So you’ve moved into your new home and are itching to transform your unused, outdoor living spaces into functional dining areas, conversation retreats, and hideaways to steal a quick nap in the afternoon. Before you delve into design decisions and furniture purchases, you need a precise understanding of your outdoor space to properly fill it.
Accounting for space is the most important step in planning your outdoor areas. You must strike the perfect balance between cluttered and cavernous to allow maximum utility and comfort without overwhelming any outdoor areas like patios, poolside spaces, or yards. Buying too much furniture will make your outdoor living space inconvenient and frustrating, while leaving it too bare will let vital real estate go to waste. Luckily, there’s an easy way to gain an upper hand when planning your outdoor living spaces — just measure it!
Don’t decide on the uses for each space until you know exactly how much square footage you have to work with. This will let you plan how many furniture pieces you can realistically fit into each space, illuminating how to plan and structure your various outdoor areas. Don’t think of measuring your space as a tedious chore — view it as an opportunity to get a handle on your next homemaking project.
Follow this comprehensive guide to measure your entire property.
The Tools You Need
When you’re ready to measure and map out your outdoor space, gather the following tools:
- Plain paper
- Graph paper
- Carpenter’s square
- Measuring tape
- A friend or family member to help measure
How to Measure Your Outdoor Living Space
You should be able to draft a scaled landscape depiction of your outdoor areas in a few hours. Set aside a sunny morning or afternoon and enlist someone to help you measure long distances. Measuring on a day without significant wind will make the process easier.
Follow these steps to render an accurate measurement of your outdoor living space:
- 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. Walk around your property to make your initial sketch as accurate as possible. Include all of the following in your sketch:
- The location of your house
- All fences or borders of your property, like sidewalks
- Existing and planned walking paths, driveways, and on-property sidewalks
- Constructed spaces like patios, porches, and decks
- Trees and large bushes
- Utility poles
- Permanent structures like sheds, pergolas, or canopies
- Start your measurements by measuring the boundaries of the property, including fences, walls, or natural barriers. Round all measurements on your sketch to the nearest inch.
- Next, measure all sides of your home and record the measurements.
- If your home is parallel to the boundaries of the property, measure the distance from each corner of the house to the nearest boundary. If your home is not parallel to the boundaries and sits on the property at an angle, measure the distance from the center of each side of the house to the nearest boundary.
- Measure the distance from each element on your property to the nearest boundary in two directions, making the two measurements at a 90-degree angle. For example, for a tree in the northeast corner, measure the distance to the north boundary and to the east boundary so you can correctly place it on your final landscape plan. Do this for all elements including sheds, trees, walkways, pools, etc.
- Measure the length and width of all elements on your property that are larger than a tree, like driveways, permanent structures, plant beds, garages, etc.
- Using a compass, determine which direction is north and mark this on your sketch.
- Now it’s time to transition your sketch to graph paper. Orient your graph paper so north is pointed up. Before you begin transferring your sketch decide on an appropriate scale. Your entire property should be able to comfortably fit on the paper. Use the measurements of your property boundaries to determine an appropriate scale. For medium-sized yards, a scale of one-quarter inch to one foot may work, but if your yard is larger, deduce what scale will work best for your graph paper.
- Start by drawing the property boundaries on your graph paper, keeping the measurements to scale. Orient your sketch with north facing up and place it next to your graph paper to make the transfer process simpler. Place all elements of your yard onto your graph paper using the two measurements from the property boundaries for each element. 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.
- Double-check measurements and compare your landscape plan to your yard to make any necessary corrections.
- If you have an upstairs balcony or deck that overlaps a first-level outdoor space draw two separate landscape plans to create clear views of all your outdoor areas.
- Using a pencil, circle the distinct areas that are formed around your property. Remember that filling every single space is not necessary, or even recommended. However, you will quickly see how many possibilities there are for you to add reading areas, dining spaces, lounges, and other functional zones around your home.
Potential Uses for Each Type of Outdoor Space
Once you know exactly how much room you have in the major outdoor areas around your home, you can quickly assess how much furniture will fit there, and what the ideal use for the space will be. For example, you can view any POLYWOOD outdoor furniture piece and use the listed measurements to draft up a sample plan for your deck, front porch, and garden.
Keep in mind that you should leave enough space between furniture for family and guests to easily move around without hassle. We recommend leaving at least 30 inches between seating like Adirondack chairs, chaise lounges, or dining chairs for easy access.
Here are just some of the possible uses for your outdoor spaces:
Bring the thrill of crafting the perfect meal to the great outdoors without the fuss. Simply install your trusty grill and add some cabinets, shelves, and counter tables to have a functional barbecue station handy for the next family gathering. Depending on the size of your space you can include a small dining set nearby to feast on your latest batch of burgers and hot dogs.
Dining sets are some of the most popular options for outdoor spaces, as nothing beats a home-cooked meal surrounded by the serene sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Celebrate in a tranquil outdoor setting and entertain guests in style all year-round with a combination of dining sets, tables, and dining chairs.
Creating relaxing environments for friends to gather around, swap stories, and share a drink is straightforward and carries a lasting appeal. Casual seating like deep seating options or Adirondack chairs coupled with a coffee table or a few side tables to place snacks and beverages on is all it takes to section off a designated conversation area on your balcony or by the fire pit.
Combine a few different types of plush seating like sofas, chaises, or chairs and add some functional side tables to fashion a multi-purpose lounge area where you can relax with the latest thriller paperback, watch your grandkids play, or drift off for an afternoon nap.
Outdoor furniture near a pool should allow you to stretch out and soak up some rays or relax and watch the fun without being susceptible to water damage. A couple of Adirondack chairs or chaise lounges will complete your poolside escape, and the waterproof lumber won’t crack or split when the splashes keep coming.
Along a garden path or underneath a weeping willow you can sanction off a serene retreat by installing a single bench or glider accompanied by an end table for function. These idyllic outdoor areas allow you to connect with the splendor of your backyard without taking over a green space. All-weather performance fabric and tough HDPE lumber allows our outdoor garden furniture to stay outside all year without rotting, chipping, or fading.
A front porch is a space connected to many classic outdoor furniture styles. Don’t try to use too much outdoor furniture unless you have a sprawling, wraparound porch. A well-chosen porch swing or a rocker set allows you to watch the world go by and welcome your guests from the swinging comfort of a supportive furniture piece.
Once you’ve decided on the primary use for each outdoor space on your property you can order a curated POLYWOOD outdoor furniture set. Whether it’s an outdoor living room or an evening dining space on the patio, you can find weather-resistant outdoor furniture that can handle the elements and ensure all of your guests are comfortable. Make the design process a breeze by choosing contemporary yet timeless POLYWOOD furniture that will bring your outdoor spaces to life!
To help you plan your space, check out the POLYWOOD Outdoor Furniture Planner. We’ll ask you about the size and shape of your space, just a few quick questions, and then provide you with some furniture set results.
Blog Post Updated June 1, 2021