Content of the material
- Why Measure Square Footage?
- Is a porch included in a home’s square footage?
- When does a basement count as finished square footage?
- Alternative Research at the County Courthouse
- 4 Tips for Determining Square Footage
- How to calculate the square feet of a house
- How to Calculate Square Footage
- Convert all of your measurements to feet
- Calculate the Area as Square Footage
- What Is Included In The Square Footage?
- Height Requirements
- Garages, Protrusions, and Unfinished Areas
- Finished Home Connections
- Basements & Attics
- Covered, Enclosed Porches
- A final word on square footage
Why Measure Square Footage?
Knowing the square footage of your home is important. There are several reasons why you want to measure the square footage, too.
If you are planning to sell your home knowing the square footage is important. First, you want to be able to accurately advertise your home. Secondly, square footage helps justify the price of your home. For example, where I work a lot of people would do a double-take look if a home only had 1,000 square feet but had a list price of $400,000.
Knowing the square footage of your home can help with making improvements, too. When you know the square footage of your home and the individual rooms in your home you will know how much material you need to buy to complete a project.
Lastly, knowing the square footage of your home can help you with a property tax assessment. Cities and counties routinely re-assess homes so they can charge a higher amount of taxes on your property. Knowing your square footage can help you appeal a property tax assessment.
Is a porch included in a home’s square footage?
To be counted as finished square footage, a porch must be four-season. A four-season porch is much like any other room in the house, except that it provides clear views of the outdoors all year through a variety of windows. Four-season porches must have permanent heat sources to be included in a home’s finished square footage.
If a porch isn’t heated or only has screens (with no glass windows), then it is not part of the finished square footage count.
When does a basement count as finished square footage?
The answer to this depends on where you live, as local governing bodies may choose to calculate square footage differently. But in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, if your basement has a finished floor, wall covering, ceiling and heat, then its square footage can be included in the total finished square footage of the house.
It’s also important to note that our local MLS, Northstar MLS, breaks out the total finished square footage of a property into above-ground square footage and below-ground square footage. If you are a buyer comparing homes and prices, you may want to pay attention to that breakout.
Keep in mind, some MLS guidelines don’t include below-ground square footage at all, even if the basement space is fully functional. If you’re in doubt, ask the listing agent what rooms and floors were included in their calculation of the home’s square footage.
Alternative Research at the County Courthouse
If your county doesn’t have property-tax information online, you can research the tax assessor’s hard-copy records at the county courthouse. If a lot of homes are for sale in the neighborhood you’re looking at, you can also check the ads. Square footage is a basic fact buyers like to know, just like the number of bathrooms. Browse the newspaper and see what you can turn up. Local real estate websites may also provide the information.
You don’t need to survey the entire sales history of your street. Three to five comps will do the trick.
4 Tips for Determining Square Footage
Here are few things to consider when preparing to measure the square footage or a property:
- Draw A Floor Plan. Make a rough sketch of your property's floor plan. This will give you a sense of how you’ll add your calculations for each room together. This is an especially important step if you’re measuring irregularly-sized rooms with a square footage that involve a little more calculation.
- Plan which rooms you will be measuring. When calculating square footage in any home, you should include the measurements of all the rooms in your house that are “finished,” enclosed by four walls, and are heated or cooled. You can measure spaces like garages, basements, or outdoor spaces for your own knowledge, but they should not be included in your square footage calculation.
- Take extra care with irregularly-shaped rooms. All you need to do to measure the square footage of square or rectangular areas is multiply length times width. However many rooms in a home will be more oddly shaped. To determine the square footage of irregular rooms, measure the length of each wall using a measuring tape and record the dimensions on your floor plan. Then divide the shape of your room into regular shapes like squares, triangles, or circles. Calculate the square footage of each separate shape and add them together to get the total square footage of the room.
- Remember the stairs. Include stairs in your home’s square footage calculation if you have them. Multiply the depth and width of one stair, then multiply that number with the number of stairs you have. Some appraisers will include the square footage of stairs twice, as they are considered a part of the floor plan of the floor from which they are descending and the floor to which they are descending. There are no standards governing whether you should include your stairs square footage twice.
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
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
How to Calculate Square Footage
Square footage is area expressed in square feet. Likewise, square yardage is area expressed in square yards. Square meters is also a common measure of area.
Assume you have a rectangular area such as a room and, for example, you want to calculate the square footage area for flooring or carpet.
The way to calculate a rectangular area is by measuring the length and width of your area then multiplying those two numbers together to get the area in feet squared (ft2). If you have on oddly shaped area, such as an L-shape, split it into square or rectanglualar sections and treat them as two separate areas. Calculate the area of each section then add them together for your total. If your measurements are in different units, say feet and inches, you can first convert those values to feet, then multiply them together to get the square footage of the area.
Convert all of your measurements to feet
- If you measured in feet skip to “Calculate the Area as Square Footage”
- If you measured in feet & inches, divide inches by 12 and add that to your feet measure to get total feet
- If you measured in another unit of measure, do the following to convert to feet – inches: divide by 12 and that is your measurement in feet – yards: multiply by 3 and that is your measurement in feet – centimeters: multiply by 0.03281 to convert to feet – meters: multiply by 3.281 to convert to feet
Calculate the Area as Square Footage
- If you are measuring a square or rectangle area, multiply length times width; Length x Width = Area.
- For other area shapes, see formulas below to calculate Area (ft2) = Square Footage.
What Is Included In The Square Footage?
In measuring the square footage of a house, it is crucial to know what can and can’t be included in the calculations. Not every foot of your home enclosed by walls will count towards total square footage. Instead, you are trying to determine the gross living area — or the livable parts of your home. Keep reading to learn more about the specifications for measuring square footage:
There is one measurement far too many inexperienced “appraisers” forget about: ceiling height. That’s not to say you measure the area as a three-dimensional space, but rather that the ceiling is one of the criteria I already alluded to. You see, for an area’s square footage to count in the home’s overall square footage, the ceiling above it must be a certain height. According to ANSI’s American National Standard For Single-Family Residential Buildings, finished areas must have a ceiling height of at least seven feet, “except under beams, ducts, and other obstructions where the height maybe six feet and four inches.” On the other hand, Angled ceilings must rest at the previously discussed seven feet for at least half of the room’s total floor area. If the ceiling is at least seven feet for at least half of the room’s floor area, total square foot calculations should include every area where the ceiling is at least five feet tall.
Garages, Protrusions, and Unfinished Areas
No matter how much you may wish your garage was included in the total square footage of your house, it’s not. I repeat, garages are not included in the total square footage of a property, even if they are finished — that’s because they are not the same level as the home itself. Similarly, chimneys and window areas are not included in a home’s square footage; not only are they not finished, but they are not on the same level.
Finished Home Connections
If you have a finished area connected to the house by a finished hallway or stairway, the subsequent area may be included in the home’s total square footage. However, finished areas connected in any other way (like by an unfinished hallway or staircase, for instance) won’t be included in the home’s total square footage.
Basements & Attics
Basements do not typically count towards a home’s gross living area regardless of whether they are finished. Since they are below the rest of the home, basements can’t be included in the total square footage. That said, homeowners may note the size of a finished basement in a respective listing elsewhere. On the other hand, attics may be counted in a home’s total square footage if they are finished and meet the height requirements stated above.
Covered, Enclosed Porches
Covered, enclosed porches may be included in a home’s gross living area if they are finished, and they are heated using the same system as the rest of the house.
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.