How Do They Determine Address Numbers?

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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Comments (45)

Lorrie Semler, REALTOR® in the Dallas area. Call/text 972-416-3417
HomeSmart Stars - 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 03:46 AM
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 03:48 AM
Chris "The Loan Ranger" McBrearty, NMLS 274079
Fairway Independent Mortgage, DBO/CRMLA #41DBO-78367, NMLS #2289 - 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 04:22 AM
Aaron Seekford
Arlington Realty, Inc. - Arlington, VA
Ranked Top 1% Nationwide 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 06:00 AM
David Snell 704.545.0098
WWW.ExecutiveRestoration.Com - Charlotte, NC

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 08:36 AM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

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 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 09:07 AM
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 10:48 AM
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 10:51 AM
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 10:54 AM
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 11:02 AM
Erby Crofutt
B4 U Close Home Inspections&Radon Testing ( - 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 01:16 AM
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 01:30 AM
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 12:33 AM

I have the exact problem listed in the bottom...I live in an old duplex and the house address actually faces the cross st. Soooooooo annoying for deliveries and yes, with a toddler, there is the scary thought of emergency vehicles not being able to find our home. Is there any way to have the post office change our address?

Oct 28, 2014 07:45 AM

Houses on the North side here are even and the South side odd. But the house across from me has an even number also. I was told by an EMT driver that the number is determined by the direction the front door faces. Their front door faces East. I don't really understand this rule.

Dec 13, 2014 09:05 PM

if my house is on a corner lot and my drive way is on the side road and my address is for that side road and then is the main road my side yard but my house is facing the main road

Mar 09, 2016 07:10 AM

How do you tell the flow of traffic streets with regard to house number? For example, if you are on 24th street and you don't know which direction 25th street is, should you assume that 25th will be in the direction where the house numbers are ascending? Is this a rule or every jurisdiction figures it out on its own? Thanks!

Jun 13, 2018 09:21 AM
Lauren Beberdick

what i would really like to know is why are some house numbers 1 digit, some 2 some 3 some 4 and some 5. what is the significance if the number of digits?

Aug 10, 2018 05:37 AM

Why on block their ever and one house has a odd numer on the same side

Feb 07, 2019 01:10 AM

Interesting, thanks!
I was wondering how it could be that there I frequently find house numbers like "15438". Especially because they are always in sparsely-populated areas... how can there be 15000 houses on one street there?!? This explains it. :)

Nov 19, 2019 12:54 AM