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How to Measure and Calculate Residential Square Footage

Step-By-Step

Make a Sketch of the Home

Measure and Calculate Square Footage
Make a Sketch of the Home's Perimeter
© Janet Wickell
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Getting it Down on Paper


Inaccurately reported square footage is the subject of numerous complaints made each year to state real estate commissions. A small percentage of cases involve willful misrepresentation (knowingly giving incorrect information), but a larger number of complaints occur simply because agents and sellers don't know how to measure a home's square footage.

If your state real estate commission has not established square footage guidelines, the following recommendations for North Carolina agents might be of help, because they are based on widely accepted standards.

People who follow standard guidelines and document their measuring procedures are better equipped to defend their calculations if a complaint is filed.

Measure the House

  1. Starting at an exterior corner, measure the length of all walls. Round measurements to the nearest inch.

  2. Make a sketch of the home's perimeter, recording all dimensions.

  3. If you must measure some areas from inside, add six inches for an exterior wall and four inches for an interior wall.

Determine Finished Living Areas

  • Must be space intended for human occupancy.

  • Must be heated by a conventional, permanent heating system.

  • Must have walls, floors and ceilings of materials generally accepted for interior construction.

  • Must be directly accessible from another finished area. That means a finished room accessed through any unfinished space cannot be counted as finished square feet.

Mark all unfinished areas on your sketch.

  1. Make a Sketch of the Home
  2. Measuring Guidelines for Special Circumstances
  3. Using Your Measurements to Calculate Square Footage
  4. Calculating Combination Shapes
  5. Calculating Circular Shapes and Octagons

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