K&B Design: Measuring Design Space

When measuring an existing space, the designer needs to document all items within that given space along with adjacent items that relate to the space.

October 01, 2014
K&B Design: Measuring Design Space

It is important for designers to accurately measure the design space in a kitchen or bathroom in order to draw plans correctly. Apps available that allow designers to place measurements directly to a digital image.

Kitchen and bath drawings provide much information for the successful design and installation of a space. It is very important to accurately measure the design space in order to draw the plans for a project correctly. Conduct a visual inspection of the space, discuss the wants and needs with the client, and make sure to measure and cross-reference all items. There are electronic tools available to measure a space, such as lasers, as well as applications that allow you to take a picture with smartphones and tablets and place the measurements directly on the digital image.

Measuring the remodeling job

When measuring an existing space, the designer needs to document all items within that given space along with adjacent items that relate to the space.

Visually inspect the space, and note all items within the space. Check for hidden ductwork, electrical items, and other aspects that you may not see initially.

Next, sketch a proportionally correct room outline. Look at the big picture first and then focus on the details within the given space. Some prefer to sketch the space on graph paper. The sketch does not need to be to scale but it should be in proportion at this point. With experience, you may use the squares on graph paper as an aid to figure out the placement of items in a 1/2-inch scale on the sketch. Sometimes this method slows down designers who are trying to draft perfectly to scale. Remember at this point, you only need a sketch of the space. Determine if you should use graph paper or plain paper for your sketch.

  1. Choose one corner first and move clockwise around the space.
  2. Include the wall thicknesses.
  3. Locate all windows, doors, pass-throughs, and other openings. Note the door swings.
  4. Locate any other architectural feature in the room, such as radiators or air ducts.
  5. Locate all water pipe supplies, drainage pipes, vents, gas pipes, and electrical outlets.
  6. If possible, locate any load-bearing walls or headers. Sometimes a header can be hidden in a soffit/bulkhead. Rooms that are cantilevered often have a hidden header.
  7. Note the north/south orientation.
  8. Label adjacent rooms and include view information. An example would be facing the lake or the woods.
  9. Measure the ceiling height in at least three locations. If the heights are not consistent, note the different heights. Never assume that a room is square or that walls are straight.                                

You are now ready to measure all items you have located on your sketch of the space. Make sure to note necessary items on your sketch so you have adequate information to draft the measured space at a later time.

When measuring, select one corner of the room to be your starting point. You will end at that location. Measure the walls in a clockwise manner. First, measure the room’s overall dimensions and then go back and measure the smaller clearances and spaces in order to cross-reference all measurements. It is good to hold the tape measure at one corner and read all point along that line without moving the tape if possible. This method helps reduce the risk of inaccurate measurements from moving the tape measure.

  1. If possible, clear a path approximately 36 inches above the floor. If there is a window, measure at a point on the wall to catch those dimensions.
  2. You can also lay the tape measure on the floor along the baseboards for accuracy and measure from one wall to the opposite wall. You will need to add in the thickness of the baseboard.
  3. If there are obstructions, place the tape on the wall. Make sure it is always level and taut. If the tape isn’t pulled tight, it will sag and add extra length to that wall. If you have a carpenter’s level, place it under your tape measure to make sure it is level.
  4. Measure the full length of the wall. Record the total dimension on your sketched drawing of the room. For recording this dimension on your sketch, a long dimension line can be drawn to the outside of this wall, parallel to the wall you have measured.
  5. Next, measure the shorter distances of items on the wall. Begin measuring at your starting corner of the room. Measure from your starting corner to the nearest opening or obstacle. This could be a door, window, pipe chase, architectural feature, and so on. You must be concerned with the usable wall space and need to measure to the outside trim of doors and windows. Record measurements on your floor plan sketch. Next, measure from outside edge to outside edge of door and window trim, and record the dimensions. Continue measuring items until you have reached the opposite corner of the first wall. Make sure to measure all distances and note if any change in wall such as a protrusion. Verify you have the distance from the wall to window trim, window trim to window trim (which is the width of window plus trim), and then window trim to wall. Verify all door measurements as you did for windows.
  6. Confirm the accuracy of your measurements by comparing the sum of all individual dimensions to the total overall wall measurement. Use your calculator to add the measurements and confirm the accuracy of the measurements taken of that first wall. The shorter dimensions should add up to the overall wall dimension.
  7. Continue measuring the length of each remaining wall, going clockwise in the room. Place all dimensions on your room sketch.
  8. Next, measure the heights of windows, doors, radiators, soffits/bulkheads, and any other remaining objects not yet accounted for in the given space. Use the NKBA Client Survey Form dimension page, which has diagrams for measuring windows, existing appliances, radiators, and more. Include heights for windows from floor to ceiling and include sills, door height, ventilation, air conditioning units, and any other measurement not previously noted. Make sure to take measurements of existing appliances if they are to be used in the new design.
  9. Locate the center points of all plumbing, venting, electrical, and lighting items. Beginning at your starting corner of the wall, measure from that corner to the center of outlets, switches, fixtures, appliances, lighting, venting, and plumbing. Measure to the center points of items on ceiling as well. Double-check to make sure you have included all center points of each item so you can later complete your NKBA drawings. On your sketched floor plan, record these center point locations. Use architectural symbols to denote the type of item.
  10. Many designers prefer to draft a “before” or “existing” floor plan: Measure all cabinets, fixtures and appliances. Sketch an elevation of the walls to ensure everything is dimensioned accurately and nothing is overlooked.
  11. Make your final inspection. Visually inspect the area to make sure you have measured all items. Measure any freestanding furniture pieces or other architectural features. Check the electrical service panel conditions. Check any areas that may be affected during the remodeling project, such as the basement or attic. Confirm access to all spaces as needed for remodel project.
  12. Take photos of the existing space for reference during the design process. Videos are also helpful. Photos help document what the space looks like prior to demolition. You can add the photos to your company’s portfolio to show “before” and “after” images. Always make sure you have your client’s permission to use any photos from their projects in design contests or publications. PR

This article is excerpted from the NKBA Professional Resource Library volume: Kitchen & Bath Design Presentation, Second Edition by Margaret Krohn, CKD, ASID. Copyright 2014 National Kitchen & Bath Association; published by John Wiley & sons, Inc. This material is reproduced with the permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


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