However, if you haven’t cast your eyes on architectural plans before, you may be left confused as you attempt to decipher each document, the patterns and symbols.

Architectural Plans: Top 5 things you should know

Here, we take a look at the top 5 things you should know before you start working through your architectural plans and drawings of your home or outdoor space.

1. Understand the difference between each drawing

Depending on the scale of the job, you’re likely to receive a package of architectural plans. Each will provide you different details and views of the build. Understanding the difference between each drawing is crucial so you can look at the project in its entirety.

Here’s what you’ll typically receive from your architect:

  • A Site Plan – included in a site plan are items such as existing conditions of the site, the boundaries and building heights.
  • A Floor Plan – this will outline the locations and dimensions of rooms, structures and built-in items such as cabinetry.
  • Elevations – you’ll see elevations and heights of your building’s exterior from all sides. External materials, windows, doors and services will also be documented.
  • Internal Elevations – details will be revealed on internal elevations including materials and dimensions of cabinetry and fitting details.
  • Sections – sections will show the heights of the building and its structure including beams, insulation and footings.
  • Construction Details – these drawings are specifically designed to help the builder understand how details are to be built.
  • Reflected ceiling plans – these will show ceiling details and electrical items such as the location of the lights.
  • Electrical plans – you’ll see where lights, switches and power outlets are located on these plans.
  • Door and Window Schedule – these will show the dimension of the door/window and the opening size.

Other architectural plans drawings you may receive include illustrative drawings, shadow diagrams,  tile layouts or 3D renders.

2. Analyse the legend

Before you start reading the architectural plans, it’s important to check the drawing legend. While architects tend to communicate in the same language, there may be some differences in symbols or line design.

3. Know what is new and old

Knowing what is staying and what is being built will give you a better understanding of how the space is changing.

Existing walls are typically displayed as a solid black line or may have a grey hatch pattern. New work usually appears as two single lines that have no fill.

4. Understand how the drawings relate to each other

You may have noticed a circle containing numbers and letters next to a drawing title or within the plan itself, for example, 05-A201. This is referencing another drawing in your architectural documentation. In this case, you’ll find details relating to that element at drawing 5 on page A201.

5. Find out how each material is represented

Materials are referenced as hatch patterns on your drawing. You may see on your internal elevation a tiling layout or on the plan the format of the paving. Other materials that are commonly shown on architectural drawings are cladding, roof finishes and structural walling type. Your legend may show which hatch is which or you may need to get clarification from your architect.

When you first look at architectural plans, they can appear to be confusing and written in another language. However, once you navigate through one set of drawings you’ll realise reading plans isn’t all that difficult. But if in doubt, ask your architect to explain them to you. They are there to help make the process of building or renovating a much more pleasurable one!

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