Saturday, June 23, 2007

How to Measure Your Kitchen for a Kitchen Designer

I recently spoke to a (potential) client in Toronto, Canada about helping design some kitchens up there. He was unfamiliar with measuring a kitchen, so I wrote the following to help him get me what I need to do the best job possible. For local projects I do my own measurements, but long-distance requires a surrogate measurer. Here's how.


First review this link on How to Measure a Kitchen.
It details proper room measuring techniques in a video and also illustrates plan and elevation sample measurement drawings.

I do some things differently than this example.
Because 99% of my work is remodeling existing space I need to know more about the entire structure. Such detailed information also helps with new construction.

It's always a good idea to use graph paper to document measurements. The kind with 1/4" squares on it. It's easier to keep your lines straight.
You can also create a pretty accurately scaled drawing by figuring that each square equals one foot (1/4" scale) or 6" (1/2" scale), depending on the size of the room you are measuring.
It should fit on one sheet, whatever you decide. You can get graph paper at any office supply store. Some places even have oversize sheets.

In areas where there are cabinets mounted on the walls, I do not try to measure the walls. Instead I measure the cabinet faces, and depths for the width of the wall behind. As I am measuring I also draw the cabinets on the measurement document. Thus the document records the "as-built" conditions. Later, when I am drawing up the room on my computer, I duplicate the measurement drawing. Then I have an "Existing Plan", showing where existing cabinets and appliances, doors and windows, etc., are located.
Many building departments require this information on the remodeling set of plans to illustrate how the room and structure are being changed.
As I then proceed to the design part of my work, the "Existing Plan" is on a layer underneath the "Proposed Plan" I am working on. I can turn these "layers" on and off as needed to refer to what's existing.

I measure the door and window trim and actual door and window sizes, rather than just measuring from the outside of the trim to the outside of the trim as they do in the video.
I might want to change the trim sizes, and this way I know the exact conditions.
Along with measuring the width of the trim mouldings I also note if they are any thicker than the standard 3/4" out from the wall surface. A protruding window sill or door casing can block a door or drawer on an adjacent wall.

I also indicate what room/space is on the other side of each interior wall with labels, such as DINING ROOM or GARAGE or PATIO. I usually measure those rooms as well.
In a remodeling project it is important to know what these rooms are. I very often recommend that a wall be removed. It helps to know what is on the other side, especially where other walls intersect with the portion I want to remove.

I also measure the thickness of walls at door openings (usually 4-1/2" but sometimes more or less).

I go out in the living room and measure the trim mouldings there. They are quite often different. And in a remodeled kitchen, mouldings should be replaced to match the ones in the living room.
Older homes usually had simple pine mouldings in the kitchen, and more elaborate ones in the "public spaces" like the living room and dining room.

I also measure anything that drops down from the ceiling, like a beam - it's height and width and distance from the floor.

I also measure stairs adjacent to or in the room. How many steps? The depth of each step? The height of each riser? Going up, or down?

Fireplace? Measure it.

I also measure existing appliances to be retained and note Manufacturer and Model #s.

Along with my measurements I take digital pictures of the entire space and any details I need to remember. I often take 50-60 pictures, sometimes even 80+ on large projects.
They do not need to be very high quality pictures, as I am only going to use them to review the conditions as I draw up the room(s). Typical JPEGs are fine.
It's always a good idea to be sure to take a few "before" pictures in case we end up designing and building an award-winning project.

I try to be systematic about my pictures: I start at the front door and work my way toward the kitchen, taking overall shots of the context of the rooms on the way and detail shots of any mouldings I may want to repeat in the kitchen. That way I can remember what is where, because they are in order.

In the kitchen I take overall "before" shots, then more detailed pictures of electrical outlets and switches, thermostats, light fixtures, heating vents, cold air return grilles, dropped ceilings, beams, mouldings, windows, doors, closets, any odd plumbing pipes out in the open, under the sink, existing appliances, hot water heaters, furnaces, hood vent pipes.

I always try to show the context of a detail shot by including enough in the picture to be able to "place" it in the larger context pictures.

If there is a basement under the kitchen I go down and take pictures of the area below, including the ceiling and any plumbing pipes and equipment. It often helps to know which way the floor and ceiling joists run in the kitchen and surrounding rooms. A basement or crawl space can tell that story. Above, a picture of the roof rafter tails at the eaves is helpful as well.

Then I go outside and take pictures of the kitchen from the outside and the roof lines above the room(s) to be remodeled and any pipes sticking out of the roof (if I can see them).
Then I go out the front as I leave and take a few shots of the house from the front.

If there are any existing plans of the entire house, from when it was built, or from previous remodels; please take them to a local blueprint house and send copies to me. They can be very helpful.
If they vary from what was actually built (very common), please make notes on the copies explaining the differences.