How to Read Floor Plans


Floor plans are scale diagrams of a room or floor of a house or building as drawn by a house designer or architect. Floor plans will depict the location of walls, doors and windows, and all built-in elements like cabinets and fireplaces as you look down on them. You can view house floor plans on the Internet.

  • Look at the perimeter of the floor plan. The perimeter consists of solid black lines to show exterior walls, or double lines to show interior walls, such as for a single room floor plan. Some plans may use two wide spaced parallel lines to show exterior walls and two narrow spaced parallel lines to show interior walls.

  • Locate the entry to the building or room. The entry will show as a break in the line of the wall and the floor plan may read "Entry" at that location. The entry may be a doorway (no door, just an opening) or have a swing, bi-fold, pocket or sliding door. A swing door is hinged to one side of the doorway. A bi-fold door is also hinged to one side of the doorway, but the door itself is also hinged, so it takes less room to open. A pocket and sliding door both glide on a track to open up. A pocket door glides between the walls (the pocket) so it can be hidden when open while a sliding door remains in view when open as it covers an identical looking stationary window.

  • To get the proper floor plan perspective imagine yourself stepping through that entry. Your view point is from above the room so you are looking down into the room.

  • Moving from the entry forward, you may now be in the dining room, living room, family room or great room. The floor plan will tell you by name which room you are in. Within any of these areas, a fireplace can be shown as a thick black shape against the wall, maybe even protruding outside to depict a chimney. The location of windows in the room will show as white rectangles within the black wall lines. Dotted lines smaller than the dimensions of the room but following the line of the wall may depict a unique ceiling design like a tray ceiling. Dotted line along only one wall may depict built-in shelving. Dotted lines within a doorway may depict a unique architectural design, like a beam or arched doorway.

  • Continue the tour into the kitchen. Long rectangular boxes represent kitchen cabinets (on the floor). Dotted lines over those floor cabinets indicate upper cabinets mounted to the wall. These upper cabinets may extend over a refrigerator. The refrigerator will be a square or rectangle, most likely extending out beyond the depth of the cabinets. A rectangle with four to six circles is either a stand-alone stove or a cook top built into the countertop; if the latter, then there will be indication of built-in ovens. The sink is frequently positioned in front of a window and is depicted by one empty rectangle (single basin sink) or two side-by-side squares (double basin sink). There may be a pantry area located in or just outside the kitchen.

  • Look for the bathrooms, which may be labeled as bath, master bath, or half bath or powder room (no shower or tub). A rectangle with an X in it represents a shower. The toilet is shown as a circle attached to a rectangle. Sinks will either be in a cabinet (in a rectangular shape) or displayed as a small rectangle with an oval or circle in it to indicate that it is a pedestal sink. A regular bath tub will be shown as a rounded corner rectangular inside a slightly larger rectangular. Garden or spa tubs will be larger rectangle and may have an oval shape inside them. A linen closet in or near the bathroom will be marked as linen or lc or lin.

  • Moving down a hallway, which is depicted by two solid parallel lines, you will find bedrooms. Bedrooms share common traits of other living spaces. All bedrooms have closets and they are typically labeled as "closet" or CL. Closet doors may not be depicted. Closets may show a horizontal box, which would indicate a shelf under which is the clothes pole for hanging clothes. Or the closets may show a series of dotted lines which could be depicting double clothes poles.

  • Follow the arrow direction to ascend or descend stairs, which are depicted by a series of narrow rectangular boxes side-by-side. Because only one floor can be depicted at a time, it may appear that the stairs go nowhere. Check for an additional floor plan for the floor to which the stairs lead.

  • Look for the room marked utility or util. That is where square shapes will show the location for the washer and dryer (labeled W and D).

  • Move to the exterior where you may see lines running parallel to the front and/or back of the house. The lines could be depicting a porch, deck or patio.


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