Tools of the trade – measuring instruments

Why is measuring important? Well… what’s the point in building something that doesn’t fit in the given space? Would you wear a dress that is hanging on you? Can you wear pants that are too small to even be able to pull them up? Unfortunately even design professionals make measuring mistakes. One of my acquaintances in the business – an otherwise immensely talented person – admitted once having a house full of custom made items based on the wrong dimensions.

Going on site and measuring up a space as described in my MEASURING GUIDE requires an assortment of tools. If you only have a measuring tape that’s fine, it can do the job just as well, however having  some fancier tools at hand can be helpful (and very satisfactory if you are like me).


Usually, I carry two regular measuring tapes and a long tape which measures up to 30 m. In addition to these I use a laser measure and I try to use it for as many measurements as possible. This latter is ideal for measuring  ceiling heights. As a result of encountering angled ceilings and diamond shaped rooms, I armed myself with a tool that allows me to measure angles as well.


There is at least one measuring tape in every household and we take them for granted, along with electricity and running water. But they are worth reading up on, just check these articles on the internet.

There are measuring tapes for imperial system, metric or both imperial and metric system measurements. Personally I prefer the dual system because some of my clients need metric drawings, while others need imperial, so I carry out my measurements in the system I will use to create my drawings.

I love the larger size tape measures because the tape is wider and stiffer and I can measure bigger lengths without the tape collapsing if there is nobody to hold the tab on the other end or if there is no edge to hook the tab into. Working (=measuring) alone is feasible but it is easier with a partner holding the tab (more fun too!), especially if lengths are substantial and the space is booby trapped (my husband’s wording), filled with obstructions like cabinets, stacked boxes, etc. depending on the space’s current role in the household.


I own smaller tapes as well, the white tape in the photo took up permanent residence in my purse. Why? Because I have the “designer bug” and often when I am in public or hospitality spaces I sense that dimensions and clearances are wrong. So then I check them with my ever present white tape and I pat myself in the back, yes, I was right. Again.

The great thing about tape measures is that they don’t need electricity or batteries. Mechanical tools have their advantages under certain circumstances! That doesn’t mean that I don’t plain adore my laser measure, which I do! Mine is a Leica Disto D3 model, an old model by now, less sophisticated then the newer models, but still working impeccably. More about this type of instruments at Leica Geosystems.


My first encounter with the Leica brand was a camera (my Dad used to have one), but Leica is so much more then that: lenses, telescopes, microscopes, measuring instruments… Besides my laser distance meter I have a cell-phone with a Leica camera built in. How cool is that!

User’s instructions come with every instrument, suffice it to say my Leica laser allows for plain measurements, minimum-maximum measurements and measurements involving triangulation (used for determining the exterior height of a building for example).

You can live without a laser distance meter but it is fantastic to have one and use it too!

The instrument I use for measuring angles is called by various names: miter finder, digital angle finder, digital protractor and maybe others… There are more then one brands available, personally I am partial to German brands like Bosch. The use is very intuitive, it has an incorporated spirit level, which allows measuring the angle between two walls in a perfectly horizontal plane. My Bosch measures angles between 0 and 225 degrees.


Even modern electronics can be of some assistance in measuring. On my cell I have an app called “Ruler” downloaded from Google Play Store- it only measures 5 inches, but it is still remarkable.


Another option might be an app like magicplan (available for android, iPhone and iPad) which seems useful in theory.  I have never gotten used to it and here’s why: the spaces I measure are practically never empty, so it is hard to point to the corners of the room.


My picture above shows the drawing of a rectangular living room measured/ drawn with magicplan. I don’t doubt that the software works reasonably well if used in a totally empty space, but that is not the case with this living room. If you have an empty space to measure and draw, I would like to find out what your experience was, please email me.