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Measuring Floor Plans with Your Phone? Review of the MagicPlan App

Mobile technologies continue to impress us. We can now do so much more with smartphones and their apps than ever before. When it comes to measuring Floor Plans, we have heard from some of our customers about an interesting app called MagicPlan by Sensopia Inc that can create a simple floor plan that is “as easy as taking a picture.” (App is available on iPhone 4s, iPod Touch 4th gen, and iPad 2nd gen)

First I’ll give an overview how the app works (with some screen-shots and a promo video) and then we’ll take a look at the accuracy of the floor plan if you are going to be using the floor plan to properly market a home.

Overview

Basically the app creates a floor plan by using your device’s camera to take pictures of every corner in a room.

Floor Plan Measuring with Magic Plan - Screen Shot

Snapping a photo of every corner of a room

 
Once all the corners have been located and captured, the app then creates a floor plan of each room, which you later rotate and connect together with the other rooms you’ve captured to create a complete floor plan. It is fairly straight forward and easy to do after practicing on a few rooms.

Moving rooms on the floor plan (screen shot)

Locating rooms in relation to each other

 
Next, you need to edit each room to add components such as windows, closets, stairs, etc.

Adding components to the floor plan (screen shot)

Adding Windows to the Bedroom

 
Finally, you end up with a complete floor plan in the app.

Finished Floor Plan with Magic App (screen shot)

A finished floor plan (seen in the app)

 

Measuring a big square or rectangular empty room is a snap – actually a few snaps of each corner with the camera =). However, all rooms are not simple rectangles or squares nor do they provide clear viewing access to each room corner as furniture, plants, lighting, etc get in the way. The app does allows you to take a photo of obstructed corners using extended axis lines that pop up to help locate them if they are hidden behind something. Small rooms such as closets and bathrooms can be hard to take snap photos of the corners – a simple solution we found for creating these spaces on the floor plan is to fit all the major rooms together, then create a new closet, bathroom, or filler room to fit in the empty spaces between the captured rooms.

When you are done with the drawing and organizing of the floor plan, MagicPlan can export the finished product as a simple JPEG image or a more informative PDF document for free, but it will have MagicPlan watermarks covering the documents. You may choose to pay $4.99 per floor plan, which also comes in DFX format (for importing into Softplan, AutoCAD, SketchUp, etc), and is licensed for commercial use. The more informative PDF document displays the finished floor plan in 2 ways: overall plan by floor, and breakdown of each room. The floor plan lists out the square footage of each room, and the display-by-room shows you the individual lengths of each wall. There aren’t many customizable options regarding the layout of the document if you want to change the way the floor plan is presented or put other information on it, such as your contact information or logo. For that you will need to use programs such as Photoshop or Acrobat.

Floor Plan Overview

Overall view of floor plan (PDF and JPG format)

 

Room Dimensions and Summary (screen shot)

Breakdown of each room showing all dimensions (PDF format only)

  
To see the app in action what this overview video: MagicPlan Introduction
 

 
 

Accuracy

However quick and easy to use, the most important part of any floor plan measuring tool or service is the accuracy of the final plans. Yes, it can be a great overview presentation of the layout of the home to give buyers an idea of the space, but if you are relying on the floor plans for accurate area measurements to represent the home on MLS or to allow you or buyers to plan exactly if their existing furniture will fit in the space, then you need accuracy.

To test, we decide to compare the measurements produced in MagicPlan to those that we create as a floor plan measuring service to real estate agents using a laser distance measuring device, table PC, and architectural design software.

To start, the app suggests you do a quick calibration once you’ve gathered enough data for one room, and then it should produce a more accurate floor plan. You can do this with standard measuring tape, but we used our Leica ® Laser Distance meter which has the accuracy of ±1/16” to calibrate the first few rooms we created with MagicPlan (Leica laser distance meters cost anywhere from $239 to $949).

Leica ® Disto Distance meter, Model D330

Leica Disto Distance meter, Model D330

 

Motion Computing Tablet PC running Softplan

Motion Computing Tablet running Softplan

The resulting dimensions for a room after the calibrating MagicPlan came out fairly close, although almost all the major walls came out a few inches too much or too little. This may not seem like much, but these minor discrepancies on each wall will multiply causing more of a discrepancy in the overall square footage, especially as you start to add the rooms together. Only until you verify the lengths of each major wall will you be able to verify the room dimensions and know if it’s accurate.

When it comes to the total area measurements (ie the total dimensions and the square footage), a major concern we have is that the square footage of each space calculated by MagicPlan does not include the wall thicknesses between rooms and surrounding exterior walls. This can greatly affect the total square footage of a property if you’re thinking of using MagicPlan to figure out this number. As an example, the kitchen we measured using MagicPlan came out at 283sqft. Using the laser measuring device and the architectural software, the actual area of the kitchen, including the wall thicknesses, should have been 311sqft (which is an extra 28 sqft – and that is just for one room. If you start to add up all the rooms in a house or don’t account for thicker walls, then you quickly be missing more and more of actual area. The floor plan measuring standard for single-family homes that we follow, ANSI-Z765-2003, specifies that the wall thicknesses are to be included in the total square footage. For this example, the 1400 sqft apartment, if you do not include the wall thickness and relying on MagicPlan, you would be underestimating the total square footage of the home by a 100 sqft which is 7%. On a bigger home with more rooms, the amount of wall area can go up. Using MagicPlan’s total square footage will definitely be underestimating the total square footage and thus the potential value of your home.

 

Conclusion

The app itself takes a bit of getting used to at first and your first floor plan will take a while – we definitely were not used to dragging our fingers on a screen to draft as we are use to using Motion Computing Tablet PCs with a Digitizer Pens and architectural design software to draw floor plans. However, once you play around with the app and get comfortable enough with the menus and buttons, the time spent on making a complete floor plan with MagicPlan will definitely decrease.

Although it the app has some limitations (the small inaccuracies with dimensions, the exclusion of wall areas, limited presentation format, etc.) it is still a unique smartphone app definitely worth trying out. This app gives you an interesting option for creating a simple floor plan that can help you convey the spatial relationships of each room within a home. Just be warned that the room dimensions and square footage should always be verified before instilling your trust in using these numbers from this app. If you require the square footage for something more important, such as listing and selling a home, it is probably best to leave that to floor plan measuring professionals with the necessary equipment, training, and Errors & Omissions Insurance.

Let us know in the comments below there are any other floor plan apps you would like us to test or if you have any questions about floor plan measuring that you would like us to answer. You can go to the app on the App Store by clicking the “View App” button below.

About Stanley - Floor Plan Technician

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