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How to Find the Square Feet of Your Office Space

January 6, 2020 | by
Reviewed by real estate expert Jonathan Tootell

From location to lease terms, there are many important considerations for you to make when deciding on your office space. One of the most practical and vital of these matters is how to find the square feet of the space you are considering. Even if it doesn’t initially seem as interesting as the ambiance of the space or the amenities that come with it, calculating the square footage of any office you view should be a top priority.

Understanding square feet

If you are not from the United States, you might be mystified by the square foot, a non-metric unit of measurement used primarily in the U.S. Defined as a square that measures one foot (12 inches) on each side, a square foot or square feet (the plural) is typically abbreviated as “sq. ft.” Anyone searching for an apartment, buying a house, or preparing to acquire office space must get very used to this form of measurement. Knowing how to find the square feet of a space is a useful skill when you are dealing with real estate.

Why measure your office space?

When you are considering a new office space, it is critical to bring a tape measure and make note of its dimensions. In the moment, you might be more preoccupied with other aspects of the office like how much natural light the space gets, or if the building appears to be in good shape. But later on, you will be very glad that you measured the space.

Those measurements will help you estimate things like how many desks you will be able to fit into certain sections of the office, or whether it is feasible to put a large sofa in a particular spot. By knowing the length of the office’s border, you will be better able to imagine how certain pieces of office furniture or equipment could be accommodated by the space.

Making the calculation

Bring a tape measure and a notepad when you tour office spaces. It will be helpful if you bring at least one other person with you to examine the space, so you can have some assistance in measuring the size and floor space. (While it is certainly possible to take measurements yourself, it’s easier if there is another person to hold the other end of the tape.) You should take measurements of virtually every surface in the space, carefully noting the values in your notepad.

Don’t take shortcuts! You aren’t just measuring the space in feet – get it right down to the exact measurement in inches. That will be important later on when you are trying to determine if the office space is big enough for your various needs. Also make notes of anything that “interrupts” the wall space, like a radiator or doorway, and what the measurement is on each side of it.

Measuring tape in a criss-cross design

How to find square feet

If the office you are looking at is literally just one big room, finding the total square footage is as simple as measuring the length of one wall and the width of the one adjacent to it, then multiplying the two figures.

Of course, most spaces have a more complicated structure than that. You may need to measure multiple rooms or differently-sized sections of rooms, and then add all of those numbers together to get your total square footage. (A calculator will be useful in these cases!)

Calculating the square footage of different shapes

If the room is an unusual shape, like a triangle or a circle, that may complicate matters in terms of how to find the square feet successfully. However, it’s not a problem, as you really just need to know the right formulas.

For a triangular-shaped room, measure the base and the height, then multiply them. Divide that figure by two to get your square feet measurement.

If the space is circular, start by measuring the diameter of the space in feet. You will then utilize this formula: 3.14159265 x (diameter/2)2. In other words, divide the diameter by two, multiply it by itself, and then multiply that figure by 3.14159265 (also known as pi). The result gives you your square feet figure.

[FYI: Another way to state this formula is π r2, with “r” being the radius of the circle (the radius is half the diameter). π is the symbol for pi, which is 3.14159265.]

Don’t forget the square footage of the walls

Often people just focus on multiplying the width times length when figuring out the dimensions of a space because they are concerned about how much floor space they have available. However, calculating total wall space (length x height) is also likely going to be important if you need to have the walls painted. In order to get the right amount of materials, like cans of paint and primer, you will need to know the square footage of your walls too.

Other measurement units

The measurement of square feet for real estate is standard in the United States, but it is hardly universal. Many other places utilize meter, centimeters, millimeters, etc. as standard units of measurement. For that reason, you may need to convert your figures if you are dealing with international locations or working with people in other countries. Use a length and distance unit converter like this one if you need help.

What if the square footage is already provided?

In many cases, when you are browsing listings for office spaces, or speaking to a real estate broker, you will be provided with the square footage of the offices that you are interested in. While this can be a useful estimate to help you decide which offices are even worth looking at, you should not assume that the figure you are given is totally accurate. It could potentially be inflated, poorly measured, or misleading. For that reason, you should always be sure to measure for yourself.

Even if you have already signed a lease on your office space and didn’t do these calculations beforehand, you should go ahead and measure the square feet of the space now. If you still need to order furniture or arrange for painters to come, for instance, you are almost certainly going to need to provide information on dimensions, square footage, etc.

Keep the measurements handy for future reference

Do yourself a favor and keep the measurements where you can find them for reference on future projects. Don’t just stick them in a desk drawer. File them appropriately in a filing cabinet, or, even better, put them in a document or spreadsheet on your computer where you can easily pull them up when needed.

There will undoubtedly be instances in the future where new office furniture or equipment has to be ordered, for example, and you will want to check the dimensions in the catalogue/website against the length of a wall. Yes, if you must, you can always hunt down that tape measure and capture those figures all over again, but you will appreciate the time savings of being able to conveniently pull up all that data that you already gathered.

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