How do architects read blueprints

  • 1

    Know that you should never scale a drawing. If you cannot locate anything on the drawing with the dimensions given, get more dimensions from the Architect.

  • 2

    Understand the architectural sheets. These sheets will usually be numbered "A", such as "A 001", or A1-X, A2-X, A3-X and so forth. These sheets will describe and give measurements for the floor plans, elevations, building sections, wall sections and other oriented views of the building design. These sheets are broken up into many parts that make up the construction document that you will need to understand. The parts you'll need to know are described in the steps below.

  • 3

    Read the floor plans. These sheets will show the location of the walls of the building, and identify components like doors, windows, bathrooms, and other elements. There will be dimensions noted 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 depending on the stage of the project. At stage D (planning) drawings may show only the major features of the space.
    • At a tender stage, drawings will be more detailed, illustrating all features of the space at a larger scale to allow a contractor to price the job.
  • 4

    Read the ceiling plans. Here, the architect will show the types, heights, and other feature of ceilings in different locations in the building. Ceiling plans may or may not be depicted for residential design projects.

  • 5

    Read the roof framing plan. These pages will indicate the layout for joists, rafters, trusses, bar joists, or other roof framing members, as well as decking and roofing details.

  • 6

    Read the finish schedule. This is usually a table listing the different finishes in each individual room. It should list paint colors for each wall, flooring type and color, ceiling height, type, and color, wall base, and other notes and details for constructing the finish in areas listed.

  • 7

    Read the door/window schedule. This table 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", "B", etc.). It may also include installation details (cuts) for flashings, attachment methods, and hardware specifications. There may also be a separate schedule for window and door finishes (although not all projects do). A window example would be "Mill finish, aluminum", a door might be "Oak, natural finish".

  • 8

    Read the remaining details. This may include bathroom fixture layouts, casework (cabinets), closet accessories, and other elements not specifically noted on other sheets. Such as, but not limited to: concrete details, door and window details, roofing & flashing details, wall details, door details, deck to wall details and others. Every project is different and may or may not include what other projects have. The Level Of Detail (LOD) is determined by each Architect for each project. The growing trend is for Architects to have more, rather than less detail, because the Contractors then have less guesswork and can more easily understand what to include and what to price. Some builders may or may not have comments about the LOD, but that has no relevance to what the licensed Architect who is designing the project feels is necessary to properly explain the design.

  • 9

    Read the elevations. These are views from the exterior, indicating the material used in exterior walls, (brick, stucco, vinyl, etc), the location of windows and doors from a side view, the roof slopes, and other elements visible from the exterior.