How to measure and calculate a linear foot
If you have a ruler or a measuring tape with markings in one-inch increments, you’re ready to measure anything in linear feet. Remember, a linear foot is 12 inches in a straight line.
A linear foot measured on a ruler and two measuring tapes.
If you measure something and it’s 12 inches long, it’s one linear foot in length. If it’s 24 inches long, that’s two linear feet, etc. The nice thing is that most tape measures have markings for feet as well as inches, so you may not even need to do the calculations yourself.
But just in case your measuring tape doesn’t have markings for feet or you’re using a 12-inch ruler for all your measurements, here’s a handy conversion chart to make the math easy:
Inches to linear feet conversion chart
|12 inches||1 linear foot|
|24 inches||2 linear feet|
|36 inches||3 linear feet|
|48 inches||4 linear feet|
|60 inches||5 linear feet|
|72 inches||6 linear feet|
Of course, not all measurements can be nicely divided by 12. For example, if your dining table is 63 inches long, you won’t be able to write down its dimensions using only feet.
For situations like this, find the closest number divisible by 12 to the object’s length, calculate how many feet that is and write it down, and then write down how many inches are leftover. The length of the table from our example would be written as “5 feet 3 inches” or “5′3″.”
When to measure in linear feet
Use linear feet to measure anything in a straight line. If you need to know the length of a rug, the width of a bookcase, or the height of your child, linear feet will do the trick.
Square footage is used to measure the area of a flat surface. It can tell you how big your yard is, how much floor space your bed will take up, and how much wall space you’ll need for all your concert posters.
When you calculate square footage, you actually use linear feet as part of the math.
To begin finding the square footage of an object or space, measure its length in linear feet. Then, measure it in one other direction. You only need to take two measurements to find square footage, but which measurements you should take depend on what you’re measuring.
To find a wall’s square footage, measure its length and its height. Similarly, to know how much wall space a piece of decor or furniture will take up, measure its length and its height. To find the square footage of your kitchen floor or learn how much floor space something will take up, measure its width and its length.
Once you have these two measurements, multiply them by each other. The product is the object’s or space’s square footage. For example, if your garage is 10 feet wide and 16 feet long, the area of your garage floor is 160 square feet.
This is an example of how to calculate the square footage of a flat surface that's 10 ft. long x 16 ft. wide.
The math for calculating square feet can be a bit trickier than measuring linear feet, so you’ll probably need a calculator, but here’s a conversion chart that illustrates how to do it:
Linear feet to square feet conversion chart
Dimensions in linear feet
|5 feet long x 10 feet tall||50 square feet|
|2 feet wide x 7 feet long||14 square feet|
|20 feet wide x 25 feet long||500 square feet|
|28 feet wide x 60 feet long||1,680 square feet|
When to measure in square feet
Use square feet whenever you need to know the total area of a flat surface or the footprint of a piece of furniture. Square footage can tell you how big a rug is, how much floor space your coffee table will take up in your living room, or how large your patio is.
What if an object or space is round?
Calculating the square footage and cubic footage of round objects requires more complex math, so you should only really do it with a calculator. Here are some handy calculators that can find the square footage and cubic footage of round objects for you.
Cubic footage is used to calculate a container’s volume and how much room an object will occupy in a container. In short, it can tell you how much stuff you can fit into things like boxes, cabinets, rooms, moving trucks, and storage units.
To find the cubic footage of a space or an object, you’ll once again start by measuring linear footage. This time, though, you’ll measure in all three directions: length, width, and height.
Once you have all three dimensions, you’ll multiply them together. The product is the cubic footage. For example, if a moving truck’s cargo compartment is 10 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 6 feet high, the compartment is 360 cubic feet in volume.
This is an example of how to calculate the capacity of a moving truck's cargo area in cubic footage.
Now, the numbers involved in cubic feet get pretty big, and the math can be a little too tricky to quickly do in your head, so use a calculator when trying to find an object's cubic footage. To illustrate exactly how to do this, here are a few examples:
Linear feet to cubic feet conversion chart
Dimensions in linear feet
|2 feet long x 5 feet wide x 10 feet tall||100 cubic feet|
|7 feet long x 10 feet wide x 6 feet tall||420 cubic feet|
|10 feet long x 15 feet wide x 5 feet tall||750 cubic feet|
When to measure in cubic feet
Measure in cubic footage whenever you need to know how much a container can hold or how much space an object will take up inside a container.
For example, finding the cubic footage of your moving truck, storage unit, or moving and storage container is the only way to know exactly how much stuff you can put in them. Of course, you’ll also want to know the cubic footage of everything you plan to put inside these containers to ensure it’ll all fit.