How Much Square Footage Do I Need For My Family?

Average Square Footage of a House

The average house size is right around 2,500 square feet, but that doesn’t mean you should aim for the middle and hope for the best.

The answer to your specific home needs is likely to be more about your lifestyle than the specifications of different-sized houses, says Dennis Ouellette, vice president of operations at homebuilder Taylor Morrison in Dallas.

“Usually, buyers will tell us pretty quickly how the home they’re living in isn’t working for them and then we can demonstrate how to solve that concern,” Ouellette says.

Understanding the Abbreviations on the Home Listings

Listings get easier to read with practice, especially once you get used to seeing the many abbreviations they contain. (Helpful hint: Create a sheet of the common abbreviations you see, and what they mean. Until you know the abbreviations off the top of your head, a coding sheet can help you make sense of the important information a listing sheet contains.)

Square footage is abbreviated “SF” and, just as often, “APX SF,” for “approximate square footage.” This is an important distinction, and real estate agents are supposed to strive for accuracy here because square footage is one factor used to determine market value.

Generally, the bigger the house, the more the house costs — as long as you’re looking in the same general area. Location can also affect cost. Home prices tend to be higher in some desirable neighborhoods, in some suburbs, or on lots near ponds, streams, or parks.  


How many square feet is a 20×20 room?

The square footage of a room measuring 20 feet wide by 20 feet long is 400 square feet. To calculate this you simply multiply the width by the height. 20ft × 20ft = 400 sq ft.

How to calculate square footage? 

It’s easy.  Follow these steps.

Measure the length in feet, Measure the width in feet. Multiply the length figure by the width figure.  This will be your total square footage for that portion of your project.  Continue to repeat this for all parts of the space that will get the same tile.   Add these together for your total square footage.

Measuring in inches works as well.  Do the math the same way, then divide by 144 to get your total in square feet. When calculating square footage account for the entire space (i.e. under vanity/cabinets).

Apartment Space and How You Use It

If you’re only using your apartment as a place to sleep, then a smaller micro or studio would probably suit you better than a large apartment. If you frequently entertain and love hosting dinner parties, you’ll want an apartment with a generous dining space. If your mom visits regularly from out of town and you need a place for her to stay, then you might want to consider a one or two-bedroom apartment rather than a studio.  If you work from home, consider what type of space you’ll need for your office and where you’ll want it to be located.

Budget-Minded Choices

One obvious constraint against more square footage is the relatively higher cost of bigger homes.

Some custom-home buyers want what they want and are willing to pay for enough space to accommodate their desires, while others reconfigure their needs to fit the size of home they can afford within their budget, says Ryan Thewes, a residential architect in Nashville, Tenn.

“Typically, buyers say, ‘We would like a 3,000-square-foot house. We have to have a gym. We have to have a crafts room.’ All of a sudden their house is 4,500 square feet,” Thewes says. “We can quickly do the math and say, ‘Is that theater room really worth X amount?’ A lot of the time, the answer is no.”

The room most often axed is the gym.

“It takes up a lot of space,” Thewes says. “A lot of times that can get allocated to the basement.”

How to find the square footage of a rectangle

  1. Measure the width and length of the area in feet.
  2. Multiply your length and width together to get your area.

Note: If your measurements aren't in feet, convert them to feet first using our length converter.

Once you've carried out your calculation, you will have your square feet (ft2) figure. To calculate your cost of materials, simply multiply this figure by your price per square foot.

Convert among square inch, square foot, square yard and square meter

You could, for example, perform all of your measurements in inches or centimeters, calculate area in square inches or square centimeters then convert your final answer to the unit you need such as square feet or square meters.

To convert among square feet, yards and meters use the following conversion factors.  For other units use our calculator for area conversions.

  • Square Feet to Square Inches
    • multiply ft2 by 144 to get in2
  • Square Feet to Square Yards
    • multiply ft2 by 0.11111 to get yd2
  • Square Feet to Square Meters
    • multiply ft2 by 0.092903 to get m2
  • Square Yards to Square Feet
    • multiply yd2 by 9 to get ft2
  • Square Yards to Square Meters
    • multiply yd2 by 0.836127 to get m2
  • Square Meters to Square Inches
    • multiply m2 by 1,550 to get in2
  • Square Meters to Square Feet
    • multiply m2 by 10.7639 to get ft2
  • Square Meters to Square Yards
    • multiply m2 by 1.19599 to get yd2

How to measure for bullnose?

Measure the length of any outside edge where your tile edge would be exposed or you want framed out.  Bullnose (also called trim pieces and decorative tiles) are typically sold by the piece. To figure the quantity you have to establish the length of the trim piece (i.e. 6″ bullnose, 8″ decorative liner), then the rule is:  Your total linear length divided by the length of each piece equals your quantity needed.  

Why A Family Needs A Lot Of Space

Let’s say you have a growing teenager and two more children under the age of 10. Further, let’s say that your current three bedroom home is nice and spacious, and perfectly suitable for a family of four (and only four). Each child needs a separate room once they reach a certain age, and child services have rules about the matter.

If you find that your children are having trouble getting along, constantly bickering and arguing over the simplest things, then you probably need more space. It is important for children to play with other children and get along, but they also need space for themselves. In confined spaces, it is even difficult for adults to get along with each other.

Children sometimes take years to develop the coping skills required to adapt to situations that adults can get over in a day. It can take months for a child to get used to a certain situation or event. It would be wise to look into the psychological effects of living conditions on childhood behavior. The effects of overcrowding can drastically impact a child’s performance in school and certain social situations and can lead to depression.

Childhood behavioral health is a fragile thing and can be affected by even the slightest changes or inadequacies in their lives. Physical health is not excluded from the long list of things affected by childhood living conditions. Overcrowded housing has been linked to the H. Pylori virus, Bacterial Meningitis, coronary heart disease, and lung infections. Such conditions are uncommon in the United States, but the risk grows in overpopulated living areas.

A person may not even realize that they are raising their children in sub-standard space. A growing trend among American homeowners is beginning to receive much attention in the media. It seems that more and more homeowners are choosing very small houses.

Size andCost

There are hundreds of variables in determining how much square footage you need. The national averages state that

• A small house is anything less than 1,000 square feet 

• An average home is in the 2,500-square-foot range 

• Large homes are 4,000 square feet and larger.

But does bigger necessarily mean better? Of course, size is directly correlated to how much you're going to spend on the home, and the budget is always important. So the answer to that question is no, it doesn't.

Smaller versus Larger Homes

Historically, smaller homes have been the norm. In 1950, the average home size was 983 square feet. By the year 2004, during the building boom, the average home size was 2,340 square feet. These days, as we've noted, it is over 2,600 square feet. [Source: The Survey of Construction (SOC) is a partially funded analysis by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).] Here are some pros and cons to help you decide how big your new home should be:

Cost factor. A smaller home costs less to build – and to run – than a larger home. Heating and cooling are significant factors. Home improvements like painting, roof replacement, or changing the carpeting or flooring cost more in a larger home, and let’s not forget home furnishings. On the contrary, smaller houses cost less thanks to square footage – think monthly utility bills, home improvement, and furnishings. Another pointer: a smaller home requires significantly less time to clean and maintain, and that includes the landscaping.

Better quality materials. Choosing a smaller house plan means you would never have to sacrifice quality in building or remodeling materials such as tiles, countertops, cabinets, flooring, etc. People who build McMansions often skimp on quality to save money.

Easier to sell.  An oversize home's value will depreciate over time, plus energy costs make them harder to sell. A smaller home will be much easier to sell.


When it comes to how much value you can expect from your home, a single-family house sold last year for an average of $384,900 compared with $292,000 on average in 2012. What’s more, construction is at a seven-year high. Although the 795,000 new single-family homes built in 2017 are just under 49 percent of the 2006 total of 1,645,000, the numbers are up from 447,000 in 2011.

You can expect to pay roughly $123 per square foot for your new home, on average. This is a good way of initially determining how much house you can afford before you get into the nitty-gritty of the budgeting process.

Determining the actual value depends on the location (near schools, jobs, etc.), the other homes in the neighborhood, the age of the house if you’re buying an existing home, and more. In Detroit, for instance, you might pay $24 per square foot of your home, but that could balloon to $800+ on the coasts.

Figure out what you need to be comfortable with regard to your home size – but don't overdo it. And be sure to maximize the space you do have (finish a basement, create an outdoor living space, fix up a garage) and you'll buy with efficiency – and sell with profit. Connect with our home resources page to learn more about how to make homeownership – and renovation – a reality with a house that suits your needs. To learn more about the home building process, check out our ebookThe Ultimate Beginners Guide to Building Your Home.

Footnote: The lead image of this article is of a 1,250-sq.-ft. Country-style home plan with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. For more information, click here (House Plan #142-1053).


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