How to read a floor plan, Part 1
You’re looking at buying a new home so you’re browsing pictures online. But to get a feel for the interior, you need to look at the floor plan. This two-dimensional diagram shows the layout, indicating room measurements and the placement of features like doors, windows, toilets, showers, closets, and major appliances. You can learn a lot about a home when you really understand how to read a floor plan. New Home Inc has some tips to explain what a floor plan tells you.
What is a floor plan?
A floor plan is an overhead view of one level of a home, as if you removed the roof and looked inside from above. You’ll see lines of varying thicknesses and floor plan symbols, some that make sense and others that might be unfamiliar. The drawing is then combined with a series of notes and other plans (electrical, plumbing, mechanical) to provide all the information necessary for construction. For your purposes, the floor plan itself is all you need to “read” to understand the flow and features of a home.
What do the different lines mean in a floor plan?
The diagram of a home is made up of symbols. A floor plan includes a variety of lines—solid, dotted, and double, and you should know the meaning of lines on a floor plan.
A solid line indicates a wall, interior or exterior. Some plans use a thick or double line for an exterior wall and a thinner one for interior walls, to provide clearer distinction between the two.
A dotted or dashed line does not represent a wall. Think of the dotted line as a marker, but not necessarily structural. This line can symbolize a variety of details:
- It could show the division between rooms, like an open concept. A dotted line could indicate where the kitchen is intended to separate from the living and dining areas, because there’s no actual wall there. In a space like a formal dining room or flex room, there will could be a dotted line to show the opening. That means there is no door, but you can close it off with French doors if you’d like.
- The dotted line might also show where the flooring changes; for example, from hardwood to tile.
- A broken (dotted or dashed) line around the perimeter of an area means that there is a ceiling treatment planned there, like a beam, coffered, or tray ceiling.
- A feature that is not part of the structural footprint is indicated with a dotted line, like an opening from one level to the other (e.g., vaulted ceiling). You’ll likely see “OPEN TO BELOW” on the second level’s floor plan, which shows that this is an open area and does not have a floor.
- A dotted line on a floor plan also marks items like the upper cabinets in the kitchen and the seating space beyond the kitchen island.
- The broken line on a floor plan can also show where items like shelving are included, as in a pantry or closet.
How are doors shown on a floor plan?
Your home has different types of doors: exterior and interior, as well as single, double, sliding, pocket, and barn doors. A conventional single or double door is always illustrated with a line and an arc that shows which way the door swings open. The line of the door is thinner than those used for the walls.
A sliding, or barn door on a floor plan is shown with a bold line for the door and is marked on the wall in its open position. A barn door will be drawn just parallel to the wall while a pocket door will be marked with a solid line that is laid over the wall where it will be hidden in its pocket.
Can I tell the size of the windows on a floor plan?
A floor plan will show you where the windows are placed but not the height of each one. A window is drawn with parallel lines that separate the solid lines of the wall where they will be installed.
How do I read the bathroom layout on a floor plan?
You’ll see the various bathroom fixtures drawn in symbols. The vanity is marked with an oval within a rectangle. The floor plan might have dual vanities, but if the second vanity is optional, it will be drawn in a dotted line.
A bathtub is indicated with an oval. A shower stall is a square or rectangle; it’s often also marked with an “X” filling the space, which indicates it is only a shower and doesn’t include a bathtub. A tub and shower combination can be drawn as a rectangle within another rectangle.
How do I know what’s optional in a floor plan?
The floor plan you’re considering might have features that aren’t included as standard. It’s essential that you know what you’re getting so pay close attention. Upgrades like a fireplace or dual vanity will be indicated with dotted lines and are marked with “OPT” for “Optional”.
How can I figure out the size of the rooms?
Floor plans should include the dimensions of each room, under the title of that space. Some architects place furniture symbols in the rooms to give you a sense of how standard pieces—like a queen or twin bed, sofa, or dining table—fits there. It’s helpful to know the size of your current rooms so you can compare them to those on a floor plan.
Why is there a compass on the floor plan?
Sometimes you will see a compass in a corner of the floor plan, outside of the actual design. This symbol shows how the home is intended to be situated on the property. By knowing which side faces north or south, you can get a better idea of how the natural light will stream through your home. This will change depending on the lot that you select, as it is specific to that individual lot.
Future-proof floor plans
While you’re exploring all the choices for your new home, consider more than your short-term needs. Think about how this home will fit your future needs. Do you expect your household to grow? Whether planning for a family or having either adult children or aging parents—or both! —move in, you can avoid the squeeze by building or buying a home that has the room and features you need, and we don’t mean just having an “extra” bedroom; it goes way beyond that.
New Home Inc takes an innovative approach to home design. We’ve applied more than 30 years of residential building experience as a foundation. Then, we did our homework, examining the way people actually live in their homes today. If 2020 and 2021 has taught us anything, it is the way we live in our homes has changed forever.
The floor plans for our new homes in Raleigh and the surrounding area consider sight lines that give you the right views. For example, strategically placed walls or closets to hide private areas like bedrooms and bathrooms from plain view of common areas! We also try to incorporate a “messy kitchen”, connected to the actual kitchen so you have a place for all those “extras”: prep, storage, and small appliances and supplies. Understanding what you are looking at in a floor plan is critical and can help you make better decisions when choosing your new home. In our next article, we’ll give you more things to consider when choosing a floor plan. And the professionals at New Home Inc are always here to answer your questions!