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How to read a floor plan?

house plans how to read the icons

What is an architectural floor plan?

Floor plan is a construction drawing, one of the basic elements of architectural or engineering design. It represents the layout of a given flat, floor, or building, together with the equipment and relevant execution details. It is customary for the projection of a building to describe the shape of a ground floor plan and thus the outline of the building.

A fully featured floor plan typically contains all necessary information about the apartment: The total area, number, and dimensions of rooms, location in the building, and location relative to the world. We can also read from the projection where the doors, windows, and installation divisions as well as the location of bearing and partition walls.

Who needs a floor plan and why do they use them?

Floor plans are not only used by engineers and architects, but also by property managers,  real estate agents, developers and are likely useful for all of us at some point in our lives. Different stakeholders have different needs regarding a floor plan – sometimes a fully detailed floor plan is needed, while for example in real estate marketing, a simpler floor plan is typically used. When we would like to make renovation in our flat, having an understanding of the floor plan is paramount. Then we can change not only colors, furniture, and cover but even the layout of the apartment’s rooms and structures.

Glossary of floor plan elements

Basics: scale, legend, dimensions

Every architectural drawing, including floor plans, will have a legend that visually explains the symbols used in the project. It needs to have:

  • Scale or graduation of the floor plan
  • North arrow is useful to see how daylight will move next to our building and from which side we would have more light or shadow.
  • Items such as the title, owner’s and projectant name, address, number of floors, date.
  • Dimensions of construction axes, openings in the wall, wall length, interior dimensions,
  • Section lines


walls floor plan

Bearing walls

The bearing wall is the internal or external wall of the building. Their main task is to transfer loads. Any modifications to them have an impact on the building’s structures and foundation. Any modifications must be approved by the person with the appropriate permissions.

Partition walls

The partition wall is the internal partition of the building, which has the function of separating rooms. Changing the location of these walls is practically unlimited and can be carried out both at the stage of adaptation, as well as later at the stage of building a house or during a renovation.

Ceiling beams

Substring is a structural element in the form of a beam. Which is most often support for the ceiling, for other load-bearing beams, walls, and columns. It fulfills the same function as the load-bearing wall under the ceiling, but it is used when we want to leave a hole into the wall.

Doors & windows

how a photographer can create a floor plan without matterport
Floor plan created with CubiCasa app

What do the windows 90/120 or doors 90/210 or Hp=85 numbers mean?

  width height floor plan

The dimensions of the external woodwork specified in the technical documentation determine the size of the window or door opening in the wall in the raw state. The internal carpentry, however, gives the door frame opening, i.e. the size of the door leaf).

Hp is the height of the window sill, i.e. the distance from the finished floor to the edge of the wall opening under the window sill. In our case, the window sill was designed at a height of 85 cm above floor level.

 1. Stairs

stairs in a property architecture plan

What do the individual values mean: 12 x 18.5 x 26?

N x H x S  where,

N- number of steps, H- step height, S- step width

In addition, the arrow indicates the direction of the stairs, from the floor we are on to the one above.

2. Furniture

Floor plans usually contain the basic fixtures which are permanently installed into the apartment. Mainly there is furniture in the kitchen, bathroom, as well as storage places, e.g. in the wardrobe or pantry.

The meaning of symbols used in floor plans

floor plan icons meaning


Thus, visualizations for apartments from the primary market and interior photos from real estate agencies can tell us a lot about the potential of the apartment. Indeed, they can stimulate the imagination but do not give us all the necessary information. For details, it is better to reach the architectural projection of the apartment, which will dispel doubts as to the real size of the rooms and whether we will be able to implement the arrangement plans in them. That is why basic knowledge on how to read a floor plan and technical documentation will make our lives easier.

In this video, you can see how a 2D floor plan is generated thanks to a CubiCasa scan. With green color is marked the walk path while the red color indicates the device camera:

Author: Aarne Huttunen

Aarne is a growth-oriented full-stack developer and marketer, and has 5 years of experience in the real estate industry. He believes that there's still a lot to be done in the world of real estate and the industry changing trends are yet to be emerged.

We're building technology to digitize the real estate around us, and while doing it, helping families to find better homes, approve mortgages and renovate their homes. We are located in Oulu, Helsinki, San Jose, and Ho Chi Minh City. Currently we are especially looking for software developers to join our team.

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