How To Read House Plans

Maybe you’re looking for a job in a real estate office or as an assistant with a construction company. Or it could be that you have taken a job at a local builders supply and will be doing material take offs. These are just a few of the jobs where you need to have a familiarity with construction drawings. Though I’m not going to be able to tell you in just one article how to read a set of plans. There’s way too much information to cover. What I can do is give you a basic overview so you have a head start.

The Floor Plan:

Imagine having a house and cutting into it horizontally with a knife. Once done, you’re able to see the interior rooms or layout of the home. That’s what the floor plan is. On a floor plan you have lines of dimensions that define the locations of the porches, decks, walls, windows, doors, etc. You’ll also have door and window sizes, floor coverings, ceiling heights and types, water heater, washer and dryer locations listed. Almost always included on the floor plan is a kitchen layout showing cabinet sizes and location. Bathroom cabinets should are illustrated and defined there too.

Electrical Plan:

Designers and drafters include the electrical plan on the main floor plan and some don’t. What you’ll find on this plan is outlet locations, light fixture types and locations, smoke detectors, door bell, meter base and circuit panel.

The Foundation or Basement Plan:

Same as the floor plan this is a view that is made by the same type of cut. On this drawing you’ll find the wall sizes and types, floor support columns or piers, floor support types such as trusses or joists, slab thickness, footing sizes, and wall openings that should all be defined by dimensions.

Exterior Views or Elevations:

These are the views of the house from the front, left, rear, right, and roof. This drawing usually defines exterior finishes, shutters, pediments, trim types, roof shingle materials, grade levels (where the exterior ground level meets the house), railing types and locations, etc. It should also include roof pitches that are defined by 12 inches horizontal by however many inches vertical to define the angle of the roof.

Cross Sectional Details:

This drawing is also a knife cut illustration only vertically that shows things like insulation “R” factors, stud and header sizes, floor truss or joist sizes and spacing, floor and roof decking sizes, etc.

HVAC and Plumbing Plans:

These show the duct work and pipe locations along with pipe size for hot and cold water, and the fixtures and fitting types.

Tim Davis is an Architectural Designer with over 20 years experience in his field. He teaches Architectural Blueprint Reading classes at This course offers full tech support and a complete, easy to understand format.

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I’m your host and webmaster. I’m someone who enjoys life to it’s fullest and love programming, drafting, farming, and an ordained Baptist pastor and sheriff’s department chaplain.

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