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What is a Field Measure?

By B. Turner
Updated May 17, 2024
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During construction and renovation projects, contractors often perform a field measure of the site at several points throughout the project schedule. A field measure ensures that each element or component will fit as intended within the space, and improves the overall accuracy of the installation. The field measure process also reduces problems and conflicts between various parts of a projects, and alerts contractors to potential issues early on in the schedule so they can take steps to remedy these problems.

In the average building project, contractors rely on architectural drawings developed by designers and engineers. In most cases, these drawings are schematic. While they show the relationship between various walls and furnishings, they are not meant to be a precise representation of where every building component should be placed. Even drawings with fairly accurate measurements listed may cause problems if contractors install walls or other objects even a few millimeters out of line. Sometimes additions or changes to the project are not even shown on the drawings, which can lead to costly problems for later installers.

To understand how a field measure takes place, picture a restaurant manager planning to renovate a kitchen. After the contractor has built new walls and installed floors and ceilings, the cabinet installers may come in to install the specified cabinets. If every element on the project plans wasn't installed perfectly, the cabinets may not fit in the designated space. In this situation, the contractor would have to order new cabinets, and conflicts would arise over who would pay this added cost.

Instead of relying on the drawings, the cabinet manufacturer will instead perform a field measure prior to making the cabinets. He waits until all applicable structures have been installed nearby, then comes in to measure the true dimensions of the kitchen. Using these measurements, he builds cabinets that will fit within the space as it is now, now how designers had planned for it to look before the project began. A similar process takes place prior to door installation, furniture production, and selection of other major equipment or building components.

Contractors and manufacturers rely on a number of different tools to help them perform field measures. Many use laser-based measuring devices and laser levels to check not only measurements but the accuracy of an installation. Others work with a simple measuring tape, while some may even require surveying tools on large-scale projects. Plumb bobs and other similar tools also allow workers to measure the alignment of objects.

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Discussion Comments
By jmc88 — On Nov 27, 2011

@stl156 - Whenever we have gotten new carpet, there always needs to be some field measurement done. Even if you know the exact square footage of the area you are getting carpeted, the installers still need to double check your measurements and make sure how many rolls of carpet they need. Just knowing the square feet doesn't really help, because it is really the shape of the room that matters as to how much carpet is needed.

I guess it is kind of part of the estimate process, but repairmen always sort of do some field measurements if you are having something done like a roof replaced. They have to make sure of the size and account for any problem areas so that they can give you a general idea of the cost.

By stl156 — On Nov 27, 2011

@JimmyT - I agree. I was helping with some soccer field measurements at our church last year, and we had the same problem. We thought there was more room than what there really was. It sounds like your job was probably a little tougher, though. I guess laying out a rectangle for a soccer field is a lot easier than figuring out the curve of a baseball field.

I wonder what else they use field measures for. Something I was possibly thinking might be if someone was hiring a landscaper. That person would need to come out and take some measurements of the house as well as different architectural features that would need to be considered. They would probably also have to make a note of the slope of the yard and stuff, too.

By JimmyT — On Nov 26, 2011

I guess you could say that I was doing field measurements for a baseball field not too long ago. The little league in town is deciding to build a new field, so a group of us when out to try to scope out an area for it. There were a lot of things we had to take into consideration that we hadn't really thought about before.

Besides just knowing how far the fence needed to go, we had to try to figure out how big a normal set of bleachers would be, how a concession stand would need to be set up, and how much space a scoreboard would take. Some empty spaces can look pretty big, but once you start laying out a big project like that, you realize things are a little tighter than they seem.

By cardsfan27 — On Nov 26, 2011

I guess I never really thought about how important it was for people to need to go out and take a field measurement for a project. I haven't really dealt with a lot of contractors or anyone in my lifetime, but I know it is fairly common for them to need to improvise if they come up on a problem that they didn't expect.

Besides just going out and doing field measurements to double check an architect or contractor's drawings, I think it would be a good thing to do just so someone would have an idea of what the area looked like. If you were designing cabinets or something, it might be beneficial to know the shape of the windows in a kitchen, because they might be a certain shape that couldn't be represented in some of the better schematic drawings.

By jonrss — On Nov 26, 2011

@whiteplane - I know exactly how you feel. I can't believe how bad some of the blueprints I get sent are. Around our office their are more architect jokes than lawyer jokes.

I remember one job we got contracted to do where we sent someone out to field measure and all of the prints were off by ranges of three to even ten feet. Basically, if we had followed the drawings that were sent to us all of the work would have been off and would have been worthless.

I can't believe that mistakes this big can happen. You would think that with all the training and salary they get that they could draw up prints that reflect the real building.

By whiteplane — On Nov 25, 2011

I used to work for a company that made custom commercial cabinets. We made cabinets for hospitals and schools and offices and what not but never any residential.

We would have to go out pretty regularly to take field measure because often times the drawings that the architect would send over would be vague or incorrect. This happened so often that it was almost always necessary to go out and double check.

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