Top 10 items to take on a site survey!

Written by coreArchitect

Topics: Onsite adventures.

A site survey is usually a one-off visit!

If done correctly that is! It is very important to record as much information as you possibly can without the need to re-visit. A re-visit can be costly if you do not have it covered in your fees, so to limit the requirement to return to finish a measured survey you need a selection of equipment to help you complete the task in one. So, what do you need?

1. Paper [with Clipboard]

Yes obvious I know, paper or a notebook to write down the information you’re recording, but I would recommend using A4 paper with a clipboard and not a notebook. For these reasons:

  • A4 is the best size to use: is easily accessible in an office environment, fits into most bags, folders and files; just remember to take more than you need!
  • You can order your sheets as you progress putting the completed sheet to the back and having a fresh page for the next sketch and measurements
  • When back at your office you can work through the numbered sheets individually or pass to a colleague
  • If your outside, the clip stops the sheets falling or blowing around and if your clipboard comes with a folded cover it can also keep your work dry should it rain!
  • The clipboard is light weight compared to a notebook, especially if using for a long time
  • The clipboard also gives you something to lean on


Some people also recommend squared paper to help when sketching the room shapes, however I find the extra lines sometimes confuse, especially when a room is not square.

2. Pens

I know another obvious one, but the recommendation here is using different colours:

  • Black: for sketching out the rooms / areas your are measuring
  • Red: for marking on the dimensions, heights, etc.
  • Blue: basically for anything else, drainage, electrics, etc.


The main reason for this is when you come to drawing up your work several lines may be close or on top of one another, the different colours make things easier to delineate.

Other more specific colours could be used, but I would suggest that 3 are enough to juggle with. Another important suggestion is to take spare pens; you never know when one will run out.

3. Camera

Always very useful, the digital image has made recording things very easy, and you are only limited to the physical memory in your camera. Some useful tips are:

  • Most importantly always carry a spare set of batteries, cameras can use up batteries quickly especially if you are using a zoom
  • Digital images allow you to see the image in an instant, you can check you have the picture you require and delete any poor quality images straight away; reshooting if need be
  • Setting up a useful project images directory on your computer will make access to them easier

Alternatively uploading to an image sharing website, Flickr, Photobucket, etc, will enable others [Client, Consultants, etc] to access the images at no cost to you!

Digital Camera

As the images are easily accessed printing is not required; of course easy access will make them readily available for printing if required

4. Torch

A Torch can be very useful; they can light up many places that sometimes need illuminating:

  • Service ducts
  • Under floor and above ceiling spaces
  • Generally poorly lit areas
  • Rooms that for one reason or another are dark [broken light bulbs or electricity cut-off]
  • And for the older and fouler things than basements or loft spaces, in the deep places of the world, they are a necessity


Again always carry a spare set of batteries.

5. Phone

We all carry phones these days and some modern phones can act as a camera and a torch; always worth remembering if you do have problems and need a spare backup. Other important points:

  • Emergency calls for help, especially if you are alone [see 10 below]
  • Keeping the office up-to-date with your whereabouts; especially in relation to the above
  • Calling Clients or Agents if you are having difficulty accessing the site

Mobile Phone

You can also let your next Client know that you’ll be early as you finished your site survey early [because you took all the equipment on this list to help you!].

6. Personal Protective Equipment [PPE]

PPE are very important things to have with you, but are dependent on the job in hand. Clearly arriving at a domestic property with all the items listed below is probably overkill, but not taking them to a semi derelict site “in need of extensive repair” would be a little cavalier. Critical items to have include:

  • Safety Helmet / Hard hat to protect your head from falling objects
  • High visibility [Hi-vis] waistcoat, vest or jacket; so that you can clearly be seen by other site operatives
  • Safety footwear to protect your feet from falling objects or from treading on something sharp or pointy!

Safety HelmetHi-Vis ClothingSafety Boots

It should also be noted that under Health & Safety Regulations if you don’t have the above when attending a building site, you will not be given access!

If you need ear muffs, face masks and safety goggles then the site is probably too dangerous to survey!

7. Measuring Equipment

Well you won’t be able to measure anything without one of these unless you have a long piece of string [I’ve used worse things]. There are many devices to measure with:

  • Measuring tapes, usually metal for durability, strength and rigidity
  • Laser measures such as the industry standard Disto type; these are very quick and accurate measures that do not require someone to hold them at the other end. Top specification ones now allow you to record directly to a computer CAD file which omits the need for any pens or paper, in theory!
  • Open reel measuring tapes are longer than conventional tapes and are used for large spaces, typically externally

Tape MeasureDisto Laser MeasureOpen Reel Tape Measure

And once again if using a laser measure always carry a spare set of batteries, because it is really frustrating if they do run out and you have to make do!

8. Jemmy / Crowbar

Why a Jemmy? Well these can be very handy for lifting manholes and drain covers to ascertain drainage runs and directions. They can also be used for prising open other ducts, panels, etc that hold a wealth of information behind.


A large screwdriver may also suffice if you don’t fancy looking like a burglar.

9. Step ladder

Step ladder you cry, why a step ladder. All of the above can be packed into a rucksack or shoulder bag, even a crow bar, but I can understand if you are attending site on a bicycle or public transport that a small set of steps are not the most practical! So, steps are really for those travelling to site by car. I don’t really mean a full size set of steps either, although that would be most handy, I mean a small set of 2 or 3 steps.

Mini Step Ladder

These can be of great assistance to get a peek into ceiling voids, or similar difficult to access spaces, and take some photo’s.

10. Someone Else!

And finally, somebody else is a great asset to have, not only as already highlighted for safety reasons or to hold the other end of a long tape, but to carry all the equipment!

If you have any other items that you think should be added or removed from the list, or if you can offer any further advice on taking a measured survey, then please share it with us and leave a comment!

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