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Floor Joist Calculator

This floor joist calculator will help you when you buy floor joists for your next flooring or deck framing project. Using this tool, you can quickly find out how many floor joists you will need for any size of floor and joist spacing. You can also estimate the material cost you’ll need to set aside, since this tool also works as a floor joist cost calculator.

This tool is also a floor joist span calculator (which you can use separately) to determine the maximum allowable span a floor joist can have.

Keep on reading to start learning:

  • What a floor joist is;
  • The typical floor joist spacings;
  • How to use this floor joist calculator;
  • How to calculate how many floor joists you need; and
  • How to calculate floor joist span.

πŸ’‘ The floor joist calculator is meant for estimation purposes and not to substitute professional expertise.

What is a floor joist?

A floor joist is a part of a floor system that acts as a beam, supporting the load acting upon the attached flooring material. In a floor system, we use several floor joists properly spaced from each other, so that subflooring materials like plywood or wooden planks are safe to walk on.

Spacing floor joists too far from each other means we would need lesser floor joists to cover our entire flooring. However, the floor might feel a little bouncy due to the lack of support underneath it. On the other hand, we can install the floor joists closer to each other so more of them can support the flooring material. But that could mean a more costly floor system.

We typically space floor joists 16 inches apart (measured from the centers of the joists). That way, we can lay an 8-foot (or 96 inches) long subfloor across 7 joists, as shown in the illustration below:

Illustration of an 8-feet subfloor material on 7 floor joists spaced 16 inches on-center.

We can space our joists closer or farther than 16 inches, but the other typical on-center spacings are as follows:

Number of joists under an 8-foot long subfloor material

Illustration of the typical floor joist on-center spacings.

But what if your subfloor material’s length is not a multiple of 8 feet? In that case, you can use this formula to determine the joist spacing that will suit your preferred number of joists to support your subfloor material:

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s = L sub ( n sub βˆ’ 1 ) \small s = \frac> <(n_\text- 1)> s = ( n sub ​ βˆ’ 1 ) L sub ​ ​

  • s s s is the joist on-center spacing;
  • L sub L_\text L sub ​ is the length of subfloor; and
  • n sub n_\text n sub ​ is the number of joists you want to support your subfloor material.

In this calculator, it is worth noting that we are only considering natural solid lumber joists. That means we’ve excluded the use of I-joists and open-web truss joists (these are engineered joists that span longer than solid lumber joists). Nevertheless, we still have a huge selection of wood species and lumber grades to choose from in this calculator. The data we’ve used for this calculator came from the 2023 Design Values For Joists And Rafters by the American Wood Council.

How to use this floor joist calculator

The first step in using this floor joist calculator is to choose whether you want to calculate floor joist count or floor joist span (the maximum length a particular floor joist size can span to support a specified load).

To use this tool as a floor joist cost calculator:

  1. Enter the length and width of your floor.
  2. Select the nominal joist size you wish to use. You can also enter the thickness and height of your floor joists using our calculator in Advanced mode (which you can activate at the bottom).
  3. Type in your preferred on-center joist spacing. It’s advisable to choose a joist spacing among the typical values provided in the previous section of this text. Our floor joist calculator will then display the number and recommended length of floor joists and end joists you will need for your floor size. The end joists are the joists used to cover the ends of the floor joists. They run perpendicular to the floor joists and provide stability against the lateral movement of the floor joists.
  4. Enter the price per floor joist and end joist and wastage percentage to determine the approximate cost of your floor joists.

On the other hand, here are the steps you can follow when using this tool as a floor joist span calculator:

  1. Select the nominal joist size you want to analyze. Like when using this tool as a floor joist cost calculator, you can also see the actual thickness and height of your selected joist size in the Advanced mode of our calculator. You can also change these values for custom-sized joists. We also use these measurements to calculate the area moment of inertia.
  2. Enter the on-center joist spacing of the floor joists.
  3. Choose the wood species and its lumber grade. In this step, our tool will instantly display the modulus of elasticity of your selected wood.
  4. Then, pick the deflection limit you want to allow on this floor joist.
  5. Finally, enter the total load per unit area your floor will have to support. After completing these steps, our tool will then provide you with the maximum allowable span of your specified floor joist.
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Now that we know how to use this calculator, how about we discuss how to determine the number of floor joists we need for a flooring project? Keep on reading!

How many floor joists do I need?

For us to estimate how much it costs to install floor joists, it is essential to learn how to determine how many floor joists we need for a project. Here is the formula we can use for that:

n = 1 + L βˆ’ w s \small n = 1 + \frac n = 1 + s L βˆ’ w ​

  • n n n is the number of joists needed;
  • L L L is the length of floor;
  • w w w is the actual thickness of floor joist; and
  • s s s is the on-center spacing of the floor joists.

If we get a value for n n n with a decimal, we round up that value to the nearest whole number. That will be the number of floor joists we need. Take note that the length of floor is the measurement perpendicular to the floor joists.

If we can get lumber with a length equal to or greater than our floor’s length, we can get two pieces of that lumber for our end joists.

Of course, you’ll need to consider some budget for fasteners like nails and screws and other hardware like brackets and hangers. We did not cover these materials in our calculator, as their quantity and cost can vary greatly depending on the project and your preference.

How do I calculate floor joist span?

To find how far any particular size of floor joist can span, we need to combine two formulas for the vertical deflection, Ξ΄ \delta Ξ΄ . The first deflection formula we need determines the allowable sag of a floor joist using a ratio. According to the 2012 International Building Code , the sag or deflection of a floor joist subjected to dead and live loads should not exceed a measurement equal to the span of the floor joist, L (in inches), divided by 240 240 240 . In equation form, we express that as:

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Ξ΄ = L / 240 \small \delta = L / 240 Ξ΄ = L /240

We can also divide L L L by 360 360 360 , 480 480 480 , 600 600 600 , or 720 720 720 , depending on what loading combination you wish to consider in your calculation or how much deflection you want to allow. As a rule of thumb, we use 240 240 240 for a combination of dead and live loads our floor will have to carry.

We then simultaneously use that equation with this maximum allowable deflection formula based on the floor joist material composition, its cross-section, and the load it supports:

Ξ΄ = 5 Γ— u Γ— L 4 384 Γ— E Γ— I \small \delta = \frac Ξ΄ = 384 Γ— E Γ— I 5 Γ— u Γ— L 4 ​

  • Ξ΄ \delta Ξ΄ is the maximum allowable deflection of floor joists;
  • u u u is the uniformly distributed load a floor joist will carry;
  • L L L is the span of the floor joist;
  • E E E is the modulus of elasticity; and
  • I I I is the area moment of inertia.

πŸ’‘ Learn more about beam deflections by checking out our beam deflection calculator.

If you know the load that your floor will carry (say P P P in terms of force per unit area), you have to multiply it by the on-center spacing ( s s s ) that you plan for your joists to get its equivalent uniform distributed load along the joists:

u = P Γ— s \small u = P\times s u = P Γ— s

For the modulus of elasticity, you can refer to this table from the American Wood Council :


Modulus of Elasticity, E (Γ—10 6 psi)

Select struct.

No. 1

No. 2