional measured surveys services. We use the latest measuring equipment including Total Staitons and Laser Scanners. Our projects range from small residential building full measurement to large scale topographical survey. We are RICS regulated firm and our fees are highly competitive. Give me a ring on 07403697410 if you need any assistance. Many Thanks.


    • Looks interesting. Have you used it Leon?

  16. Hi Emma,

    How do you go about locating/ measuring doors and windows? How do your measurements factor in frame thickness, sill thickness etc. It’s hard to know what to measure when there are frames and architraves to contend with!


    • Hi there,
      Good question. I think everyone has a different approach to this but the important thing is consistency. So which ever way you choose to do it, stick to that. For window widths it is easy, you just measure the reveal, however when measuring window heights I tend to ignore the sill and include it in the complete window height. As for architraves on doors this can be tricky. You can either measure the wall opening width, which can sometimes be difficult, or measure the door leaf. As long as you remain consistent and take note of how you have measured when working on the drawings down the line, it shouldn’t be a problem. Best of luck! Emma

  17. First I have to say that all these tips are so useful. Thanks a lot for everyone sharing their knowledge here.

    Sometimes a have to measure the distance between sprinkler heads for as built revision. How to make it more precisely when you are by yourself without a ladder? Is there any useful tool for that?


    • Hi John,
      My first thought would be to use a laser, from the ground up to get exact point on ground, then measure distance to wall. Leave a marker on the ground at each sprinkler point that you have located with the laser, then you can measure point to point or point to wall etc. Hope that makes sense!
      Best of luck!

  18. Hi thanks for this article.
    I have been doing building surveys for quite some years now, but I’m wondering whether to take the plunge into digital rather than paper. I have always hand sketched the plan and measurements on a survey as you show and then drawn up in CAD when i get back to the office. But I know you can bluetooth connect the laser disto’s and plug the info directly into autoCAD mobile. Has anyone had much experience with this? – Does it work as well in reality or is good old pencil and paper still the best?
    Looking forward to hearing the thoughts!

    • Hi Grace, I don’t have any experience of using the bluetooth connection – I would image, after some teething issues it would probably be a much more efficient way of surveying. It would probably require a slight change in procedure, and familiarising yourself with the software also. Another one that might be worth a look is Orthograph…
      I would be interested to know anyone else’s thoughts on this too.

  19. A really good article. I’m a bit of an amateur, measuring our new house for planning purposes, and all of this is very helpful – and reaffirms my decision to invest in a laser disto! Cheers!

    • Thanks John – good luck with your surveying!

  20. Have you tried moving into Revit yet? i am trying to teach myself and was wondering if you (or others reading) have found any differences to measured survey with a view to building the model in Revit?

    • Hi Eddy, I work in ArchiCAD and haven’t really experienced any issues with modelling the building in this format from a measured survey. Let me know if you have other questions, happy to help 🙂

  21. Hi, Amazing Article
    It’s over 5 years old yet very relevant.

    I recently got a job to measure a building with very many curved walls and have found it quite challenging.
    Got any tips for me?

    • Thank you. I have to admit, I haven’t measured any buildings that have significant curved walls… I am guessing there is a method, but not entirely sure what that would be. Sorry I can’t be of more assistance.

      • Hi!

        Great article, thank you very much for your indications.

        Any advice on how to measure chimneys for elevations and sections please?

        Thank you!

  22. Useful article. I think total stations are useful.

  23. Do you have a good guide at how to estimate the time it will take to measure a space? What would you say a 2000 square foot space would take?

    • Hi Ron,
      I’m afraid I don’t. There are a lot of factors to consider:
      How complicated the building is
      Are there occupants and furniture
      How fast/experienced you are at measuring
      What tools/equipment you are using
      I think time estimation comes from your own experience of working on different surveys.
      Sorry I can’t be of more assistance.
      Happy surveying!

  24. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience with us! This is very helpful.

  25. I found this article most interesting and informative. Indeed, it has proven incredibly useful.
    I am currently surveying a 17th timber-framed building that is in something of a perilous state. Indeed, a large portion of the structure has collapsed due to prolonged neglect. Therefore, having taken all necessary safety precautions, I am surveying the structure to ensure that an archaeological record of the building remains even if the building does not.
    Naturally, age and dilapidation have resulted in remarkably uneven walls, floors, and ceilings, with none of the rooms being square either. Indeed, quite considerable variations occur in most rooms over distances of only a few hundred millimetres.
    For the purpose of the survey I am plotting each timber in the frame which necessitates both single point-to-point measurements and long and complicated running measurements. I keep finding, however, that there is often a discrepancy of 20mm or so between the two.
    Would you have any advice on how best to ensure the greatest possible accuracy on such a complex building? Furthermore, when measuring for sections, and for 3D modelling, how best would you create a level datum line from which to take measurements?
    Thank you

    • Hello,
      I think if you are looking for complete accuracy you would need to explore more technical equipment such as lasers etc. When taking point to point measurements, over longer distances there will always be a bit of give and take if the measure is not held completely straight etc. I guess it depends on the final use of the survey and how accurate it needs to be before taking it to a survey company to carry out a more in depth digital analysis.

  26. Hell, Fabulous article with a lot of helpful information. I have a question – When measuring an existing buildings internals is it actual wall to wall or do you deduct assumed amounts of finished. I ask as my my limited understanding of architectural drawings is that they exclude the finishes.

  27. Great article Emma – I’ be been doing surveys for longer than I care to remember, and for a 1:100 or even 1:50 scale output obsessing over three decimal places is a waste of time, especially as in older properties the thickness of the wall plaster,/ render finish can vary radically in thickness

  28. Great article, thanks. Any tips on measuring buildings in relation to the external boundary (which isn’t square). Many thanks.

  29. Hi, I am interested to know how you would measure the finished floor level of a building in relation to sea level.
    I do surveys regularly, but on a current project I need to measure the floor level in order to assess the flood risk. I am not clear how to measure this. Do you have to use ordinance survey levels in the road as starting point. And then measure the height above this. OS levels do not seem very accurate to use as a datum. I would appreciate your thoughts on this.
    Thank you very much.

      • Thanks very much for your reply. It seems that the OS information is used. I will try to measure from an OS contour with my laser measure and tripod.

  30. Thank you for all of this. I wonder, how can one reliably measure the thickness of internal walls? Assuming there are door frames, alcatraves or other obstacles preventing a simple tape measurement.

    I’m imagining forceps! Or a really big micrometer!

    • Forceps is a great idea!!
      You can usually measure at a door way, then subtract the architrave or door frame. There probably is something out there that can be used but I can’t think of it!


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