Floor plans

House Floor Plans – Do you know how to read them?

A couple going over a building contract with a builder

Understanding how to read floor plans is important when going through the process of designing your home.

A complete set of floor plans has a number of components all of which play an important role when it comes to building your home.

In addition to the building plans there are other types of plans required to build your home. These we will discuss in other home building articles.

All home designs evolve from a floor plan. Your designer will start with a conceptual floor plan which will be the basis of the home design. As the plan evolves more information is added until, once complete it will hold all the information required to build your home.

Reading floor plans may come naturally to some, but for others who don’t have a sense of space or can’t visualize a plan in 3D, it can be a somewhat confusing. To move forward with your preliminary plans, you need to have a firm understanding of what you’re looking at or the result may fall short of expectation or it is not what you understood the outcome to be.

Information required to build a home from your floor plan:

Floor Plan Notations Page

The first page of a set of working drawings is the notations page. This page has many general notations that usually relate to the building code to ensure that all the components of the home comply with the building regulations.

The notations will often refer to steel, framing, insulation requirements., as well as many other house components that are referenced in the building code. Although it is all technical information for your builder it doesn’t hurt to read them to get some understanding of the codes.

Site Plan

Architect drawn house site plan
House Site Plan

The next part of your working plans will be the site plan. The site plan shows you an outline of your home in relation to the street and the neighbours.

The site plan contains important information such as location of services, drainage layouts, location of fences and other items that may be related to the site.

It will also show critical information such as setbacks from the front, side and rear boundaries. Sometimes the site plan and the notations page can be combined as one as shown in the image below.

The site plan will always show a north arrow on it. The site plan will also show the location of the temporary bench mark (TBM) which is a height datum point where all levels on the block are taken from. This is extremely important information for the builder to set the house at the correct level. Other information regarding levels are the natural ground line (NGL) and the finished floor level (FFL).

The difference between the FFL and the TBM shows the builder how much higher or lower the house is from the TBM. For example if you have a TBM of 100.00 and a FFL of 100.3. The house will be 300mm above the TBM. These are very important if your site requires a cut.

Other information likely to be referred to in the site plan will be the location of driveways, paths, steps and retaining walls. At some stage you may organise a landscape plan which details all the landscaping requirements. These are usually in addition to the working plan and are drawn by a landscape designer.

The Floor Plan

By definition, a floor plan is graphical representation of a home drawn to scale. It shows the relationship between rooms and spaces at a certain level of the structure. It is a two dimensional drawing with the spaces labelled so that their function is known.

A floor plan shows an overhead view of the floor plan. Imagine if you removed the roof from your home and were able to look down from above. You would be looking at your home in plan view.

The floor plan has symbols on it that depict doors, walls, stairs and other fixtures and fittings such as basins and toilets and joinery locations.

All floor plans are drawn to a scale such as 1:100, 1:50, or 1:20. The scale of the plan is labelled on the sheet the plan is drawn on. So long as the plan has proper dimensions, a home could be built from out of scale plans as the dimensions override the scale.

Each sheet of the floor plan should also have a drawing number, site address, client name, page number, the home designer’s registration number and a revision and a revision number to ensure all parties are working off the same version of the plans.

The floor plans will also have the finished floor levels (FFL) on them so the builder knows how high above natural ground (NGL) the house is to be.

The Elevations

House Floor Plan Elevation

Just like the floor plan is an overhead view of the home, the elevation is a graphical representation looking at the home from the outside. It depicts what the house would like if you were looking at it side on.

All house plans have four elevations. Front, rear and sides. These are usually labelled as north, south, east and west elevations.

The elevations are usually drawn to the same scale as the floor plans and will have also use symbols to show building elements such as doors, windows and porches.

The elevations will also show roof materials, roof pitch if the roof is visible, and any other features that may not be clear on the floor plan alone.

The elevation will match the external walls of the floor plan and  will also reference finished floor levels. In addition the elevations will show the external wall height for each floor plan level and give heights for the ceiling level (CL) and eave widths.

The elevations will show the natural ground level (NGL) as a dotted line through the elevation. This information will enable the builder to work out how much soil will be cut out of the block. The elevations will also show any retaining walls side and the height of any footings.

Roof Plans

In the same way the floor plan shows the overhead layout of the rooms in the home, the roof plan shows the over head layout of the roof. It will show the builder how the roof drains off water, the locations of down pipes, box gutters and normal gutters.

Architect drawn roof plan

It should also show the location of any services on the roof such as heating, cooling and solar panels.

The roof plan will also show the different pitches of the roof and the direction of fall for the roof and box gutters.

House plans need to be fully detailed to enable the builder to get a three dimensional image of what he and the team needs to build. Each component of the full plan plays an important part in providing accurate information on what to build.

It is always better to have more information than not enough. As a minimum the builder will require the notations, site plan, floor plan, a cross section and standard details page.

However if you are building a large custom home then it would be recommended to have a detailed joinery plan, electrical plan and a floor finishes plan. Have a further read here for part 2 of understanding house plans and how to read them.

New Home Plans & Design Tips

This article  ‘Floor Plans – Do you Know How To Read Them’ is part of our house plans and designs series.

This series of articles is sometimes detailed or technical but designed to help you understand the importance of good custom built home plans and give you some tips in designing your new home.

Speak to Renmark Homes who can walk you through the process and assist you with designing and understanding floor plans.

Renmark Homes – Building Custom Designed Homes in Melbourne’s North West

If you have any questions about how Renmark Homes can assist you in building your new home, please contact us on 1300 367 245, or visit our contact page for further options.