An architectural blueprint.

Why should I learn how to interpret building drawings correctly? One may argue that knowing how to interpret building drawings should be required for architects and builders. Believe me, it is worth knowing irrespective of your profession as you never know when you will need the skills of interpreting a building plan! For example, imagine you are trapped in a building under fire. A building plan may be worthless if you and those you are with do not know how to interpret the building drawings and find fire escape doors and routes.

While the ability to read simple and complex building plans correctly will increase your value to your current employer as a builder, it also is an advancement in your career as a profession in the field. For those not in the construction profession, you must know some building drawings basics so you can read building plans and interpret them in the correct way. A wrong interpretation of the building drawings will obviously result in confusion when maneuvering your way out of a trapped building. For engineers, builders, steel fixers, and masons, among other skilled workers, wrong interpretation of the building drawing will result in poor workmanship, wrong cost estimation, and wrong project construction.

The aim of this article is to provide help to anyone interested in knowing how to interpret building drawings correctly. Be my guest as I take you through the basic skills. I assure you, by the end of this article you will know how to read building drawings and interpret them correctly.

how to interpret building plans correctly: the house plan
A simple house plan.

What Are Building Drawings?

Building drawings are 2-dimensional blueprints that are drawn by architects, builders, draftsmen, and other experienced personnel in the construction sector. They are very important in the whole process of implementing a building project, as they act as a reference to the final constructed project.

Building drawings provide detailed measurements, parts, placement, and clear sections of every building part displaying the materials to be used to complete the project successfully. After reviewing, the drawings are justified, modified, and finally approved for construction by the respective departments of authority.

Types of Building Drawings

For any construction project, there must be present detailed/working drawings that are the sole guiding reference in the overall implementation of the project. Building drawings are usually drawn to a scale depending on the size and complexity of the project. Most simple drawings are printed on A2 or A1 papers, while complex ones for big projects are printed on A0 paper, which is bigger than the former types. Building drawings comprise of the following categories:

  • Architectural drawings
  • Perspective or 3D drawings
  • Structural drawings
  • Electrical drawings
  • Plumbing drawings

1. Architectural Drawings

The architect and building draftsmen create this type of drawing. It provides a complete view of a building project through the ground floor plan layout, elevation, and sections. The floor plan shows information such as locations of rooms, closets, windows, and doors, and also includes exact dimensions, construction notes, and references to other professional details that are to be read in conjunction with the architectural drawings.

2. Elevations Drawings

How to interpret building plans correctly: Elevations of a storey house
Elevations Drawing

The elevations are exterior views of the building or project and are named according to their position in relation to the view. For example, a front elevation must indicate a front view on the floor plan. They can also be named according to the points of the compass such as north, south, east, and west elevations.

3. Perspectives or 3D Drawings

How to interpret building plans correctly: 3-D view of a house
A 3-D view of a house

These drawings provide the 3-dimensional view of the complete project as depicted by the architectural drawing. It shows the artists’ rendering of the exterior finishing details and appearance of the building in 3-dimensional aspects. 3D house drawings are much easier to interpret as they reflect the final house after completion.

4. Structural Drawings

To be able to confidently say you know how to interpret building plans correctly, you must be able to understand the structural drawing too. The structural engineer creates these drawings. Structural drawings provide detailed information about a structure, such as the strength of different structural elements, structural materials, size, grade, and placement of reinforcement, among other details. The first thing to note when interpreting a structural drawing is to understand the title of the plan. Is it a slab design, column design, beams design, etc. Structural drawings are slightly complex but I will cover them fully in the next blog.

How to interpret building plans correctly: A structural drawing
Structural Drawing

5. Electrical Drawings

The electrical engineer, architect, and draftsmen draw the electrical drawings. They provide the details and location of electrical wiring fixtures, sub-stations, etc. The electrical load circulation is also given in the drawing.

How to interpret building plans correctly: An electrical drawing
Electrical Drawing

How to Interpret Building Drawings Correctly: The Architectural Floor Plans

These drawings provide an overhead view of the layout of the spaces inside a dwelling that is cut through the walls at 900mm from the floor levels. They include locations of fixtures like sinks, water closets, wardrobes, windows, doors, etc. Well-designed architectural floor plan drawings will also provide the interior arrangement of the furniture and other fittings. To know how to interpret architectural plans correctly, you must know the architectural symbols below.

Symbols of building a drawing
Building drawing symbols.

6. Plumbing and Sanitary Drawings

The plumbing and sanitary drawings provide the location of sanitary piping for water supply system fixtures, the process to connect every fixture, etc.

How to Interpret Building Drawings Correctly: The Dimensions

The most used unit of dimension in the construction drawings is the millimeter (mm). To interpret building drawings, you must know how to read the dimensions in the architectural and other relevant drawings. Some common dimensions include:

  • Internal dimensions
  • Walling thickness
  • External dimensions.
internal and external dimensions of a house plan.
Dimensioning in building blueprints.

How to Interpret Building Drawings Correctly: The Sections Drawings

What is a section drawing? Section drawings refer to a view of a structure as though it has been sliced in half or cut along another imaginary plane, which is generally, but not always, a vertical plane. The purpose of any detailed section drawing is to convey information that is not visible in the elevations, such as foundation details, floor-to-floor dimensions, roof details, and other important features of a building drawing.

Sections are normally named according to their cutting planes. For example, Section A-A represents details as shown by cutting plane A-A, in a particular direction.
The good thing about section drawings is that they are usually fully detailed and, therefore, slightly direct to interpret.

Foundation sections
Foundation sections.


Most building drawings contain a cover page that is comprised of the drawing of the actual project, the title block, revision block, notes, drawing scale, and the legend. You should make sure to read them thoroughly and understand them prior to interpreting the building drawing.

Also, knowing how to interpret building drawings correctly is a skill that can be improved with experience, and I am confident that, with the information provided above, when you are in a situation that calls for you to read a building plan, you will not be in a dilemma and you will stand out among the rest. Keep in touch for more technical information on building drawings, including structural, electrical, plumbing, and sanitary drawings.

Was this information not sufficient? Feel free to check this other wikiHow blog on the same to add on to what you’ve just learned. Thank you.

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