Arizona Architects Share: How to Read a Floor Plan

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One of the first things an architect can show you about the design of your new home is a floor plan and design drawings. Both are such important documents and can seem a little daunting at first. As trusted and award-winning Arizona architects, we at Urban Design Associates wanted to take the time to break down how to read a floor plan.

What is a Floor Plan?

A floor plan, also known as a blueprint (though the term is older), is a plan for the interior of your home. They are the heart and soul of the project and dictates exact measurements and placements of essential items found in a home. They are used to show the layout of rooms from a top-down view and are prepared as part of the design process to provide instructions for construction. 

Floor plans may include key dimensions and levels, and may also use hatching, symbols, and other abbreviations to indicate materials, fittings and appliances, and so on. They are, essentially, a guide for how the home is meant to be built. 

Floor plans refer to the map of an individual floor on the house. Each floor should have its own plan. 

You’ll also hear some similar terms when discussing the floor plan, like all of the following. 

Plan Set

A plan set is the collection of the individual pages that describe the house. This usually includes the site plan, building notes, floor plans of each level of the house, framing plans, roofing plans, electrical and mechanical plans, and construction details. 

Site Plan

A site plan details the exterior portion of the home. It details how a home sits on the land and shows relationships between buildings to landscape, hardscape, views, streets, and neighbors.

Design Drawing

Design drawings are floor plans that have fewer measurements, but more visual details. They convey more information about the home plans and communicate them to homeowners and non-professionals. This is what the average homeowner typically sees as it breaks down the important aspects of the home, like room sizes, without presenting the whole scope of the plan, such as where light switches and electrical sockets will go. 

A design drawing has the basics: measurements of each room, where key appliances are — such as the toilet, sink, and refrigerator — and may have furniture in them to help you visualize the space. They mark where doors are and how they open, as well as window placement. 

Because they are so common to see, floor plans and design drawings are often considered to be one and the same. 

How to Read a Floor Plan

The best way to read a floor plan is to take it room by room. The first thing you need to know is that the home is usually drawn between a scale of 1:200 and 1:20. This means the building is scaled down in sizes to fit on paper, so a 2,000 square-foot building, scaled down by 1:20, would be 1/100th the size. 

The plan will utilize lines of different colors and weight (thickness) to designate key features, such as walls, windows, and doors.

The thickest lines will be the outer walls of the home. Doors are usually represented by breaks in the walls with an arc to show which way the door will open. Windows are usually breaks in the outer walls and are shown by thinner lines. 

A floor plan can consist of one plan per floor or can be separated out even further for more complex projects. 

The lower-right-hand corner of the sheet is typically reserved for a title block, which contains the name of the project, the name of the drawing, the scale of it, and so on. For example, it may read “Smith Home, First Floor, 1:20.” It can also include who made the plans, when it was last revised, and the date it was last presented. 

The first thing you may notice is that many floor plans have a grid over them. This helps coordinate the plans with other drawings.

The second thing you should take note of is what room you’re looking at. Each room will be clearly labeled in the center of each room. Symbols for the following should be present as well: 

  • Appliances
  • Fixed furniture
  • Fittings (home contents lists)
  • Building services (security/alarm systems, energy, etc.)
  • Electrical elements such as power sockets, light switches and ceiling mounted items
  • Dimensions of key elements in the room

Floor plans should not duplicate information that is presented in specifications or schedules because of the potential for conflict. 

Ask the Architect to Walk You Through It

With over 40 years of experience and over 2,000 residences designed, we have the experience to break down even the most intricate floor plan. If you choose us to design your home, we will walk you through the plans so it feels like you’re walking through your new home. 

We are an award-winning full-service architecture firm and specialize in bringing your vision to life. Lee Hutchison, AIA, and Jessica Hutchison-Rough, AIA, LEED AP, lead a highly talented and experienced staff. Whether the project is a new luxury home or remodel, Organic Pueblo, or Jessica’s modern contemporary, we take pride in guiding our clients through an enjoyable, interactive design process. We believe the key to a successful design relationship is the ability to listen to our clients, fusing creativity and functionality to create their perfect place for celebration and renewal.

Contact us today. If you can dream it, we can bring it to life.