How to Calculate the Number of Boxes You Need: The Ultimate Guide

By: Lily Valles Last Updated: Sep 20, 2023

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Planning a move? How many boxes will you need? Follow our step-by-step guide to find out, and check out some useful tips and tricks along the way.

How to Calculate the Number of Boxes You Need: The Ultimate Guide

Moving to a new home can be an exciting, yet stressful experience. Of course, one of the most critical steps of a move is packing your stuff up into boxes – and you don’t want to be left short.

Calculating the number of boxes may seem simple, but it requires proper planning and accurate measurements.

In this article, we’ll walk you through determining the number of boxes you’ll need on a moving day.

We’ll also provide some useful tips for measuring space, choosing the right box size and strength, and what to do about any extra space.

In this article

Is Calculating My Boxes Really That Important?

Before we dive into running the numbers, it’s important to understand why accuracy is so crucial. Most people overlook this step completely and just make an educated guess about how many boxes they’ll need. Don’t fall into this trap.

While it sounds like unnecessary work, knowing the right number of boxes for your move saves time, money, and effort. It also ensures that you have enough boxes to store your items safely and securely without overpacking or underpacking.

If you don’t know how many boxes you’ll need, you’ll either end up with too few or too many. That’s wasted money in the best case, and broken stuff in the worst case. Matching out your total box count fixes this problem. And don’t worry – we’ll walk you through the numbers.

Measuring the Space

When you’re calculating how many boxes you’ll need, the first step is to measure your space accurately. Know your space, and you’ll know how many boxes you’ll need.

Measuring Tools Required:

To measure a space accurately, you’ll need a tape measure, ruler, or measuring wheel. Make sure that these tools are in good condition and that you are comfortable using them. If you don’t have a tape measure, it’ll come in handy for other projects. Go buy one.

Accurate Measurement Techniques:

To measure a space accurately, follow these steps:

  1. Measure the length, width, and height of the space.
  2. Measure each dimension twice to ensure accuracy.
  3. Record the measurements in feet and inches.

How to Measure Tricky Spaces:

Every house is different, and there’s always a room that’s just a little weird. Measuring tricky spaces such as curved walls or irregularly shaped rooms requires additional attention to detail. Here are some tips to help you measure tricky spaces accurately:

Non-Rectangular Rooms:

Not all rooms are exact squares, and not all rooms are four-sided rectangles, either. We recommend breaking down these rooms into smaller sections and measuring each section individually.

Curved Walls:

Curved walls are tricky, but a humble string can save you. Use a (long) string and hold it flush against a wall. Unroll the string from one end of the curved wall to the next.

Mark off the starting and ending points on the string, straighten it out and lie it flat on the ground, and use a tape measure to measure the length of string used.

Determining the Box Size

Once you’ve measured your space (or spaces), your next step is to determine the right box size. Choosing the right box size means your items will fit comfortably and securely in the boxes, with minimal wiggle room.

Different Box Sizes are Available:

Box sizes vary, and it’s essential to choose the right size for your needs. Here are some of the standard box sizes available:

  • Small boxes (16x12x12 inches)
  • Medium boxes (18x18x16 inches)
  • Large boxes (18x18x24 inches)
  • Extra-large boxes (24x18x24 inches)

Factors to Consider When Choosing Box Size

There are different box sizes for a reason. You shouldn’t just get a bunch of extra-large boxes and throw everything in at once.

Take the following factors into consideration:

  • Weight of items to be packed
  • Fragility of items
  • Size of items
  • Volume of items

Some items don’t play well together. For example, silverware and clothes may seem safe, but there’s a nonzero chance of a knife or fork poking holes in your favorite sweater—mix, and matchbox sizes to reflect your needs.

Tips for Choosing the Right Box Size

Choosing the right box size can be challenging, but here are some tips to help you make the right choice:

  • For heavy items, choose smaller boxes that are sturdy enough to hold the weight. Keep in mind, these boxes should also be easier for people to lift (i.e. something with handles), since the extra weight will be challenging enough.
  • For fragile items, choose boxes that have extra cushioning or padding. You don’t want too much room, but you want enough for bubble wrap or extra clothes to keep everything wrapped up.
  • For larger items, choose boxes that can accommodate the items’ size without leaving too much empty space. Again, wiggle room is not a good idea when you’re loading up boxes. A lamp can easily fall and poke out the wall of a box without extra support.
  • For a large number of items, choose boxes that are stackable and easy to handle. Don’t forget to keep all your boxes in an easy-to-access staging area to keep moving day easy.

Calculating the Number of Boxes Needed

Now that you’ve measured the space and chosen the right box size, it’s time to calculate the number of boxes needed. Here’s how to do it:

The Box Calculation Formula:

The formula for calculating the number of boxes required is:
(Number of items to be packed x Size of the box) / Volume of the box = Number of boxes needed

Examples of How to Use the Formula

Suppose you’re packing books that are 8×11 inches in size, and you’ve chosen a medium-sized box that’s 18x18x16 inches in size.

The formula would be:
(100 x 8×11) / (18x18x16) = 7.8 boxes

In this case, you would round up to eight boxes to ensure you have enough space to pack all the books.

Adjusting the Formula for Irregularly Shaped Items

If you’re packing irregularly shaped items, such as lamps or sculptures, you’ll need to adjust the formula accordingly. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Measure the length, width, and height of each item individually.
  • Record the measurements in inches.
  • Choose a box size that’s slightly larger than the item to provide enough space for padding.

Bringing it All Together: Calculating the Total Number of Boxes

To calculate the total number of boxes needed, you have to bring all these factors together. You won’t be sticking to just one type of box, though.

Instead, it’s smart to go room by room, matching out which boxes will be needed where. Using formulas to calculate the number of boxes can help simplify the process.

For instance, if you have a 2,000-square-foot apartment with four bedrooms, you can estimate the total number of boxes needed as follows:

  1. Bedroom 1: 30 small boxes, 20 medium boxes, and 5 large boxes
  2. Bedroom 2: 20 small boxes, 15 medium boxes, and 3 large boxes
  3. Bedroom 3: 15 small boxes, 10 medium boxes, and 2 large boxes
  4. Bedroom 4: 10 small boxes, 5 medium boxes, and 1 large box
  5. Kitchen: 20 small boxes and 10 medium boxes
  6. Living room: 20 small boxes and 15 medium boxes
  7. Other areas: 10 small boxes and 5 medium boxes

By adding up all the boxes in each category, you can determine the total number of boxes you need. Remember to adjust the number of boxes based on packing and labeling needs. It’s essential to leave extra room for labeling and packing materials.

Accounting for Extra Space

We’ve mentioned minimizing wiggle room, but you still need a little bit of extra space when you’re boxing up all your stuff. Extra space means you have room to provide cushioning for fragile items, and it’ll allow for easier packing and unpacking.

Leaving some extra space in your boxes will also reduce the risk of your boxes splitting or breaking due to overpacking.

Calculating the Extra Space Needed

To calculate the extra space that you’ll need for your packing supplies, we recommend adding 10-15% to the number of boxes calculated. For example, if the calculated number of boxes needed is eight, add one or two boxes to account for extra space.

Examples of How to Adjust Box Calculations for Extra Space

Suppose you’ve calculated that you need eight boxes based on the formula, adding 10% extra space would bring the total to 8.8 boxes. In this case, you would round up to nine boxes to account for the extra space required for packing supplies.

Rounding Up the Number of Boxes

Round up the number of boxes required to avoid underestimating the number of boxes needed. Rounding up ensures that you have enough boxes to accommodate all your items and allows for extra space.

Round up the number of boxes to the nearest whole number. For example, if the calculated number of boxes needed is 6.5, round up to 7 boxes. If you’ve calculated that you need 10.3 boxes based on our formula, round up to 11. If you’ve matched it out and you need 63.333333 boxes, round up to 64.

Just round up. It’s safer that way.

Consider Box Weight and Strength

You don’t want a crappy box, and you don’t want a box that’s too small. Choosing the right box for the job will keep your items well-protected, and reduces the risk of stuff breaking and boxes splitting.

Tips for Choosing the Right Box Strength

When choosing the right box strength, bust strength is key. Choose a box with a high burst strength for your heavy items, and choose boxes with extra cushioning or padding for your fragile stuff.

Some items are sensitive to temperature changes or moisture. Box those up accordingly with specialty packing supplies, and make sure the box is up to the task of keeping them dry.

Remember, a box with a high burst strength can carry more stuff. That’s less boxes overall, and more money saved.

Choosing a Supplier

Of course, you need to make sure your boxes are coming from a good supplier in the first place. Keep an eye out for a supplier that offers a wide variety of box sizes and strengths. If they provide packing materials such as tape and bubble wrap, that’s even better.

When you’re shopping for a supplier for all your moving gear, ask around for any additional services. Some movers may even be able to drop off boxes or assemble them for you ahead of time.

Boxing and Packing FAQs

You’d be surprised at how many questions we get about boxes. Here’s a helpful FAQ:

What is the best way to measure the space for box calculation?

The best way to measure space accurately is to use measuring tools such as a tape measure, ruler, or measuring wheel. If you don’t have a tape measure, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by buying one now – you’re gonna need it eventually.

How do I choose the right box size for my needs?

Figuring out the right box size for an item (or several items) starts with the items themselves. Are they fragile? Are they unstable? Do they need extra support? Choose the right box size by considering factors such as weight, fragility, size, and volume of the items you need to pack.

Should I round up or down when calculating boxes?

Round up. Always. It’s better to have a little bit of extra room (that can be filled with packing peanuts, newspaper, or clothes) than to be short a box. Round up the number of boxes needed to make sure you have enough space to pack all your items.

How do I factor in the weight and strength of the boxes?

Stronger is better, but more expensive. Boxes will typically show a weight limit on the side, so keep that in mind when you’re loading everything up. We don’t expect you to put every single item on a scale before boxing it up, but keep in mind that every box has its limits.

Why do I need extra space?

You’ll need extra space in your boxes for your padding. You should always leave a tiny bit of wiggle room in a box so you can add stuffing such as newspaper or spare clothes.

Get Packed and Get Moving

It sounds like a totally unnecessary step, but if you want an easy move, organization is key. Make sure you know how many boxes you need before moving day, and run the numbers twice to make sure you’re not going to come up short when you’re packing your belongings.

Ready to get started? Check out our other moving guides to find best movers in your area, and don’t forget the packing peanuts!