A floor plan is a type of drawing that provides a two-dimensional, bird’s-eye view of a room or building. Stylized floor plan symbols help architects and builders understand the space’s layout and where lighting, appliances, or furniture may go. In addition to guiding construction, these drawings offer the best way for homeowners or potential buyers to visualize a space before it is finished (or furnished).
When you think of a floor plan, you may think of a blueprint. While the concepts are related, they are not identical. A floor plan is included in a blueprint, but shows only one angle of a building. A set of construction blueprints contain many other architectural drawings needed for accurate building, such as schematic plans for electrical needs with a unique set of electrical symbols and detailed plumbing layouts, which include specific plumbing symbols.
In this guide, we explain what floor plan symbols are, types of floor plan symbols, floor plan abbreviations, and why they are important.
Table of Contents
- What Are Floor Plan Symbols?
- Types of Floor Plan Symbols
- Floor Plan Abbreviations
- Why Are Floor Plans Used in Construction?
What Are Floor Plan Symbols?
Floor plan symbols represent the size and location of structural elements like walls, doors, windows, and stairs, as well as mechanical elements like plumbing and HVAC systems. You’ll also see floor plan symbols representing built-in interior design elements, such as appliances, cabinets, counters, and even the kitchen sink.
Types of Floor Plan Symbols
Floor plan symbols act as their own language so that everyone involved has a shared understanding of the drawings. While different building companies or specialties may have slight variations, the following standard symbols are common.
Each floor plan should include a legend to help you interpret the symbols used and a north arrow to help you orient the floor plan to the property.
Walls form the primary outlines of any floor plan and are typically indicated by parallel lines. While not always the case, thicker black outlines often represent exterior walls and thinner lines may represent interior walls. Some floor plans also include patterns to indicate construction materials like brick, concrete, or lumber, as well as finishing materials like metal, hardwood, plywood, or tile.
Door symbols identify where a door will go in a structure and which direction it will open: inward, outward, or sliding, for example. This information can help homeowners and interior designers plan to furnish and decorate a room and help builders install doors properly.
Floor plans show doors as breaks in a wall, often with a curved line indicating which way the door will swing. The symbols may look different depending on the door’s form and function. For example, sliding doors may appear as smaller rectangles in the gap with an arrow pointing which direction they will slide. Bifold doors (often used on closets) may look like two angled peaks with an opening between them. While all doors require framing, some doors, like pocket doors, require unique elements for installation. So accurate floor plans help ensure that installation progresses smoothly.
Similar to door symbols, window symbols identify the location and type of windows that go in a structure. Windows typically appear as thin rectangles in the wall, with additional lines indicating different window designs.
Swinging windows (or casement windows) may have lines or arcs showing the direction that they open. Bay window symbols look like the angled edges of a stop sign, showing where the window breaks the straight line of the wall. Floor plans may distinguish sliding-glass windows from solid walls by using three parallel lines.
Stair symbols show the location and type of staircases in a building. Like the rest of the elements in a floor plan, stairs appear in a two-dimensional perspective from above.
Stair symbols typically look like a series of attached rows or rectangles, usually with an arrow indicating which direction leads to a higher level. However, the shape may change depending on the type of staircase. For example, spiral stairs may look like a wagon wheel with an arrow pointing in the ascending direction.
Appliances and Furniture Symbols
Most floor plans include stationary fixtures like bathroom sinks, kitchen islands, and built-in bookcases. They can also include movable furniture like a king-size bed in the master bedroom or a couch in the living room. These symbols help provide a detailed picture of the layout, clearance spaces, and potential design of each room.
Furniture and appliance symbols often appear as rectangles or squares with one or two letters indicating what they represent. For example, “WH” may indicate a “water heater” and D may indicate a “dryer.” However, some appliances and plumbing fixtures, such as stoves and double sinks, may appear as stylized drawings that look like the feature.
Floor Plan Abbreviations
In addition to symbols, floor plans contain abbreviations for different elements and materials. These abbreviations can include (but are not limited to) the following:
|BP or B/P||Blueprint|
|D||Door or dryer|
|FACP||Fire alarm control panel|
|HVAC||Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning|
|HW||Hot water unit or tank|
|OPNG||Opening or rough opening|
|O or OV||Oven|
|REFRIG or REF||Refrigerator|
|SD||Smoke detector, sliding door, or sewer drain|
|W||Window or washer|
Why Are Floor Plans Used in Construction?
Building projects involve a host of construction industry professionals, including architects, contractors, and subcontractors. Along with the rest of the blueprints, floor plans act as both a detailed map and a reference tool so that all team members know what to do.
Since full-size drawings of a building are impractical, floor plans reduce actual measurements to a manageable size. Floor plans are commonly (though not always) drawn on a ¼-inch scale, which means a quarter-inch on the plan equals 1 foot of actual physical length on the structure.
House plans should include the scale (or multiple scales), so you know how to interpret the relationship between the drawings and the actual size of the building. You can often find the scale in the title block, along with a compass showing the orientation of the structure on the building site.
Floor plans give you a spatial overview of how each element in a room relates to other elements. However, there are some things you can’t usually learn from a floor plan alone. Although you can see the square footage and width of spaces, floor plans do not typically show the height of the ceiling, walls, doors, or windows.
While this guide provides an introduction to standard architectural floor plan symbols, different construction companies and professionals may have their own variations. It’s best to confirm the meaning and interpretation at the start of each new project to make sure everyone is on the same page.