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What Does Above Grade Mean?

In real estate, above grade means the portion of a home that is above the ground. The term is usually used to describe a room or square footage. For example, three bedrooms above grade means the home has three bedrooms that are not in a basement.

Real Estate Agent Explains Above Grade

The term above grade is used to give more information about where things are located in a home. Many homes in Edmonton have basements, and many of those basements are very usable, desirable areas, but the fact of the matter is they are still basements, and basement areas are not as desirable as above ground areas. This is why listings differentiate between above and below grade in terms of rooms and square footage.

A Drawing showing a house with the upper floor labelled above grade

A drawing showing a house with the upper floor labelled above grade

In the above illustration, you can see that the above grade floor is completely above ground level, but the below grade floor is below the ground.

According to the Edmonton Real Estate Board guidelines, total floor area is calculated only on the above grade size. For example, while a 1,500-square-foot home may have a fully finished basement, that 1,500 square feet only accounts for above-ground square footage. This means that in reality, the home may have as much as 1,500 square feet of living space.

Why Does It Matter?

Above grade rooms and sizes matter a lot. If you are looking for a home with four bedrooms upstairs and a real estate listing showed there were a total of 4 bedrooms, you wouldn’t know if one, two or even thre of those bedrooms were in the basement! Also, if a total square footage number was given for a home, you might not know that half of it was below grade. This could mean that a home you thought was 1000 ft² on the main floor turns out to only be 500 ft² with a 500 ft² basement!

Alan F Macdonald

Author Alan F Macdonald

Alan F Macdonald is a real estate agent with Maxwell Challenge Realty in Edmonton, Alberta.

More posts by Alan F Macdonald

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • rob says:

    I have a question: what if your porch has no rails on it and the porch is > 30″ above grade. Can you create a retaining wall flower bed and use that as the new above grade level to meet the 30″ requirement

    • Alan F Macdonald says:

      Hi Rob,

      I think it would depend on the rules in your area. If the flower bed is wide enough to be considered ‘the ground’, then I don’t see why not. If the area is terraced, then you can’t technically fall off the porch because you would just be standing on the flower bed. I would think somewhere in the order of 3 feet would be reasonable, but of course check with your local building inspector and definitely check with your insurance company.

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