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How to read floor plans

Asha Bogenfuerst Asha Bogenfuerst

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If house floor plans look like gibberish to you, then this article is for you. The first thing you will need to keep in mind when looking at an architectural plan is that you're looking at the house from just one perspective or angle and you will need to look at other angles to fully be able to visualize the design of the house. 

Floor plans reveal a lot about the functionality of the house and the layout, but it can still be difficult to capture the overall atmosphere and mood of the house from a house plan, unless you're an architect or interior designer. However, training yourself to learn how to look at floor plans can help you be a more active participant in the design of your new home. So, let's not waste anymore time and take a look at the following tips, shall we? 

What is an overall floor plan?

 Houses by The Wee House Company
The Wee House Company

One bedroom Wee House Floor Plan

The Wee House Company

Basically, it is a flat, 2D bird's eye view image of a building. So imagine, you are hovering over the roof of the house and you could see right through the walls, that's the view you will get. You will get to see the specific layout of each room in the house and the also estimate the space distribution. The doors, windows stairs, walls, cabinets, appliances, plumbing fixtures and furniture are also shown. 

To give you a better idea of what we're talking about, here is a complete layout of a two-storey house with floor plans.

What is a legend?

Basically, it shows what the project is and what floor the plan is of (e.g. first floor or second floor). The legend also usually includes a graphic scale, which is useful when the drawing gets reduced, enlarged or altered somehow. A legend should also provide a north arrow. In fact, it's a rule that the top right of the drawing page is always north. North direction should be known during the house design. This is extremely important for the construction of outside seating areas like patio, balcony and even decks. This is even helpful for the placement of plants and solar panels. In case you’re living in a dust prone area, the knowledge of direction is again important to save your house from untimely dust storms. Again, if you believe in Vaastu, try placing your headboards and dressing rooms in the north and northwest directions respectively. All these changes or recommendations can be made in the floor plan stage only.

Here are some vaastu shastra tips for bedrooms for your reference. 


Living Room:  Living room by ZERO9

Living Room


Walls, whether exterior or interior, are one of the most important elements in a floor plan as walls form the rooms and the overall house. Walls are usually drawn to indicate its thickness and to show where the windows and doors are. Therefore, a floor plan is also essential to display the difference between the walls, windows and doors. In the floor plan, the walls, windows and doors are drawn with clear patterns that make the segregation easier. We will describe these drawings in detail next. 

Doors and windows

House of Lines & Courts:  Houses by studio XS
studio XS

House of Lines & Courts

studio XS

Each door and window is given a location and size. While windows are shown with three parallel lines in a wall, doors are typically shown as a straight line perpendicular to a wall and an arc that connects the line to the wall. It is drawn this way so that we know which side has the door hinges and which room the door opens into. 

A floor plan also notifies you about doors and windows so you are aware of the direction and flow of natural light and fresh air into your home, which should be divided appropriately for each room. The floor plans should also display the type of doors and windows; whether glass, wooden or metallic. This will help the owner to get a full-fledged idea of the style incorporated.


 Corridor, hallway & stairs  by IAM Design
IAM Design

Glasstree Spiral

IAM Design

The staircase is also a very important part of the architectural plan as stairs take up a significant amount of floor space, so accurately representing the staircase is vital. The drawing of the staircase in the floor plan is usually indicated by several parallel lines with an arrow and a note indicating the direction of travel, either up or down. Pay careful attention to the location of stairs, so that they do not block the view of the other rooms and take up even more space than they have to. 

Here are 6 staircase designs perfect for modern homes.

Ceiling transitions

Bedroom False Ceiling:  Bedroom by Ghar360

Bedroom False Ceiling


Ceiling transitions are usually indicated by dashed lines in floor plans. This is important as the height of your ceilings play an important role in the overall design of the house. This is also when you can decide whether to install false ceilings or not. 

We hope the tips here have been helpful. For more ideas and inspiration, have a look at 11 false ceiling designs you can't stop looking at!.

What else would you like to know about reading floor plans? Please share with us in the comments section below. 
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