When you’re simply going through your normal day-to-day activities, the exact size of your home may not seem so important. But when it comes time to sell your home, make a renovation or even buy a new piece of furniture, knowing the precise square footage is a key step in the process.
Your first impulse may be to rely on the documented dimensions, but when the Zillow profile for your house, your local assessor’s office and old blueprints for the property all seem to give slightly different dimensions, it’s best to take on the job of measuring the interior yourself.
For the simplest way to measure the square footage of the rooms in your house, you’ll need:
- Tape measure
- Paper and pencil
How to Measure Square Footage of Your Home
You might remember from your middle school math class that the easiest method for measuring square footage is to start with a square or rectangle. If you’re lucky, most of the rooms in your house are simple boxes. Calculate the square footage by multiplying the length of the room by the width in feet.
If you have an oddly shaped room, you can make the process easier by breaking a room down into smaller rectangles. Measure a nook separately from the rest of the room, for example. If the nook is shaped like a triangle or the room is shaped more like a trapezoid, measure the rectangle first, then calculate the area of the triangular space after.
To measure the triangular part of the room, multiply the base and height of a right triangle and divide by two. Note that you may need to measure the triangle in two parts if the triangle isn’t already at a right angle.
If all or part of the room is rounded, you’ll need to calculate the area by using the formula for the area of a circle, which is the square of the circle's radius (half its diameter) multiplied by pi. For partially circular rooms, divide the total circle area by the share of the circle in the room. For example, if one side of the room makes a half circle, divide the circle area by two.
Don’t forget to add the areas for the shapes together to calculate the square footage for the entire room. Repeat throughout your house to determine the livable square footage of the interior of the house – and remember to include hallways and closets.
Keep in mind that how you measure your home’s square footage and how another person may measure it can vary. For the sake of furnishing a room or purchasing a home, the interior square footage, or the space between all the walls, is likely the most helpful. When it comes to measuring for the sale of a home, you want to include all completely finished floor space. A finished basement or attic should have walls, a floor and ceiling, and any necessary egress or ceiling height to meet your local building code.
Many professionals in the building and construction industry may report the gross square footage of a home, or the total footprint of the structure on the property, which measures along exterior walls.
“Gross to net (square footage) gets reduced when you have thicker walls,” explains Dwayne MacEwen, principal at architectural and interior design firm DMAC Architecture, based in Chicago. Walls can be thicker due to the material used to build the structure or the chosen facade of the building, combined with necessary insulation. Houses in the Midwest are more likely to have thicker walls than houses in Southern California, for example, because additional insulation is necessary for the cold winter months.
How Does Your Home’s Square Footage Compare?
Once you've calculated your house's square footage, you may wonder how it stacks up against homes throughout the country. In 2017, the median size of a newly completed single-family home was 2,426 square feet, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But new construction homes haven’t always been so big. In 1995, the Census Bureau reported the median size of a new single-family house in the U.S. was 1,920 square feet. Looking back to 1973, the first year the data became available, the median newly constructed single-family house in the U.S. was 1,525 square feet.
Total livable square footage plays into a home appraisal, when an appraiser will consider the total size, number of bedrooms and recent renovations to find similar, nearby properties that have recently sold and compare them to determine the market value of the property in question. However, more square footage doesn’t always guarantee higher value – it’s more important how the space is used.
For example, hallways or transitional areas between rooms are a part of the total square footage of a home, but when they’re not consciously designed, they can feel like dead space. The key to making that additional square footage feel like it contributes to the house “has to do with, honestly, how well it’s designed,” MacEwen says.
Keeping hallways wider, open to other rooms and including windows to allow natural light can keep that transitional area usable, MacEwen says.
Planning With Your Square Footage
Whether you’re looking to renovate rooms that will change their layout, construct an addition onto your home or build a custom home, paying attention to square footage plays a vital role in the planning process.
First and foremost, the property’s allowances for the size of a structure or how close it can be to the property line based on local law must be known. “(Regulation is) actually one of the biggest driving factors for us,” says Julie Fisher, partner at Chicago architecture firm fcSTUDIO Inc.
The architect and builder will want to reference a survey of the property and all details about its zoning before creating a plan for the house to avoid legal issues with the city or county. It’s possible to request an exception to zoning or building code, although the approval process can be lengthy and there’s no guarantee your request will be granted.
Aside from following the rules on how big of a footprint your house can have on your land, Fisher and MacEwen both stress that it’s important to be mindful of how you’ll use the space, rather than how big you can make a room or part of the house.
“People think the bigger the kitchen, the more grand the house is,” Fisher says. But if you just keep adding square footage to the kitchen, cooking a meal can feel like a workout when you’re running between the sink, refrigerator and stove.
Fisher says she focuses on keeping a short distance between the three appliances – also known as the kitchen work triangle – but then allowing the livable space connected to the kitchen to grow in size. That way, family and friends won’t feel cramped as they hang out in the kitchen, but the cooking process is still easy.
Imagine how you would use a room realistically, rather than how you think it should traditionally be used. Instead of a formal dining room that you may rarely use, for example, consider using that square footage as a living room that’s open to the kitchen, or close off the room for a private home office you wouldn’t otherwise have.
“What you think a house should be – those boundaries are being broken down,” MacEwen says.
What will your budget let you renovate?
Home prices are high and interest rates are rising, so many homeowners are opting to stay put and renovate rather than search for a new house. According to Houzz’s 2018 study of renovations in the U.S., 51 percent of Houzz users have plans to renovate in 2018, with a median budget of $10,000. But how far can your budget get you? We're breaking down the cost of some popular home renovation projects to help you figure out the best ways to spend your remodel money.Kitchen
It doesn't matter if you're a gourmet chef or a microwave connoisseur – you want a welcoming kitchen that makes the space worthy of spending time, not just prepping food. A kitchen renovation is the most common planned project for homeowners, according to the Houzz study, with 31 percent of respondents noting they plan to remodel their kitchen. But it's also a costly project. Remodeling Magazine's 2018 Cost vs. Value report breaks down the national average cost for kitchen remodels as such:
Midrange minor kitchen remodel: $21,198
Midrange major kitchen remodel: $63,829
Upscale major kitchen remodel: $125,721
How much you'll spend all depends on your planned makeover. Read on for a breakdown of some popular kitchen updates.Kitchen: cabinets and countertops
Kitchen: cabinets and countertops
Cabinets and countertops are two of the most visible aspects in a kitchen, not to mention that they take up the most space. You have a lot of price wiggle room when it comes to material and installation of both: The installation for countertops alone can range from $1,700 for butcher block to $14,000 for quartz, according to HomeAdvisor. For a kitchen with 30 square feet of counter space and 40 linear feet of cabinets, here are some cost estimates for materials, based on HomeAdvisor information:
Budget: $3,600 for stock cabinets, butcher block countertop.
Midrange: $13,800 for semicustom cabinets, midrange quartz or granite countertop.
Splurge: $52,050 for custom cabinets, concrete countertop.
Kitchen: new appliances
If you're not looking to drop $50,000 on surfaces, consider freshening your kitchen with new appliances. Stores like Home Depot and Lowe's often offer significant discounts if you purchase kitchen appliances in a package deal, with the added benefit of having the same brand appliances that match in color and style. Consider these budget options to replace your fridge, range, dishwasher and microwave all at once (based on prices listed as of Sept. 14, 2018). You're more likely to get a deal on appliance purchases close to the end of the month, on a holiday weekend or just after the new year.
Budget: $1,234 for mixed brand.
Midrange: $2,794 for Whirlpool Kitchen Suite through Lowe's.
Splurge: $6,476 for Bosch Kitchen Suite through Lowe's.
Kitchen: knocking down walls
Removing a wall tends to cost the same in every room, but these days it is commonly done in the kitchen to create a more open floor plan. Wall demolition costs vary based on whether the wall is load-bearing – meaning it's a key part of the house's structure – or if there is plumbing or electrical wiring running through it. HomeAdvisor provides national averages for the cost of removing a wall:
Budget: $300 to $1,000 for a wall that doesn't bear any weight.
Midrange: $1,200 to $3,000 for a load-bearing wall in a single-story house.
Splurge: $3,200 to $10,000 for a load-bearing wall with two or more stories.
The second- and third-most popular home renovations, according to the Houzz study, both fall under the bathroom category, covering guest or secondary bathrooms and master bathrooms. Current design trends show homeowners want a spa experience in their bathroom, whether that means a rain-style showerhead, double vanities or exquisite tile work. Remodeling Magazine separates the cost of remodeling a bathroom into two categories, based on national averages for 2018:
Midrange bathroom remodel: $19,134
Upscale bathroom remodel: $61,662
Beautiful tile in a bathroom can make the room a showpiece in your home, not just a necessary space for privacy. But depending on your tastes, new tile can get pricey. Home renovation cost estimate site RemodelingCalculator.org notes the material and installation costs increase with the intricacy of the design and rarity of the material. Based on Remodeling Calculator's estimated costs, here's some pricing to consider:
Budget: $4.60 per square foot for ceramic tile, $3.80 to $6.70 per square foot to install.
Midrange: $6.70 per square foot for granite tile, $5.45 to $7.50 per square foot to install.
Upscale: Up to $25 per square foot for custom mosaic tile, anywhere from $15 to $300 per square foot to install.
Bathroom: moving plumbing and drains
Plumbing changes are often one of the most expensive parts of a renovation. If you're looking to relocate the toilet, shower or sink in your bathroom, the cost to move both the plumbing for water and the drains can add up quickly. Home improvement marketplace and information site Porch.com – a former U.S. News contributor – estimates the national average to move one plumbing line costs between $653 and $802 – and that’s just for the work. Be sure to factor in the cost of new fixtures and any additional work related to opening up the floor and walls.
Budget: $653 to $802 to move shower.
Midrange: $1,306 to $1,604 to move shower and toilet.
Splurge: $1,959 to $2,406 to move shower, toilet and sink.
To renovate a bedroom that's more focused on the furniture inside than the four walls means a simple bedroom remodel should be fairly attainable for someone with a small budget. Often a fresh coat of paint can do the trick to bring new life to a bedroom, but sometimes a little more work is involved. Home remodeling cost guide Fixr estimates the national average to completely remodel a room – from replacing the drywall on the walls and ceiling to new flooring – at nearly $8,000.
Budget: $200 for paint and painting materials.
Midrange: $800 for high-end painting, professionally done.
Splurge: $7,880 for new walls, floors, etc.
Bedroom: master suite addition
Sometimes, though, the bedroom you have isn't the one you want or need. Master suites are frequently high on the list of homebuyer wants, but they're also not always common in older houses. Making an addition to a house is an extensive project that will cost you a lot of money, but your investment does come back to you, at least somewhat, in the increase in property value. Remodeling Magazine notes a master suite addition recoups just over 48 percent of the cost in resale value for upscale projects and more than 56 percent for midrange projects. Here are the average costs for both projects, per the Cost vs. Value report:
Midrange master suite addition: $123,420
Upscale master suite addition: $256,229
Easily transforming your closet to fit all your clothes and having extra room for storage is the dream for many, but a custom closet can cost you. The overall price tag will vary depending on the size of the closet and how customized you want the space to be – a hanging rod and a couple shelves can put you back a few hundred dollars, but once you factor in wood finishes, built-in shoe racks and rolling drawers, that price tag climbs. Here's what Fixr estimates for closet costs:
Budget: $400 to $1,000 for small closet.
Midrange: $300 to $3,000 for walk-in closet.
Splurge: $400 to $6,500 for custom closet.
Once your kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms are right, it's time to tackle those rooms that aren't as frequently used but can make a big impact on your daily life. A revamped laundry room can be just the ticket to taking the household chore of cleaning clothes from a hassle to downright enjoyable. The cost to redo or build a laundry room varies based on what you have already and whether you need plumbing and electric moved. Fixr breaks down the range of costs depending on if flooring is replaced, whether appliances are new and if professionals are required.
Midrange: $6,000 to $7,000
While it's more out of necessity than luxury, your roof is certainly a major home improvement project to consider if you’ve experienced leaks or it's near the end of its functional life (about 25 years). It's possible you'll only need repairs done to the existing roof to ensure the rest of your house is protected from the elements, but you may need an entirely new roof installed.
Budget: $334 to $1,243 for repairs.
Midrange: $2,380 to $12,100 for new asphalt shingle roof.
Splurge: Up to $84,000 for a new slate roof.
She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teresa Mears | May 3, 2019
Conventional wisdom says 20%, but you can buy your first home with much less down.