Posted by EdLoach on 15 January 2015 in English (English). Last updated on 14 August 2015.

I’m writing this entry because what began as typing a comment on this diary entry started getting a bit long.

Addressing is a lot of work. Not just the initial collection, but then you get into the whole “map gardening” discussion - maintaining what has already been mapped as opposed to (or perhaps as well as) mapping new stuff. Locally we’ve started watching local authority planning decisions and using the relatively new notes feature to record where needs surveying to see if and when things change. But we’ve been collecting addresses for about 5 years, and weren’t doing this at the start. Only today in a discussion about non-shop laundrys (for hotels and restaurants) I checked a couple I had mapped and found one got planning permission a year or two back to be replaced by a block of flats (we missed that one). So another re-survey needed. And only this morning I was adding some new builds I finally got around to re-surveying at the weekend that had been previously added as construction areas a couple of years ago.

I now use OsmAnd and always love it when it can direct me to an address rather than a road, which is why I want to get local addresses as complete as I can, though I started collecting addresses before I could use the data. Initially it was when collecting my step-daughters from their friends’ houses in the dark I wanted to be able to check OSM before setting out to see what end of, and which side of, the street to find them. It took a long time to join all those little random patches of addresses together.

Addresses are the places people want to go; roads are the way they get there. OSM needs both. I think it will take time, but as tools evolve and we continue to grow hopefully the pace will also increase. I think Robert Barr said during his 2013 State of the Map presentation that at the then level of address coverage it would take another 200 years to finish collecting UK addresses. I hope it is quicker than that.

Comment from DaCor on 15 January 2015 at 19:24

Completely agree

Address mapping is a slooooow process but it is undoubtedly valuable data and data that fits perfectly within OSM

Comment from d1g on 15 January 2015 at 20:41

Consider adding your thoughts at and

when you have mood or free time

Comment from Sam Wilson on 16 January 2015 at 04:45

Is there any write-up anywhere of good methods for collecting house address data? I mean specifics such as: “trace buildings first, then cycle up one side of the street taking photos of letter-boxen, then back down the other…” (which is sort of how I’ve done it, but I get some pretty funny looks from people!).

Comment from Jedrzej Pelka on 16 January 2015 at 09:53

@Sam Wilson: My method is: trace buildings first, print the map with building contours, walk/cycle the street writing down numbers (and other significant details) on the printout.

Comment from EdLoach on 16 January 2015 at 10:08

I think different methods work better for different people. I’ve tried various methods (initially GPS waypoints with notes of the address, when I was adding addresses as nodes before we had aerial imagery available, then using OSMTracker on my old phone walking down roads using custom gpx waypoints using text such as 23. to say 23 is on the left, nothing opposite, or 34/36.43/45 for a semi-detached 34/36 is on the left opposite 43/45 on the right - if I’d walked the other way along the road it would be 36/34.45/43 depending on the number I get to first).

But now I tend to just use paper and pen making similar notes to the above which I map back to buildings on aerial imagery as I add them. I don’t usually trace the buildings first in case I need to add multiple addresses to one building when I get back - I find it easier to add the addresses to the buildings as I go rather than add them later. It might just be me…

That is in urban areas where houses are closer together. In rural areas I’ve taken to driving slowly along country lanes shouting out house numbers (or more often house names) to my dashcam, though have previously cycled with pencil and paper. We don’t have end of drive letter boxes here, and I’d feel uncomfortable taking photos zoomed in on people’s front doors.

I did once have a woman ask me not to add her address to OSM when she asked what I was doing walking along a cul-de-sac making notes. I respected her wishes by not doing so, but mapping all the other numbers and mentioning it on IRC - someone managed to interpolate the missing number on the unnumbered house.

Oh, and another time I got questioned by a PCSO that some locals had phoned having seen someone walking around their village looking at all the properties and making notes. I explained what I was doing and managed to convince them - I had sufficient stuff on me like a GPS, printouts of what had already been mapped in the area, and possibly even a phone signal to demonstrate, but I now also carry a leaflet in my wallet just in case.

Comment from Sam Wilson on 16 January 2015 at 23:07

Thank you both for the ideas. It sounds like paper and clipboard are the way to go. :)

Now I shall wrangle with getting JOSM to print things…

Comment from escada on 17 January 2015 at 11:02

Nobody ever asked me what I’m doing. Perhaps because I walk four dogs and make notes on a GPS device. So people might mistake that for someone texting on a mobile phone while letting the dogs out.

Comment from Hedaja on 18 January 2015 at 10:31

If you want to print maps for walking surveys there is a service called FieldPapers ( or WalkingPapers ( If you upload your notes (no matter printed with FieldPapers or WalkingPapers) to you can directly use it georeferenced in JOSM.

Comment from howdystranger on 19 January 2015 at 23:53

I’ve used Keypad mapper (for Android) which seems to work pretty well. But it’s always a pain matching up the numbers to buildings afterwards

Comment from dcp on 20 January 2015 at 10:46

I am presently redoing the houses and addresses in my small home town and I am lucky to say that I have it very, very easy compared with you lot.

The NRW-Landesvemessungamt (Germany, North-Rhein-Palitnate Surveying Bureau) have released the vector data and address data to OSM so it easy to check and modify the OSM data accordingly. It is however not always up to date so its usage should be self restricted to those with some local knowledge.

On the other hand I sometimes wonder if it is worth all the effort to enter address data when any cheap navigation device (like my Tom-Tom) takes you point-to-point anyway. Do we really think that the OSM routing data will be any better than that that is now readily available. It happens all the time: Newbies (who we want) come in and change the data and cannot initially see the complex relation data already in the data base. This happens because we cherish the newbies more than we cherish the stored data. i.e. Newbies have priority.

In my humble opinion we should collect data which is useful and not readily available. By this I mean POIs (all of them) with their attributes. Rambling (walking) routes should be another priority, even higher than other routes. This is especially true of holiday destinations.

Of course some of you will disagree. That is fine: Don’t worry, just carry on and do it your way and enjoy yourself while doing it.

Comment from EdLoach on 20 January 2015 at 10:52

Address data isn’t readily available in the UK though without paying large licence fees to use the data. In my immediate town the address data is probably as good as most satnavs; better if people haven’t been installing updates which add the newly built properties. District wide it is getting there - perhaps 90%. Further afield less so.

Comment from SOSM on 21 January 2015 at 11:11

@EdLoach the UK hasn’t really embraced the idea of address mapping, see which likely has to do with the special situation wrt post codes in the UK compared to other European and the US. So I don’t think the 200 year extrapolation is applicable for more than a small island in splendid isolation.

As to address mapping techniques: it really depends on if house numbers are large and clearly visible from the pavement. Most of the time this is not the case and that is why most schemes at trying to collect them “fast” fail.

IMHO the most efficient way to collect, on the ground, barring OSM employing streetview hardware with high res cameras, is: * at home draw the building outlines * walk along the streets in question and enter the the house numbers directly with vespucci With the address prediction functionality the accquistion rate is essentially limited how long you need to get from house to house.

Comment from escada on 22 January 2015 at 09:44

In the town were I live you have to pay a fee when your house number is not clearly visible from the street. I thought that it is a requirement to have a house number on each building in Belgium, but according to my surveys, not everybody is following the law.

Comment from EdLoach on 22 January 2015 at 09:58

That is something I have noticed when surveying locally - it gets much harder at dusk as it gets harder to read some house numbers from the street. I find myself thinking ‘What if they need to call an ambulance?’ and then think perhaps even my own house could do with a more visible number for such cases (it is in the glass of the door, which many people fail to spot when they first visit).

SOSM - thanks, I’ve used Vespucci for other mapping, but not for addresses. I tend to prefer adding buildings once you know how many properties they represent (so I can use the JOSM terracer plugin to split a rectangle, rather than drawing each property, drawing the outer rectangle starting with the short side at the high number end seems to work best).

Comment from NZGraham on 23 February 2015 at 01:18

House numbers are especially useful for navigation when previously continuous streets get divided into several truncated sections by newer highways. Have a look at Old Farm Road and Dey Street in Hamilton, New Zealand. I’ve now almost completed surveying these and have added house numbers as best as possible to make things easier for strangers to find the correct section of road for a particular house. Any form of interpolation was definitely not an option for this exercise! Lots of breaks in the expected number sequence plus subdivided sections bearing ‘house A/house B’ type of numbering. Positioning of back houses on subdivided sections was often impossible to ascertain from the road. A slightly less labour intensive option I’m considering is to only map the lowest and highest odd & even numbers in a street. At least that should enable users to identify which direction the numbers run. Generally I map house numbers by walking the streets with a GPS unit. I create waypoints standing centrally outside each house – the waypoints are named with the house numbers taken from letterboxes which here in New Zealand are on the street frontage of each property. In the case of subdivided sections I’ll name the waypoints something like ‘298 front’ ‘298A back’. I use JOSM as my editor, loading the waypoint file and matching the numbers with buildings which I trace from Bing imagery.

Comment from IpswichMapper on 29 October 2020 at 00:40

Hello, I am quite late to the party, but I just wanted to mention one other method of collecting housenumbers that no-one mentioned - Streetcomplete.

Streetcomplete is far more accessible to newer mappers, meaning anyone can enter housenumbers into the database. Just recently, Streetcomplete was improved slightly to make housenumber entry faster.

The disadvantage is that you have to draw properly terraced buildings first. This may be harder without having housenumbers, but usually you can do it by looking at the fences seperating people’s backyards.

I wrote a full guide on how to draw buildings (in JOSM) and make them StreetComplete compatible.

Doing this, newer users will be able to enter very important information (housenumbers)

Comment from IpswichMapper on 29 October 2020 at 00:42

Oh, and also, a high quality out-of-copyright map of buildings & housenumbers in London exists


(Add that as an imagery source in JOSM).

This is many, many decades ago, so lots of construction and destruction has taken place since then, meaning that some of that map won’t be of much use. However, quite a lot will be useful. User “spiregrain” mapped the housenumbers & buildings of “Stratford New Town” in London using this map.

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