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How To Use A Measuring Wheel: Steps & Helpful Tips

Before getting into the nitty gritty of using any tool, you should understand exactly what that tool is and a measuring wheel is no different.

What Is A Measuring Wheel?

A measuring wheel, also commonly known as a surveyor wheel, among other names, is a relatively simple device that allows you to efficiently measure a given distance (typically outdoors). 

using a measuring wheel

Consisting of a handle on an extended rod with a wheel at the end, you simply guide the wheel on the ground from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, with either an analog or digital tracker determining how far the distance is. Usually, an analog wheel will have a singular unit of measurement built in, while a digital wheel will allow you to choose what unit you use (feet and inches, yards, etc.).

If you are in the surveying, construction or builder space, you have more than likely seen or even used a measuring wheel on a job site, but more and more avid home project enthusiasts and DIYers are adding this helpful tool to their garages to tackle larger projects on their own.

Like with any tool, measuring wheels have evolved over time, either in the materials they are made with or by incorporating new technology, such as Bluetooth. By including these modern features, you can essentially combine even more tasks to work more efficiently.

Some examples are allowing your measurement data to be easily uploaded to a secondary device, like a cell phone. Another one is mapping out the measurements you are taking to provide a visual representation of your project, as well as conduct instant calculations to find perimeter, area, and other variables of a space. These types of new era tools are being referred to as mapping wheels or measuring and mapping wheels.

Why You Should Use One?

guy using measuring wheel

Standard measuring wheels are often used as the baseline of a large measurement area that can then be used to get even more accurate information using additional tools or estimating tactics.

For example, if you are measuring the length of a street in order to determine the length of an electrical line that will need to be buried, a measuring wheel is the perfect tool to get a general baseline, before either estimating the compensation for variables such as elevation change or deviations from a straight line. 

Professionally, you will often find measuring wheels on private or municiple job sites that involve road maintenance, utility work, or even large scale construction sites.

As mentioned previously, measuring wheels are becoming more and more common in the household as well, either to estimate the length of a driveway, area of a yard, or in the case of some digital wheels, to accurately estimate the quantity of materials such as mulch or sod by capturing the area of a specific portion of the yard.

How To Use A Measuring Wheel

As simple as a measuring wheel may seem, there is certainly a right and wrong way to use one accurately. It’s not only vital that you understand how to use this tool but to also keep these simple tips in mind to ensure your measurement is as accurate as possible:

1. Before you begin measuring, make sure you know which unit of measurement your wheel keeps track of. This is especially important if your measuring wheel does not keep track of the information digitally or on a device such as a cell phone.

2. Remove as many obstacles as possible from your path prior to starting your measurement. Having to deviate from a straight line can be corrected using measuring tape, but the easiest way to keep your measuring as accurate as possible is to make as straight a path as you can.

3. Ensure the wheel on your device is clear of debris and can move freely; the distance calculated is based on what the wheel captures, so skids or hang ups can provide irregularities in your final measurement.

4. Your measuring wheel typically starts capturing data once the wheel begins to turn, so make sure you are at your exact starting point before hitting the ground, or make sure to zero out your counter to ensure an accurate measurement.

Some digital wheels that utilize a cell phone will not start measuring until you tell the device to. In that case, simply wait until you are at your starting point before you begin recording your measurement.

5. The wheel does not know when you’ve reached your endpoint, thus if the wheel keeps moving it back and forth, it keeps measuring. If your wheel doesn’t have an app where you can mark your endpoint once you get to it, you’ll need to ensure it’s stationary while you record your distance.

Pick The Wheel That Fits Your Needs

While many measuring and mapping wheels are similar in operation, they vary in price and how much data they provide. Make sure to do your research to determine the right wheel for you: an analog wheel can be inexpensive and only give you a single basic function.

A digital wheel can be more accurate and offer additional measuring options to suit your project. However, you will still need to record all of your data and formulate your own calculations. A measuring and mapping wheel may be higher priced, but they will undoubtedly provide more extensive detail for your project and eliminate manual math altogether.

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Plott is an award-winning technology company and developers of the only tools that allow users to take design concepts into the AR realm, and back to reality with precise measurements and calculations. They are the creators of Carta, the world’s first digital measuring wheel using AR technology to virtually map any outdoor space in real-time, so users can easily map paths to calculate distance, perimeter, and area measurements.