Blueprints are nothing more than copies of the final plans drawn up for the homeowners’ approval. Highly detailed, these documents contain a wealth of information. Typically, a blueprint package includes a set of drawings called elevations, illustrating exterior and interior walls. But that’s not all. The package contains other drawings. One is of your building site, and another drawing illustrates the foundation of the house. The reflected ceiling plan reveals where light fixtures are to be placed.
In addition, each blueprint incorporates a materials list with sizes and quantities of all necessary components required to construct the building features. This information enables the contractor to compile building costs. There is one additional category of blueprints — the floor plans — with which people are probably the most familiar. Here’s an insider’s guide to reading the plans to your dream home.
1. Scale and dimensions are clearly indicated.
The scale of blueprints may be 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch to the foot. Whatever the scale, it will be noted in one of the lower corners of the blueprint. All blueprints to the house are drawn to the same scale. Dimensions are noted in feet and inches. In most cases, the length and width of all the exterior walls are shown in addition to dimensions of each room. With this information in hand, you can easily determine which rooms are best sized for various family activities. You can also plan for the arrangement of furnishings.
2. Exterior walls are represented by thick parallel lines, and interior walls are represented by thinner lines.
The placement of the walls, particularly the decisions you make regarding the interior partition walls, greatly affect the layout of your home. And if you can understand the exact placement when you first receive the blueprints, you’ll likely make fewer changes as the process evolves, cutting down on unnecessary and unforeseen expenses to your project.
3. Rooms are clearly labeled by function: kitchen, living, dining, etc
Built-in items within rooms also are presented in a logical fashion. For example, as you study the documents, fireplaces, closets and built-ins become obvious. Also apparent are the placement of kitchen and bathroom fixtures, counters, sinks, cabinetry and appliances.
4. It’s easy to determine ceiling configurations and two-story rooms.
A series of parallel dashes across a room denotes a ceiling beam; an arrow accompanied by the word "sloped" marks a cathedral ceiling. A double-height room is easy to spot. The blueprint of the lower level bears the notation "open to above" and the upper level "open to below."
5. Doors are represented by a straight line.
When you study the blueprint of the floorplan, pretend that you are walking through the actual house. Visualize the two-dimensional blueprints in a three-dimensional form. This technique helps you transform the data and symbols into something more real. A good place to start is at the entryway. From there, you can clearly see the overall organization of the home’s interior. In houses designed today, rooms are placed into one of three zones dedicated to living (family room, dining room and living room), work (kitchen, laundry and utility rooms) or sleeping (bedrooms and corresponding bathrooms). They appear as if open with a thinner, curving line showing the space required for them to close.
French doors have two straight and two curved lines. Two overlapping sets of straight lines is the symbol for sliding glass doors. Parallel solid lines within walls are windows. Like doors, overlapping lines indicate sliding window units. As you study the placement of windows and doors, you can determine if they will permit good ventilation and natural lighting of the interior, as well as make the most of exterior views and provide sufficient access to the outdoors.