Measuring Curved Areas

You may have a curved bed, driveway, or other area. To measure the curve, you need a straight line from which to measure. If the area does not have a wall or fence backing it, create a line with string and stakes, a hose, or another measur­ing tape. Start at one end of the curved area. Lay out the tape
from the beginning point of the line to the outside edge of the curve to measure the distance. Repeat this process every 3 feet until you have measured the entire area. This will result in a series of dots on your base map that reflects the curving edge of the area. Connect the dots to determine the general shape of the area. See Figure 9.

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Measuring Angled Features

Be careful with angled surfaces that are created by bay win­dows, decks, patios, and other irregularly shaped protrusions. These can be tricky to measure. A simple technique to meas­ure an angled feature is illustrated in Figure 10.


1. Measure out from the house to points A and D to find out how far the window projects into the yard.

2. Measure from A to B, from D to C, and from C to B to find the width of the window.

Transferring Measurements to Final Base Plan

The final base plan should be drawn on graph paper using the largest scale that will fit your property area. For example, a property area measuring 100 feet by 70 feet would easily fit on one 8 % x 11 piece of 10 x 10 squares per inch graph paper if using a scale of 1 inch = 10 feet.

Graph paper is sold at bookstores and the office supply sec­tions of large discount stores. Review your rough sketch and measurements of your property and landscape features. Start the final base plan by drawing a line across the bottom of the grid to represent the edge of the street or road in front of your house. If you have a corner lot, draw a second line to indicate the side street. Now, mark the compass directions on your base plan by indicating north with an arrow. Place east, south, and west in the appropriate area.

You should find out all of the restrictions, easements, and rights-of-way associated with your property. In most cities, the sidewalks are on city property, with the homeowner’s proper­ty line beginning somewhere inside the sidewalk. You should avoid permanent plantings or construction in the easement areas, which are commonly used for widening streets and accommodating utilities.

After determining the distance of the easement, locate your front property line on your paper and draw it in lightly. Then,
measure and draw in the side and back boundaries of your property. If your side boundaries are not parallel, you should draw the front boundary line and then use the sight line to draw the back boundary line. The side boundary line can then be located by using the measurements from reference points A to E and D to H as explained earlier in Figure 4. By establish­ing these four boundary lines, you have an accurate outline of your property.

Now, you can draw in your house by locating the corner that you measured for your rough sketch. It will be a certain distance from the street and a certain distance from the nearest property line. Count the squares on your graph paper and locate the corner of the house. Then draw in the measure­ments and shape of your home. Be sure to indicate doors, win­dow heights and widths, and windowsill height from ground level.

Next, transfer all the other features from your rough sketch, including all features that will have an effect on your land­scape design.

To draw in a curved feature on your final plan, transfer from your tracing paper the series of dot measurements along the curved edge of the area onto your scaled drawing. Then use a French curve to approximate the curved line. (French curves are available from office supply stores.) Rotate the French curve until some part of the inner or outer edge touch­es at least three points you have located. This curved line will accurately represent your feature.

When you have added all the features, you have a very accurate base plan of your property. Again, if it is not possible to accurately include all features on one base plan, you can create another base plan or inventory sheet that shows, for example, plant and physical structure inventory as shown in Figure 6. It might be helpful to create this plan on tracing paper so it could be placed over the base plan to create a com­plete "picture" of the property. See Figure 3 for base plan. The completed base plan is your reference map while developing your landscape plan.

Before proceeding to Step 2, carefully review the following list and make any needed additions to your base plan.

Step 1 Checklist

1. Accurate property lines

2. Proper location of house, drives, walks, fences, patios, porches, decks, etc.

3. Location, kind, and condition of all trees and plants

4. Electrical poles, lines, exterior outlets, and meters

5. Gas, water, and sewer lines, including cleanout locations, and meters

6. Telephone and TV cables (above- or belowground)

7. Manholes in storm sewers and fire hydrants

8. Compass directions showing north, east, south, and west

9. Roof overhang, downspouts, water spigots, windows, and doors

10. Locations of steep slopes, drainage swales, and where site water is draining

11. Soil types and their characteristics

12. Existing building and neighborhood architectural styles

13. Locations of storage and functional use areas