If you’re selling or buying a home today, square footage is an important number to know. But, how exactly is it calculated?

Mathematically speaking, the way to calculate square footage of a rectangular or square area is to measure the length and width of an area and multiply those two numbers together. If your area is oddly shaped, separate the area into rectangular or square shapes and calculate the square footage for each and add them together. When expressing square footage, the unit used is ft2 (or feet squared, in case the 2 isn’t appearing as a superscript above the f on your screen.).

Beware if you are buying a home. Don’t rely on the square footage numbers given by the seller or even the tax assessor’s office. Measure out each room and add them together. Remember, unfinished areas of the home, space where the ceiling is under a certain height (usually 6’), garages and some other areas are often not included in the square footage calculations.

What’s more, base measurements are almost taken outside the home, around the perimeter of the foundation, which puts such areas as the thickness of the ways, any voids between walls, all closets, everything, into that key measurement. So, the square footage showing up in the total almost never matches up with the “liveable” space inside. That’s why it’s important to actually tour homes to see how they feel, rather than going on the reported data.

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