Complete Guide to Blueprint Symbols: Floor Plan Symbols, MEP Symbols, RCP Symbols, and More
Jul 03, 2020
An architectural plan, or set of blueprints, is created by architects, engineers, and designers to lay out all the construction specifications of a house, such as dimensions, building materials, installation methods, techniques, and even the order in which these things must be accomplished.
The number of details that must be included in a complete set of blueprints is so large that architects reduce the information on the drawings to a set of standardized symbols and abbreviations in order to make the drawing easier to read and less cluttered.
For reference, every set of architectural drawings includes a symbol legend. If you aren’t familiar with a symbol, you will be able to find it in the legend. Floor plan notes give additional context for the building. For instance, the notes can clarify exactly to what point on a wall dimensions should be measured.
Most plans include symbols that are a combination of:
- Appearance (for instance, a bathtub looks like a bathtub)
- Conventions (double lines are commonly used to denote walls)
- Labels (for instance, a thermostat is labeled “T”).
Architectural symbols and scale
In order to fit all the information about a layer of a building onto a page, construction drawings and architectural drawings are drawn so that a small increment of measurement represents a larger increment. This means that the plans are drawn “to scale.” Every symbol on the legend is drawn to the same scale as the rest of the floor plan.
Scales vary in complexity, from the simple (1 inch = 1 foot) to the complex (3/16 inch = 1 foot). Plans are often drawn at 3/4, 3/16, 1/8, and other scales (in each case the dimension in inches here corresponds to one foot). The symbols are also drawn to scale so you will get an accurate idea of how elements of a room are configured in the space.
The scale is always shown on the same page as the drawing, either under the title or below an individual drawing. Keep in mind that scales can vary throughout a set of architectural prints, so check each page and use an architectural scale, or scaled ruler, to make sure you’re reading the print accurately.
Recognizing symbols is a first step towards reading a property’s blueprints. Learn everything you need to know about reading blueprints in MT Copeland’s online class, taught by professional builder and craftsman Jordan Smith.
6 Common types of floor plan symbols
Imagine a view of a home sliced horizontally about five feet from the ground and looking down from above. This is the way a floor plan is drawn, and it is designed to give you a detailed idea of the layout of each floor of the house. This is just one of the components of the complete set of blueprints.
The types of plan symbols you’ll find on floor plans include everything from doors and stairs to appliances, furniture, and electrical symbols.
Here are the six most common types of symbols you will find on floor plans (versus other types of plans).
The north arrow tells you about the orientation of the property. Builders and architects use “Project North” as a designation, which is different from the cardinal directions on a compass. This allows you to navigate through the house by using north, south, east, and west without having to know where due (magnetic) north is.
Stairs are customarily indicated by parallel lines with their measurements. In this case, we see that they are placed between a window (the triple line indicated by a diamond), and an interior architectural wall (the double line).