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What is a linear foot?

And how does it factor into your moving costs?

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Written by Diana Flowers
Edited by Cassidy McCants

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    man measuring a couch with a measuring tape

    Understanding how to measure accurately during a move is vital for making cost-effective use of packing boxes, storage facilities or hired freight haulers — and while it’s relatively straightforward, it’s important to get it right. Learning how to measure in linear feet and knowing the difference between a linear foot and square foot will help you use your shipping space more efficiently and get to your new home without too many complications.


    Key insights

    • Most freight haulers base their rates on linear feet.
    • Knowing how to accurately measure in linear feet will give you a better idea of your moving costs and help you avoid last-minute price increases.

    How to measure in linear feet

    Measuring in linear feet is ideal for calculating how much space you’ll need in a moving container, moving truck or freight hauler. While it may also be important to know your rough cubic volume or weight, the majority of trucking services base their quotes on linear feet — most freight haulers can transport goods for more than one customer in a single trailer, and they need an accurate estimate of how much floor space your belongings will take up.

    Taking measurements in linear feet is fairly simple, but it’s worth reviewing. A linear foot is 12 inches in a straight line, and the best way to take these measurements is with a ruler or measuring tape that marks inches.

    Most standard rulers are exactly 12 inches long, but you may wish to use a longer measuring tape for larger items like couches, mattresses and shelves. You can always convert inches to feet after you have your final amounts recorded.

    Difference between linear feet and square feet

    Measuring square footage: If your couch is 6 feet long and 3 feet deep, multiply the two to get 18 square feet.

    Simply put, a linear foot measures the length of a straight line, while a square foot measures the area of a surface. To calculate square footage, you’ll need to multiply two separate measurements (like length and width, width and depth or height and depth).

    So, if you want to know how much space your couch will take up on your living room floor, measure the length and depth of your sofa, then multiply the two measurements.

    Because most measurements won’t result in even feet, it may be easier to measure in inches. Calculating square footage using inches works similarly — just multiply the two measurements in inches. If you want to convert square inches to square feet, divide the square inch total by 144.

    For example, if your couch is 6 feet, 8 inches long and 3 feet deep, you would set up your equation like this: 80 inches (6 feet plus 8 inches) x 36 inches (3 feet) = 2,880/144 = 20 square feet.

    When to measure by linear feet

    Freight companies often use linear feet when quoting rates to relocate goods over long distances. When you reserve space with a freight carrier, you only pay for the space you’ll actually use, so accurate measurements are required — you can’t simply say you need enough space for a one- or two-bedroom house. Because the size of homes and apartments vary so much, it’s essential to know how much stuff you truly have before getting a quote.

    “Anyone who is in the moving industry can easily give you examples of how vastly different two separate two-bedroom apartments can be in terms of space needed,” Derek Mills, a founding member of Square Cow Moovers in Austin, Texas, said. “It's not unusual to have a two-bedroom apartment that would only take up about 12 feet on a moving truck, but it’s also not uncommon to have a two-bedroom apartment that would easily take up twice that amount of space.”

    Anyone who is in the moving industry can easily give you examples of how vastly different two separate two-bedroom apartments can be in terms of space needed.”
    — Derek Mills, founding member of Square Cow Moovers

    It’s also crucial to take measurements at the right stage in the moving process. This should happen near your move-out date, ideally once all your household items are packed in boxes, stacked and sitting on the floor.

    Start packing as early as possible so you know what can fit into boxes and what has to go on its own. This will give you an idea of what your things will look like once they’re loaded into a container, and you can give accurate measurements to trucking companies and get realistic quotes.

    Knowing your total linear feet is a good place to start when contacting moving companies, though they may ask for more information — like square footage and approximate weight. They may even ask for pictures to ensure you get the right size truck and avoid additional fees on moving day if you underestimate your needs.

    Hiring a reputable company can greatly reduce the chance of errors like this. For instance, a ConsumerAffairs reviewer from Florida was pleased with Colonial Van Lines’ attention to measurements and the overall move: “They called me to make sure that I was on the mark for the actual moving date, whether or not I had more boxes than I anticipated. They increased the size of my order, which made me hesitant, but ultimately, it meant that I was paying less per pound. So everything worked out. They anticipated my size very accurately by my descriptions from their questions.”

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      Bottom line

      Getting precise measurements — often in linear feet — is the best way to ensure a smooth moving experience and prevent costly mistakes.

      If your measurements aren’t accurate, you may not have enough room in the moving truck to fit all your things, which can result in additional fees or worse — like having to schedule another truck to come at a later date to complete the move. You can avoid these complications by getting your measurements right the first time.

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