So you’ve bought a house. Maybe it’s something of a dump, or maybe it’s just not decorated to your taste. You’re ready to start turning it into a place to call home. You’re itching to pull up the carpet, take down the wallpaper, pick new tile for the bathroom. It all needs to be done and you want it done soon.

Where do you start?

In our opinion, the answer to that question is rather anticlimactic. But this step could keep you from the biggest time-waster of your house renovation: measuring your house every time you start a new project.

Why you need to take proper house measurements at the start of your renovation

When Carl and I got the keys to our last house, we hit the ground running in no particular direction. Pretty soon, we found ourselves needing to know how much new pipe we would need for the central heating. So we measured the house.

Then we needed to know how much new electrical cable we would need. So we measured the house.

Then how much plasterboard. How much paint. How much skirting board. How much carpet. And so on. Every time. And it was such a waste of time, because while the house changed a bit (like the thickness of the walls), nothing changed so much that it would have affected quantities of building materials we needed to order. While we wouldn’t class this as one of our biggest mistakes, failing to take precise measurements and then keep track of them is one of the silliest things that we did.

Please don’t be silly like us. Once you get the keys, repeat this mantra: Measure well. Measure once.

We measured for plasterboard and then we measured again for paint. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that those should be about the same measurement.

Measure well.

Measuring your house (or room, if you are only redecorating in one area) boils down to two ideas. First, take accurate measurements. For this house, Carl bought a laser measure, which has been awesome to measure with. There is no messing around trying to find somewhere to hook the measuring tape, and no trouble with the measuring tape sagging or not running parallel to the wall. Instead, you rest the laser measure on a wall, click a button to turn the light on and click another button to take the measurement. Sorted.

We bought a Bosh DLE 40m Laser Measure. You can see it here, on Amazon (affiliate link). Second hand laser measures are also really popular on eBay (affiliate link).

Second, measure thoroughly. Measure everything, even if you don’t think it’s relevant. Not just the walls, but the windows, radiators, radiator pipes, the height of the ceiling, depth of the skirting board, width of the door, location of the power sockets. The more detailed you are, the less likely you are to be standing in Ikea wondering if this particular wardrobe is going to block your light switch. And more importantly, the less likely you are to have to get the measure out again and head back a second time.


This is the Bosch laser measure we purchased.


Measure once.

Taking super precise room measurements is only half the battle. You’ll find yourself measuring again and again (and wasting your time) if you can’t figure out what you wrote down, or if you can’t find your notes at all.

When you take your room measurements, keep your notes as detailed and as legible as possible. Don’t just draw a floor plan. Draw pictures of each wall so you can see how far the window is from the ceiling and how far the radiator is from the floor. Planning around these obstructions could make or break a project, so you need to take notes that you can trust later on.


Finally, keep your notes safe. If you are living in the middle of a renovation, this is really tough, we know. We have so many stacks of paper around our house that it’s scary. But what we also have is a big binder with a set of dividers labeled with each room of the house precisely for notes like these. And you can bet that as I take room measurements, they’ll be going right into the binder.


A helping hand on the way.

We got so fed up retaking room measurements in our last house that we created a worksheet to help us keep track of every detail of each room in our house. We have space for a floor plan, a page for each wall, and prompts to calculate things like the surface area of the walls and floors – helpful when it comes time to order paint and flooring. We’ve already started using these worksheets in our own house, and we think you’ll find them helpful, too.

You can grab the worksheets for yourself when you sign up for email updates from Home in the Works. Enter your email and we’ll send them to you straight away.

Even in our current house, it is so easy to think, ‘I wonder if that tub will fit in the bathroom. I’ll just go and measure quickly’. So you run upstairs and back down again with your measurement, and a week later, you’ve lost the bit of paper you were scribbling on, and so off you pop to measure again. It is an exercise in futility. Stop the futility now. Measure well, measure once, friend.

take room measurements

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