How to Calculate a Linear Foot

If you’ve ever used a tape measure, you already know the answer to this perplexing question.

It’s simple…

The term “linear foot” refers to a one-dimensional measurement of length.

For example, linear feet measurements are used for everything from trailers and countertops to rope and lumber (board feet) because these items can be measured in straight lines.

So now you’re probably wondering what this has to do with moving?

But first…if you’re moving, here are some links that might help:

  • Moving Cost Calculator: Get a free, personalized, and instant estimate of your move. Just enter the date, size, and where you’re moving to/from, and we’ll instantly tell you how much your move should cost.
  • Best Moving Companies: Avoid the horror stories of shady movers by hiring verified and reputable moving companies. These are our picks.
  • Best Moving Containers: Sometimes, handling the move yourself is the way to go. You take care of the packing and loading. These companies manage driving. Here are the top options.
  • Best Car Shippers: Finding good car shippers is essential but hard to do. We found them for you.

What is a Square Foot?

A square foot is the two-dimensional measurement of the area inside a square (not a cube!), the sides of which are each 1 foot long.

What is a Cubic Foot?

As its name implies, a cubic foot is an area within a three-dimensional cube that measures 1-foot x 1-foot x 1 foot.

Why are Linear Feet Important in Moving

Honestly, they’re usually not.

You may remember from previous articles that –

  • Local move charges are usually based on how long it takes the crew to get everything loaded, transported, and unloaded at your new home or apartment.
  • On long-distance moves (intrastate and interstate), charges are usually based on the weight of your shipment and the mileage between your old and new residences.
  • On most overseas moves, charges are flat-rate based on the total weight of your items.

Of course, on nearly all moves, you’ll also be charged for additional items like –

  • Packing and unpacking (they’re included on international moves)
  • Crating and uncrating
  • Appliance disconnects/reconnects
  • Valuation


When relocating in-state, out of state, or overseas with a full-service moving company, it probably won’t matter how many linear feet of the trailer or moving container space your household goods take up.

Moving with a Freight Company

Most families on the go hire full-service movers or rent moving trucks and do the loading, driving, and unloading themselves.

Both options have their pros and cons, but freight companies are worth considering as well.

However, if you go this route, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with linear feet because many freight companies price moves based on how much floor space their customers use.

You can have them drop the trailer off at your home or business at origin and destination or load and unload it at one of their terminals.

This latter option will save a few bucks, but you’ll have to get your household goods to and from the terminal, which can be a huge hassle.

Either way, remember that, unlike full-service movers, freight companies don’t provide labor to load or unload. 

In other words, the heavy lifting is up to you.

Did You Know?

If you’re able to cram 5,000 pounds of household goods into 10 linear feet of trailer space, you may pay less than someone who ships 3,500 pounds but uses 12 linear feet.

How Many Linear Feet of Trailer Space Will I Need?

Even if you have tons of experience, figuring out how many linear feet of moving trailer space you’ll need can be tricky.

Most freight companies have size guides for everything from studio apartments to multi-bedroom homes.

That said, they’re rough averages at best, and in some cases, they’re grossly underestimated, which can make it appear as though you’re getting a better pricing deal than you really are.

Estes SureMove provides the following recommendations for their customers –

  • Studio apartment – 4 linear feet of trailer space
  • 1 or 2-bedroom apartment – between 10 and 12 linear feet
  • 2-bedroom home – approximately 14 linear feet
  • 3-bedroom house – about 20 linear feet
  • 4-bedroom home – between 26 and 28 linear feet
  • 5-bedroom home – between 44 and 53 linear feet

Keep in mind that nearly all freight companies offer moving services with 28-foot “pup” trailers only.

So if you’re moving the contents of a multi-room home with a garage, attic, and basement, you’ll probably need at least two.

When in doubt, assume that you’ll use between 10 and 20% more linear footage than expected.

Did You Know?

28-foot trailers generally have about 2,000 cubic feet of interior space.

What Are the Advantages of Paying by the Linear Foot? 

Remember as a kid when your parents warned you about things that sounded too good to be true?

Well, as smart as they were, they probably weren’t familiar with freight moving companies.

In fact, with most, you only pay for space you actually use.

How refreshing.

For once, you’ll be rewarded for your hard work and skill, but only if you’re able to load your items into the smallest possible space like a professional mover.

With rental trucks and moving containers, you pay for the whole thing regardless of how much space you use.

Insider’s Tip

If you know your shipment will take up most of a 28-foot trailer, loading it quickly, using the whole thing, and paying a little extra may be a better option than spending all day loading it “high and tight” just to save a few bucks.

How do I calculate a linear foot?

It couldn’t be simpler.

Start with something easy like a sofa.

Have a helper hold the end of a tape measure at one end and unroll it until the metal hook is at the other end.

Then look at the corresponding number, and voila, you’ve got its length in linear feet.

Did you know that your sofa was almost 6 linear feet long?

What to Watch Out For

Many freight companies claim that their 28-foot trailers can hold the contents of a 3 or 4-bedroom home.

Sometimes, that may be true, but most movers and moving salespeople will tell you that the average 4-bedroom home with a garage, shed attic, and basement will not fit in a small “pup” trailer.

In addition –

  • Many freight trailers have spring ride suspensions that weren’t designed for fragile household goods.
  • Freight trailers have much higher deck heights than moving vans and rental trucks.
  • Walk boards (loading ramps) may be extra.
  • Most freight companies don’t do moves under a few hundred miles

Always ask each company about their equipment and service area before signing a contract.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are LTL trucking companies?

LTL or less-than-truckload carriers haul multiple small shipments for various countries. On the other hand, TL (truckload) carriers fill entire trailers with freight from just one customer. Many LTL companies like ABF and Estes offer moving services, whereas truckload companies do not.

Why is knowing linear feet important for moving?

Understanding linear feet is especially important when moving with a freight company because you’ll be charged based on how many feet of floor space you use.

How many linear feet are in a 10 x 10 room?

From the center of one wall to the center of the opposite wall, a 10 x 10 room measures 10 linear feet.

What does 100 linear feet mean?

100 linear feet is a straight line measurement used to describe the length of an item, like a boat or the distance between two points.

What is the square footage of a 10 x 10 room?

A 10 x 10 room has 100 square feet of floor space if the ceiling is 8 feet high, the same room as 800 cubic feet of interior space.

When are linear footage and square footage used most?

Linear footage measurements are often used for building and construction materials, home improvement projects, and by lumber and cable manufacturers and wholesalers who buy and sell these items in bulk based on their total length or linear footage.

As a two-dimensional measurement, square footage is commonly used by residential and commercial realtors, contractors, and manufacturers to measure an item’s surface area.

What freight companies offer moving services?

ABF (U-Pack) and Estes (SureMove) are among the largest freight companies that offer moving services. Up until recently, Old Dominion Freight Lines did as well, but they’ve suspended this service due to  increased volume across their freight network.

How many square inches are in a square foot?

There are 144 square inches in a square foot.

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