Content of the material
- Calculating Cost Per Square Foot
- Painting a house:
- Flooring installation:
- Building a home:
- How to calculate the square footage of a house: Three steps to follow
- 1. Assign a unit of measure
- 2. Pick a wall
- 3. Look at your floor plan
- Why Is Square Footage Important?
- How To Measure Square Footage Of A House In 3 Steps
- Square Footage Of A House Example
- What if I think a listing’s calculation is inaccurate?
- How To Figure Square Feet For Your Home
- What is included in square footage of a house?
- Finding the square footage of your home
- Finished Vs. Unfinished Square Footage
- Above Grade Square Footage vs. Below Grade Square Footage
- Discrepancies in measurement
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
How To Measure Square Footage Of A House In 3 Steps
To calculate the square feet of a house, you will need to determine each room’s area and add it together. It sounds easy, right? We’re going to try to keep it that way as we walk you through the process. Gather a few tools before getting started:
Notepad and pen/pencil
You may also want someone to assist as you measure, especially in larger rooms. While it all depends on the shape of your house and the complexity of your floor plan, sometimes it’s a good idea to start this endeavor with a helping hand. When you are ready to get started, there are three steps to follow:
Measure the length and width of each room and hallway in your house.
Multiply the length and width of each room separately, which you can write down before your final calculations.
When you are done measuring and multiplying, add the area of each room together.
Square Footage Of A House Example
For example, pretend you live in a ranch home in the shape of a rectangle. The length of the house is 70 feet, and the width is 50. This means to calculate the square footage, you will multiply 70 by 50, resulting in a final calculation of 3,500 square feet. Of course, not every home is a perfect rectangle — making it more time-consuming to get accurate numbers. That’s why going room by room is often the most practical method. With the proper measurements and some addition, you can still calculate the square footage of your home.
What if I think a listing’s calculation is inaccurate?
Potential buyers should be aware that in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, the purchase agreement on a home notes that square footage measurements are approximate.
If concerned about inaccuracies, the buyer and their REALTOR® should:
- Ask the listing agent for the exact way that the square footage was calculated.
- Verify the information by taking their own measurements.
How To Figure Square Feet For Your Home
Calculating the square footage of a home is relatively easy. To measure square feet, you just have to take it one room or space at a time. Measure the length, measure the width, multiply these two and you have the square footage of a space. For example, let’s say a bedroom in your home is 12 feet wide by 14 feet long. 12 X 14 = 168, so that bedroom has 168 square feet.
With one extra step you can easily measure square footage for odd sized rooms that do not end on a specific foot measurement. Let me show you how by slightly adjusting the example I used above.
Let’s say that bedroom is 12 feet 9 inches wide (or 153 inches) and 14 feet 9 inches long (or 177 inches). Notice what I did here. Ignore the foot measurement on your measuring tape all together. Instead, only look at the total inches for length and width. Here is the math with the extra step:
- Divide each inch total by 12 (153 divided by 12 is 12.75 and 177 divided by 12 is 14.75)
- Multiply the two numbers (12.75 x 14.75)
- Answer: 188, the room is 188 square feet
What is included in square footage of a house?
The easiest way to calculate square footage is to measure all areas and rooms with a floor. If you can walk on it it counts. Square footage includes all of the spaces in your that is actual space. Your square footage total should include:
- Bedrooms and the closets
- Living or recreation rooms
- Enclosed 3-season or all-season rooms
- Unfinished spaces like a basement
Garages, outdoor areas, and unfinished attics do not count as square footage.
Finding the square footage of your home
To determine the square footage of you need some basic tools and to follow a few steps. The tools needed include:
- Measuring tape
Follow these steps to accurately measure the square footage in your home:
- Measure every space except the garage, the crawl space, and the attic if it is not finished.
- Measure at the floor.
- Squaring off spaces is often the most practical way to capture all of the square feet.
- Multiply the length and the width of each space you measured.
- As you measure each space label each space as finished or unfinished and whether it is above grade or below grade
If you are shopping for a home to purchase, the square footage number you see in the listing or online is most likely the total finished square footage. However, it is important to know how much unfinished square feet is present and how much square footage is above grade or below grade. Each of these affect a home’s value.
Finished Vs. Unfinished Square Footage
Many people are confused about are basements included in square footage. The answer is yes, basements are included in square footage. However, that square footage should be further classified as finished or unfinished.
Finished square footage is most often defined as a space where the walls, ceiling, and floor are all covered. What does that mean? For walls, it is covered when you cannot see the wall framing. The skeletal structure, electrical and pipes are covered with some other material such as drywall, panelling, or plaster. For a ceiling, this is the same as with walls, you cannot see the skeletal structure because it is covered with some other material.
As for the floor, if you are above the ground, the base material is usually subfloor also known as oriented strand board (OSB). It looks like plywood. If you are in the basement or the home is a ranch on a slab, the base material is likely concrete. To be finished square footage, you should not be standing directly on that material. Instead, there should be some type of floor covering over the concrete or OSB like carpet, hardwood flooring, or tile, or flooring laminate.
When measuring your home to determine its square footage make sure you put each amount of square footage for each room or space into the finished or unfinished column.
Above Grade Square Footage vs. Below Grade Square Footage
Above grade square footage is square footage above the gradient line. The gradient line is where the earth meets the home. Square footage on the main floor and all floors above will almost always be above grade. This only gets a little tricky when the home is a bi-level, tri-level, quad-level, or hillside ranch.
These home models may have a basement, but the lowest level may be called the lower level. This happens because a level of the home is partly under the gradient line but also partly above it. Most areas consider a level like this to be the lower level and mark it as above grade square footage. Check with your local municipality, contractor, or a real estate agent for a certain answer to this question.
Discrepancies in measurement
Because square footage is so vital in appraising a home, it’s important to pay close attention to what is being measured.
Some sellers may include an unfinished basement in their square footage, giving you an inaccurate picture of the livable portion of the home.
And architects and appraisers often calculate square footage by using exterior walls, which may conflict with a property’s GLA figure.
Regardless of how you measure your square footage, be transparent when selling, and diligent when buying.
If you claim that your home is 2,000 square feet based on your builder’s floor plans, and a buyer’s appraiser brings back a figure of 1,600, you could lose the sale or need to lower your price.
Similarly, as a buyer, make sure to do your research and get an independent square footage to ensure you’re getting what you pay for.
Find and claim your home on Zillow to see its recorded square footage and to make edits as needed.
- The Counteroffer: Negotiating a Real Estate Deal
- 5 Signs It’s Time to Walk Away from a Home Purchase
- How to Prepare Your Home for an Appraisal
Originally published June 23, 2015.