How to Find the Square Footage of Your House

Why Measure Square Footage?

Homeowners should measure square footage to get an accurate assessment of their property’s size. The most obvious reason homeowners will need this information is for a property value estimation when they sell their house. The square footage will directly influence the purchase price, and it could make a big difference when marketing the property.

Even if you are not selling your home, it can still be helpful to measure square footage. Some cities will require homeowners to disclose this information when applying for renovation or building permits. Square footage can also be helpful in the event your property value assessment comes out too high. In these cases, homeowners will want to accurately re-measure their homes’ square footage to get their property taxes lowered.

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

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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:

Height Requirements

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.

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Contact an Appraiser

If you don’t feel comfortable going room to room measuring your property, your next best option is to contact a professional appraiser. These individuals are required to accurately measure property on a regular basis, which means you should be able to obtain the information you need. However, keep in mind that hiring an appraiser does represent an additional cost which you may or may not be willing to pursue. Perhaps one of the more attractive reasons to hire an appraiser is that this individual can help you resolve any discrepancies that may exist with reports filed with the tax assessor. If you are planning on deducting any expenses related to your home, it is essential that issues such as these be resolved as soon as possible.

4 Tips for Determining Square Footage

Here are few things to consider when preparing to measure the square footage or a property:

  1. 1. 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.
  2. 2. 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.
  3. 3. 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.
  4. 4. 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.

Who should measure the square footage of my house?

As of April 2022, Fannie Mae, a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) that buys mortgages from lenders, requires that appraisers follow the Square Footage Method for Calculating: ANSI® Z765-2021. While this standard can’t be followed when measuring apartment-style condos, Fannie Mae requires it for any non-apartment-style residence. This includes townhouses, rowhouses, and single-family homes.

Because Fannie Mae purchases about half of all mortgages that lenders make, the criteria that lenders have for their loans typically conform to Fannie Mae standards, which now include having an appraiser measure a home’s square footage, compliance with the ANSI standard, and a computer-generated rather than a hand-drawn sketch.

Keck also recommends hiring an appraiser to measure the square footage. It’ll cost you about $300 to $400, and “they’ll put their stamp on it so it’s official. This is the best and most reliable way to estimate square footage.”

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.

How can a real estate agent help?

Considering the importance of square footage, first-time home buyers should not be afraid to reach out for help. There are appraisers that specialize in valuing homes in most areas.

For sellers without an agent (commonly known as FSBOs), a well-qualified appraiser is essential for accurately advertising the property. Seasoned real estate agents are familiar with a home's spacing and can often estimate square feet without a tape measure.

Clever has knowledgeable and experienced full-service agents all over the country who would be happy to help answer your questions, including helping you calculate the square footage of a house. They will sell your home for a flat $3,000 or 1% over $350,000. Say goodbye to traditional real estate commissions and contact us today!

Wondering how much your home is worth?

Clever’s top-rated real estate agents can help you find out the square footage of your house and provide a comparative market analysis (CMA). A free, no-obligation CMA is a great way to learn how much your house might fetch on the market compared to others of similar size in your area.

Connect with an agent and get a free CMA today!

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.

Conclusion

Knowing how to calculate square feet of houses is beneficial to you. Knowing how to do this will help you when it comes time to sell your home, plan for projects, and appeal a property tax assessment.

All interior parts of your home are included so long as there is a floor you can walk on. Parts of your home that do not count are garages, unenclosed outdoor areas, accessory structures, crawl spaces, or unfinished attics. Make sure to classify each portion of square footage as finished or unfinished, too.

You can find the square footage of a house by measuring each room. Think in squares and rectangles to make measuring easier. There is nothing wrong with measuring a living room with a bump out as two pieces to make it easier. Figuring square feet is easier with some basic tools you likely already have, too. Now, you are ready to find the square footage of your home.

How To Figure Square Feet For Your Home

Calculating the square footage of a home is relati

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:

  1.  Divide each inch total by 12 (153 divided by 12 is 12.75 and 177 divided by 12 is 14.75)
  2. Multiply the two numbers (12.75 x 14.75)
  3. 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
  • Bathrooms
  • Hallways
  • Kitchens
  • 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:

  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Measuring tape

Follow these steps to accurately measure the square footage in your home:

  1.  Measure every space except the garage, the crawl space, and the attic if it is not finished.
  2. Measure at the floor.
  3. Squaring off spaces is often the most practical way to capture all of the square feet.
  4. Multiply the length and the width of each space you measured.
  5. 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 inclu

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.

Work with a top agent to determine your home’s value

Ultimately, using square footage to estimate the value of your home is an important factor, but there are lots of other factors that contribute. You can also use tools, like HomeLight’s free Home Value Estimator to give you a real-time ballpark estimate of your home’s value. Working with a top agent who can provide a comparative market analysis (CMA) will also help you determine how the square footage of your home affects the value.

Header Image Source: (josemdelaa / Pixabay)

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