Knock! Knock! Mind if I measure your roof?

Discussion in 'Scratchin' & Bashin'' started by Play-Doh, Sep 20, 2006.

  1. Play-Doh

    Play-Doh Member

    With my RR itself on hold while I live in the small apartment, ive dedicated most of my hobby time to scatchbuilding. Having built alot of stuctures allready, (water tower, barn, garage, church, and the funeral home) I decided it was time to start building the structures that will take up a majority of my future residential area...Houses. Ive cruised around town, often taking pics of old homes that I would like to scratchbuild, but im a TERRIBLE judge of dimensions and measurments.

    My question is this. When seeing a structure, (such as a home) that you want to scratchbuild, do most of you just guestimate the measurments, or do you knock on the door and ask the people if you can walk around the outside of their home with a tape measure? (the idea has not escaped me.)

    Is their any books out there that have pics and dimensions of homes to scratchbuild, or any websites like this?

    As always, your help is extremely apprecieated! You guys are great at helping newbies in the hobby!


  2. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    TJ: if you see the occupants in the yard or staring out their windows at you, it's probably courteus to let them know what you're doing. In some cases, safer.
    Some people will even be delighted.
    A godd straight-on photograph will often give you the information you need, but being able to pace off or measure major dimensions is handy. The other tool is the painted measuring stick -- alternating black and white every foot and visible in your photo.
  3. kirkendale

    kirkendale Member

    Play-Doh, I like to count bricks. A wall is so many bricks long and so many high. That window, is it 6 bricks wide or 4.5 bricks? Digital camera is great as you can zoom in and out to help count and measure. Does the door seem wide at 36" or narrow at 24". If the door 'looks' to be 30" how does is match to the window? Sidewalks are scored into squares, count them. Use a cheap set of triangles to measue the angle, hold it up does 30 or 45 degee fit??? If you can, count the roof shingles.
    I have never asked permission to measure... I'm not sure of the kind of results. Do I realy want to know the information so to model it or to break and enter into it. ??

    There is an 1908 building that is currently a bar with 2nd floor appartments that I want to model. Last summer, I 'stalked' it for 4 hours, waiting to walk by and measure details but every time I did people were out and about. It did not help that they also had the old store front windows open to the street with people sitting and talking there. I still laugh when I think about how many police cars kept driving by while I sat there pointing my camera, taking pictures without the flash and counting bricks. I eventualy left that night when A.) I realized they were staying open very very late ( private party I think) and B.) one couple came out and were too busy with themselves to take it into the bushes or to a motel....l0l thats when it hit me.....
  4. Play-Doh

    Play-Doh Member

    I suppose me just asking could make it look like I was scoping to rob the place...and I would never want to give off that impression. Thanks everyone for your advice. Ill take it all into consideration...and I will also learn to simply get good at ballparking measurments.

    Not to mention...I kind of got to what if im a little off. Nobody has to know that im two feet short on the building except for me, plus that would make my structures one of a kind!

  5. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    Get a folding wood rule Paint it alternately black and white. or red and white, for each footof length and include it in each photo. I always ask if it is okay - with camera in hand, and explain why. I haven't been refused yet, even when asking to photograph commercial premises like through open roller-shutter doors for warehouse interiors. People only get really suspicious when they don't know what is going on.
    Shortliner(Jack)away up here in the Highlands
  6. Jac's Lines

    Jac's Lines Member

    If you're doing US style buildings, have a look at the Sears Catalog of houses: For the first half of the 20th century, these style of houses were huge (and in Portland, you likely have some Sears or similar catalog houses in your neighborbood). The page I've directed you to has pictures of some of the most popular styles, floor plans and most important for scratchbuilders, dimensions. It is a great resource for what you are trying to do.

    The full catalogs of Sears houses and other manufactrers, with dimensions and plans, are available from Dover Publications.
  7. Jac's Lines

    Jac's Lines Member

    You can also guesstimate based on photographs. Generally, the average exterior door of a house is between 30-38" wide and 78-84" tall. You can use this measurement to extrapolate the other measurements using basically the same process described by kirkendale above (i.e. the front of that structure is 3.5 door widths wide and 4 door heights high), etc.). You're not going to be dead on, but scale model railroading requires so much compression that it's probably not going to even be noticed by anyone but the most uptight rivet counter.
  8. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Last year, I built a model of an historic house for a nearby museum. While I was able to measure the length and width of the building, the second floor was not accessible, nor was I able to measure the height of the roof. By measuring the reveal of a clapboard near the ground, then counting boards on the gable end, I was able to determine the height of the peak of the rafters. This also allowed me to calculate the pitch of the roof. The board counting (brick counting, as noted, will work just as well) allowed me to figure out the height of the upstairs windows, while the width was "eyeballed". Using these "known" dimensions, I was able to reintoduce, to the model, elements no longer part of the present house, but visible in historic photos.
    While there are exceptions, door sizes, as noted previously, are pretty standard, and if you can get a rough idea of window sizes, that should be sufficient: unless you're scratchbuilding windows, the range of sizes available is limited when it comes to scale windows, although many can be altered if you're ambitious. As you check out prototype structures, you'll get a sense of proportion between building size and window size, and you'll soon know what "looks right". There are also lots of misproportioned buildings around any town or city. Some of these are interesting (and therefore attractive to model), while others just don't seem "right", and won't appeal to you. If your model ends up a few feet narrower than the prototype, don't worry about it, nobody is going to come around with a scale ruler, checking it out. On the other hand, if that too narrow building also ends up being a few feet too high, it may suddenly not look so good. Trust me, you'll be able to tell what works.

  9. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    When I was doing my Ore Hill Scratchbuild Challenge, Using a picture from 1928, (ore Hill ha long since been gone),I used the Station Agent's office door as a guide guesstimating it at seven feet tall. I then guesstimated the rest of depot using the door a a guide.
    Halfway through the build, the owner of my LHS gave me a copyof a chapter from a book that "HAD THE ACTUAL DIMENSIONS"(Arrrrrrrgggghhhh!). I was only one to 1 1/2 feet off on my guesstimation.
    Not bad.....
  10. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Generally the standard height of the front door of most buildings will be 6 feet 6 inches. If you get a shot straight on of the front of a house, you can measure the height of the front door and estimate the rest of the dimensions accordingly.
  11. Play-Doh

    Play-Doh Member

    Thanks agan everyone!
  12. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    There are also various software packages that will manipulate digital photos for you, including "straightening" buildings that are not square for whatever reason - too big, taken from an angle, lens distortion, etc.

  13. jasbourre

    jasbourre Member

  14. R. MARTIN

    R. MARTIN Member


    Hi Play-doh!
    Photo's can be a real help when determining building size. Especially photos with some object or person whose height/length you already know. What era are you modeling? Age of the structure can give you a lot of clues as to the room breakdown. I visited a ghost town several years ago in Colorado and was shocked by the size of the buildings. The largest structure was about 12' wide x about 30' deep. It was a hotel which had 20 rooms. It was 2 levels but considering the need for a lobby, the rooms must have been about 6' x 6'
    Roof pitch (rise and run) can be pretty closely aquired by making up a graph along the edge of an index card with equally spaced marks both in the horizontal and vertical of one of the lower corners. Hold up the card to the building matching the lowest corner of the roof to the corner of the card opposite the corner where the marks meet. Mark on the card the point where the accending angle of the roof meets the vertical side of the card and there is your pitch.
  15. mojo

    mojo Member

    You're not a building stalker until a security guard says "You again!"
  16. kirkendale

    kirkendale Member

    thanks MOJO

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