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How to Interpret Building Plans Correctly

Philip Agutu, is a Building Construction Engineer and a devoted writer on DIY articles. He has been on HubPages since 2017.

What are Architectural Blueprints?

An architectural blueprint

An architectural blueprint


Why should I learn how to read building plans? One may argue that knowing how to read building drawings should be required for architects and builders. Believe me, it is worth knowing irrespective of your profession as you never know when you will need the skills of interpreting a building plan! For example, imagine you are trapped in a building under fire. A building plan may be worthless if you and those you are with do not know how to read the building plan and find fire escape doors and routes.

While the ability to read simple and complex building plans will increase your value to your current employer as a builder, it also is an advancement in your career as a profession in the field. For those not in the construction profession, you must know some building drawings basics so you can read building plans and interpret them in the correct way. A wrong interpretation of the building plans will obviously result in confusion when maneuvering your way out of a trapped building. For engineers, builders, steel fixers, and masons, among other skilled workers, wrong interpretation of the building drawing will result in poor workmanship, wrong cost estimation, and wrong project construction.

The aim of this article is to provide help to anyone interested in knowing how to read building plans. Be my guest as I take you through the basic skills. I assure you, by the end of this article you will know how to read building plans correctly.

A house plan

A house plan

What Are Building Drawings?

Building drawings are 2-dimensional blueprints that are drawn by architects, builders, draftsmen, and other experienced personnel in the construction sector. They are very important in the whole process of implementing a building project, as they act as a reference to the final constructed project.

Building drawings provide detailed measurements, parts, placement, and clear sections of every building part displaying the materials to be used to complete the project successfully. After reviewing, the drawings are justified, modified, and finally approved for construction by the respective departments of authority.

Types of Building Drawings

For any construction project, there must be present detailed/working drawings that are the sole guiding reference in the overall implementation of the project. Building drawings are usually drawn to a scale depending on the size and complexity of the project. Most simple drawings are printed on A2 or A1 papers, while complex ones for big projects are printed on A0 paper, which is bigger than the former types. Building drawings comprise of the following categories:

  • Architectural drawings
  • Perspective or 3D drawings
  • Structural drawings
  • Electrical drawings
  • Plumbing drawings

1. Architectural Drawings

The architect and building draftsmen create this type of drawing. It provides a complete view of a building project through the ground floor plan layout, elevation, and sections. The floor plan shows information such as locations of rooms, closets, windows, and doors, and also includes exact dimensions, construction notes, and references to other professional details that are to be read in conjunction with the architectural drawings.

The elevations are exterior views of the building or project and are named according to their position in relation to the view. For example, a front elevation must indicate a front view on the floor plan. They can also be named according to the points of the compass such as north, south, east, and west elevations.

2. Perspectives or 3D Drawings

These drawings provide the 3-dimensional view of the complete project as depicted by the architectural drawing. It shows the artists’ rendering of the exterior finishing details and appearance of the building in 3-dimensional aspects. 3D house drawings are much easier to interpret as they reflect the final house after completion.

Elevations drawings

Elevations drawings

The 3-Dimensional Drawing


3. Structural Drawings

The structural engineer creates these drawings. Structural drawings provide detailed information about a structure, such as the strength of different structural elements, structural materials, size, grade, and placement of reinforcement, among other details. They are much more complex to interpret, but after reading this article, you will interpret them with ease.

Structural drawing

Structural drawing

4. Electrical Drawings

The electrical engineer, architect, and draftsmen draw the electrical drawings. They provide the details and location of electrical wiring fixtures, sub-stations, etc. The electrical load circulation is also given in the drawing.

Electrical drawing

Electrical drawing

How to Read Architectural Floor Plans

These drawings provide an overhead view of the layout of the spaces inside a dwelling that is cut through the walls at 900mm from the floor levels. They include locations of fixtures like sinks, water closets, wardrobes, windows, doors, etc. Well-designed architectural floor plan drawings will also provide the interior arrangement of the furniture and other fittings. To know how to read architectural plans, you must know the architectural symbols below.

Building Drawings Symbols.

Building Drawings Symbols.

5. Plumbing and Sanitary Drawings

The plumbing and sanitary drawings provide the location of sanitary piping for water supply system fixtures, the process to connect every fixture, etc.

How to Read Building Plans Dimensions

The most used unit of dimension in the construction drawings is the millimeter (mm). To interpret building drawings, you must know how to read the dimensions in the architectural and other relevant drawings. Some common dimensions include:

  • Internal dimensions
  • Walling thickness
  • External dimensions.
Dimensioning in building blueprints

Dimensioning in building blueprints

How to Read Building Sections Drawings

What is a section drawing? Section drawings refer to a view of a structure as though it has been sliced in half or cut along another imaginary plane, which is generally, but not always, a vertical plane. The purpose of any detailed section drawing is to convey information that is not visible in the elevations, such as foundation details, floor-to-floor dimensions, roof details, and other important features of a building drawing.

Sections are normally named according to their cutting planes. For example, Section A-A represents details as shown by cutting plane A-A, in a particular direction.
The good thing about section drawings is that they are usually fully detailed and, therefore, slightly direct to interpret.

Foundation sections

Foundation sections


Most building drawings contain a cover page that is comprised of the drawing of the actual project, the title block, revision block, notes, drawing scale, and the legend. You should make sure to read them thoroughly and understand them prior to interpreting the drawing.

Also, note that knowing how to read building plans is a skill that can be improved with experience, and I am confident that, with the information provided above, when you are in a situation that calls for you to read a building plan, you will not be in a dilemma and you will stand out among the rest. Keep in touch for more technical information on building drawings, including structural, electrical, and plumbing, and sanitary drawings.


The above information has been sourced from the author's knowledge and experience in architecture and building construction and technology skills. It is, therefore, an accurate and true article from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Philip Agutu


Philip Agutu (author) from Mombasa Island on June 22, 2021:

Thanks for your time bro.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on June 22, 2021:

Contain useful information that makes sense.

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