Essential Guide To Measured Building Surveys In 2021

Find Out About Measured Building Surveys, Saving Money, Getting The Best Value Quotes & More!

Article By: Tom Ayre | Last Update: June 2021

Working with architects and designers, our team undertakes measured building surveys and provides you with accurate, easy-to-manipulate CAD and PDF drawings, ensuring your designs are reliable.

Having a measured building survey prior to undertaking any building works is important. Accurately surveyed drawings to plan your design from are crucial when it comes to planning out your project effectively. 

In this article we discuss and explain the whys, how’s and what’s around the subject of measured building surveys.

Table of Contents

What Is A Measured Survey?

A measured survey is used to survey and produce accurate, scaled drawings of buildings. Measured surveys can vary in detail, a basic survey will include elements such as walls, doors, windows, level changes. A more complex survey may include electrical layouts, plumbing and more precise information.

Following the on-site survey, the surveyed information is  produced in a CAD (computer aided design) program. the CAD program then produces a range of drawings such as floor plans, elevations and sections.

A measured survey is usually commissioned prior to any building or refurbishment work and forms the basis of the proposed designs. Without an accurate measured survey future problems can occur, these could be:

  • The proposed design not fitting or incorrectly sized.
  • Over / under ordering materials.
  • Issues with local planning authorities.

Starting a building project from the start is crucial. A measured survey is a key component of this as it forms the basis of the design. Issues at this stage of the project will be echoed and amplified throughout the build process.

Why Measured Surveys Are Important.

A measured survey is an essential part of any building project, from small additions, to large refurbishment projects, from small apartments to multi storey commercial properties. In this section, we are going to explain why it is really important you have a measured survey prior to undertaking producing any design drawings for your building project.

Poorly Designed / Planning Permission issues

A poor set of measured survey drawings from the outset of your project can have drastic effects on how your build may look when it is finally completed. At best this may be an aesthetic issue, at worst you may have contravened the conditions of your planning application.

In extreme examples, local councils have ordered houses to be demolished as a result of planning conditions not being met.

We have undertaken measured survey work on a number of jobs where elements such as the roof have been built slightly too high, or an extension has been built too far into the garden. The council has then asked for a survey and the new construction had to then be adjusted. 

This caused the owners of the properties serious headaches as they had to go back to the planning stage and submit post build applications. Looking back, each owner managed to get their project over the line. However, if they had a measured survey from the outset then the risk of these types of errors happening would be minimal.

Overrunning Costs

Inadequate information can cause a whole range of problems. As the project develops, drawing errors cause more and more problems that increase costs and delays. Poor quality drawings can also cause major disappointment to people working on their dream project.

Incorrect measurements of room sizes can lead to problems such as furniture not fitting, windows in the wrong place, floor levels not aligning etc. 

A measured building survey can alleviate these problems, as your architect can work from a highly accurate set of plans, elevations and sections. Their designs will be accurate and a true reflection of existing property features, which will assist the building contractor in their work.

When undertaking building works it’s important to control costs wherever possible! Inevitably, throughout a construction project, costs increase and issues arise. 

When pricing up construction works, contractors typically ask for your architect’s proposed drawings. This is to check the specifications of the design. If your architect’s drawings are based on an inaccurate plan, your contractor may find a problem onsite and temporarily halt construction.

The issue will most probably be that the contractor underestimated the required work, so you will inevitably pay more for extra labour hours. Alternatively, your contractor may have overestimated the time or materials required, so you may have wasted money on non-returnable materials such as concrete. You may pay for workers you no longer need.

A measured building survey ensures that your architect’s plans are accurate, which in turns means floor areas, room widths, heights of rooms, etc., are precisely drawn. Trust us, a good set of measurements will reduce headaches during the building process.

Project Delays

Imagine that your building contractor has just finished pouring the concrete foundations and you’re ready for your prefabricated timber frame. The frame you wanted was built in a factory in Germany and is ready to be put on a lorry and transported to your home.

Suddenly your building contractor gets his tape measure out and works out that the structure will overhang your neighbour’s garden. You’re going to have to adjust the design of the timber frame.

Along with the incredible costs of doing this, you are now going to find your project seriously delayed. The contractors you have on-site or booked in for the near future will have to wait for the frame to be amended and shipped. You may also find that the slots you have booked for your site team and now gone and you will have to wait even longer to get them back on site.

This is the worst case scenario however it demonstrates the importance of ensuring your designer is working from reliable, accurate survey information from the start.

Quality Of Life

A construction site is a loud, dusty, cold environment. If you are having building work undertaken in your home whilst you are still living there then you will know this pain. Constantly cleaning, making cups of tea for the contractors, apologising to neighbours for the noise etc.

Life is sometimes even worse if you are living away from the site in a smaller, rented apartment, static home or relatives house!

Delays to your project not only cost time and money, but your sanity also takes a dent too. Living in tight spaces with family members whilst work is going on can stretch even the tightest nit family. Arguments are certain!

Getting your project delivered on time is important. The measured survey element at the start of a project can be a small, neglectable item. However, as the project goes on the importance of this element increases. Starting your project correctly from the start with a measured survey can negate the potential for future delays impacting your wallet/purse and sanity!

How Measured Surveys Are Undertaken

A measured survey can be undertaken by anyone with a simple tape measure. The process involves measuring items such as room dimensions, window openings, door heights and more. The time to undertake a measured survey depends on a number of different factors. Primarily, these are:

  • Specification / detail required.
  • Size / complexity of the building.

Once measured, the surveyed information is drawn in a CAD program such as a AutoCAD. The length of time to draw up depends on the amount of drawings required and their subsequent detail.

Measured Survey Equipment

A professional survey company have a range of tools and equipment at their disposal to quickly and accurately measure a building. Surveying a building with only a tape measure only is slow, cumbersome and often less accurate. Equipment in a modern surveying companies arsenal include:

  • Laser measurer
  • Total station
  • GPS Equipment
  • 3D Scanner
  • Cameras
Laser Measurer

A laser measurer device sends out a beam of light and a visual red dot, the distance between the device and where you pointed at is then recorded.

Typically laser measure devices can record distance up to 100 metres. The key advantage of using a laser verses a tape is that a laser is a more consistent, accurate and quicker way of measuring. 

Lasers don’t sag over distance, blow around in the wind or require 2 people for big distances!

Total Station

A total station is a very accurate piece of equipment that is used to record existing features and position things you want to build. It is a vital piece of equipment in the construction industry.

A total station is a tripod mounted machine that is setup to record individual measurement points. The measurement points can then be joined together like a dot to dot drawing to form an overall picture. Points can be classified on the instrument as “walls”, “ceiling levels”, “window openings” etc to easily distinguish and draw up in a CAD program.

GPS Equipment

GPS equipment is used to accurately position items to real world co-ordinates. The GPS equipment we use is capable of recording positions to the UK’s national ordnance grid to within 15 mm in height and position. Having your proposed design / existing survey positioned to GPS is useful because:

  • Useful for future contractors to position your build (all they need is their own GPS)
  • Sometimes a planning requirement to provide heights and positions to an ordnance survey grid.
  • You can overlay OS block plans of the local area and everything will fall into the correct position.
3D Scanner

A 3D scanner is a relatively modern piece of equipment that sends out millions of light beams and uses this to form a point cloud. A point cloud is a 3D representation made up of millions of dots. 

The point cloud data can then be translated into traditional drawing types such as floor plans, elevations and sections.

3D point cloud isometric view of a boat
Point cloud drawing of a boat.

A camera is an important part of the measured survey process. Following the survey works, photos are taken of the survey area and beyond. Often 100’s of photos are taken and are vital to remember how certain areas are arranged when drawing up in CAD. The photos taken can also help designers in the future to match materials or see before and after shots!

Producing the Drawings in CAD

Once the on site surveying work has been undertaken it is drawn up in CAD (computer aided design) software in the office. Years ago the surveyed information would have been drawn onto sheets of paper, this is a thing of the past now and drawing electronically on a PC is the standard.

There are many providers of CAD software however the industry standard is AutoCAD. Other providers include BricsCad and TurboCAD. There are many CAD providers ranging from expensive, feature rich to free and minimal features. If you are looking for a free to use CAD program then you could use LibreCAD

Get A Measured Building Survey Quote

See our measured building survey service and how we help Architects get their projects off the ground with trustworthy CAD floor plans, elevations and sections.

Types Of Measured Survey Drawings

A measured survey is a crucial part of any design development and should be undertaken prior to any design development. The end result of a measured survey is the production of computer-aided design (CAD) drawings which your architect/designer uses as a base for their new design.

When sending a measured survey specification to your survey team, your architect will ask for a number of different drawing types depending on the size and complexity of the proposed design. This article aims to outline the various types of drawings they may specify.

Floor Plans

Floor plan drawings are one of the most common drawing types in architecture and building engineering projects. A floor plan is a scaled drawing showing a view from above which clearly defines the relationship of rooms and areas to each other. Floor plans are important as they show elements of a building and where they are positioned. Elements include doors, windows, walls, stairs, overhead beams etc.

A floor plan is one of the first places a designer will start when coming up with their designs. They can help to understand the layout of a room and see whether furniture fits, and obtain accurate floor areas for contractor pricing.


A section drawing shows a cut through a building as if it has been sliced with a knife and one part has been removed. A section through a building is very useful for a designer as they can clearly see the relationships of the spaces to each other, which may not be clear on a plan.

They are also useful for getting a clearer picture of heights within a building and can show important relationships between items such as ceiling and floor levels. The direction and location of the section lines are usually stated on the floor plan drawing and if drawn correctly will show the section as it is at that exact location.


An elevation drawing is a view showing one side of a building. It’s the most common method to show the outside of a building and is useful as it can clearly show what an existing or proposed situation looks like. An elevation drawing can pick up basic information such as the location of doors, windows and steps, as well as more complex features of the building’s façade, such as architectural details above windows and ironmongery.

Depending on the building works taking place an elevation will be required on the building faces that are being changed. For example, a rear extension may require both a rear elevation and a side elevation drawing.

Site Plan / Topographical Plan

A site plan can be defined as a slightly simplified topographical survey. This will show your building in relation to important features such as property boundaries, other buildings on site, large trees etc.

A site plan may also show where inspection chambers are and note their details, including invert levels and drain run directions. Sometimes it is crucial to know where your proposed development sits in regards to other features so issues like planning permission are nullified.

Roof Plan

A roof plan is a view looking from overhead, and it details the arrangement of the roof layout. It will outline the arrangement of the roof as well as noting where items such as the ridges, chimneys, eaves extents are. Roof plans are useful for designers as the layout of a roof could impact a new construction such a loft conversion. Having a good idea of the roof’s specifications can help save money and avoid future problems as issues can be sorted prior to construction.

Surveying a roof can be difficult due to access issues and not being able to see it from ground level. If this is the case then sometimes a roof plan will need to be assumed using internal measurements within the loft area.

How Much Do Measured Surveys Cost?

Frustratingly we haven’t got an easy answer this question as the cost of a measured survey has so many factors that influence the price.

Key things that influence the cost of a measured survey include:

  • Size of the property to be surveyed.
  • The level of detail to be required.
  • The distance from the survey companies office (travel costs).
  • How accurate the survey needs to be.

For a typical 3 bedroom house with measured survey drawings such as floor plans, elevations and sections you can expect to pay between £1000 and £2000 from an experience measured building survey company.

The cost of the survey includes the actual site visit to measure up and the production of drawings in PDF and CAD formats. This all depends on the size and location of the site, the surveyors’ experience and greediness of the surveying company!

Getting the best price combined with a great survey that is useful, accurate and produced by a reputable company is important! The worst-case scenario is paying over the odds for a measured survey and receiving poor quality drawings that are inaccurate, difficult to manipulate and turned around late.

Example Measured Survey Costs

Here we give you three examples of how much we charged to undertake three fairly standard measured building surveys. The costs quoted included a site survey and producing drawings in CAD and PDF format. We have listed the drawings we provided for each job.

Please note that the costs quoted are heavily based on the distance to the site. Our travel costs are charged from our office in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.

4 Bedroom House

Measured Survey Example Pricing House

£1650 + VAT

6 Bedroom House

Measured survey example pricing town house

£3200 + VAT

2 Bedroom Flat

measured survey example ground floor flat

£900 + VAT

How To Get The Best Prices For Your Project?

In this guide, we give approximate costs for measured building surveys and provide you with cost-saving tips to reduce the costs of your measured survey.

Tip 1 – Reduce The Measured Survey Scope

Think about where you are undertaking your proposed works. If you are simply adding a loft extension then it may only be necessary to produce floor plans for the top floor of the house. There is no need to survey the whole property as it simply isn’t required for the proposed work.

Tip #2 – Do You Need All That Detail?

The level of detail required can have a massive impact on your measured survey costs. If you need a large property surveyed then a good tip is to specify the areas where you need more detail and where you need less.

There is sometimes no need to survey all areas in high detail. This will save your surveyors’ time and ultimately lower your costs.

Practical Tip: When specifying the area of a property to be surveyed, consider marking up a Google Earth overhead image. Using a program like MS Paint to simply mark up the boundaries of what you need surveying as well as areas where you need less or more detail will help reduce costs.

Tip #3 – Can You Make the Survey Process More Efficient?

The location and type of property that needs surveying can make a huge difference in your survey costs. For instance, surveying a multiple-roomed old house will be more complicated than surveying an open-plan office.

If you have particularly odd-shaped room in your property, it may be worth emptying it so it’s easier and quicker to navigate. Your surveyor will thank you… your bank balance will too!

Tip #4 – Give a Detailed Specification to Avoid Doubt

When getting in contact with a surveying company for a measured survey cost, you must give them all the information they need to accurately price the required works.

Outlining your exact requirements will potentially save you money as the company will know exactly what you do and don’t need out of the survey.

In the specification, you must state elements such as the types of drawing you need, which features are important, etc. Another good idea is to provide photographs of the property if you have them. Photos are really helpful as it gives the survey company a better idea of what the site is like in person.

Tip #5 – Check the Surveyor’s Credentials and Don’t Get Ripped Off!

A measured survey is an important part of any building project and serves as a key component when planning out your property development projects. If you want to save on future costs then ensure the survey company you employ is:

Are they a new company that has just started? This may be a sign of inexperience.

Suitably insured
If things do go wrong then it’s comforting knowing that the company you are dealing with is insured.

See previous measured survey projects.

Have a look at examples of work they have produced, does it come across as professional?

Practical Tip: A legitimate survey company should be able to demonstrate their level of customer service through positive reviews from clients, good quality drawings and they should be able to provide insurance certificates.

Tip #6 – Thoroughly Check Your Quote

When you receive a quote from the surveying company, check that it contains all the relevant information you need for your survey. Your company must understand your specification – you don’t want them coming back and asking for more money because they either didn’t understand your specification or they misunderstood it.

It is also worth checking terms and conditions to check there are no additional fees for revisions to the drawing or returning to the site if they haven’t picked something up correctly.

Tip #7 – Request Example Drawings in PDF & CAD

When getting quotes for your measured survey ask for example drawings in both PDF and CAD format. You can then have a little look at the measured survey drawings to see how organised they are, level of detail they typically pick up, etc.

Having a poor quality survey drawing will cost you time and money as you may need to send the surveyor back to site to pick up more detail, thus causing delays!

When getting quotes for your measured survey ask for example drawings in both PDF and CAD format. You can then have a little look at the drawing to see how organised they are, level of detail they typically pick up, etc.

Having a poor quality survey drawing will cost you time and money as you may need to send the surveyor back to site to pick up more detail, thus causing delays!

Get A Measured Building Survey Quote

See our measured building survey service and how we help Architects get their projects off the ground with trustworthy CAD floor plans, elevations and sections.