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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  1. Wallace S. Gibson, CPM 01/04/2011 06:52 AM
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Rainmaker
414,343
Jen Bowman
Keller Williams Realty - Holmes Beach, FL
Realtor - Anna Maria Island & Bradenton FL

Jason, this was really good. I have wondered how they come up with the numbers. Things make more sense now.

Jan 04, 2011 07:56 AM #19
Rainmaker
1,089,855
Bryant Tutas
Bryant Tutas-Tutas Towne Realty, Inc - Poinciana, FL
Broker/REALTOR, Tutas Towne Realty, Inc

Very interesting Jason. I did not know this. It's rare we find a new topic on AR by you certainly did. Well done.

Jan 04, 2011 08:09 AM #20
Rainmaker
851,047
J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY
Broker-Owner

Interesting stuff. 

The city with the most logical numerical system I have ever seen is Philadelphia. Hands down. 

Since the days I delivered pizza in college, I have always wished more people would make their address number more visible. GPS helps, but there is nothing like a good clear house number, especially at night. 

Jan 04, 2011 08:24 AM #21
Rainmaker
151,391
Kristen Ueckert
Ueckert Realty LLC - Keller, TX
Real Estate Pro in Keller, Texas

Hey, nice job! My hubby is a firefighter and you're right, numbers are important to our safety! Good visibility, especially at night, is critical when seconds count. In my neighborhood the street names are so similar from street to street that if I ever replace my marker, I will probably even add the street name to it vs. numbers only because we are constantly getting the wrong deliveries for those with the same number on different streets.

Jan 04, 2011 08:30 AM #22
Rainmaker
894,458
Michael Setunsky
Michael's Commercial LLC - Woodbridge, VA
Your Commercial Real Estate Link to Northern VA

Jason, good information on how house numbers are derived in some locations. Thanks for the tips for maintaining a visible house number for our safety.

Jan 04, 2011 08:59 AM #23
Rainmaker
49,187
Dustin McClure
Mossy Oak Properties Outdoor Realty - Mooresville, NC

I've never wondered this, but thanks for the post. You learn something new every day.

Jan 04, 2011 09:26 AM #24
Rainmaker
567,746
Corinne Guest
Barrington Realty Company - Barrington, IL
Country Suburban & Luxury Homes Lifestyles

Ours are based mnore on co-ordinates because we are rural-ish. My house is 27656. Our numbers are on the house but from the road you'll need a zoom lense so our fire department have put markers at the drive-ways to help their drivers and police/ambulance identify the right house. Makes it easy for anyone now to find us.

Jan 04, 2011 09:33 AM #25
Rainmaker
743,243
Lorrie Semler, REALTORĀ® in the Dallas area. Call/text 972-416-3417
Keller Williams Dallas Premier - Addison, TX
Real Service. Real Results. Real Estate

In addition to numbers on the houses, we have street numbers painted on the curbs in our subdivision.

Jan 04, 2011 11:46 AM #26
Rainer
158,280
Ira Bodenstein
PNC Mortgage - Montclair, NJ
NMLS#: 445143

Very interesting and informative post.  I am still trying to figure out why my GPS thinks my house is on the left side of the street when I live on the right side. Go figure!

Jan 04, 2011 11:48 AM #27
Rainer
139,254
Chris "The Loan Ranger" McBrearty
The Lending Company - Rancho Bernardo, CA
FHA, VA, USDA, Loan Officer and Educator

Amazing how little we know about reading an adress or actually using a map. I hope the GPS system stays up froever. I wonder what we would do if the GPS system were to go down for a year or two.

Jan 04, 2011 12:22 PM #28
Rainmaker
150,883
Aaron Seekford
Arlington Realty, Inc. - Arlington, VA
Arlington VA Homes 703-836-6116

I never knew that about what the numbers mena, Jason! I, too, know that it's very important to have visible numbers on your home. We like our pizza hot!

Jan 04, 2011 02:00 PM #29
Rainer
94,843
David Snell
Snell Experts - Charlotte, NC
Inspector

Congrats on the feature! Great observation. Really good points for us all to remember... no one knows more frustrations then those that have to travel to a different address every day.

Jan 04, 2011 04:36 PM #30
Rainmaker
1,518,454
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Authentic Feng Shui Expert

Hey Jason!

First of all many congrats on your featured post...that is always such an accomplishment :) This is such an interesting post because when the Viana Hotel and Spa was built, the owner had to change the address. Originally it was set as 4000...in Feng Shui that is a huge no no...and I know he fought to change it...and it did.  But thank you for the inside scope, very interesting :)

Jan 04, 2011 05:07 PM #31
Rainer
130,399
Jason Channell
Diadem Property Inspections - Serving Southeast Michigan - Troy, MI
The House Sleuth

K.C. -- Thanks!

George -- Interesting information. Thanks!

Jen -- Glad things make a bit more sense now.

Bryant -- Thanks very much, I appreciate that!

Jan 05, 2011 06:48 PM #32
Rainer
130,399
Jason Channell
Diadem Property Inspections - Serving Southeast Michigan - Troy, MI
The House Sleuth

J. Philip -- You are right, visible numbers are very, very helpful to anyone looking in the dark... or the light, for that matter.

Kristin -- The street name on the marker is a good idea!

Michael -- Thanks!

Jan 05, 2011 06:51 PM #33
Rainer
130,399
Jason Channell
Diadem Property Inspections - Serving Southeast Michigan - Troy, MI
The House Sleuth

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.

 

Jan 05, 2011 06:54 PM #34
Rainer
130,399
Jason Channell
Diadem Property Inspections - Serving Southeast Michigan - Troy, MI
The House Sleuth

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!

Jan 05, 2011 07:02 PM #35
Rainmaker
205,571
Erby Crofutt
B4 U Close Home Inspections&Radon Testing (www.b4uclose.com) - Lexington, KY
The Central Kentucky Home Inspector, Lexington KY

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.

Jan 06, 2011 09:16 AM #36
Rainer
130,399
Jason Channell
Diadem Property Inspections - Serving Southeast Michigan - Troy, MI
The House Sleuth

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.

Jan 06, 2011 09:30 AM #37
Anonymous
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.

Nov 19, 2013 08:33 AM #38
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