How To Accurately Measure Land On Site & From Your PC

Read our guide on how to measure land without the need for expensive equipment or even visiting the area by using your PC!

Article By: Tom Ayre | Last Update: August 2021

In this article, we are going to discuss 2 ways you can semi accurately measure a piece of land using tape measures and computer programs.

This will allow you to:

  • Work out the area of your land in m2, acres, hectares etc.
  • Calculate the perimeter lengths.
  • Accurately locate items on your land.

So what methods are we going to discuss?

For the tape measure method, it does rely on the land being reasonably sized. I would suggest no larger than 25 x 25 metres to begin with.

For larger areas, we recommend employing a land survey company who can measure the land using a laser total station or GPS equipment.

Using the Google Earth tool is much better for measuring larger areas of land however it does rely on the boundaries or features being visible from the satellite imagery. For the tape measure method, it does rely on the land being reasonably sized. I would suggest no larger than 25 x 25 metres to begin with..

Table of Contents

Using Surveying Tapes (On Site)

Utilising surveying tapes is quick and relatively cheap way of measuring a piece of land. It usually requires 2 people to undertake the task as you will need to pin the tapes in position and move them around.

Equipment

  • Notepad + pencil / pens.
  • 3 Surveying tapes (30 metres is ideal).
  • An assistant to help hold the tapes.
  • Pegs (to peg the end of the tapes to the ground).

Survey Method

The method to measure and then draw the land relies on a few basic trigonometry ideas (don’t worry, no calculations required).

Step 1

Take your 30-metre surveying tape and pin one end into the ground and lay out the tape to its full length.

You will want to place the tape in a relatively central location and where the tape can be laid in a straight line. It is very important the tape is dead straight.

Step 2

Take out your notepad, make a fresh page and draw a diagram as per the image below.

Laying out the tape for land survey

 

The basic premise of this diagram is that the centre line represents the tape measure and the left-hand side is to the left of the tape and the right is to the right of the tape. This is what we will be using to record our measurements.

Step 3

The next step is to simply start measuring and recording data. The basic idea here is to measure a single location using 2 measurements from 2 different locations on the long 30-metre tape (see the diagram). Try and maximise the angle between the 2 measurements, the smaller the angle, the less accurate you are likely to be.

When measuring the points you need to ensure you are taking 2 bits of key information.

  • The length along the 30-metre tape you are measuring from.
  • The distance from the point to the point you are measuring.

 

To record this you will use your notepad as per the example below.

Measuring the land survey points

Step 4

Continue to take as many measurements from the line and to the points as you require. You may need to utilise another page or 2 depending on how dense the survey area is.

Take care with the 30 metre main tape to ensure it remains straight.

Drawing Method

Step 1

Start by drawing a straight line at an appropriate scale so as your 30-metre chainage tape is accurately represented.

Step 2

Measure to the start length of your first measurement along your chainage line and make a mark. In my example, my first measurement was taken at 0m and then at 5 metres along the chainage line.

For the 0m measurement, I had a point distance of 10.125 metres and at my 5-metre mark, a 13.294 measurement.

Step 3

Using a protractor or CAD tool (we use the circle command) set your radius to your first measurement, in this instance it was 10.125 metres from the 0m chainage mark. Using your protractor make an arcing line.

Final drawing of measured out survey land

Step 4

Once again, use your protractor and go to your second measurement. In this instance, it was 5m chainage and 13.294 m distance. Make a mark with the protractor. Now, in theory, you will see that your 2 arcs will have an intersecting point. This is the location of the measured point relative to your 30m chainage tape.

Step 5

Continue to do this process for the remainder of the points. You will now have all the locations relative to the chainage tape! You can then do a dot to dot exercise to produce your drawing.

Calculating Area

Once you have your scaled drawing you can start calculating the area of the land you measured.

To do this you have to split your land into triangles as per the example below. Depending on the complexity of your land this may result in a lot of triangles being created so brace yourself.

Once you have split the drawing into triangles you now need to calculate the lengths of each side of each triangle. I would advise formatting it as the following:

Triangle 1
A: 5.3 m
B 8.2 m
C 6.6 m

Triangle 2
A: 9.7 m
B 11.2 m
C 21.5 m

and so on.

Once you have these measurements you can then use a triangle area tool.

Use google and search “Triangle area tool”.

Once you have worked out the areas of all of your triangles you need to add them together for the final area. 

Congratulations, you have done it!

Using Google Earth (From A PC)

Utilising satellite imagery from Google Earth isn’t amazingly accurate however if you are after quick, outline measurements then this could be the perfect tool for you!

Measuring Single Lengths

Start by downloading Google Earth pro (now free!).

Step 1

Once you have downloaded and installed the program, proceed to open the program and zoom into the area you are looking to measure.

Step 2

In the top bar you will see a tape measure icon, simply click this tape measure and then on the items you want to measure between. A “ruler” window will open up showing you the measurements in what format you like.

 

 

Measuring Area

 

Start by downloading Google Earth pro (now free!).

Step 1

Once you have downloaded and installed the program, proceed to open the program and zoom into the area you are looking to measure.

Step 2

Select the “New Polygon” tool on the top menu bar of the screen (see picture below). This will open a window up called “Google Earth – New Polygon”.

Google earth how to add a polygon

Step 3

Once this window has opened you can use the right-hand button on the mouse to start selecting the area to measure. Once you are happy you have selected the correct area you can then select the “OK” button on the “Google Earth – New Polygon” window.

Step 4

This will then add a new file in the left hand window, in my instance the file was called “Untitled Polygon”. If you then right click on that file and go to “Properties” a new properties window will open. Once this window has opened you can go to the “Measurements” tab to view the perimeter length and area of the land in question.

Google Earth Measurement Window