Planning an Outdoor Space: How do you Measure Up?

Having a clear picture of the size and dimension in your potential outdoor space is one of the most important steps in the pre-planning process. Size matters. How you envision your outdoor space and what you can turn into a reality depends entirely on the amount of space you have to work with. 

Measuring the boundaries of your backyard will keep you from designing an outdoor living space that is either too small or too large. If not planned accordingly, smaller spaces will be cramped after adding an outdoor kitchen, furniture, and accessories. On the other hand, huge outdoor spaces can lose a sense of comfort and intimacy if not properly filled in. Before you begin planning an outdoor space, decide how you want to use the space. Will you be cooking, dining, entertaining, relaxing by a fireplace, spending time with family or reading a good book?

Once you’ve decided, it’s time to get out the measuring tape.

Getting Started

Measure the boundaries of your yard. The perimeter of your yard is determined by the length of space between the back of your home and the opposite  fence. Naturally, width will be determined by measuring the distance between fences that run alongside your property. This will give you a pretty good idea of how much space you have to work with. Now you can determine the best placement for your outdoor space and its location. In most cases, bigger is usually better, but don’t let that discourage you, small spaces have their charm as well.

Design and Measure Specific Uses into the Space

Pre-Planning an Outdoor Space-Specific Uses

Everyone dreams of a backyard with an outdoor kitchen, seating area, fire pit and dining spot all in one space. Be realistic. Don’t let your neighbours’ houses or an elaborate outdoor space you have seen on TV sway you.

Instead, ask yourself how you’ll actually use the new space and what makes the most sense in terms of lifestyle and existing landscaping. For example, if you eat out five times a week, you probably won’t need a large outdoor kitchen with all the bells and whistles. Or, if you have a small outdoor space, a dining area with seating for eight, a large stone fireplace, and a seating area with lots of bulky furniture simply won’t work. Use your initial measurement to include the features that best suit your lifestyle and wants, this will keep things in perspective and ensure that the features you decide upon will be fully equipped with everything you need.

Plan for Large Structures

Pre-planning an Outdoor Space - Structure

Permanent outdoor structures can define space and offer protection from incremental weather. Be sure to measure the space for any large structures you want to include such as a pergola, trellis, or gazebo.

Measure Outdoor Furniture

Whether you already own outdoor furniture or plan to purchase a new set, try to include rough estimates of their dimensions into your plan. Remember to leave plenty of room for guests to comfortably walk around the furniture. For example, if you plan to include a dining table, a general rule is to leave about 30” behind the chairs. Fortunately, today a wide variety of outdoor furniture is available, from low profile bistro seating to large cushy outdoor sofas. If you measure first, you’ll be able to fit the scale of your furniture to the scale of your outdoor space.

Keep Safety in Mind

While measuring, keep your city’s by-laws in mind. For instance, be aware of requirements for barrier fences around swimming pools and hot tubs. When measuring a space for a fire pit, keep a precautionary distance from the house and place furniture and accessories at a safe distance as well. Lastly, attaching structures to the house may be an issue in some municipalities, the point: Find out what you can and cannot do.

Take Final Measurements

Pre-planning an Outdoor Space - Dimensions

Once you have gone through these considerations and determined your planned space, measure it to the nearest foot so you’ll have the square footage of your new outdoor space. This will come in handy for estimating stamped concrete, pavers, or any other hardscaping you may be considering.

Have Fun Customizing Your Space

Be creative and don’t forget to have fun while planning your outdoor space. Remember, with a little forethought and design, an outdoor space can be easily customized to fit your individual lifestyle. Use chalk to create your own unique plan and see how you can maximize your space. Don’t like the results?  Hose it down and try again. You’ll find there are efficient ways to make the best use of your space while incorporating your own personal taste, style, and preferences.