How To Landscaping - Setting Out

Setting out is the reverse process to Surveying, you will be taking measurements from a drawing and converting them to markings on the ground.

  1. Check the scale on the drawing you are measuring.
  2. Make notes on a copy of your plan such as triangulation points, lengths, width etc.
  3. Triangulation is an essential tool for finding points within an area from a plan that are difficult to pinpoint for instance if you are making a water feature in a lawn and the position is crucial but it is not next to a fixed feature such as a man hole cover. You can do this through triangulation, if the plans have been drawn up by a designer or an architect then triangulation points may have been marked on the plan. If not, you need to find two (or more) fixed points, these can be anywhere in the garden as long as they can't have moved since the survey was made, i.e. the corner of a wall or a tree stump. Using a scale ruler measure from these points on the plan to various points on your feature (measure from all fixed points to the same feature point).
  4. Fix the end of a tape measure at each of your fixed points in the garden, now stretch out the tapes, the point at which both measurements you took from the plan cross on the tapes is the triangulated point. Place a peg at this position.
  5. Repeat this step for subsequent points and peg them all, draw lines between them with string, sand, paint etc as necessary, regularly check the shape to ensure it is correct.
  6. If you are not setting out from a plan and are working simply from eye, then you should still set out, mark everything you are building as clearly as possible so that you can be confident you are building what you want where you want it, now is the time to make changes.



Setting out is worth taking your time over, it is the image of your project, a mistake here may also lead to a mistake in your project.

Ensure your tape measures are straight, and are not twisted or being curved around objects or raised / lowered more than they should.

Some features such as a fence line are often pre marked by an existing boundary and so do not need to be triangulated from a plan.

Cross check whenever possible by measuring diagonals between points.

Circles can be marked by finding the central point and tying a section of string equal to the radius (half the total diameter / width) of the circle, holding your marking material at the end of the string you can walk with the string tight around the peg and mark a perfect circle.

To check a 90 degree angle from a known straight line such as a building you can use a method called a 3,4,5 triangle. Measure 4 metres along a known line, then from either end of the 4 metre line, measure 3 metres and 5 metres with two tape measures, bring the tapes together at 3 & 5 metres, the point at which they meet will be at 90 degrees to the wall.