Originally Published on February 11, 2019. Last Updated on October 31, 2023.
If you’ve been circling the idea of a backyard update, there’s no better time than now to get started. Before delving into design decisions and furniture purchases, we highly recommend measuring your outdoor space to ensure a smooth and stress-free process.
Accounting for space is a crucial step in streamlining your exterior design strategy. It helps you find the ideal balance between utility and comfort, choose appropriately sized structures and furnishings, and avoid overspending. If you need to learn how to measure a backyard, we can help. Keep reading to see detailed steps for finding accurate dimensions for your outdoor space.
How to Measure a Backyard by Hand
Follow these steps to find the dimensions for all sections of your property.
Tools You’ll Need
- Plain paper
- Graph paper
- Carpenter’s square
- Tape measure
Step 1: Use plain paper and a pencil to make an initial sketch of your entire property, leaving enough space in between elements to record your measurements. Draw and label these items on the sketch:
- Your house
- Fences, sidewalks, and streets
- Walking paths and driveways
- Patios, decks, and other constructed spaces
- Trees, shrubbery, and other landscaping
- Utility poles and septic systems
- Sheds, in-ground swimming pools, and other permanent structures
Step 2: Measure the property’s boundaries—including fences, walls, or natural barriers—and round all dimensions to the nearest inch.
Step 3: Measure all sides of your home and record the measurements.
Step 4: If your home is parallel to the property’s boundaries, measure the distance from each corner to the nearest edge. If your home sits at an angle, start at the center of each side of the house and measure to the closest boundary.
Step 5: To correctly place elements on your property, measure the distance between them and the two closest boundaries that come together to form a 90-degree angle. For example: If there’s a tree in the northeast corner of your yard, measure the distances between it and the north and east boundaries.
Step 6: Include the square footage of all elements on your property that are larger than a tree (e.g., driveways, swimming pools, plant beds, garages, etc.).
Step 7: Using a compass, determine which direction is north and mark this on your sketch.
Step 8: Place a clean sheet of graph paper next to your sketch, and orient it so north faces upward.
Step 9: Before drawing anything, determine the appropriate scale.
For example: 1/4 inch = 1 foot.
This means an eight-foot wall will be two inches long on the paper.
Step 10: Draw the property boundaries on your graph paper, keeping the measurements to scale.
Step 11: Place all elements of your yard onto your graph paper using the two measurements from the property boundaries for each one.
Step 12: Once you have a corner, use the width and length measurements to draw them to scale. Use a carpenter’s square to make 90-degree angles on your landscape plan.
Step 13: Compare your landscape plan to your yard and make any necessary corrections.
Step 14: If you have a balcony or upper deck that overlaps a first-level outdoor space, draw two separate landscape plans to create clear views of all your outdoor areas.
Step 15: Note the promising spots on your property that could be future relaxation, dining, or entertaining areas.
How to Measure a Backyard Using Google Maps
Use Google Maps to measure the area, distances, and other dimensions on your property.
Measuring with Google Maps: Smartphone Method
Step 1: Open the Google Maps app on your phone and enter your address or GPS coordinates.
Step 2: Select the chevron in the top right-hand corner to remove the address, then tap the screen to select a starting point and drop a pin on your property.
Step 3: Select Measure distance in the lower menu. A dotted line will appear that leads to a second point in the center of the screen.
Step 4: Use your finger to drag the screen, moving the second pin to your desired location. Write down the point-to-point distance shown in the bottom-left corner.
Step 5: Tap Add point or the blue plus sign at the bottom-right corner of the screen to make another dotted line appear.
Step 6: Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you’ve encompassed the perimeter of your property. Note down the square footage.
Step 7: Select the ellipsis (three dots) at the top of the screen, then tap Clear in the drop-down menu to remove the dotted lines.
Step 8: Repeat this process to find the remaining dimensions of all the elements on your property.
Measuring with Google Maps: Desktop Method
Step 1: Open Google Maps on your desktop and enter your address.
Step 2: Right-click a starting point on your property, then select Measure distance at the bottom of the pop-up menu to drop a pin.
Step 3: Click another spot on your property to drop a second pin. A line will appear between the two points, as will the measured length (shown in feet). You can also see the total distance (listed in feet and meters) in a box at the bottom of the screen.
Step 4: Repeat step 3 until you’ve covered the entire perimeter of your property. When you connect the lines, the total area will appear in the bottom box along with the total distance.
Step 5: Right-click anywhere on the screen, then select Clear measurement at the bottom of the pop-up menu to remove the dimensions.
Step 6: Repeat this process to find the rest of your property’s measurements.
More Backyard Measurement Apps
There are a variety of apps you can use to measure your backyard. Browse these digital options to find one that fits your needs.
Like Google Maps, this free app uses satellite imagery to calculate distances, perimeters, and areas of your property (and the elements within it) using a series of pins. It also lets you mark property lines, take pictures, and note important areas.
Quickly calculate the square footage of your lawn or distances with this free, user-friendly app. This tool is similar to Photoshop in that the measurements are shown in color-coded layers that you can edit.
This app is loved by land surveyors, gardeners, and homeowners alike. Find a variety of measurements of items on your property, from square footage to GPS coordinates. You will need to pay a nominal fee to use the app.
Measure your yard and everything in it with Global Syn-Turf. This app is free, intuitive, and easy to use. Bonus: You don’t need to create an account to enjoy its benefits.
Measuring Tips and Advice
Use these tips to make measuring your outdoor space easier.
- Ask for help. Spread the work among yourself and a few friends so you can finish the job fast.
- Measure twice. You can never be too thorough, so take measurements two times to ensure accuracy.
- Use your body. Measure the length and width of your forearms, feet, and fingers, and memorize the dimensions. If you’re ever without your phone or tape measure, you can rely on the tools you were born with.
- Get to know your tape measure.
- A good-quality tape measure has a loose hook at the end. The looseness is a purposeful feature that allows the tape to slide in or out of the hook by 1/16 inch. This improves accuracy when taking inner or outer measurements.
- The hook should have a hole large enough to latch onto a nail or screw, so you can get long-distance dimensions without the tape slipping free.
- Ever notice that the base of a tape measure is flat? Flip it over, and you’ll see the base’s length printed on the bottom. You can calculate these extra inches into dimensions when taking inner measurements.
- It’s safe to assume (some of the time). If your yard or patio is a perfect square, once you measure one side, it’s a safe bet that the other three sides are the same length. The same applies to rectangular spaces—you just need to measure two sides. However, this logic doesn’t apply to uniquely shaped yards or spaces with small nooks and crannies.
Potential Uses for Each Type of Outdoor Space
Once you know exactly how much room you have to play with, you can assess how much furniture will fit in a specific area and what the ideal use for the space will be. Here are some of the possible uses for your outdoor spaces.
Kitchens and Bar
Install cabinets, shelves, countertops, and built-in cooking appliances to have a functional barbecue station handy for the next family gathering. Depending on the size of your space, you can line your ledge with counter stools or include a bar set nearby where family can sip cocktails or enjoy your latest culinary creations.
Nothing beats a home-cooked meal surrounded by nature’s serene sights, sounds, and scents. Set up a table for two in a tranquil outdoor setting, or entertain guests year-round with a sizable eight-person dining set.
Create a relaxing space where friends can gather, swap stories, and reminisce about the good ol’ days. Casual seating like Adirondack chairs coupled with a few side tables for snacks and beverages is all it takes to section off a designated conversation area in your backyard.
Combine deep seating sofas, chaises, and chairs and pop in a few functional end tables to fashion a multipurpose lounge space. Get lost in a new podcast, watch your grandkids play, or curl up for a cat nap—the options are endless.
You can stretch out, soak up the sun, and keep an eye on your swimming kiddos from the comfort of a poolside Adirondack chair or chaise lounge. Just make sure you’re choosing all-weather furniture that can handle the splish-splash setting.
Nestle a single bench or glider along a secluded garden path or underneath a weeping willow to create a serene retreat. This idyllic, private area will give you the space to unwind and admire nature.
Finally finish the addition to your front porch? Fill the new space with a few well-chosen rockers and a porch swing so family can watch the world go by and welcome guests who stop in for a visit.
How do you calculate the area of a backyard?
To find the area of your backyard, use this formula: area = length x width. For example, if your yard measures 30 feet long and 40 feet wide, multiply those numbers. The final product is your area, which is 1,200 square feet.
What is the average size of a backyard?
In the United States, the average backyard size is roughly 6,000 square feet.
How do you measure your yard with your feet?
Use a tape measure to find the length of the shoes you’re wearing, then walk straight across your yard, placing one foot directly in front of the other as you go. Count your steps, then multiply that number by your shoe length. Walk from front to back to determine the length, then left to right to find the width. Multiply the length and width to find the square footage.