Introduction to Reading Plans

    Have you ever tried constructing a new piece of furniture without reading the provided instructions? If so, at some point you probably have found  yourself in some state of frustrated confusion which in turn drives you to that useful piece of literature that “men never read”. In a nutshell, the services preformed for you by an Architecture firm is the design and production of that instruction book but instead of a table, book case, or desk you are building a house.   

    If there is one thing you need to know about architecture and home design it’s how to read and understand the various drawings and plans associated with your remodel, addition, or custom residence. Learning this essential skill will benefit you when planning your dream home. 

Like most skills it’s probably best to start at the beginning. So lets begin.  

“Schemes” and the Design Process (Phase 1) 

    The design of a home begins with what we call “Schemes”. A scheme is basically a conceptual floor plan showing the proposed construction project. These are very important as you can imagine.

    Throughout the design process (phase 1) you are more than likely going to have several different schemes. These various layouts will differ in anything from room locations, room sizes, and the relationships between the spaces. To keep it simple Schemes are titled in the following manner: Scheme “A”, Scheme “B”, and so on as seen in the following example: 

Construction Documents (Phase 2) 

The Construction document package is what is used for submittal to your city for building approval. Without these you can not get a permit or hire a 

The very first thing you need to know about reading Construction Documents is how to use the built in navigation system. That right, this baby comes standard with one built in. Well maybe it isn’t all that exciting, but any way have a look at the example below of a title block.    

    After a design is completed the project is ready to move on to the production of construction documents known in our company as “phase 2”. In phase 2 comes all the technical drawings, exact measurements, and structural elements that will allow your plan to become a reality.


    The most notable part of the title block is located in the lowest section known as the “Sheet Number”. This number will appear as a letter followed by a number. For example “A-1” means the sheet you are looking at is the 1st sheet in the architectural section (see example above). Knowing this information will make it very easy for you to know what the plan in front of you is talking about.

    This package will contain the following: 

Cover Sheet - “CS”

    As you may have guessed this page is the first thing you will see in a set of Construction documents. The data on this sheet varies from one Architecture office to another but generally speaking they are all alike. You should find the Project’s title in big bold letters, a map of the property where the construction project will take place, an index of abbreviations used in the plan, and some general notes.

Architectural Drawings - The “A” Sheets

    The “A” sheets are where most of the projects guts are located. You should expect to see things like the floor plans, elevations, and sections of the proposed structure. The “A” sheets will look most familiar to you as they are simply a more detailed rendition of what was created in the Design process. 

Structural Drawings - The “S” Sheets

    In this section of the plans you will find pages that specify how to build your home so that it is safe. 

Electrical Drawings - The “E” Sheets

    The “E” sheets are exactly what you would guess: power outlets, light switches, ceiling fans, and overhead lighting. Electrical wiring is indicated by thin arcing lines between the elements. 

    Once these drawings are completed and signed off by your local city building department you are ready to seek bids from building contractors and start construction on your new property! 

    We hope this post was informative and beneficial for you. Be sure to check back soon for a more detailed explanation of each section. Upcoming post on understanding the common symbols used in plans, what they mean, and how to read them! 

Feel free to contact us with any questions, we are happy to help! 

Thanks for reading!

- Douglas