Feb. 24, 2020, 3:29 a.m.

Kyle Linden

Have you ever tried to determine how many materials you need for a project or been asked how many yards of carpet you need for your project? Overall, these are pretty easy tasks that by the end of this article you’ll be able to figure out.

Different Units of Measure

Sometimes, it can be confusing as to what unit of measure you need to use to measure up for your project. For the simplest projects, we’ll be reviewing: linear, square, and cubic units of measure. We’ll keep everything in feet, though there are measurements that utilize yards, the square, and meters. Where a yard is simply three feet and a square is ten foot by ten foot square, simply referred to as… a square.

Linear

The linear unit of measure is simply measuring a straight line. Typical projects that will need a linear measure are installation of: trim, cabinetry, caulking, gutters, handrail, sidewalk, etc. Often times, you’ll need to measure a line that is curved, or not visible from point to point. The most used tape measure for this is a long tape or a tape measure reel. Typically, a tape reel will measure up to one hundred feet. Another way of measuring a long line will be to use a measuring wheel. You can pick these up at your local hardware store in the tape measure isle, but they basically work the same way your car works. Every time the wheel rotates, the measuring wheel calculates the distance using the outer distance on the wheel. Simply run the wheel from A to B and you’ll have your linear measurement.

Square Feet

Probably the most used unit of measure, square feet quite literally means the measure of a square. That is one side by one side. Thinking back to your geometry or algebra days, this unit of measure is length times width. Often, in projects, they won’t be an exact square, they’ll be rectangle mixed with a bunch of triangles. Yes, you will have to know how to calculate the square feet of triangles as well. If you can break your room up into squares and triangles, then you can figure it out.

In the example below, we have a roof where are trying to determine how many packages of shingles we need to cover the roof. Most packages of shingles, known as a bundle, cover thirty-three square feet. So, as we measure up the roof we start with the rectangle, measuring eight feet by twelve feet, we can multiply those two numbers together to get the area of the rectangle. In this case, we get 96 Square Feet (SF). T measure up a triangle, you normally take the base, multiply it by the height, and divide it in half since triangles are half of the size of a rectangle or square. However, in this case, we have two same size triangles so we can skip the dividing by two and treat the two as a single rectangle. In this case multiplying seven times eight, we’ll get fifty-six. You’ll notice that half of fifty-six is twenty-eight which is the area of one of the triangles. Add 96 plus 56, and you’ll get  a total of 152 SF for this roof section. Let’s also add 15% to this number by multiplying 152 by 1.15 to give us enough material for waste; this equals roughly 175 SF. Using 10%-15% is very typical for material waste however, depending on your project complexity this number may need to go up. Since we know that every bundle of shingles covers 33 SF, we will need 5.3 bundles or since we can’t buy 0.3 of a bundle we’ll get six bundles. Using this method, you can measure almost anything up on your house.

Cubic Feet and Yard

The next most frequent measurement you’ll need to know is the cubic measurement. Instead of length times width, you’ll be muliplying length times width times height (LxWxH). You’ll use cubic feet or yards when you are measuring the volume of something. This usually comes in the form of concrete or something that uses a volume of water. Usually concrete is six inches thick for a driveway, so we’ll use this as an example. We know how to calculate square feet, so first we’ll calculate the square footage of our driveway. Assume your driveway is 20 long by 24 feet wide. You’ll have a driveway with a square footage of 480. This is the length times the width. Multiplying the area by the height, or the depth, of the concrete which is six inches we’ll use half of a foot (0.5). 480 times 0.5 equals half of 480 which is 240 cubic feet. Since we don’t often buy concrete buy the cubic foot we’ll need to convert this to cubic yards. Since we know a yard is three feet, a cubic yard is three feet by three feet by three feet which means that 1 cubic yard equals 27 cubic feet (3 x 3 x 3 = 27). To convert the 240 cubic feet to cubic yards we’ll get 8.88 cubic yards (CY). A typical concrete truck can hold 10 CY, so you can anticipate having to use an entire concrete truck. Now that you have learned how to calculate volume (L x W x H) and how to convert from cubic feet to cubic yards, you’re ready to become concrete contractor!

Tools

Of all of the tools you can use, a typical twenty-five foot tape measure will do the job. At PostmyProject, we have been in the construction industry for decades. Our current recommendation for this tape measure is a Milwaukee Magnetic tape measure. They provide the sturdiest tape, best grip, and a good locking mechanism. Plus, they come in red and if you drop it, it’ll be easier to see. Long tapes come in many different varieties, but we’d recommend getting the TR Industrial 88016 FX Series Collapsible Measuring Wheel; being collapsible and sporting a 12" wheel it will provide the most accuracy and storability required for most measuring jobs. Measuring wheels are quick and easy to use. There are many different apps out there to help you measure up spaces, but so far, we haven’t tested any that are as reliable as the good ole tape measure.

Conclusion

If you are measuring up your project, you can whip out your tape measure and have your area taken off in less than five minutes. After getting your measurements, you can use PostmyProject.com’s Builder Tool to price out your project. Changing your units for your specific project will give you the cost of your project within ten percent. After getting your estimate from the project builder, you can find associated providers on PostmyProject.com.

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