Tips for Measuring and Surveying Interior Spaces

Tips for 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.

Equipment for Measuring
Before attending the site, make sure to include the following essentials (courtesy of Studio Craft and Technique):

Tape measure

2mm lead clutch pencil

Fine pens in two colors




A4 Clipboard

Tracing Paper

Grid-line paper




Laser pointer

Spirit level


Tape recorder

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.

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.

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.

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.

Measuring The Room
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.

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


Measured by Lowe’s

iHandy Carpenter