How to Measure a Space for a Flat Screen TV

By Valerie Kalfrin

Buying a flat-screen TV involves more than just finding a reasonable price. Getting the best view involves taking into account the size of your room, your seating arrangement and your budget. Here's how to measure your space so you don't wind up with a TV the size of a microwave, or one that turns into an interactive wall like in the film "Total Recall."

Measure the overall size of the room. Let's say your living room is 12 feet by 16 feet.

Estimate where you'd like to place the TV. Most flat-screen TVs look best when viewed straight-on, not at an angle, and at a height where your eyes are level with the middle of the screen. In the room in Step 1, you could place the TV either on one of the 12-foot walls, leaving 16 feet in front of the TV for seating and other furniture, or on one of the 16-foot walls, leaving 12 feet for seating and other furniture.

Gauge the ideal screen size for your space. The electronics experts at Crutchfield, a Virginia company whose founder is in the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame, recommend that you base the TV's size on how far away you'll be sitting from the screen. You should sit at a distance about 1.5 to 2.5 times the width of the TV's screen size. If you sit too close, you might be distracted by the pixels in the image. This means for a 40-inch screen, your ideal seating is 5 feet to 8 1/4 feet away. (To do the math: There are 12 inches in a foot. So 1.5 times the screen size is 60 inches, or 5 feet, while 2.5 times the screen size is 100 inches, or 8.3 feet. For our example, the maximum ideal viewing distance falls somewhere around 10 to 12 feet away, depending on the size of your sofa. That means a 52- or 58-inch TV.

Focus on how the TV will be installed: mounted on the wall or a special stand, or on your existing furniture. A flat-screen TV, especially one 52 inches or larger, weighs a lot more than the 22-inch TV you might have in your current entertainment center. If you need to buy another piece of furniture or purchase a wall mount, measure how large that will be with the size of TV you've chosen. To help visualize it in the space, place a length of newspaper about the same length or width as the TV or the TV stand where you want this furniture to go. You might have to rearrange some of the existing pieces, or adjust the size of the TV you wish to buy.