Mapping my property for landscaping

Hi all - I have a small property, roughly 50x150 feet, that I would like to model to a fairly fine granularity for the purposes of landscaping (and to improve my sketchup skills). I should emphasize that I have no skills in this area, am not doing this for commercial use in any way, and I have no real compunction about screwing up and doing it over, just would love to know some best practices.

I do have the topo lines for the area, but of course they do not capture the nuances of the way the property was set up when the house was built. So my thought is to borrow a transit, or just use a laser level, and painstakingly create data points.

Realizing this could take all day, I have also wondered if I could do a similar job with Sketchup’s photo match tool, using photos and relying on my house as the photo match target. I have already modeled the house in painstaking detail, so this might be the best option.

I should also note that I have already tried to “wing it” using the outline of the property and the sandbox tools, and made a huge mess that resembled nothing on this good earth. So perhaps I should work on those skills first.

TL/DR: Has anyone done a detailed model of their own property & can share some tips


This might be a good way to do it (grid it out).

I don’t think Photo Match would work for terrain.

If you have a decent drone you could get topolines, terrain and 3D models via photogrammetry. Send me photo sets and I will process them for you.

Photo match is designed for images with two vanishing points that can be inferred from pairs of horizontal lines. I agree that it is Ill-suited for this project .

Hadn’t thought of photogrammetry! I will see if I can find a suitable drone. Meanwhile I would agree that plotting data points is probably my best option for highest quality.

Thanks for opinions on Photo Match. I haven’t used it more than once or twice and was unsure if it would be worth the effort.

Might save you some time if you determine the most important parts of the property to have the highest density of points. Areas that are less important can probably manage with fewer data points.

I agree with DaveR about determining important areas. You might also take a look to see what areas of the topo you have are still accurate. Maybe merge the two to get the entire property.

You’ll have to share your ‘unholy’ creation. I’m always looking to see if anyone can do worse than I have!

Edit: I haven’t tried this (I use Pix4D Mapper) but it might be worth a try: PIX4Dcatch: Turn your mobile device into a professional 3D scanner | Pix4D

I used a laser scan (very detailed, billions of points) and traced between the points to create surfaces, etc.
They are only helpful as a reference (an underlay or overlay). The problem with high accuracy data is that it slows down the SketchUp modelling and design process because it can be difficult to manipulate. It is much simpler to deal with basic geometric forms (rectangles for steps, flat surfaces for paths, simpler curves for the edges for plant beds, etc).
Another problem is that they will capture the height of the vegetation when you probably need the ground surface instead.

For my own property, since Im working on the design while at the property, I find it easier to run outside with a tape measure and grab a few measurements, then update my model as needed.
This gives a good opportunity to do a visual survey and think through ideas things as you are designing (for example thinking about drainage lines, soil, or power connections)
You could speed it up by hiring a laser distance meter and maybe a laser dumpy level if it’s steep land.

If you are planning to replace or change significant parts of the property, it’s not terribly useful having lots and lots of data about the existing landscape…just the parts you want to keep.

A plot 50’ x 150’ isn’t that big (less than 1/6th of an acre). If you could create a rough grid at, say, 5’ intervals, it would mean 11 x 31 intersections (assuming points along the boundary as well). If that’s too many, make the grid a bit bigger. Then use a laser level to get relative heights at intersections plus at least one at a known datum. Good laser levels can be hired if you don’t own one.