surveying tool for measuring heights of buildings etc?

I'd like a tool to measure the height of the neighbours' houses etc by geometry or trigonometry or drawing triangles on paper, the sort of thing i see surveyors with on a tripod, but I dont know what it'd be called. (It's greek to me)
I dont need anything very accurate and expensive, so if anyone can tell me the name of what i want, or better provide a link to a cheap one, please do!
[g]
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Theodolite
Actually, the etymology is unknown

I'd have a go with a protractor, the cardboard inner of a kitchen roll, some wire to make sight lines and a spirit level.
--
Jón Fairbairn snipped-for-privacy@cl.cam.ac.uk
http://www.chaos.org.uk/~jf/Stuff-I-dont-want.html (updated 2009-01-31)
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Jon Fairbairn pretended :

If you use a level and a protractor to get yourself looking up at the building at precisely 45 degrees from the horizontal - move towards and away from it until it is 45 degrees, then measure your distance to that building - the height of the building is that figure, plus the height to your eyes. All of this assumes the ground is level between you and the building.
--
Regards,
Harry (M1BYT) (L)
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Jon Fairbairn wrote:

Is it? I thought it was the light on top of a theodol <sp?>.
--
Rod

Hypothyroidism is a seriously debilitating condition with an insidious
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Are you sure it's not a feature-poor version of a theodo?
--
Jón Fairbairn snipped-for-privacy@cl.cam.ac.uk
http://www.chaos.org.uk/~jf/Stuff-I-dont-want.html (updated 2009-01-31)
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Jon Fairbairn wrote:

No - I'm not. :-)
Couldn't find it in several searches - so only exists in my very imperfect memory.
--
Rod

Hypothyroidism is a seriously debilitating condition with an insidious
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
george (dicegeorge) wrote:

A theodolite.

Possibly, but maybe Latin?

We made one in trig lessons at school. Good teaching method as it brought home the value of learning how to do apparently esoteric stuff like sines and cosines. ISTR it was something like a cardboard inner tube from a kitchen roll, gluing a cotton cross-hair over either end, then a protractor taped to the outside, and a plumbline hanging adjacent to the protractor - I'm sure you get the idea; you look down the tube and align both your crosshairs with next-doors' chimney pot, then have an assistant read off the angle indicated by the plumbline. You measure the ground distance between you and the neighbours' house wall, and a bit of trig gives you the height of the chimney. Very rough and ready - depends how accurate you need it!
David
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Sir requires the instructions at http://www.exploratorium.edu/math_explorer/howHigh_makeInclino.html
To make a cheap Inclinometer
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

You need a clinometer and a measuring tape.
You stand some way back - use the measuring tape to let you know how far back you are, add of the height from the ground to your eyes, then use the clinometer to get the angle you need to look at to look at the height of their gutters.
The use the tangent function to work out the height.
h = tan(x) . d
where x is the angle and d is the distance from you to the base of the thing you're looking at the top of.
It won't be that accurate as the angle will change slightly with your height, so to make it more accurate, lie down.
You can make a clinometer with a protractor, bit of string, and some blu tak. Good picture of a home-made one here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinometer
And if you don't have a scientific calculator or know what the tangent function is, just walk back from it until the clinometer reads 45 degrees, then the height is the same as your distance back.
Gordon
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Sun, 01 Mar 2009 16:37:44 +0000, george (dicegeorge) wrote:

A barometer :-|
http://www.virtualteacher.com.au/bohr.html
--
John Stumbles

Thesaurus: extinct reptile noted for its wide vocabulary.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

A helium balloon and some string.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

If there is a gable wall up to where you need to measure, just count the bricks and multiply by the appropriate factor.
AWEM
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Andrew Mawson wrote:

Indeed - just what we were taught in surveying school.
Rob
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

When I was in the Scouts many moons ago we were taught how to measure the height of trees and buildings using our trusty staves :-) Simply measure the distance (say 100ft) to the subject, eye on the ground, stave at 1 tenth of distance, mark off point on stave looking up at the subject. Then simple geometry to work out height of subject.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Unfortunately not cheap but a Leica Disto basic model will do it http://www.yorksurvey.co.uk/measuring/laser-rangefinders/2001/leica-disto-d3-laser.html
Having now used an earlier model I wish I had bought one years ago. Their accuracy is incredible.
PeterK
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
george (dicegeorge) wrote:

You can do it with a 1m rule (or any stick of known length) and some sunshine.
Wait for a sunny day, walk to the end of the shadow of the tallest part of the building and mark a point. Stand a ruler on that point and mark the end of the shadow cast by the ruler. Now measure the length of the rulers shadow and the buildings shadow. The ratio of shadow lengths will be the same as the ratio of ruler and building heights - and you know one of them! ;-)
--
Cheers,

John.

/=================================================================\
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
much simpler than catapaulting up the sardine then the cat then shooting the cat and timing its descent.
thanks
John Rumm wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
John Rumm wrote:

but the ground is sloping unevenly.
But it came to me today whilst driving my car- if i get a vertical bit of card and 2 tubes pivoting on the card, then look through the tubes and adjust the angle between them until I can see the bottom through one, and the window I want to measure the height of through the other, mark the angle, then turn it horizontal and sight from the corner of the house and remember where the other tube points to along the bottom of the wall then i can measure from that point to the corner with a tape measure and that will be the vertical distance near enough if the ground isnt very slopey... if my reasoning is correct!
[g]
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
george (dicegeorge) coughed up some electrons that declared:

It's totally over the top for your job I suspect unless you want millimeter accuracy, but years ago I hired a Leica TotalStation.
That's a theodolite that has a laser rangefinder built in, and a fancy computer, so once given a direction for north and set up to believe it's sitting on coordinates (0,0,0) for example, it will give 3d cartesian coordinates of anything you can point the laser at - in practice, a good 2-3 houses away, without resorting to placing reflectors on the targets.
I was actually helping my father sort out some measurements and I fancied the excuse to have a go and his (now my) house has some complicated slopes on the land.
Turns out, now that the data is proving quite useful.
Hire charge was around 100 quid for a bank holiday weekend as no professional would want it then. Only scary bit was being responsible for about 3000 quids worth of equipment without insurance! 2 weeks reading the manual in advance saved a lot of faffing. They're complicated to master the operational details, and yet powerfully simple to use when compared with the alternatives.
Cheers
Tim
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
george (dicegeorge) wrote:

Radio controlled helicoptor carrying a GPS receiver, and some way to remotely read it's elevation above sea level.
--
Adrian C

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.