A Guide to Reading Blueprints

reading blueprints

Sitting down to read a house plan, or blueprint, has the ability to induce anxiety and frustration. The combination of symbols, abbreviations, and labyrinth of lines can confuse even a seasoned designer. The goal of this article is to help you become comfortable with reading the three basic views typically provided in a house plan: exterior elevations, floor plans, and building cross sections.

Exterior Elevations

The exterior elevation drawing is a completely flat view, with no artistic perspective, which provides you with an overall view of what the house will look like upon completion. Typically, you will receive four drawings; front, rear, and one of each side.

The elevation view provides exterior details, such as the building height and materials used (both siding and roofing). This view not only provides the homeowner with a sense of what the finished home will look like, but is also given to the appropriate authorities to ensure the building meets local zoning regulations.

Floor Plans

The floor plan provides a view of the home from above; as if the homeowner were directly above the home, looking down, and the roof had been removed. This view shows the walls, stairs, fixtures, and will typically include the furniture, location of electrical lights, and built-in cabinetry and appliances.

By familiarizing yourself with the commonly used symbols below, you’ll quickly navigate between rooms with ease and confidence.

Common Blueprint and Floor Plan Symbols

Blueprints are drawn to scale, meaning they are an exact representation of the house that will be built, but scaled down to fit on paper. Room dimensions are usually listed on the floor plan, but for smaller areas, you may benefit from an architect’s scale.

Building Cross Sections

The last view we’ll discuss is the cross section plan, which is viewing the inside of the home, cut down through the center; similar to a slice of bread. This provides a vertical section view, and offers the builder interior and exterior construction details.

Building cross section plans can be complex and difficult to read due to the large amount of details included. These plans include wall and roof framing details, exterior wall insulation, and interior details like ceiling height, moldings, and cabinetry. The number of cross section plans provided depends on the complexity of the home design.

At Architectural Designs, no two house plans are the same. Each plan is designed by a licensed architect or residential building designer. You can find what’s typically included in a plan here, but we encourage you to contact us for the specific contents of the plan you’ve chosen. Hopefully this has helped you to read house plans and blueprints, making your plan search a little easier.