How to Read House Plans & Floor Plans
The first time anyone opens a set of building plans can be overwhelming. That is why we have put together this guide to help you learn how to read house plans and building plans.
Perhaps before we go into the ins and out of how to read building plans we should start by looking at what is shown in a set of house plans.
What’s In The Floor Plans?
Floor plans are usually drawn one sheet for every floor level.
If, however, the building is a small one, they can be drawn together.
In reading house plans, you will always find that the floor plans are perhaps the most essential drawings that need to placed first in your set of building plans.
Floor plans are usually drawn to 1:100 scale (pronounced: “one in one hundred”).
When learning to read building plans, the first thing you need to pay attention to is the scale.
The scale is a uniform factor or ratio used to shrink the real life size of a building onto a sheet of paper.
In other words a scale is a factor used to convert a larger unit of measurement to a smaller unit or factor so that the actual object can be reduced when drawing it on paper.
What’s Included in The Floor Plans
Most of the critical dimensions and details needed to construct the house are shown in the floor plans.
The dimensioned floor plans will also show an aerial view of plumbing, cabinets, and appliances details.
They also show how the different spaces in the building relate to one another and are therefore like a road map of your home.
Electrical elements like lights, plugs, and switches are often included in the floor plan.
Even so, they will usually be on a separate sheet. To be able to understand these elements one will have to learn to read floor plans symbols.
In the same manner, all structural details like floor joists and the likes may also be added to the floor plan if there’s enough space.
Otherwise, they too will be drawn on another sheet or as part of the Cross Section plans.
Exterior elevations are usually drawn at a 1:100 scale.
In learning to read floor plans, the most recognizable part will be the elevation plans.
A building elevations shows the exterior side image of the building.
The shape of doors, windows and exterior trim of the building are usually illustrated in the Elevations.
Also, the roof pitches and wall heights are indicated and dimensioned on the elevation drawings.
- Foundation/Basement Plans
This is a detailed illustration of the foundation of the building.
It will include everything from the structural beams to the footings necessary to support the structure above.
This plan will also portray the stairs, bearing walls and any basement windows, that is if the building has a basement.
Every plan page will show which foundation is available for that exact plan.
- Building Sections and Details
Cross sections show how the different structural elements connect.
Often you will find a large scale cross section which illustrates the construction of the building.
At other times, it will be located on the foundation plan if there was enough space to contain it.
Cross sections are usually drawn in a slightly larger scale, say 1:50; 1:20; 1:10; etc.
Other vital details required for the construction of the home will also be included in the building section and details plan.
- Roof Plan
Typically it is like an elevated view of the home from above showing only the roof but not the inside walls.
It will clearly show the hips, ridges, and valleys of the structure together with the angle of each slope . Sometimes it may even show each rafter or truss.
Electrical Layout & General Notes
Some of the other things that come with your house plans are electrical layout and cabinet elevations. Electrical designs are merely suggesting the ideal locations for outlets, fixtures, and the likes.
Typically, a separate sheet with standard notes and details will be provided.
Don’t forget that this is basically for the sake of reference, especially when it comes to obtaining quantities and bidding.
You can also decide to get in touch with your builder or their electricians just before the work begins.
This way, you can go over the house plans together. You can then make some final decisions about where the fixtures and switches should be.
Like the electrical plan, the cabinet elevations provided in your plan are simply a guide.
- A Site Plan
A site plan is a drawing that illustrates your building site and locates your home plan, utilities, building setback, etc. onto the site boundaries.
Using Blueprints and Other Floor Plan Formats
A long time ago, house plans were usually designed as a set of blueprints.
They would come in pages that had white lines as well as letterings running through a dark blue background.
This was so because of the way things were printed at that particular period.
However, as technology advanced and knowledge increased things got better.
Many home plans then came printed on white paper sheets that had been made with anhydrous ammonia or treated with chemicals.
As such, many floor plans usually had the strong odor of these chemicals.
Conversion of Blueprints to Digital Formats
Nowadays, we still use archived blueprints but mostly for reference purposes only.
Most blueprints are now scanned and converted to digital formats or printed out on big format digital printers, either on bond paper or on erasable vellums.
A wide range of online house plan packages is now available for download online. Some provide five or eight sets of printed floor plans on A1 to A0 paper sheets and other digital formats such as PDF files.
Though an eight set house plan will usually be needed, a five-set floor plan drawing too can do.
First, you will need to produce at least two sets of the house plans to your city or county, and one will be kept for the job site while the other is for their files.
Building Plans Are Drawn in 2D using CAD
The bank will usually want to keep a copy of the house plans if you have a mortgage.
Also, you have to have several sets reserved for the builder so he can use them to build the house.
Besides, you also need a set of the floor plans just for safekeeping.
Now, it’s not so hard to see that you really will need even more sets of your house plan right?
Floor Plans Stored as PDF Digital Format
With how developed the world we live in is, no one wants to forfeit the convenience that digital formats offer.
Because several house design plans are now available in PDF and CAD, they can be delivered easily and quickly via email.
This is one of the many vital importance that comes with choosing PDF house floor plans packages.
One can easily avoid the stress of having to drive all over town trying to distribute the house floor plans to builders and sub-trades.
It also saves the cost of printing extra sets. Though the CAD format may be a little more expensive, they are essential for having significant changes to your home plans made locally.
The cost is worth it because finding designers who still draw by hand is getting more difficult nowadays.
Floor Plans Are Then Submitted To Municipalities in order To Obtain a Permit
If you’re interested in learning how to read floor plans you will soon find that building plans come in different standard sizes.
When the house is large and expansive, the larger dimensions are often used.
The larger house plans are normally referred to as builder plans. What this means is that the plans are created in such a way that any competent builder can easily follow it and construct the same house.
Also, these house plans will easily help you secure a permit from any agency.
Though the house plans will not give many specifications about interior finishes, there’s usually so much emphasis and concentration on the architecture and structure of the building as well as the structure of the house itself.
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This article shows just how important it is for every homeowner to learn how to read floor plans symbols and understand the house plan drawing process.