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CSS 100% height with padding/margin


This has been driving me crazy for a couple of days now, but in reality it's a problem that I've hit off and on for the last few years: With HTML/CSS how can I make an element that has a width and/or height that is 100% of it's parent element and still has proper padding or margins?

By "proper" I mean that if my parent element is 200px tall and I specify 100% height with 5px padding I would expect that I should get a 190px high element with 5px "border" on all sides, nicely centered in the parent element.

Now, I know that that's not how the standard box model specifies it should work (although I'd like to know why, exactly...), so the obvious answer doesn't work:

#myDiv {
    width: 100%
    height: 100%;
    padding: 5px;

But it would seem to me that there must be SOME way of reliably producing this effect for a parent of arbitrary size. Does anyone know of a way of accomplishing this (seemingly simple) task?

Oh, and for the record I'm not terribly interested in IE compatibility so that should (hopefully) make things a bit easier.

EDIT: Since an example was asked for, here's the simplest one I can think of:

<html style="height: 100%">
    <body style="height: 100%">
        <div style="background-color: black; height: 100%; padding: 25px"></div>

The challenge is then to get the black box to show up with a 25 pixel padding on all edges without the page growing big enough to require scrollbars.

  • CSS

  • asked 2 years ago
  • B Butts



I learned how to do these sort of things reading "PRO HTML and CSS Design Patterns". The display:block is the default display value for the div, but I like to make it explicit. The container has to be the right type; position attribute is fixed, relative, or absolute.

.stretchedToMargin {
    display: block;
    background-color: green;


<div class="stretchedToMargin">
  Hello, world
  • answered 2 years ago
  • Sandy Hook


There is a new property in CSS3 that you can use to change the way the box model calculates width/height, it's called box-sizing.

By setting this property with the value "border-box" it makes whichever element you apply it to not stretch when you add a padding or border. If you define something with 100px width, and 10px padding, it will still be 100px wide.

-webkit-box-sizing: border-box;
   -moz-box-sizing: border-box;
        box-sizing: border-box;

See here for browser support. It does not work for IE7 and lower, however, I believe that Dean Edward's IE7.js adds support for it. Enjoy :)

  • answered 2 years ago
  • Sunny Solu

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