How to Calculate Square Footage for Installing Paneling & Flooring

How to Calculate Square Footage for Installing Paneling & Flooring

Titus Gilliam

First, accurately measure your installed area and multiply exact length times width in inches; then divide by 144 to get the total square feet (sf). You need to buy more product than what your actual installation is to have enough material to finish the project. Do not expect the material left over to be what you purchased minus the installed area. For example if your area is 130 sf and you bought 150 sf, don't expect that you will have 20 sf of good material left. There will be little scraps lost, sawdust thrown away that came from saw kerf, and other unusable material. Material that sits around on the jobsite for long tends to disappear, gets lost, damaged, or otherwise unaccounted for.  When we ship you product we send exactly what you ordered. We do not send extra anticipating something for a waste factor.  Every job, customer and installer has different scenarios, technique, and factors that will influence what they should order for waste factor or overage.

Concerns that will increase a waste factor when installing lumber.

  • Smaller jobs always have more problems in proportion to their total.  Customers tend to be more picky and analyze each piece.  The ratio of the perimeter to the overall field is higher, so more edges, starts and stops creates more decisions or cuts. There are less options to hide mistakes or change your mind.  A little project has less pieces to choose from so there is greater scrutiny on each piece.
  • If you create a pattern that requires certain types, widths, or lengths of material you can paint yourself into corner where you will not be able to finish with the material you have because you may not have enough of that exact type. Our wall paneling and flooring are intended for continuous area coverage and sold by the square foot where one is not trying to make length specific boards start and stop at predetermined sizes but rather installed over a substrate in a random coverage. With our random width paneling and flooring products we do not sell sorted for specified exact size in subtotals of certain widths; random color blends are also not sorted for specific colors.  Any special requested sorting costs significantly more and almost always it is cheaper to buy extra of our random packaging than pay us to special sort. 
  • Any angles, arcs or otherwise strange shapes that keep the install from being a simple rectangle will generate more cast-off and unusable material.
  • Installations with rows running particularly long such as a single extra wide wall that has horizontal rows running a greater distance relative to the overall height of the install could come up short at the end of the installation because one needs to be sure that before starting any given row for that width that they have enough material in that width to finish that row.  For example; our paneling product comes in three widths of 3, 5, 7".  If the installation was a wainscot at 3' high and 30' long then orientating the material horizontally would create a different look and waste factor than orientating it vertically or diagonally.  All the material arrives neatly packaged and tight in a box with the widths separated so before starting the installation the carpenter will know how much of each size they have to work with.
  • Utilize all of your material.  For example if you cut a 15" long board down to 10" and throw away the 5" that is 30% waste.  Also if you have a bunch of little pieces left over that will reduce your coverage.  Or you could take a longer 24" board, cut 10" off to use, and use the leftover 14" board on the install to almost have no waste.  Try to avoid putting short pieces in the middle of the project.  Use them to start and stop rows.
  • Our products have a great reputation for tight quality controls and adhering to specifications.  A customer can rest assured that they could buy our Idaho Barnwood Blend Wall Paneling two years ago and order again now, and get the same size combination and random color blend.  The product will look similar, and you would know that it was made by the same real people making real wood.  The personality does change from batch to batch and the ratio of colors will change.  You also might have a few outlier or unique pieces in a box that will never show up again because they were completely different than the rest.  What one customer loves for being a total different or standout piece will not be favorite of another. If you are a repeat customer you can expect the same quality, but don't expect the exact same color combination from batch to batch.

Strategies to avoid having problems coming up short on your install of flooring or wall panels.

  • Buying a smaller quantity later from us will cost more per sf than ordering extra in the beginning. You will also have to deal with the delay in completion and higher labor cost. It is cheaper to buy a little extra up front than to come up short at the last minute.
  • Make sure to measure accurately in the beginning. Do not be sloppy and ignore little extra additions; they really add up.  For example, let's say your actual wall was 12' 3" x 12' 3" but you measure and calculated on 12' x 12'.  Before you even start you are short by over 6 sf or 4%, so even in a perfect scenario if you bought 150 sf to do what you thought was 144 sf job you would not be able to finish.
  • Before install verify the quantity of material that you have. Inspect all packaging that there is no damaged or missing pieces. Your shipping label and tracking information will show the number of packages that you were supposed to receive; make sure all are accounted for. Multiply the length times width of each layer of material that you have and add it up. The only way for us to replace missing merchandise is if the customer can show missing packages or damage in shipping which must be immediately documented, photographed and shown upon delivery. Delayed claims cannot be honored.
  • Do not expect RLP to be able to help with your measurements or tell you what you have on your site.  All RLP can control is what is sent out. Our packaging process is very refined, and we have a high degree of confidence in it.  For example on our paneling products, every piece of material is measured with a calibrated laser and tracked as it is packaged. All packaging material holds a predetermined quantity of material.  We only ship in 25 sf increments on the paneling. Each box is certain to have the minimum sf packaged in it, and before shipping as a last check total weight is verified to make sure it makes sense and matches to total sf.
  • Install the wood in a random pattern. Sort by size ahead of time into piles. When you are halfway through the project about half of each width and length should be consumed. If you find yourself getting a little off, just adjust slightly.  If you run out of one size altogether before you finish the project, it won't be too critical as long as you didn't create a pattern that you had to strictly follow.
  • Embrace the random beauty of reclaimed wood. Don't try to force it to be exactly like you expect each piece should look like. Reclaimed lumber has even more surprises in the natural beauty and variation; this is what makes it so beautiful, real and authentic. The sum of all the different pieces is often more interesting and beautiful than each individual piece. If you want duplicate, predictable colors choose a more processed product like faux imitation paneling or stained and painted virgin materials that have manmade influences giving conventional and repeated results.  Our accent wall paneling planks and engineered wood flooring have very exact milling tolerances, but the specifications written for the color blends show what is allowed for a range of colors. Often these combinations show a broad variety of tones.
  • If the installation is a floor for example with multiple rooms sometimes the installer can select combinations that reduce waste for particular rooms.  Our floor comes in three combination of widths at 4",5", and 7", so when the installer has a couple feet left to finish the room they could pick the width combinations that add up to the right amount so the last row isn't ripped to generate a lot of waste.  This is just the difference where little care and foresight can make a difference.
  • -Take advantage of our square footage calculator in our online store product listing.  You can enter multiple spaces for length and width in inches plus the desired waste factor to come up with a projected total that you should order.

Characteristics of some of our products that change the waste factor.

  • If you are buying as is barn lumber that has not been processed then the waste factor could right off the top without even considering special factors be 25-50% of bad, unusable material. This increases your labor and material cost trying to defect out material that cannot end up in the finished product. Be sure to inspect as barn lumber that is coming straight off the barn or out of the field for attributes that may not be desirable in your installation.  Some dealers are not as reputable and do not disclose the condition of their material.  These are some of the many reason we prefer selling a sorted, graded, and processed product that takes some of the uncertainty out of the purchase for the buyer.
  • The great advantage of using our barnwood blend interior wall paneling or engineered wood flooring is that essentially the entire product is usable. We have already defected and eliminated low grade material that is not good enough to show on your finished install. Rot, loose knots, big holes, dimensions out tolerance, and warping that keep the product from being used have already been defected out, so you are not paying for material that you cannot use.
  • Our oak paneling (not calibrated as accurate for thickness and ends are not guaranteed square) and some of the solid wood flooring products (sometimes has more thickness variation than engineered flooring and more holes or cracks) are not as high of grade or defected as well as the previous mentioned products. Feel free to always ask for comparison in quality and milling tolerances between different products we offer.
  • A different product altogether that we offer, the rusty galvanized roofing metal, can vary greatly. We caution that it is to be used for decorative purposes only because it has some bent creases, holes, and heavily rusted areas. The color can vary from shiny grey to dark rusted. The way we have it priced is without sorting where we just pull the sheets off the top of the stacks without grading or sorting for color. This material may even be more difficult to forecast a waste factor because installation requirements may change coverage. If you will take any color, any length, and use everything that is sent then a waste factor of about 10% is likely sufficient. On the other hand if one starts selecting out pieces because the appearance, color, or size is not right then it could be a scenario where it is no longer waste factor, but rather the product just doesn't match the application.

How much extra should you order?

RLP tries not to tell the customer what they need to order for a waste factor, but these are some minimums for a typical easy installation that is a single rectangle without a lot of complicating factors that could increase the percentage. On our accent wall paneling products we would suggest the following extra amount be added to your base sf: if the install is under 50 sf then add 25-35%, under 100 sf then do 13-20%, under 300 sf then do 8-15%, over 300 sf then do 5-12 %.  With our engineered flooring you might have a slightly lower waste factor. We have seen 1000 sf installs on the flooring have all the waste carried off in a coffee can, so it came in less than 1%. That was with extreme care and analyzing the layout and width to work just right with no rips that generated waste. It also utilized all the material without setting aside boards based on personal preferences for color, species or other characteristics.

To reinforce a point, if in doubt on your waste factor or you are on the cusp of ordering slightly more, it is always better and cheaper to order a little extra in beginning and have material left over than to come up short at the last minute. We really dread those calls where a customer calls us up begging to have a special sort or size sent out of a specific product after they started installation. There is minimum box size needed to order, and those boxes do not necessarily have the size combinations that might be necessary to finish the job. Smaller quantity orders are charged a higher price per sf than when they placed the original order with larger quantity at a discounted price. Also the customer at this point is usually in a rush to finish and needs to pay for expedited shipping and handling services which is just a wasted expense.  We also find that the customer loves the product so much that they find other uses for leftovers by creating  additional trim, shelves, craft projects, and accents. Friends see the finished product and want it for themselves, so if you have leftover material it usually can get rolled into another project without completely going to waste. If you anticipate doing multiple projects it is always a better value to order in higher quantities, so order as much as you can in one order to get the best average delivered price.

((Length in Inches) x (Width in Inches)) ÷ 144 = Area in Square Feet

(Area in Square Feet) x (1 + Waste Factor %) = Total Square Feet to Order