How to Read House Plans

What's in a house plan?
Learn the symbols for doors, windows and other features.
Learn the symbols for doors, windows and other features.
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The pages of a house plan, known as a "drawing set," tell a contractor everything he or she needs to know to properly stick your dream home on top of a bare piece of land. Not only do these plans define a home's footprint and how it will eventually look to the naked eye, but they also describe a home's inner plumbing and electrical specs and even the materials and finishes that will complete your home.

A standard house plan includes the following sections (some are one page and others are multiple pages of the plan):

  • Cover sheet -- shows an artist's sketch of the house's finished exterior
  • Foundation plan -- your house's footprint, including any areas that require excavation
  • Floor plans -- a page per floor showing rooms, walls, doors and windows, and additional suggestions for electrical outlets and fixtures
  • Interior elevations -- your vertical wall plans, including plans for built-in cupboards, bookshelves and other features whose construction the contractor will oversee
  • Roof plan -- an exterior view, showing the peaks, slopes and outline of your roof
  • Exterior elevations -- a view of each of your house's four sides, showing exact measurements for each side, along with the materials and details.
  • Wall details -- What's inside your walls? This section of the house plan shows insulation details and names the materials used in flooring and roofing.
  • Structural plan -- plans for your house's important connections including trusses and second floor framing

So, what's found within the pages of the these sections?

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