How Do They Determine Address Numbers?

By
Home Inspector with Diadem Property Inspections - Serving Southeast Michigan

Home Numbers

How Do They Determine Address Numbers?

Ever wonder about your address?

In the United States, odd numbers are on one side and even numbers on the other. Typically, the address number assigned is proportional to the distance from some baseline, so that's why there is a big skip in numbers on a typical street.

In many cities, addresses often increase by 100 for each cross street, sometimes within each block. So a block where one side is numbered 5501, 5513, etc. is followed by a block beginning with 5601.

Until the widespread adoption of 911 Emergency Systems, an old rural address might have been something like Route 2, Box 12. But 911 forced the naming of street names and house numbers in rural areas, which typically number 1000 for each mile from the nearest town center.

Some areas of the country feature addresses based on a layout of the county. The powers-that-be determine a baseline in one corner of the county, and numbers increase from that point moving a certain direction. In other words, an address on a north-south road 15 blocks north from the baseline is written as "N1500," or an address 37 blocks west from the baseline on a east-west road is shown as "W3700."

Many municipalities across the country combine two baselines, so the address would read "N1500-W3700."

Have you ever seen a hyphen in an address? Some places use a hyphen to separate the hundreds digit from the tens digit. So a building number that might elsewhere be written 22233 is instead written 222-33. In these kind of numbering systems, the first number typically refers to the street where the numbering begins. So 55-40 63rd Avenue would be so numbered because the starting point was 55th Street.

The compound block number systems (i.e. 123 N 3400 W) indicate the number of blocks from both the north-south and the east-west dividing lines, where more conventional systems might use "123 34th Ave NW."

 

Visibility Of House Numbers

While we're looking at house numbers, have you ever considered the actual numbers on your house? Usually, a previous owner installed the number and subsequent owners never give it another thought.

But these numbers are more important than most of us realize.

For safety, house numbers should be clear enough so emergency responders (police, fire department, paramedics) can quickly locate the house. Even in this day and age of GPS and Google, numbers are often the only way that first-responders can identify their intended destinations.

But there are other reasons to have visible numbers... keeping party guests from getting frustrated trying to find the house, or keeping the pizza delivery guy on schedule (very important at my house!).

Many municipalities have ordinances or laws requiring the house number to be a certain size or color. In some cities, the address is painted on the curb as well, often in reflective paint.

But if there are no government regulations in your neck of the woods, here are some recommendations to make your address much easier to read from the road:

  • The numbers should be large, say 5 or 6 inches tall, since smaller numbers may not be visible from the street. Replacement house numbers can be purchased from just about every hardware store in the country, as well as online.
  • The colors should contrast with their background, and be reflective (reflective numbers are easier to see at night). 
  • Trees and shrubs (or anything else for that matter) shouldn't obscure their view from the street.
  • If you live on a corner lot, make sure that the number faces the correct street. Say you live on 1455 Jones Avenue at the intersection of Jones Avenue and Smith Street... it doesn't help emergency workers if the 1455 faces Smith Street.
  • If your house not visible from the road, the number should be placed at the driveway's entrance... and keep snow and debris from blocking visibility.

 

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Jason Channell     Twitter - Home Inspection LinkedIn Twitter - Home Inspection

Diadem Property Inspections
(888) 699-8710

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Michigan Builder's License 2101198700
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International Indoor Air Quality Commission CC1983 --  Indoor Environmental Certified Consultant

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  1. Wallace S. Gibson, CPM 01/04/2011 06:52 AM
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Rainer
130,383
Jason Channell
The House Sleuth
Diadem Property Inspections - Serving Southeast Michigan

Dustin -- Thanks!

Corrine -- Those markers are lifesavers!

Lorrie -- That's always a great way for emergency responders -- and even the pizza delivery person -- to find the house.

Ira -- I love my GPS, but it gives me similar fits so many times.

 

January 05, 2011 06:54 PM
Rainer
130,383
Jason Channell
The House Sleuth
Diadem Property Inspections - Serving Southeast Michigan

Chris -- GPS is such a wonderful tool. I get frustrated when it goes down occasionally.

Aaron -- Thanks!

David -- I appreciate it. We know how hard it can be to find some residences.

Laura -- That's an interesting story, thanks for sharing!

January 05, 2011 07:02 PM
Rainmaker
205,471
Erby Crofutt
The Central Kentucky Home Inspector, Lexington KY
B4 U Close Home Inspections&Radon Testing (www.b4uclose.com)

GPS is wonderful but the emergency people know they're not 100 percent accurate.  I'd rather have the number and street name on the marker, mail box, etc.

Ever see those fly by night guys that come around painting house numbers on the curb up there.  Don't help me much.  Don't have a curb, just a mail box.

January 06, 2011 09:16 AM
Rainer
130,383
Jason Channell
The House Sleuth
Diadem Property Inspections - Serving Southeast Michigan

Erby -- Yeah, we have those fly-by-nighters come by every so often. But it might be a pro crew soon, since my city hall is considering mandatory curbside marking.

January 06, 2011 09:30 AM
Anonymous #38
Anonymous
Bob Galloway

An interesting post.  My search, however wa to find out if there's a "tradition" of putting odd numbers on one side vs. even numbers. Say... odd on the north and west- even on south and east.

November 19, 2013 08:33 AM
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