How to decipher drawings for your home remodel

Phantom Screens / August 3, 2016

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Part of the home remodeling process includes drawings. Technical drawings and floor plans are a tool that show the contractor how to build a design. An architect will create these images based on your input and specifications. He or she will then bring them to you for approval. The architect will explain the key elements in the drawing, but understanding how to read floor plans on your own will help streamline the process of designing your home renovation. You may not have encountered floor plans before and may be unfamiliar with standard drawing practices. Here is some basic information to get you started.

Floor plan as a whole

A floor is a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional space – in this case, your home. The floor plan details the layout of a single level of the house, like a map. You will be able to see how the remodel will change the flow of traffic in your home as well as where new features, such as stair cases, windows and doors, will be placed. Each room will be clearly labeled to help you better understand what you are looking at.


The initial drawings you get from your architect may not be to scale, meaning the line lengths may not represent actual measurements. These drawings are meant to give you a quick idea of what your remodeled room could look like. However, the floor plan and technical drawings will be drawn to scale. Like a map, there will be a bar that indicates the scale in which the drawing was done. For example, the scale bar could be an inch long and say “5 feet” next to it. That should tell you that one inch in the drawing is equal to 5 feet in the real world.

The floor plan will be very specific with measurements because it acts as a map for builders to follow. If one measurement is off, the whole project could be built incorrectly. This is why architects undergo so much training and certification. They have to get the final floor plan right. You will find the scale bar in the bottom corner of the drawing along with the legend.


The legend is an important part of technical drawings, blueprints and floor plans. It is located in the bottom corner of the drawing and provides information that is critical for understanding the images. By reading the legend, you will learn what abbreviations mean, the scale of the image, who designed it and what space you’re looking at. There isn’t a ton of room for minute detail on the drawing because the scale is small. The legend allows architects to add notes to a spot to lead the reader to specific information elsewhere. Design specifications are separate sheets with a closer look at details. For example, retractable screens might have a design specification that gives a more three-dimensional drawing of the window you will install the screen on. The installation team can look at those specifications to find measurements and parts – such as frames, bolts and slide bars – that will be included.

Walls and windows

Drawings are standard across the industry so that those involved in the design and building process all speak one language. When you look at the floor plan for your remodel, you’ll see that the windows and walls are drawn in a certain way. Walls are drawn as two parallel lines. Thick lines indicate an exterior wall while thin lines represent interior walls. If the area between the lines is shaded, the wall already exists. If the area is not shaded, the wall will be built. Windows are represented by three parallel lines located within a break in the wall lines. You should pay close attention to the windows when planning for retractable screens.