How to Calculate Your Home's Square Footage

How to Calculate Your Home's Square Footage (Source: - used as royalty free image)

"HVAC." "Full bath." "Square footage."

There are some real estate terms that homeowners tend to gloss over or take for granted – until they suddenly affect your ability to buy or sell a property for the price you’d imagined.

Square footage is one of those terms.

What is Square Footage?

In theory, it’s a concept that’s quite easy to grasp – it’s the total area available in your home, as measured in feet.

But, as many buyers and sellers have found, this easy definition can quickly become complicated. For one thing, many find that their square footage changes when measured by different appraisers, inspectors, or other real estate pros, as there is actually no universal standard in place for measuring or reporting square footages in houses and condos.

Needless to say, the gray area that results can be a big deal, particularly when you consider that the square footage of your home can greatly affect its value on the market, where many buyers have been conditioned to think in terms of “price per square foot.”

Livable Space

So, if so many buyers, sellers, and agents care strongly about square footage, why are there so many discrepancies when it comes to measuring and understanding it?

Much of the issue comes down to what spaces within a home actually get measured and reported; generally, the rule of thumb is to only factor in the square footage of what can be considered “livable space” or “habitable space.”

Of course, therein lies yet another rub – many different professionals define livable space differently. Much of this comes down to common sense; the NAHB offers some guidelines for new constructions, which come down to whether or not a space is finished and “above grade” (or above ground).

So, when calculating your own home’s square footage, even roughly, an essential starting point is to determine what areas in your house are considered “habitable space,” and which are not; generally, when calculating floor area, you’ll discount basements (finished or unfinished), garages, patios, crawl spaces, unfinished attics, and fireplaces or windows that “protrude beyond the exterior finished surface of the outside walls and do not have a floor on the same level.”

On the other hand, finished connective areas, like staircases and hallways, do count toward your total square footage, as do finished attics (provided that the ceiling height is sufficient and that the space is generally fit for more than storage).  

With that said, there are workarounds that can allow you to present the full scope of a home without potentially misleading other parties about the livable space in your home; the home gurus over at Zillow offer a rather effective example (emphasis ours):

“…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.”

In other words, you can break down your home into its component parts and list the areas of each of those pieces separately, but to calculate them all together as the total area would be misleading.

Calculating Your Home’s Square Footage

So, after all of that, are you ready to get to measuring for yourself? There are a few ways you can go about getting a rough estimate of your home’s square footage.

First and foremost, you’ll want to remember one key formula:


Using this formula, you can use the “rectangle trick” for gauging square footage. That is: If the livable space is a regular rectangle or square shape, simply measure the length and the width using a tape measure or digital distance-measuring tool (rounding to the nearest half of a foot), and then multiply these measurements together to get the area for the room.

If a space is more irregularly-shaped, break it down into rectangular pieces, and then proceed with the measurements and the formula for those individual rectangles; once you’re done, add the area of those rectangles together until you’ve got the area for the whole room calculated.

From there, just add up your rooms, and then each of your stories, and soon, you’ll have your whole house broken down into square feet!

For the more tech-savvy among us, there’s also (of course) an app for that. The Stanley Floor Plan App is a great tool for instantly creating a blueprint for your entire home, using little more than the camera on your smartphone. Our friends over at Geek Chicago once featured this free download as their “App of the Week;” here’s what they had to say:

“Just measure the dimensions of the room with your device, and the app automatically creates an accurate digital representation of your space.

From there, you can finesse your virtual blueprint: Combine and organize multiple rooms to set up the floor plan for an entire home; arrange furniture, windows, or other objects within the space; easily add titles, notes, or overlays; and quickly share your plans online or export them in a variety of formats, including PDF, JPG, and Excel files.

For hardcore home nerds, you can also effortlessly sync up the Stanley app on your mobile device with a Stanley laser-distance measuring tool, giving your hardware even greater functionality – and ensuring a totally accurate measurement, every time.”

Sounds great, right? Our own agents have used this tool for quick, accurate blueprints on multiple occasions, and it’s a great way to gauge the size – and area – of a space without having to set aside hours for taking measurements and running equations.

Have any more questions about your home? Ready to buy or sell in Chicagoland but not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place! Whatever your home needs, the Real Group team has seen it all, and we’re ready to help put you on the path to success. Don’t hesitate to drop us a line with any questions or concerns today!

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