The five best free measurement apps for builders and contractors (iOS)

Check out these no-cost construction apps that deserve to be on your iPhone or iPad.

By Simon Hyoun
Staff Writer

A smartphone app will never replace a sturdy screwdriver. But when the job calls for a fast and reliable way to document project essentials or calculate vital measurements, these apps can turn your phone into a jobsite computer, saving you a trip back to the office.

Easy Measure

This is an augmented reality app that measures the approximate distance between the user and any object that's on the same plane as the user. For example, let's say you wanted to get a rough estimate of the length of an unfinished basement. Instead of running a tape measure, you can stand at one end of the room and use the targeting arrow within the app's camera viewer to locate the bottom of the opposite wall. The app provides the measurement and the degree of error (the farther the object, the greater the error) in inches or feet. Note the rule about the two objects being on the same plane. The app will not work if, for example, you tried to measure the total rise of a flight of stairs.

Bottom line: Handy for taking multiple measurements quickly, especially outdoors.

DEWALT Mobile Pro

The phrase "must have" comes to mind when describing this full-featured calculator and reference tool designed for trade pros. The base version includes specific calculation sets for drywall construction, roofing, slab pours, and other residential jobs. For example, enter information such as stud spacing, number of openings and corners, and linear feet of walls, and the app calculates the number of total studs needed. Optional specialty packs ($0.99–$9.99) for trim and finish carpentry, site work, electrical, and other subs add even more depth.

Bottom line: A robust feature set, and the few links to DeWalt site content are unobtrusive and helpful.

Compass

Few iPhone users realize that a level app exists natively within iOS 7. Inexplicably located inside the compass app, the level works in whatever direction you hold the phone — portrait, landscape, or flat. In portrait or landscape modes, the app displays an airplane-style horizon line and a number indicating the degrees off a perfect level. Laying the phone flat causes the app to bring up a bubble-style level that works in all directions. Line up the circles to find a horizontal level on both axes.

Bottom line: A good backup if you've left your torpedo level in the truck.

Photo Measures Lite

Photo Measures Lite allows users to mark up photos with dimensions and notes, then save or share them with others. The concept is so simple that the app doesn't seem worth mentioning, until you try to imagine how else you would accomplish the same task without the app. For example, let's say you wanted to describe to your deck builder how the back of the property slopes down to the patio. You'd probably send measurements, notes, and instructions in an email and attach a photo, and hope the recipient can piece the information together. Photo Measures Lite combines all the info — visual, textual, and numerical — into a single image, leaving little room for misunderstanding.

Bottom line: The free version allows users to save only up to two images. But you can cheat the system by saving those images to your photo album and deleting them from the app. Or just upgrade to the pro version for $5.99.

Energy Cost and Carbon Calculator

One of the most frequent questions asked by homeowners who want to reduce energy costs in their new home or remodel is "How much will the new system save me?" The Energy Cost and Carbon Calculator estimates the annual energy cost and carbon emissions you can expect from a space or water heating system using propane, fuel oil, or electricity — a big difference from other calculation apps that only work with one energy type. Enter essential information, such as location of the home, system type, and efficiency rating, and the app figures out the estimated amount the homeowner will pay each year. For each calculation, the app provides the same estimate for a comparable Energy Star–rated system, which can serve as a baseline for comparison against the user-entered system. You can also enter two systems and compare results side by side. Save results to reference later and to share with clients.

Bottom line: Our newest mobile tool provides access to our in-depth energy cost data wherever you go.


Oil-to-propane conversion will save thousands a year
 
How hybrid water heaters put a stop to shower scheduling
 
The best measurement apps for builders and contractors
 

 

Virtual Buildings
Tour our four sample commercial buildings to learn how propane fits into your specific project type.
All interactive tools
Propane Incentives
Learn about propane incentives in the fiscal cliff legislation and see if you qualify.
Read more