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measure square footage

How To Measure Square Footage Of A House

Many people wonder how to measure a house’s square footage for many reasons. What most don’t know, however, is that there is actually no acknowledged standard for measuring the square footage of a house across all States.

This lack of standard ensures that many people measure house square footage differently from others. And while this makes for a more relaxed, do-it-yourself nature for measuring square footage, it also leads to a lot of errors. 

So despite the fact that measuring the square footage of a house is not a really complicated process on its own, the relaxed, nonchalant nature caused by its lack of recognized standard can lead to complications and errors.

To ensure you go by it the right way, we have provided a full guide below on everything you need to know regarding measuring the square footage of a house.

By following our guide, you will have a full understanding of the topic, be able to carry out accurate measurements despite the conditions, and even learn different ways to achieve the same goal with less hassle.

H2 The Importance of Square Footage Measurements

Before we dive into the full details of measuring house square footage, it is necessary to understand the importance of square footage measurements in the first place. After all, one of the very first details one notices about a house on listing services is the size of square feet.

And while, generally, many do not think it makes a difference whether a house is listed as 2000 square feet or 2200 square feet, it is nonetheless important to recognize this number for future purposes.

Sure, the square footage of a house is not as important as its amenities, neighborhood, upgrades, and so on, but in the real estate market, it is a much-valued statistic. It is valued so highly, in fact, that the price of a house is usually greatly affected by its square footage.

So first of all, knowing the square footage of a house can help you get a clearer understanding of its price. And what’s more, if you ever choose to sell the property sometime in the future, the square footage will go a long way in helping you set a selling price.

All you have to do is note the basic amenities and cross-check with houses of the same size. Obviously, if you don’t know the square footage measurement of your property, you wouldn’t be able to do this.

Measure the Square Footage Of A House

The Importance of Accurate Square Footage Measurements

What’s more important than the square footage of a house, is the accurate measurement of the square footage of a house. Especially in the scenario mentioned above where you choose to sell your property in the future.

Imagine listing your property at 2500 square feet, and then after appraisal, the buyer finds that it is indeed 500 square feet less than what was specified in the listing. This will obviously cause a major distrust, a significant reduction in price, or even make the deal fall through completely.

Measuring a Home’s Square Footage

So how do you accurately calculate the square footage of a home? Well, there are quite a few methods, all of which we will examine in the following passages.

Firstly, though, it is worth pointing out that measuring a home’s square footage on your own is quite an easy and fairly straightforward process. At its basic level, for direct measurement, what you have to do is multiply the lengths of the rooms by their width and add up the total for each room.

There are also other ways of determining the square footage of a house, which do not involve direct measurement. Examples of this are county records and external appraisals.

We take a deeper look at all of these below, starting with direct measurements.

How to Determine Square Footage – Direct Measurement

Measuring the square footage of a home directly on your own, as mentioned earlier, is relatively easy and straightforward. Generally, this is divided into two kinds of measurement depending on what kind of rooms there are in the house.

For example, there could be simple rooms without additional receding structures inside, while there could also be rooms with additional receding structures such as closets and alcoves inside 

Measuring the square footage of the latter is a little more complex simply because it may require going through an additional step before measurement can be concluded. 

We give a more detailed explanation of how to carry out both forms of direct measurement below:

Measuring the Square Footage of a House through Simple Rooms

By simple rooms, we mean rooms without closets, alcoves, or any other additional structure. In case you’re trying to measure the square footage of a house with simple rooms, you’re in luck because this kind of measurement requires the least hassle of all.

Here is the detailed step-by-step involved in this type of measurement:

Step 1 – Measure the Length and Breadth of a Single Room

The first thing you have to do is pick a room and measure the length of this particular room along with its width, then multiply both values by each other to get the square footage of the room.

Obviously, a rectangular room will have a different value for both length and width, while a square room will have the same value all around. 

So let’s say you measure a rectangular room as 12 feet long and 14 feet wide, all you have to do to get the size in square feet is multiply the length (12 feet) by the width (14 feet.)

This gives you a value of 168 square feet (12 x 14) for a single room.

Step 2 – Measure the Length and Breadth of Other Rooms

Once you’re done measuring the square footage of the first selected room, move on to another room and repeat the above process.

Step 3 – Add up Total

Once you’re done measuring all square footage of every room in the house (which presumably are all simple rooms with no additional structures), add up each individual value to get a total value.

So, say for example there are four rooms in the house with each measuring 168, 120, 120, and 168 square feet respectively, the total square footage of this house would be 168 + 120 + 120 + 168, which gives a value of 576 square feet.

Measuring the Square Footage of a House through Simple Rooms + Extra Structures

This is generally the most popular form of direct square footage measurement seeing as most houses tend to have structures such as alcoves and closets in the rooms. 

In case you’re trying to measure the square footage of a house with additional receding structures inside rooms, you don’t have to worry because the process is generally the same as above with only a few additional steps to make up for the extra structures.

Below is a detailed explanation of the steps involved:

Step 1: Measure the Square Footage of the Room

Following the same step outlined for measuring simple rooms, pick one particular room to start with, measure the length and breadth, and multiply both values to give the total square footage value. 

Step 2: Measure the Square Footage of the Alcove or Closet

In the same room, let us assume there is an alcove on one side measuring 3 feet by 3 feet, and on the other side a closet measuring 3 feet by 8 feet. 

To get the total square footage of the room, you multiply the length and width of the alcove (3 feet x 3 feet = 9 square feet), the length and width of the closest (3 feet x 8 feet = 24 square feet), and add both values to the initial square footage of the room measured in step 1.

So let’s say the total square footage of a single room is 156 square feet, the alcove size is 9 square feet, and the closet size is 24 square feet, your total square footage of this room would be:

156 + 9 + 24, which equals 189 square feet.

Step 2 – Measure the Length and Breadth of Other Rooms

Once you’re done measuring the square footage of the first selected room along with its receding structures, move on to another room and repeat the above process.

Step 3 – Add up Total

Once you’re done measuring the square footage of all rooms, add up each to get the total square footage of the whole house.

Summary of Direct Measurements

Directly measuring the square footage of a house, as we can see, is a quite straightforward process once you know what you’re doing. Usually, all you have to do is measure the length and width of individual rooms, multiply both to get the room’s square footage and add this value to the ones you get repeating the process for every other room in the house.

For houses with alcoves, closets, or other receding structures inside the rooms, you follow the same process but make sure to add the square footage of each extra structure to that of the rooms themselves.

How to Determine Square Footage – Through Third-Party Measurements

You can determine the square footage of a house by directly measuring the dimensions of each room on your own, or to save time and avoid errors, you can choose to consult prior measurements done by others.

There are generally two ways of doing this – checking property records stored by your county, or having your house measured by an appraisal.

Property Records Stored by Your County

It isn’t rare for cities and particular local counties to keep records of properties online. In this record, there are usually key details such as previous ownership details, tax records, property lines, and square footage.

So if you’re about to buy a house and are worried about measuring the square footage on your own, you can simply contact property records to pull information regarding the property.

This is advisable anyway and your agent could help with that.

It is also worth noting, however, that there may have been improvements carried out on the property without a permit.

Hiring an Appraiser

When all else fails, it is usually very prudent to hire an appraiser. This way you will get ultra-professional work done and be completely certain that there is no error in your measurement.

Along with providing key details about your home, the appraiser will also help determine your home’s value. This way you wouldn’t have to go through the chore of comparisons and determining the selling price on your own.

It is also worth noting that if you’re working with an agent on selling or buying, the agent would usually be skilled enough to get this value on their own.

How an Appraiser Calculates Square Footage

You may be wondering how an appraiser calculates square footage and whether or not it is different from the way you would do it if you had to do it on your own.

Well, the answer to this is not really. Generally, the process is the same but with an ultra-professional touch. Also, an appraiser knows how to specify heated square footage measurements.

Heated square footage is the size measurement of all areas in the house which are heated and cooled. Examples of these are bedrooms and closets, bathrooms, hallways, kitchens, living areas, enclosed patios, and attics.

Vaulted rooms, unfinished areas, and open patios are not considered a part of the heated square footage of a home. House garages also do not count.

Tools for Measuring Square Footage of a Home

Below are some of the tools you would generally need to carry out a direct measurement of a house’s square footage.

Tape Measure – To take length and width values. 

Calculator – To carry out multiplications of length and width values, and overall additions of individual room square footage to acquire the final total square footage value.

Pen and Pencil – To record individual values and total values. 

Notepad – To record individual values and total values. 

In place of measuring tapes, real estate agents and appraisers generally make use of what is known as a laser distance measurer. This is an electronic tool much easier to operate than a measuring tape.

Instead of rolling a tape across a room, the laser distance measurer is placed on one end of a wall and aimed directly across the other wall. The device records the total distance value and displays it on the screen.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about calculating the square footage of a house.

What is the American National Standards Institute Method?

The American National Standards Institute is worth paying attention to when measuring square footage. Why? Because the institute is in charge of providing guidelines on the measurement of a house’s square footage.

As mentioned earlier, there is currently no national standard for this, which makes the guidelines set by ANSI quite important for many real estate agents, appraisers, and homeowners.

The ANSI method also specifies guidelines for calculating square footage from the exterior, minus the width of the wall.

How Should I Measure – Inside or Outside?

Generally, square footage is measured from the interior. The problem with measuring from the outside is that it usually takes the size of wall spaces into consideration. And of course, this doesn’t actually provide the actual living space area value seeing as people cannot live within walls.

This is why, generally, square footage measurement is done from the interior.

Of course, as mentioned earlier, measuring from the exterior has guidelines specified by ANSI capable of avoiding the problem of additional wall measurement

What are the Areas Considered Part of a Home’s Square Footage?

A home’s square footage is supposed to include the general area that you can actually walk in and live in. This is a quite generous definition but can act as a guide when taking measurements.

Finished spaces generally must contain a ceiling of at least 7 feet, wall covering, flooring, and heating.

Rooms that fall into this category include living rooms, kitchens, dining rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, basements (must be finished), porches with heating and cooling, and attics (must be finished).

What are the Areas NOT Considered as Part of a Home’s Square Footage?

Parts of a home that do not fall into the category above generally do not count as part of a house’s square footage. This includes areas with no heating and cooling, no cooling, no wall covering, and flooring. Vaulted ceilings also do not count.

Lastly, unfinished areas of a home also do not count as part of the square footage. This usually includes areas such as garages, unfinished attics, rooms with sloping ceilings, pools, pool houses, storage areas separated from the home, unfinished basements, and detached quarters.

How Important is Square Footage in Making Home Buying Decisions?

Setting the price of a house is a quite complex process that takes a lot of factors into consideration. There are things to consider such as neighborhood, upgrades, amenities, history, and many more. 

And while many would argue as to the individual importance of all of these factors, no one can argue that the square footage of a home plays a great part in price determination.

The most important question, however, is how much should you as a buyer care about the square footage of a home. Well, in the end, like all things in real estate, it all depends on you.

Yes, there are things a lot of people deem important, but if it does not resonate with you, then it has no value to you. Yes, square footage is essential, but it may mean more to some people than others based on their individual tastes and needs.

If you are comfortable with other aspects of a house, and you are not particularly in need of a huge living area, then square footage should not mean much. For those who need a particularly large area, though, square footage can be a very important factor in making home-buying decisions.

How do I Calculate the Square Footage of a 2-Story House?

A general mistake some people make in measuring the square footage of a house with 2 stories is thinking the square footage for one floor is automatically the same as that of the other.

For instance, if the value of the bottom floor is 600 square feet, many assume that the value of the top floor is also automatically 600 square feet. This is wrong.

To accurately measure the square footage of a 2-story house, you will have to measure the square footage of every room just as you would do for any other kind of house.

Of course, measuring every single room in a multi-story house seems daunting, but that is the way it is. It is advisable to think of the house as a compilation of different box sections.

Note each room as a section, and work on your way through them slowly and steadily. There’s no need to be in a hurry and it is much more advisable to prioritize quality over speed.


So there you have it. If you’ve come this far, there is no doubt you now have everything it takes to measure the square footage of any home on your own. Remember, the basic principle is to measure the individual square footage of each room/living area, and then add up the total value to get the square footage of the house as a whole.

We have also explained what indicates a “living area” to be included in the square footage measurement of a house. Generally, to be included in this measurement, an area must fulfill a handful of conditions which include the presence of heating and cooling capabilities, the presence of a ceiling 7 feet or higher, the presence of a wall covering, and flooring.

Finally, it is also worth noting that for houses with multiple stories, it is imperative that you do not assume square footage is similar for each story. Measurements must be taken individually to get the total square footage of the house as a whole.

This helpful information is brought to you by Jerry Pinkas Real Estate Experts – 843-839-9870 – Our team of experts wants to help you avoid those mistakes that can be costly and extremely frustrating when you are buying or selling real estate in the Coastal Carolinas. 

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Jerry Pinkas

About Jerry Pinkas - Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Jerry started investing in real estate, buying his first rental property at the age of 21. With the love of the beach & ocean, he continued his real estate investments in Myrtle Beach and finally decided to move to Myrtle Beach full-time. If you ask Jerry's friends to describe him, they will say he is driven and hard-working. He just loves what he does and throws all of his energy into helping his clients. It's what makes working with Jerry so enjoyable. When not helping other people achieve their dreams, you can find Jerry spending time with his wife & daughters, enjoying all that The Grand Strand has to offer. The Jerry Pinkas Real Estate Experts utilize aggressive marketing techniques to help sell Myrtle Beach real estate. Home sellers need an expert who has an array of knowledge, a tireless work ethic, and supreme dedication to the task. The Jerry Pinkas Real Estate Experts have set the standard when it comes to selling property in Myrtle Beach. We are not just out to sell homes. We want to provide our clients with top customer service. I am grateful to be known as a successful Realtor, investor, business owner, and advisor.

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