Calculating Cost Per Square Foot

When painting a house, installing flooring, or building a home, the square footage of the property is often used to determine the cost or materials to be used.

Painting a house:

Professional house painters often base price quotations on the square footage of a property. Alternatively, even if a person plans to paint their house themselves, measuring square footage can yield accurate estimates of the amount of paint required.

Total cost encompasses more factors than the just amount of paint required, including the cost of materials such as brushes, turpentine, and any materials necessary for preparing, mixing, applying, and cleaning up paint. These considerations are typically included in a quote from a professional painter, in addition to labor costs. Accordingly, the larger the size of a property or area, the higher the cost required to paint it.

Depending on the surface being painted, whether wood, metal, plastic, or something else, paint primer, which helps the paint adhere more effectively to a given surface, can be used. While the amount of coverage provided by primer or paint depends heavily on the method of application, type, and brand of paint, primer generally covers less area than paint, and estimated coverage amounts can range from anywhere between 200-400 square feet per gallon.

Flooring installation:

There are a number of materials commonly used for flooring, including wood, laminate, and tile. Flooring costs can vary significantly depending on the quality and choice of materials.

Wood Flooring

Wood flooring includes woods such as hardwood, engineered wood (also known as composite or man-made wood), and bamboo, though bamboo is actually classified as grass.

Hardwood flooring is highly durable, easy to clean, and can be found in a variety of different appearances. As such, it is fairly versatile in terms of interior design, but does require some maintenance such as sanding and refinishing over time.

Engineered wood flooring is made from several layers of wood, with a thin outermost layer of the desired hardwood, and inner layers such as plywood and high-density fiberboard. Engineered hardwood has a higher heat and moisture resistance than solid hardwoods, is easy to maintain, and is generally cheaper to purchase and install than hardwood flooring.

Bamboo flooring is easy to maintain, moisture resistant, easy to install, and is available in many different styles. It is often cheaper than traditional hardwood options, but does have the disadvantage of scratching easily as a result of furniture, high heels, claws, or even debris.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring is typically made with plywood or fiberboard with a plastic laminate top layer, and can have a similar look like hardwood. It is less costly than traditional wood flooring, is highly durable, difficult to scratch, stain, or dent, and requires little maintenance. Laminate flooring can even be installed over existing flooring, which can save time as well as the cost of removing old flooring. However, laminate flooring often feels too hard on the feet, cannot be finished or stained – meaning that the owner is stuck with what they choose and will have to entirely replace the floor if they change their mind – and also results in a lower resale value for a home than traditional hardwoods.

Tile flooring

Tile flooring includes concrete or cement, ceramic tiles, glass tiles, and natural stone products among many others. Due to the numerous varieties of tile, there is an incredibly large price range, from 60 cents per square foot, to hundreds of dollars, or even $100,000 per square foot. The many options of tile allow a person to choose a cost and style that best fits their needs. Tile is also easy to maintain, clean, and is suitable for all locations. However, without heating, tile can be cold in the winter. It also does not dampen sound, can be slippery when wet, can break if heavy objects are dropped on them, and cannot easily be repaired. Tile installation is also difficult, and installation costs can be more expensive than the cost of the materials.

Building a home:

When building a home, using building plans and visiting different homes as a reference can help a person to gain a better understanding of what square footages work for their preferences.

The cost of building a home varies largely based on a number of factors, including materials, the type of foundation, the pitch of the roof, and many other characteristics that are not necessarily directly related to the size of the house. Unlike the cost per square foot of installing flooring, which can be estimated based on material, quality, and installation costs, the multitude of factors involved in building a house makes it more difficult to estimate cost per square foot. As such, cost per square foot is often estimated based on averages, and depending on a person’s specific project, it may not be an accurate estimate of the cost. Instead, it may be more helpful to get an estimate from a builder based on some given specifications, and divide that estimate by the number of square feet the house will occupy.

Obtaining an estimate of the cost per square foot for a person’s specific project can allow comparison to a different house of similar size as a reference. As previously mentioned, houses of the same size do vary significantly in building cost. Thus, having a reference can help a prospective owner decide whether or not to include an elegant master bath, marble tiles, curved staircases, or any other more extravagant features. There are also a number of costs outside of building the house that should be considered, such as fees to local authorities, labor, special requirements from building codes, and insurance.

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How to Calculate Square Footage

You can calculate the square footage of a standard-shaped room (a square or rectangle) in three easy steps:

  1. Measure the length of the room with a tape measure.
  2. Measure the width of the room.
  3. Multiply the length times the width.

Example: If the room is 8 feet long and 10 feet wide, the square footage of the room is 80 square feet (8 x 10 = 80).

But what if you need to measure the square footage of a whole apartment or house? No problem! You have two options:

  • Option 1: Measure the length and width of the whole house and multiply them together (this works best for perfectly rectangular homes).
  • Option 2: Calculate the square footage of each individual room, then add those numbers together (this works best for homes with lots of angles).

How to calculate the square footage of a house: Three steps to follow

As a buyer it can be helpful to know how to calculate the square footage of a house yourself – just multiply the length and width of all applicable rooms in the home. All you’ll need to get started is a 100 sq ft tape measure, some graph paper, and a pencil. 

1. Assign a unit of measure

Assign a unit of measure to each square on the paper (ex. 12 inches or a foot) and measure to the nearest tenth of a foot.

2. Pick a wall

Pick a wall and begin measuring the distance, making your way around the interior perimeter of the house in one direction, then drawing lines accordingly on the graph paper. Keep in mind that although ANSI guidelines specify measuring the exterior walls, measuring from the inside will give you a better idea of the actual livable area.

3. Look at your floor plan

Lastly, go back over your floor plan, multiply the rectangular areas, and add them all up to get your final number. If your calculation includes an area that is not permissible, don’t forget to subtract it out.

How To Measure Square Feet Of A House

To calculate the square feet of a house, you will need a few supplies: a notepad, calculator, and measuring tape. The simplest example is to imagine your house as a perfect rectangle and multiply the length times the width. If your house is 50 by 30 feet, the square footage would be 1500. Most homes are not a “perfect” shape, and you will likely need to spend some time measuring individual rooms and areas before adding together the overall square footage.

Suffice it to say, there is no universal home square footage calculator. However, the standards put in place by ANSI can make it easier to determine which areas of your home can be added to the square footage calculations and which ones should be ignored. For the most part, you should include all livable spaces, excluding basements, garages, or attics. It can help start by looking at a floor plan of your property and measuring from there. Look for rectangles and try to break up each room or hallway. The tips below should help as you learn to calculate square footage correctly.

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How to find the square footage of a circle

  1. Measure the diameter of your circle in feet.
  2. Divide your diameter by 2 and then square it (multiply it by itself).
  3. Multiply your total by π (3.14159265)

The formula for calculating the area of a circle is: π r2 (with r being the radius of the circle, which is half the diameter). π is the symbol for pi (3.14159265).

 

Why Is Square Footage Important?

Square footage is important in real estate because it is the clearest representation of the total area of livable space in a homeowner's property. Here is an overview of the practical reasons that square footage is important.

  • Home value: Square footage is one of the variables factored into setting the listing price or determining the fair market value of a house. If you order an appraisal for your new house to determine its fair market value, the appraiser will factor the square footage of this house to similarly-sized homes in the area.
  • Securing a mortgage: Most mortgage lenders will require homebuyers to get a home appraisal before granting them a loan to protect the lender from promising more money than the house is worth. If your appraiser finds that a home is worth less than it is listed for—potentially because of a square footage discrepancy—the buyer may not get a loan for the house unless the listing price is adjusted to affect the appraisal value.
  • Property taxes: Assessing your home and measuring the square footage can help gauge whether a homeowner is paying too little or too much in property taxes. Your property’s square footage directly impacts the assessed value of the house, which influences property taxes you’re required to pay.

A final word on square footage 

Be aware that condominiums have fewer established rules and no ANSI guidelines. To start, you can visit your city’s building department and ask them to pull the home’s plans and permits for the property; all builders are required to include square footage for each unit. If that info is hard for you to get, you may want to hire an appraiser. If you’re a seller, it’s best to pay an appraiser to provide a square footage assessment, so your listing is as accurate as possible. Finally, consult an agent. Agents usually see dozens of homes a week and have a pretty good spatial sense, and can often give you a ballpark estimate of any home in question.

Finally, remember that while square footage is important to your home value, don’t focus on it at the expense of style or your emotional response. Do you like the design and floor plan? How about the location? Are there rooms you absolutely love? Numbers are important, but they are no substitute for the intangibles that make a house feel like a home.

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