How To Measure House Square Footage

Key Takeaways

  • Knowing how to calculate a home’s square footage can save you from making some sizable mistakes.
  • Knowing what to include in a home’s gross living area (GLA) is just as important as knowing what not to include.
  • Calculating the square footage of a house may prove to be more valuable than you realize.

The standard for measuring house square footage has been established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), but that’s all it is: a standard. For better or for worse, the standards outlined by ANSI are mere guidelines; there are no official laws governing the true regulation of a home’s gross living area (GLA). As a result, we have seen complications arise, time and time again. The line between a home’s actual square footage and an arbitrary number someone made up is thinner than ever.

Fortunately, there is a way for you to make sure your specs are accurate, and it’s in your best interest to learn it. Knowing how to calculate house square footage can save you from making some sizable, expensive mistakes.

What Is Included In Square Footage Of A House?

In a perfect world, we’d be able to add every square foot of space in our homes to a simple equation and watch the magic happen, but I digress. While calculating a home’s total square feet isn’t exactly rocket science, it is more complicated than adding up a few numbers. In fact, it’s just as important for you to know which measurements to use as it is to know which ones not to use. Have I lost you yet?

Simply put, there are certain criteria for measurements to be included in a home’s total square footage, and the more you know, the more accurate your calculations will be.

Tips For Calculating Square Footage Of A House

I want to make it abundantly clear: not every foot of your home that’s enclosed by walls counts towards its total square footage. To be included, measurements need to meet certain requirements. In measuring the square footage of a house, it helps if you know what can and can’t include in the calculations. Here are a few of the most important tips you will want to abide by the next time you calculate your own home’s square footage:

Height Requirements

There is one measurement far too many inexperienced “appraisers” forget about: ceiling height. That’s not to say you are measuring 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 may be six feet and four inches.” Angled ceilings, on the other hand, 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’t the same level as the home itself. Similarly, chimneys and window areas are not to be 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 total square footage of the home. 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

Regardless of whether or not they are finished, basements do not typically count towards a home’s gross living area. Since they are below the grade of 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. Attics, on the other hand, 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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How to measure square footage

Finished Vs. Unfinished

Generally speaking, unfinished areas of the home are not to be added to its total square footage. To be included, the area must be finished. You can list unfinished areas — like basements, for example — as unfinished bonus spaces, as long as you leave them out of the overall finished square footage calculation.

Are Basements Included In House Square Footage?

Basements have become the subject of many heated debates surrounding a home’s square footage. At the very least the answer is, well, yes and no. You see, basements — whether they are finished or not — should not be considered in a homes total square footage, according to ANSI. That said, it is completely acceptable for homeowners to list the size of their finished basement in a separate part of the listing (separate from the home’s actual gross living area). So while today’s standards advise against adding the square footage of a finished basement to the home’s GLA, there’s no reason you can’t include the actual size of it somewhere else in the listing.

How to measure square footage of a home

Does House Square Footage Include Garage?

Whether it’s finished or not, a home’s gross living area does not include the garage. According to ANSI, “garages and unfinished areas cannot be included in the calculation of finished square footage.” Most garages can’t count towards the square footage of a home because they are not typically on the same level of the home; they are usually lower.

Those that know how to find the square footage of a house carry an inherent advantage into every deal they work on. Of particular importance, however, is accuracy. Those that can accurately determine house square footage stand a better chance of realizing success. At the very least, they will know exactly what they are getting into, or out of.

Have you ever run into questionable home measurement calculations? Would it have helped if you knew the standards used today? Please feel free to let us know in the comments below.

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