Superdraft guide: how to read floor plans

Currently building or renovating? This guide will help you read and understand your architect’s complex drawings.
How to Read Floor Plans

At first glance, your architect’s drawings can be complex and hard to understand. Chances are these documents have symbols and terminologies that you're not familiar with. But, don't fret. Reading these architectural drawings are not as hard as they seem. In this blog, we'll teach you how to read floor plans and blueprints for your project. This way, you won’t feel confused or overwhelmed during the construction stage.

Here is everything you need to know about it:

A closer look at architectural drawings

An architectural drawing is a detail-oriented, technical drawing of the home or building you want to build. It's the manual for your project. It often includes a range of specific drawings such as:

  • Floor plans for each level. It shows the location of the stairs, doors, and windows. It also exhibits the room area, shape, and layout.
  • Electrical plans which show the interconnection of wires, outlets, and electric appliances
  • Reflected ceiling plan which shows the items you will put or hang in the ceiling of every room.
  • Elevations that shows all four sides of the house. It exhibits the vertical height dimensions of the house.
  • Internal elevations for each room or floor.
  • Sections or drawings of a cut through floors showing rooms stacked on top of each other.
  • And other construction details like tile layouts and 3D views.

These drawings aim to give you a holistic view of the building, as well as the elements inside it. Towards the end, these documentations also highlight a particular construction method that the builders must use. These documents possess lot of details so when confused and in doubt, ask your architect.

Talk to the professionals. Ask questions and you will be informed about what you need to know about those plans.

The site plan and roof plan

Often based on the results of a land survey, site plan illustrates the site’s existing conditions. It is one of the most important drawings required when seeking council approval. It shows the boundary of the property as well as the location, height, and windows of adjacent structures. It also communicates the proposed improvements to a piece of land. It shows the building’s front, rear, and sides; parking; driveway; drainage facilities; sewer lines; water lines; gas lines; outdoor lighting; private outdoor spaces; landscaping and other garden elements.The roof plan looks similar to the site plan, but it focuses on the design of the roof and its roof plumbing, gutter types and sizes.

Both of these documents are in the bird’s eye view so you can comprehend the plan as a whole.Hire a Superdraft Designer today.

The house plan

The house plan illustrates the location of the structure, as well as its dimensions for the builder. This drawing is a horizontal slice-through of a proposed building at 1 to 1.2 meters above the finished floor. Here, you determine the size of each room, wall thickness, flooring material, window position, door position, steady fixtures, structural set-out, and general construction notes like the location of services.  

As architects, it’s our job to make sure that the bones and muscles of the house specified by the structural engineer fit within the walls. Then, the builders will use the drawings to build the structure, starting from the frame up to the interiors.

House electrical and reflected ceiling plans

These are two different architectural drawings but relate to each other closely. The electrical plans indicate where the wires connect, the position of lights, switches, power outlets, and other electric appliances. When this drawing is clear, the electrical engineers will install the wires and the other electronics efficiently.

On the other hand, the reflected ceiling plan (RCP) illustrates the ceiling. It pinpoints the location of the lights and other items (both electric and non-electric) on the ceiling. It also shows the dimensions of those items. When this drawing is clear, tradies will install artificial heating and cooling systems properly.

Like the house plan you have, this is a slice-through of the structure at 1 to 1.2 meters above the finished floor. But this time, you look at the ceiling.


Elevations are drawings that detail the exterior of the structure from the north, south, east, and west. These drawings show the proposed cladding, roofing material, and external openings (windows and doors).  

More importantly, this shows the height of the structure in relation to the natural ground level and finished floor level. The natural ground level is the actual level of the ground before any excavation or filling. The finished floor level refers to the level of the finished floor, above the tiles or wooden floorboards. The builders need to know how high above natural ground the house is to be.

Some architects also lightly illustrate the things that surround the proposed building. They include the nature that surrounds the house or the neighbouring buildings. This helps the town planners picture the structure better during the assessment. It helps them judge whether the proposed building complies with the regulatory bodies or not.
Hire a Superdraft Designer today.


This set of drawings picture the structure when it’s sliced down from the ceiling. It shows the footing/foundation, structural beams, roof profile, insulation, exterior wall layers, soffits, moulding, joinery, floor-to-ceiling height, and interior and exterior openings. This helps the builders understand the interior and exterior construction details, and the structure as a whole. Similar to elevations, this also shows the building height.

The more complex the home design, the more detailed cross section drawing the architect will provide.

Detailed drawings

These are magnified drawings that show the builder the detailed description of an object in or out of the structure. The most common items that tend to have large-scale drawings on the plan are stair details, skylights, door sill, window reveal, or an intricate benchtop. The architect puts a callout on these parts from the floor plan or section. The letter or number on the callout reference to a separate page where the detailed drawings are found.

Depending on the project, detail drawings come in 1:5, 1:10 or 1:20 scales. These drawings will help the builder understand how the architect planned to put the elements together.

Door and window schedule

Similar to the detailed drawings, the door and window schedule comes in a separate page. This sheet is dedicated to showing all the window and doors required in the project. Expect to see the size of the opening, the dimensions of each one, the frame type, architrave, hardware, glazing details, and installation instructions.  

Internal elevations

Internal elevation drawings illustrate each room’s floor plan in detail. Expect to see wall details, frills, furniture, fittings, and fixtures in these drawings.

Architects provide these drawings to ensure that everything you need in the room fits. For example, internal elevation drawings of a bathroom will show that the tub, shower, toilet, and a vanity with storage fits perfectly in the space provided, without feeling cramped. No worries, all the items drawn into the plan are usually pre-selected by the homeowner and the designer. These are pre-ordered and scheduled to arrive in the site on a specific date.  

Miscellaneous or other required drawings

These drawings that the council requires the homeowner to submit so they can assess the impact of the proposed building on neighbouring properties. It could be a 3D view drawing or a shadow diagram.

In conclusion

Now that you know the different architectural drawings and the purpose of each one, it’s easier to learn how to read floor plans. Looking at your architect’s complex drawings is easier now. But, you’re not 100% fluent with this yet. You still need to decode the symbols and patterns that the architect drew on your floor plan. No worries, that part is not as hard as you think. Hire a Superdraft designer today.
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