How Many Square Feet Do You Need To Get Started?

You’re ready to jump in with both feet…

And here, right out of the gate, is the first hurdle you must jump – space!

If you’re starting a traditional practice, you need office space. The million-dollar question…? How much do you need?

Well, it depends…

Not only is medical space different from traditional office space, but it also tends to be more expensive. And it can be a challenge to find the right space that fits both your needs and pocketbook.

You don’t want to lease too much space; there’s no point in paying for something you won’t use.

And you don’t want to feel cramped by an office that’s too small.

So what’s the answer? Doing the legwork…

The Fallacy

Frequently, new practice owners think they need a lot of space right out of the gate. But most of the information floating around is based on the multiple provider practice model.

And yes, if you’re planning to start a practice with multiple providers, you will need more than just a couple of rooms. However, if you will be starting small, just yourself, or perhaps you and a business partner, chances are your space needs are much different. 

How Many Square Feet?

How much space you need depends on several factors…

It all starts with time set aside for reflection, so you can figure out what it is you need vs. what you want.

Because the greater clarity you have about your goals, the easier it will be to find suitable space. And while thinking about your current space needs, you may want to be mindful of your potential space needs down the road.

Here are a few pointers to help you determine what square footage is right for you at startup.

Begin with answering the following questions:

  • What type of practice will you be starting? A traditional primary care office where you’ll need multiple rooms to see patients throughout the day? Or will it be a practice where you’ll see fewer patients and won’t need more than one or two rooms?
  • How big do exam rooms need to be to accommodate people, furniture, equipment, and supplies? The average size of an exam room is around 100 SF (10 x 10), give and take.
  • Will you be working alone, with one other provider, or with multiple providers?
  • What are the long-term goals for your practice? Starting and maintaining a practice or starting and expanding? If possible, do your planning with your bigger goals in mind.
  • Will you have staff right out of the gate? How many?
  • How many patients do you expect to see per hour/day?
  • How big of a waiting area do you need; how many chairs should it hold? A rough estimate is taking the number of patients you expect to see in an hour and multiply that by 1.5 to 2. Be sure to allow for adequate space and seating not only for patients but also for those accompanying them.
  • How big of a reception area will you need to accommodate patients and patient privacy? Consider the patient flow through the office.
  • How much additional space do you require for storage, technology, labs or other services, work area for employees, office space for yourself and other providers, lunch/break area, cleaning tools and supplies, and back-office workspace?
  • The number of bathrooms required for staff and patients?
  • How much can you afford vs. how much are you willing to pay for each square foot of space?

A Few More Questions:

  • Do you prefer an existing space or new office space? Generally, you can expect to pay more for new construction.
  • Should you buy or lease?
  • Are you prepared to remodel or build-out space? Who will pay, you or the landlord?
  • Where is the space located: medical complex or mixed business? Expect to pay more for space in a medical complex.
  • Do you have a preferred location in mind?
  • What lease terms do you need or prefer? Do you prefer a short-term contract, or are you comfortable with a longer-term lease?
  • What is your timeframe for finding optimal office space?

When it comes to finding the right space for your new practice, it all comes down to knowing what you want. And while that may change over time, today it serves as your starting point.

Begin the process by figuring out how much space you must have vs. how much space would be nice to have. Remember, unless you have concrete numbers and requirements in mind, it’s pointless to start the search for space.

While researching this article, I came across a Medical Office Space Calculator. Have a look, run through different office configurations and scenarios. I think you’ll find the calculator helpful.

Stick To Your Guns!

And remember, just because other providers start with 3000+ square feet of office space, doesn’t mean you have to do the same.

If you plan to start a small practice, stick to the plan. And don’t get discouraged by the seeming unavailability of smaller medical office spaces.

Smaller spaces are out there. You may have to use some creativity to find them. In addition to enlisting the services of a commercial real estate professional consider tapping into online resources. Look on Craigslist and similar sites to help locate smaller office space.

Alternatively, consider renting office space from other providers in their clinics. Sometimes, not all office space gets used, and the person paying the lease would love to rent out the unused space; it helps offset the overhead.

Check around and ask around, let your colleagues know you’re looking; it never hurts to ask.


We want to hear from you… Share your experience with your colleagues and tell your story below! Or do you have a question? Don’t be shy, ask!


By Johanna Hofmann, MBA, Lac, a regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog




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  1. Hi.
    Thanks for the information. My question is, what is the first step in starting your business? Is it looking for available space or getting credentialing with insurance companies?

  2. The FIRST step is planning. It’s imperative that you plan out your business BEFORE you begin to look for space etc. You’ll find several articles on starting your business, with more coming, on this blog.

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