Understanding how the square footage of a house is measured

To understand how the square footage of a house is measured, start by referring to your city’s building department records. Many city and county records are now available online, which makes getting this information much easier than it used to be. Some updates – like unpermitted remodeling – may not be reflected in the records, but it will still provide a good baseline estimate.

Then, familiarize yourself with basic ANSI guidelines for calculating square footage for single-family homes. Practices can vary slightly from market to market, but these rules apply to most areas in the country:

  • Below-grade spaces (basements, dens, etc.) do not usually count toward a house’s square footage. Even a finished basement oftentimes can’t be counted toward a home’s Gross Living Area (GLA), but it can be noted separately in the listing’s total area. More on this below.
  • The ANSI method specifies measuring from the exterior of the house, but the wall width is not usually subtracted to account for actual living space.
  • Stairways and closet areas are included in the house’s square footage length.
  • Finished attic square footage is included if an area has at least seven minimum feet of clearance.
  • Covered, enclosed porches can only be included if heated and using the same system as the rest of the house.
  • Garages, pool houses, guest houses, or any rooms that require you to leave the finished area of the main house to gain access are not counted in the square footage of a house.

How to calculate the square feet of a house

When preparing to measure the square footage of a home, be it a house, condo, or townhouse, start with a few simple supplies:

  • Paper and pencil
  • Calculator
  • Measuring tape and/or laser measuring tool

If the property is a perfect rectangle, simply measure the length and width and multiply those two numbers together. For example, if your one-story house is 60 feet wide by 40 feet long, then your property is 2,400 square feet (60 x 40 = 2,400).

However, most properties have more complex floor plans. When this is the case, it’s helpful to follow these simple steps to measure square footage.

  1. Draw a rough sketch of your entire space, labeling all of the rooms you need to measure. Include hallways and vestibules as their own “room.”
  2. Measure the length and width, in feet, of each room. Then, multiply the length by the width to calculate that room’s square footage. For example: If a bedroom is 12 feet by 20 feet, it is 240 square feet (12 x 20 = 240). For each room, write the total square footage in the corresponding space on your sketch.
  3. Once each room is measured, add up all the measurements to determine your home’s total square footage.

Note: If you live in a tract home, condo or townhome community, you may be able to get architectural drawings or master builder plans of your floor plan. These may already have your square footage calculated.

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Convert among square inch, square foot, square yard and square meter

You could, for example, perform all of your measurements in inches or centimeters, calculate area in square inches or square centimeters then convert your final answer to the unit you need such as square feet or square meters.

To convert among square feet, yards and meters use the following conversion factors.  For other units use our calculator for area conversions.

  • Square Feet to Square Inches
    • multiply ft2 by 144 to get in2
  • Square Feet to Square Yards
    • multiply ft2 by 0.11111 to get yd2
  • Square Feet to Square Meters
    • multiply ft2 by 0.092903 to get m2
  • Square Yards to Square Feet
    • multiply yd2 by 9 to get ft2
  • Square Yards to Square Meters
    • multiply yd2 by 0.836127 to get m2
  • Square Meters to Square Inches
    • multiply m2 by 1,550 to get in2
  • Square Meters to Square Feet
    • multiply m2 by 10.7639 to get ft2
  • Square Meters to Square Yards
    • multiply m2 by 1.19599 to get yd2

How to find the square footage of a triangle

  1. Measure the length of the base and the height of the triangle in feet.
  2. Multiply your base and height measurements together.
  3. Divide your total by two to get the square footage of the triangle
 The formula for calculating the square footage ar

The formula for calculating the square footage area of a triangle is: base × height / 2. To work out your cost of materials, simply multiply this figure by your 'price per square foot'.

Does a basement count as square footage?

As a general rule of thumb, basements usually do not count towards the square footage of a house. For a basement to increase a home’s square footage, it must meet certain criteria to be considered livable space, and such criteria can vary between states. Your local county assessor’s office determines whether appraisers can choose what is considered square footage towards a home’s Gross Living Area. Below we highlight some of the most common criteria a basement may have to meet to be included in your home’s total square footage.

  • A portion of the basement is above-ground – Basements that are 100% below ground usually do not count towards the square footage of a house.
  • The basement is finished – Flooring, walls, lighting, and other features must be similar to the main living areas of a house.
  • The basement is heated and conditioned – You cannot use a space heater to heat up a basement. 
  • The basement has legal ingress or egress – To account for safety, a legal escape point is necessary in case a fire breaks out. This could be an egress window or walkout door that leads to the outside.

Get in touch with a real estate agent or appraiser to best understand if your basement can be counted towards the square footage of your home.

How To Measure Square Footage Of A House: FAQ

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the square footage of a home, likely because of misinformation and a lack of well-known guidelines. That being said, if something seems unclear, more often than not, someone has probably wondered the same thing. Below are some commonly asked questions about how to measure the square footage of a house.

Finished Vs. Unfinished

Generally speaking, unfinished areas of the home are not to be added to its total square footage. To be included, the area must be finished. For example, you can list unfinished areas — like basements — as unfinished bonus spaces, as long as you leave them out of the overall finished square footage calculation.

Are Basements Included In House Square Footage?

Basements have become the subject of many heated debates surrounding a home’s square footage. At the very least, the answer is, well, yes and no. You see, basements — whether they are finished or not — should not be considered in a home’s total square footage, according to ANSI. That said, it is completely acceptable for homeowners to list the size of their finished basement in a separate part of the listing (separate from the home’s actual gross living area). So while today’s standards advise against adding the square footage of a finished basement to the home’s GLA, there’s no reason you can’t include the actual size of it somewhere else in the listing.

[ Want to maximize your property value? Download this step-by-step guide to making “high-ROI” home improvements. ]

Does House Square Footage Include Garage?

Whether it’s finished or not, a home’s gross living area does not include the garage. According to ANSI, “garages and unfinished areas cannot be included in the calculation of finished square footage.” Most garages can’t count towards the square footage of a home because they are not typically on the same level as the home; they are usually lower.

How Many Square Feet Are In The Average House?

The average house has about 2,400 square feet. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the average square footage in 2017 was 2,426 square feet. In contrast, the average square footage was 1,660 in 1973. The number has steadily increased over the decades, reflecting Americans’ desire for more rooms and larger homes.

What Is The Square Footage Of A 12 X 12 Room?

A 12 X 12 room has 144 square feet. Simply put, square feet are calculated by multiplying the width by the length of a given room. Each room is then added up to get the total square feet of a house. Things can get complicated with add ons and other features that take away space from rooms. A good way to overcome any structural issues is to break each room into squares. Look for where walls line up and divide things in a way that makes square footage easier to calculate. You can then add up your smaller numbers to get a more accurate total.

Do Closets Count In Square Footage?

Closets do count in square footage, so long as they meet requirements applied to other areas of the house. What I mean by this is as long as closets are finished and meet the ceiling height requirements I mentioned above, they will count towards total square feet. The same logic can be applied to stairways, which are another gray area for calculating house square footage.

Total Area Vs Living Area

The total area refers to the full amount of space in a property, while the living area only includes rooms that rely on the main heating and air system. Living area is essentially another way to say square feet. On the other hand, total area will include garages, basements, balconies, and any other spaces that fall under the same roof. It is not uncommon to see both measurements given in a property listing or during an open house.

What Is Considered Livable Square Footage?

Livable square footage includes any room or space that uses the main heating and air system in a property. This includes bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, and more. The exact definition of livable square feet may be different from state to state. However, as a general rule, livable square footage refers to usable, heated spaces in a property. Keep this in mind as you calculate your house’s square feet, and ask a realtor or appraiser if you are unsure of your estimates.

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What to leave in (and take out of) the square footage

But, of course, it’s not that simple.

Garage space is not included in square footage, and many standards do not count basements (even if they’re finished) in overall square footage. Either way, make sure to measure the basement’s square footage for your records — you can still include it in any future property listings.

Conversely, finished attic space that’s fit for habitation and boasts at least seven feet of clearance should be included in your GLA. The same is true for any additional stories in the house.

For example, suppose you’re describing a two-story home with a 1,500-square-foot first floor, 1,000-square-foot second floor, and 800-square-foot finished attic. You could list it as 3,300 square feet with 1,000 square feet of unfinished basement and a 600-foot garage. But to describe it as a 4,900-square-foot house would mislead potential buyers about the size, and unfairly boost the property’s value.

Choosing Appropriate Comparables

Property tax assessments and sale prices should be based on the current housing market. Sales from three years ago, for instance, won’t help you determine a competitive price for your house now. Look for homes that have sold in the past 90 days, though in a sluggish market going further back might be okay. Also make sure the homes are genuinely comparable:

  • Square footage shouldn’t be more than 10 percent larger or smaller than the home you own, or want to buy.
  • The comps should have the same number of bathrooms and bedrooms.
  • Comps should be in the same neighborhood and the same school district. If two homes are in different districts, that can make a big difference to the appraised value.
  • Check for special cases. A house that sold low because it’s on a toxic waste dump isn’t a good comp if yours isn’t in the same situation.

Summary

Those that know how to find the square footage of a house carry an inherent advantage in every deal they work on. Of particular importance, however, is accuracy. Those who can accurately learn how to calculate square footage of a house stand a better chance of realizing success. At the very least, they will know exactly what they are getting into (or out of).

Have you ever run into questionable home measurement calculations? Would it have helped if you knew the standards used today? Please feel free to let us know in the comments below.

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