Setting out of building

As simple as setting out of a building may look majority of us do not bother to find out what it is all about
Setting out is simply the physical transfer into the ground what was initially on plan or in paperwork. Transfering the building professionals drawing (the architect) plan onto the ground is a process of setting out.
Setting out can be complex yet simple. For more accurate transfer some engineers uses the services of land surveyors to get their set out right especially in large projects. Theodolite is often used by the surveyor or any engineer that has a good knowledge of the application to get the level of a subject place in relation to a decided point around the building area.
But we are going to concern ourselves with the simple pegging which is common and later talk about setting out with using blocks.
Assuming you have a rectangular site of 50ft x100ft what you should take note first of is the four corners where we have your pillars. Put pegs at each points or very close in case you have disturbing concrete . After establishing these four corners put nails on top of each peg and then run rope round the 4 pegs.
Of course I need to tell you that you will get peg and thin wood (or tie rod] from the sawmills (the number required has been worked in your free sample estimate you get when you subscribed for my articles )
Next is to establish a point by measuring out a setback from fence to your building line. Taking just one side measure the setback from back of fence to the end of building lines in that particular angle, then come to the front and measure the setback also as given on your drawing plan .
After this go back to the rear or you may use the front as a point mark depending on which setback is more important to you in case the survey plan did not tally with what is the actual measurement on ground.
Measure the setback from fence establish this two points with pegs then put a rope to cross both pegs and make them form a right angle or 90 degrees , this is necessary because of it ease and most drawings are drawn to follow straight right angles. To determine if your rope are at right angle put a checker popularly called ‘square’ by bricklayers, this will direct you if you need to shift the other rope that can be varied since one is already fixed to form a base mark( i.e the rope running through two pegs from the rear to the front either on left side or the right side.
After establishing a right angle, do your measurement to correspond with what is on plan and then use the square at the other end to now establish the other two points. When establishing these points be conscious to place your peg at 1m or 3 ½ ft behind your building line i.e where blocks will actually pass through.
After this, nails peg at 3m interval round under the rope marking your building line, then nail tie rods (flat thin wood) on top round the entire area.
You are ready to start measuring and transferring what is on plan to the profile boards (flat thin wood on top of pegs) establish each room measurement by nails ( you require four nails at each measurement, two to establish the two sides of block you are going to place later on then the other two at both ends to serve as the points where you will excavate ,the length of this is usually three times the width of the block you are using that is if you are using a 6“ block then expect to excavate or dig a trench of 18” wide.
The type of digging also depends on the type of foundation recommended by your structural engineer.
Establish the depth based also on recommendation and you are ready to cast your concrete. After casting of foundation, use the nails on your profile board to determine where your blocks will follow from ground to complete foundation courses (note this is variation of application in raft and more complex foundation where reinforcements and concrete will be applied more.
Set your blocks 3,4 or more coaches / courses/ layers as recommended before casting your ground floor slab or oversite concrete or german floor.

An architect with decades of experience


  1. I have not seen your ideas and write ups on the issue of under ground building construction. can you refer me if there is any or put up a write up on this topic. Thanks. I must confess that you are a professional with great skills.

  2. i will luv to see pictures illustrating this.u are a real professional though i havent involve in a real constrution of building but want to more nd be able to do that.

  3. you Never specify if you are making use of builder square method or 3,4,5. And also if it is a new site where their is no existing building and if their is an existing building. Also getting the building line 4rm d centre of d road? Establishing a benchmark? transfering of level from road E.T.C you need to re-write ur atticle, but Goodwork anyway.

  4. Good one, d explanations are quite understanding. I wil like to have a futher explanayion on setting out and foundation.

  5. I luv ur explanation but u did not specialized on a building or is it d same in al building even undaground pls i nid explanation

  6. On setting out, Emma, pictorial illustrations would hav helped drive home the points graphically to a layman but to those of us professionals, u captured d basic principles of setting out for regular buildings. Thanks a lot.

  7. Your explanation is very good but should have a pictorial illustration. Also explain how to divide spaces within the profile board incase the person is not doing german floor.

  8. please how do I set out on a rock? whats goin to be my foundation depth? I need advice plz.

    1. Rock itself is a foundation. We apply concrete at the foundation because we want to have a base that can sustain the weight of the building. And the rock is already doing thatyou don’t need any depth for the stability but for the surface wearing later on then if you can break 100mm I think is okay.

  9. Your explanation is too scanty. Re-write and elaborate since your main target are the laymen.

  10. The explanaton need to throw more light on Type of construction, on the issue of establishing of the centre line of the building from fence, what about if the fence is a trapezodal one, or if the site is a virgin site( new construction). U also need to talk on hw to control the line using spirit level. Though, very nice article and very wimp language use

  11. Arc. Emma,your professional advice is highly appreciated. i will like you to (1). educate me on how to calculate number of floor and wall tiles(diff. sizes) (2). number of ceiling boards(diff. sizes) and (3).number of different sizes of timber for the roof truss

  12. Am grateful of this site for the ellitement have gotten,i must have some of my friends to register on this site so as to get equiped in knowlege of these course building construction.

  13. Yours is a great site i stumble upon in my quest for knowledge.Am in Zambia and it’s just amazing at how this is helping me here too.
    Please help!The Chinese here have introduced a building method i am seeing for the first time. Instead of building a slab for a house they shutter and pour concrete onto the load bearing walls only all around and internally (like a ring beam,dont know if you use them in Nigeria). Off course this is after they put a concrete footing and about three courses/levels of blocks.It’s on top of this third course that they shutter and pour concrete complete with con-force wire or 6mm rods.They cut costs but i wanted to find out if this is very strong in the long run
    Keep it up and God bless

  14. Setting out is the first stage of construction in a site. This involves outlining the structure on the ground.

  15. You guys are just wonderful, pls keep up the good work……. There are some other questions asked that hv not been answered. Thank you fellows

  16. I want to commend Arc Emma and other professional in d house for the enormous work being done to ensure laymen and upcoming professionals like me knw the wherewithal in the built environmet….I want 2 actualy use ds medium to openly seek an IT placement in ur firm. I am a 400L Building std of. University of Lagos. I wld b grateful to Arc Emma(or any other professional dt wishes to groom an upcoming professional lik me) is ds my letter is appropriately replied to as my IT shld b oncourse nw. Thank you!

  17. Details, details and details needed mi dear friend….. I don’t think you fully adressed the issue of concern

  18. I stumbled on ur page in castles magazine and eversince I’ve been hooked. Pls I would like you to explain better on the issue of setting out. On a site where all I have is just the four beacons…no existing structure, the road is not yet done. Since setting out is the most important part as this will go a long way to either make or mar the project. Also talk more about levels in excavation..using a traveller to determine the depths and so on. But all the same, thank u for this blog…its a rare find.

  19. i am a builder but still need more training and expert like you to work with . your site is enriching pls keep me poster .can i content you pls. for more information

  20. pls my good mentors, my thanks goes to you all who have contributed for the well being of our upcoming professionals, and also diagramatic illustrations is very important. May good lord bless u all.

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