8 Things To Do Before Measuring and Surveying Interior Spaces

Building surveys are one of the staples of the early stages of any architectural project. Although this task is commonly now outsourced to specialist surveyors for larger projects, especially in the new BIM world, smaller schemes such as residential renovations and extensions can still require an architect’s surveying tools.

With that in mind, we have created a list of specific considerations and tips for measuring interior spaces.

Get Your Equipment (for Measuring)

Before attending the site, make sure to include the following essentials

  • Tape or Laser Measure
  • Pencil and Eraser
  • Fine pens in two or more colors
  • A4 Clipboard
  • Gridded Sketchbook
  • DSLR Camera (A phone with a strong camera could also suffice)
  • Calculator (or your phone again)
  • Tape recorder (yup, you guessed it, your phone is a viable substitute)

Also ensure you obtain any OS map of the site that shows the building, as this can allow you to orientate interior spaces to consider sunlight angles, views, and planning issues.

Researching Before You Survey

Before surveying, carry out as much research on the building and its spaces as possible. If photographs or old maps of the building exist, this will allow you to familiarise yourself with layouts and prioritize rooms for surveying. Many countries require planning application documents to be accessible online, and this will also allow you to investigate the layout through previous surveys and layouts.

Be Clear About The Purpose

Consider the purpose of the surveying exercise, and what key dimensions and information you will require. Carry out research on the planning drawing requirements for the project you are undertaking, and the level of detail required for interior spaces, existing and proposed. Also consider the brief, and how this will impact on what rooms require extra detail. For example, a brief for a rear extension to a house will require a more thorough understanding of detailed dimensions to the façades that will be altered.

Tour The Building First

On site, take time to walk around the entire building before beginning your survey, to grow accustomed to the spaces and their relationship to each other. Look for peculiarities in individual rooms that may require more attention during surveying, and note them. At this point, it might be helpful to make an unofficial sketch plan of the building in your notebook to help you keep track of what rooms you have visited, and what needs surveyed.

Take Photographs

Photography is essential to an interior building survey. When taking photographs of interior spaces, it is best to take more than you feel is necessary, to avoid missing details, and with specific attention paid to complex rooms. It is also important to follow a procedure, methodically working clockwise around the room rather than indiscriminately photographing elements. When possible, digitally review all photographs of a room before moving on. 

Don’t Forget About Technology

While the above methods focus on a manual-based approach to surveying, there is a constant stream of new tools facilitating the measuring process. Pay attention to the following non-exhaustive list of apps and technologies that can aid your surveying process:

  • Autodesk Sketchbook
  • Morpholio Trace
  • Scala Architectural Scale
  • Photo Measures
  • Magicplan
  • Measured by Lowe’s
  • iHandy Carpenter
  • Roomscan

Create a Symbols Legend

Create a legend of the various symbols you are likely to encounter, which we can added to on-site. This will include a standard way of drawing internal and external walls, doors, stairs, windows, and basic furniture. Also create a set of symbols for measurement styles, such as ceiling heights, parallel dimensions, and overall dimensions.

Sketch The Room

Create an oversized sketch of each room that will be used to record your measurements, labeling each sheet by room name or number. Before you begin measuring, mark with a different color pen the key dimensions and figures you need to take. This is often not limited to plan dimensions but will include ceiling heights, window placement, and fixed furniture location. As with standard architectural plans, assume a height of 500mm to 1000mm off the ground when drawing your plan.

It is important to invest adequate time in this stage, as a carefully drawn set of plans and sections will result in greater efficiency both during and after the survey.

You’re all set, Now Start Measuring

When measuring the room, it is important to take two sets of dimensions. First, take a set of overall dimensions, recording key spans of the room such as the length of corridors, walls, and diagonals. Then, working in a clockwise way, begin taking detailed dimensions that subdivide these overall dimensions to include windows, doors, and other fixtures. For door and window openings, it is advisable to measure the structural opening rather than the inside of the frame, to avoid miscalculations if replacement openings form part of the design process. Finally, while most measurements can be identified in a floor plan, an internal section is always recommended to capture changes in floor heights and change in levels that cannot be picked up in a floorplan.

Make sure you are familiar with your equipment settings before beginning your survey. While laser measures are a profoundly useful tool, some will read measurements taking the length of the laser measure itself into consideration, while others will not do so by default. Even if you plan on using a laser measure for the survey, always bring a manual measure and ruler for smaller, or more complex areas around window frames for example.

  1. Thanks for the piece! I have recently read a great article about using Augmented Reality in measurements. Seems that such a conservative industry as construction is digitalizing now.

  2. I like the tip that you gave that one of the most important parts of surveying a building is photography. My uncle mentioned a couple of nights ago that he was hoping to find a building surveyor that could do a comprehensive survey on the building project they are working on, and he asked if I had any idea what would be the best option to do. I’m thankful for this helpful article, I’ll tell him that it will be much better if we consult trusted building surveying services as they can answer all our inquiries.

  3. I want to buy a building, but I’m not sure how to go about it. It makes sense that I would want to get the building surveyed to help with this. That seems like a good way to ensure that I get a professional to help me out with this.

  4. The information gathered from building surveys is invaluable during the planning stages of a project as it allows architects and engineers to develop plans based on accurate data regarding existing conditions at the site being surveyed.

  5. I love that you talked that having a photograph solution for the survey process could offer proper evaluation. One of my parent’s friends told our family that he was hoping to find a land surveyor that could provide GPS mapping and survey the land he was planning to buy. He asked if I had any idea what would be the best surveying option to consider. Thanks to this helpful article, I’ll tell him it will be much better if we consult trusted land surveying services as they can provide more information about their rates and services.

  6. Thank you for your article on measuring and surveying interior spaces. Your tips on decluttering, creating a floor plan, and selecting the right tools are all very helpful. I also appreciated your advice on taking accurate measurements and verifying them. Your post is a great resource for anyone looking to tackle an interior design project. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

  7. You made a good point when you discussed that thorough research on the building and its spaces must be performed before surveying. My sister wants to get her home surveyed. I should advise her to hire an expert in residential surveying to provide her with precise results.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to stay updated on featured projects, design news and insights across Africa.

I have read and agree to the privacy policy