Bird's Eye View
September 28, 2011 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Best way to create a overview of my property?

I want to create a digital overview of my property that is relatively accurate for use in plotting landscaping, watering systems, etc. I have the following items to use as a starting point.

Assessors diagram of the plot and the Assessors outline of the house that includes dimensions.

I was going to do the following, but thought I check in here first in case there is something I am missing.

Create a new Photoshop document with grid lines that would correspond to one foot increments (maybe 5 foot would be better)

Bring in the two existing diagrams as layers (which only exist as low res images files) and trace the contours respectively after aligning them to the proper dimensions.

The final product does not have to be dead accurate, I just want a decent guide that I can duplicate and play with for landscaping ideas and to keep track of the utilities and watering systems I keep discovering in my new home.

posted by silsurf to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Don't use Photoshop, because you're going to drive yourself crazy with the scaling. Use Google Sketchup. It's free. You can avoid all the 3D features by just sticking to 2D drawings on a plane.

The best part about this is that you can easily measure random spots later that you hadn't planned on previously. It includes a method to import an image to help you plot, and there are some tutorials to demonstrate this process.

When I did this for our house I just re-created the plot from the assessor's diagram, carefully triangulated the two front corners of the house, then drew everything else from reference (i.e., back wall X feet from front wall, based on real-life measurements).
posted by odinsdream at 9:47 AM on September 28, 2011

I used Sketchup with a copy of my localisation plan which I imported and used as a reference. It is so easy! Once I had the scaled model I used it to produce two maps for permit requests for my city (a new balcony and a garage) and both times it was accepted. Two things you need to know is how to draw 2D designs and how to import an image. Once you do that you can take an existing mesure on the localisation plan and use that to scale your drawing.
posted by ddaavviidd at 10:02 AM on September 28, 2011

Does your state/county have their GIS data available on line ?
posted by k5.user at 10:04 AM on September 28, 2011

I should have added, check with your county extension. Ours has a soil sample service, where for some $20 or so, they come out and sample your soil to tell you if it needs lime/fertilizer etc.
As a nice bonus, you get a well-drafted, to-scale plot of your yard. (So you know how many sq ft, and can thus apply fertilizer at the correct lbs-per-1000ft*ft)
posted by k5.user at 10:54 AM on September 28, 2011

Thanks for the insights, I had a feeling Sketchup was the way to go.

I played with it for a few minutes and I could use a little specific guidance on scaling my existing floor plan into actual feet and inches.

I found this tutorial:

I believe it is what I would do, but here is the question. Do I trace out my existing house as a new layer, with each wall a unique entity and then use this guide to create a scaling entity?

AM I completely off base here?

Thanks again.

posted by silsurf at 5:38 AM on October 3, 2011

It may be worth your time playing with some of the general 2D drawing functions. Specifically, what's very helpful is to know how to use the keyboard to enter your dimensions while drawing, rather than freehanding anything.

For a quick example, choose the Rectangle tool, then click once to start a single corner of the square, move the cursor in the direction you wish to create the shape, but don't click again.

Type: 3',3'

Then press Enter.

Your shape should snap to a 3 foot by 3 foot square, and your mouse is now free again.

When you combine this method of drawing with the default snapping behavior, it's easy to draw, for instance, the base of your house once you've figured out the location of any corner.

Another useful thing: the tape measure lets you calculate distances from a shape, and you can use the same keyboard-driven operation to lay down guidelines.

For example, let's say you want to draw an outbuilding. You already have your house drawn, and you know how far away the outbuilding is. In order to get a starting point to draw the outbuilding, use the tape measure snapped to your house, then enter via keyboard the distance. A dashed line will appear at the entered distance. This line can be used as a snap-point for further drawing, and can easily be deleted when you're finished with it without messing up things later on.

Finally, try to avoid drawing anything that deviates from the XY axes. If the outbuilding, for example, was rotated 20 degrees in your yard, I'd suggest drawing it non-rotated first, then once it's totally finished, rotate the entire shape 20 degrees. This is much easier than drawing things on a rotation.
posted by odinsdream at 5:52 AM on October 3, 2011

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