You’re about to drop some fertilizer, spread some seed, or treat your lawn for weeds, so you head out to pick up the product you need.
The problem is, you’ll quickly learn you needed to figure out how many square feet your yard is to know how much product to toss in your cart.
Making a guessing game out of this process can lead to 15 trips to the store to restock and listening to the cashier’s attempt at humor each time. Worse yet, you could overestimate and be that guy standing at the customer service desk returning all of the extra fertilizer he didn’t need.
With the right forethought and a little basic math, you can correctly measure your lawn and know precisely how much product to buy and the rate in which to spread it.
No, this isn’t Ms. Zander’s sixth-grade algebra class – calculators, fingers, and toes are all welcome to get the right measurements here.
Finding Your Property Lines
Before you can accurately measure your yard, you need to know where the boundaries are.
If your home is brand-spanking new, this is likely simple because you should still have all the documents that show where your lawn ends, and your neighbor’s starts. It’ll also cover any spots that you may think are yours but are actually easements that the local government or HOA is responsible for.
You pay taxes and dues, so no need to give them free lawn care, right?
If you live in an older house, this can be trickier because neighborly disputes or previous deals between neighbors can blur these lines. Luckily, your local government should have documents that show where your official property lines are.
With these documents in hand, you are ready to break out your favorite measuring device and get cracking.
Measuring Your Lawn the Right Way
Measuring your lawn is more than just throwing a tape measure around. Rarely is a lawn a perfect square, and you can almost always rely on something blocking you from measuring in a straight line from one end to the other.
Using a copy of the documents showing your property lines and an aerial view of your home from Google Maps, break your lawn into small, measurable sections. Make the sections as square as possible to ease the calculation process and number them for easy tracking.
With the sections mapped out, there are a few ways to get the measurements you need. You can go old school with a tape measure or measuring wheel, or you can venture into the 21st century and let a computer do the work with estimating software.
Old-School Tape Measure or Measuring Wheel
We salute you for your dedication to the original. Use the tape measure or measuring wheel on the widest and longest sides of each section you created and notate the measurements.
Why the longest and widest? If you measure either short side, you will end up buying less product than you need. Measuring the longest sides will give you a little extra product, which you can stash in the garage for future use.
With all the sections measured, whip out the calculator and remove your socks in preparation to calculate each section’s square footage by multiplying their length by width.
For example, if the section is 100 feet long by 100 feet wide, it is 10,000 square feet.
Using Estimating Software to Measure Your Yard
The glory that is Google Maps has revolutionized the driving world for many years, but new uses crop up all the time. Today, there are sites like mapdevelopers.com that offer a wide range of free tools using the Google Maps interface. The handy tool in this situation is the area calculator.
Pro-tip: switch to satellite view to get a better idea of your yard’s perimeter.
With this tool, you can outline the area you need to measure using your mouse, and it will spit out the square footage. It also allows you to measure odd-shaped sections or draw around areas you don’t want to measure.
That beats standing out in the sun counting the lines on the tape measure to figure out if that is one-eighth or one-sixteenth.
Time to Add ‘em Up
With the square footage of each section noted, break out the calculator and add up all the sections to come up with your lawn’s total square footage. After tallying all the sections, it’s OK to round up to the next 100 square feet.
You’ll use this final tally to figure out how much product you need to complete your project.
If you have a 12,000-square-foot yard and each product covers around 4000 square feet, you can confidently buy 4 bags/bottles of exactly what you need knowing there is a good chance you will not see that cashier until your next project, which is probably right around the corner.