How to Read Architect's Drawings
Cover sheet. This
will contain the project
name, the architect's name, address, and contact information, the
project location, and the date. This page is
very similar to the cover of a book.
• Plan Index.
This page (pages) will have an
index of plan sheets (and sometimes their contents). It also will
include an abbreviation key, a scale bar with the
plan scale indicated, and occasionally design notes.
• Location plan.
This will have an area
map, with an enlarged location map, usually giving enough information
to locate the project site from nearby
towns or highways. This sheet is not found in all sets of plans.
• Site plans.
These pages usually are numbered starting with a "C",
such as Sheet "C 001", "C 002". This
will often contain several sheets,
the builder the topography (slopes or flatness) of
plan. This sheet (or sheets) will
show the structures or features which
demolished on the site prior to grading for construction. It will have trees or
which are to
remain noted in the keynotes.
Site utility plans. This
indicate the location of existing underground
can be protected during excavation and construction.
sheets. These sheets
will usually be numbered "A",
such as "A
001". These sheets
describe and give measurements for the basic
footprint of the building. These plan sheets should include the
Floor plans. These sheets will
the location of the walls of the building, and identify
components like doors, windows,
bathrooms, and other elements. There will be dimensions
as distances between, or from center to center of walls, width of openings
for windows and doors,
and changes in floor elevations, if the floor is multilevel. Floor plans
consist of various levels of detail
on the stage of the project.
At stage D (planning) drawings may show
only the major
features of the space. At a tender stage,
be more detailed, illustrating all features of
the space at a
scale to allow a contractor to price the job.
Ceiling plans. Here, the architect
will show the
types, heights, and other feature of ceilings in
different locations in the building.
Roof framing plan. These
layout for joists, rafters, trusses, bar joists, or
other roof framing members, as well as decking and roofing details.
Finish schedule. This is
the different finishes in each individual room.
It should list paint colors for each wall, flooring type and color, ceiling
and color, wall
base, and other notes and details for constructing the
finish in areas listed.
Door / Window schedule. This
will have a list
of doors, describing the opening, "hand" of
doors, window information
(often keyed off of the floor plan, example, window or door type "A",
etc.). It will also include installation details (cuts) for
flashings, attachment methods, and hardware
specifications. There may
also be a seperate schedule for window and door
finishes. A window
example would be "Mill finish, aluminum", a door might be "Oak, natural
o Details. This may
include bathroom fixture layouts,
(cabinets), closet accessories, and
other elements not specifically
noted on other sheets.
Elevations. These are views
indicating the material used in exterior walls, (brick,
stucco, vinyl, etc), the location
of windows and doors from a side
slopes, and other
elements visible from the exterior.
Structural plans. The
plans usually are
numbered beginning with "S", as
in "S 001" These plans
include reinforcement, foundations, slab thicknesses, framing
(lumber, concrete pilasters,
structural steel, concrete block, etc.)
o Foundation plan.
This sheet will show the size,
thickness, and elevation of footings (footers), with
Framing plan. This will
the material used
for framing the building. This may include wood
the placement of reinforcing bars (rebar). It
will note locations for
anchor bolts or
weld plate imbeds for structural steel, and other
elements. A footing schedule is often shown on the
first sheet of
structural notes, as well as notes regarding the reinforcing
break strenth requirements, and other
written statements for structural
strengths, and testing
or metal studs, concrete masonary units, or structural steel.
Intermediate structural framing plans.
used for multistory construction, where each
level may require support
columns, beams, joists, decking, and other elements.
• Plumbing plan.
Plumbing drawing pages are numbered
beginning with "P". These
sheets will show the
location and type of plumbing incorporated in the building.
o Plumbing rough - in.
This sheet will show the
location of pipes which are to be "stubbed up" to
connect the plumbing
fixtures to water supply, drain/waste, and vent systems.
o Plumbing floor
plan. This sheet will show the
location and type of plumbing fixtures, as well as the
route pipes will
be run (overhead or through walls) for potable water and drain, waste,
drawings. Mechanical pages are
beginning with "M". This sheet
(or sheets) will
show the location of HVAC (heating, ventillation, and air conditioning) equipment, ductwork, and refrigerant
piping, as well as control wiring.
• Electrical plan.
The electrical drawings are
numbered beginning with "E".
This sheet (sheets) shows the
the electrical circuits, panel boxes, and fixtures throughout the
building, as well as switchgears,
transformers, if incorporated in the building. Special pages found in
may be "riser"
details, showing the
configuration of power
supply wiring, panel schedules, identifying
specific breaker amperages
and circuits, and notes regarding types and gauges of wires and conduit
Practices) drawings, or
enviromental plans. This sheet will indicate protected
areas of the site, erosion
control plans, and methods for
construction. There may be details in the BMP drawings
showing tree protection techniques, silt fence
installation requirements, and temporary storm water retainage measures. The
requirement for a BMP plan
originates under the enviromental protection
department of your local, state, or national governing authority.
• Locate the
element of construction you are reviewing to implement a
portion of your work. If you
laying out the location of the
building, you will first look at the site plan for location of existing
structures, or property lines so you have a reference point
to begin measuring to your building footprint.
Some plans simply give a
coordinate grid position using northings and eastings, and you will
need a "total
station" surveyor's transit to locate these points. Here
are some example steps for laying out a building foot
print from architectural plans.
out your building on the site
by either the
above referenced plan or the measurements given on the
Measure to locations, preferrably
corners, on one side of the
and check for any
"checkpoints" to verify the accuracy of your layout.
If you cannot absolutely establish an exact building
line, you may have
to suppose the location is correct and continue. This is widely
accepted in cases
where the site is very large, allowing for tolerance,
but on a crowded lot or site, the location must be exact.
• Establish the
elevation you will work from.
may be a height relative to a nearby roadway, or an
elevation determined from sea level. Your site plan or architectural
should have a bench
bench mark refers to some item, such as a
manhole lid or survey waypoint with a known elevation) elevation
"height above existing grade" as a starting point.
• Use your plan to
location of each
corner of the building, including offsets. Remember what
exact element of construction you are using for your
layout. You may mark an outside
wall line, a foundation line,
or a column
line, depending on the type
of construction and the most practicle element for making
measurements. For instance, if you are building a structural steel
building with I-beam columns
which require setting anchor bolts to
secure them, you may begin your building layout with the centerline of
these columns, where
if you are building a wood-framed residential structure with a
monolithic slab floor, the
edge of the slab would be
your best choice for the initial layout.
various sheets to find an element of
construction you are going to use in the work you will perform.
Plumbers use the Architect's floor plan to locate walls so the pipes they
stub up will be concealed
inside the wall cavity when
is constructed, then use their plumbing floor
plan to find out what
types and sizes of pipes are required to
service a particular fixture.
where measurements are
not provided. As a rule,
architectural plans are
drawn to a "scale".
An example would
be, 1 inch
equals 10 feet (1"=10'), so measuring between to walls on the
sheet means for
each inch, the distance is 10
feet. A scale rule []
will make this much easier,
but be careful to match the rule
the plan's scale. Architects often
use a scale of fractions, such as a
scale, engineers usually use an inch
per foot scale. Some plans or details are not to
scale, and should be
all notes on a page. Often a
particular element has special
considerations which are more easily
verbally than drawn, and
notes are a tool the architect
will use to illustrate them. You may see
of notes on the
side of a sheet, with numbers
identifying the note location on the plan (a number with a circle,
around it) and a corresponding
numbered statement describing the
situation on the side of
recognise the different types of lines
the architects and
engineers may use. You should
keynote table for section
of plans, and this will provide information on the abbreviations,
lines used in each section of
the plans. An
example would be in the electrical plans, a circuit may have
run" "leg" (the wire going
from the first
junction box in a circuit to
the panel box (the power source)
or in darker ink than
other circuits, and exposed conduits
may be indicated by a solid line,
conduits by a dotted or broken line. Because there are many different
line usages indicating different
wiring, and other features, you will have to see individual plan page
"key notes" to understand
"Builder's" calculator to add
dimensions when determining
distances on your plans. These
which add feet and
inches, fractions, or metric measurements. Often, an architect
to a specific plan item, from a
baseline such as the
"'OBL" (outside building line),
so you will
be able to add the
distances each feature which has
a measurement provided, to get the
would be finding the center line of a bathroom wall to
locate the potable water pipe stub up.
You may have to
add the distance given from the OBL to the living room wall, then
distance to a hallway wall,
then across a
bedroom, to the bathroom wall
in question. This might look like (11' 5) + (5' 2") +
(12' 4")= 28'
(Computer Assisted Design)
building plans. If you have a
architectural plans in an
electronic form, as on
a CD, you will
version of the original "cad" program which created it to open
files. "AutoCAD" is
a popular, but very expensive,
program, and the designer will
usually include a "Viewer" on
which you can install on your computer
to view files, so that actual
plan pages appear on your screen,
but without the full program, you
cannot manipulate design
or change the drawings.
Learn how to handle
architect's plans. These sets
often very large sheets, about 24" X
36", and full
may include dozens, or hundreds of pages. They are either bound or
the left edge, and
allowing them to be torn
bindings, ripped apart by mishandling, laid out in the sun to
fade the ink, or left
in the rain can make them difficult to
documents can cost hundreds of dollars
(US) to replace, so
protect them, and have a flat, wide, protected
work surface to unroll
and read them on.
that the building plans for a project often include contract
documents other than the
Specifications are usually printed and kept in
a binder, and they list
descriptions of methods and
materials used in the project, as
testing methods, quality control information, geotechnical
other information useful in building the
notes and symbol referring to
"alternate bid items" and
"addendums". These may
work which are incorporated
in the Architect's drawings, but not in the builder's contract to
install. "NIC" is an abbreviation for Not In
Contract, which means a certain item will be put in a certain
the owner after the project is finished. "OFCI" or "GFCI" (Owner
Furnished, Contractor Installed, or
Installed) indicate the item is supplied by the customer, but installed
Read and understand all abbreviations used in your
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