How to Read a House Plan – Understand Floor Plan Symbols

Learn how to read a floor plan

Do you suffer from FFP (Fear of Floor Plans)? Here’s a quick test to see if you do… Let’s say you’ve just landed on ePlans.com. After a few minutes of browsing house plan designs, you click on one that looks promising. Immediately, your eyes lock onto the collection of pretty pictures that show the interior and exterior of the home. Then, just as your heart begins to beat faster with unadulterated glee, some party pooper in your life goes, “What are you doin’? You can’t just look at the pictures. You’ve gotta look at the floor plans!”

Begrudgingly, you heed their advice and begin looking at the floor plans....but only for a minute, as that's how long it takes before your mind starts asking questions like, "What does that symbol mean? Is that a door or a window? Why doesn't this make any sense? Am I dumb? Why is this thing making me feel dumb? To hell with this! Take me back to the pretty pictures!!!"

If this sounds like you… You have FFP.

But don’t despair. This blog post is here to help you!

Rule #1: When approaching a house plan is—breathe! It's not going to bite you. Imagine you've just taken the roof off of a doll's house and are looking inside at how everything is arranged. That's basically all a floor plan is.

Rule #2: Know what common house plan labels and symbols mean.

Kitchen Labels and Symbols

First, you'll want to find the kitchen within the particular plan you're interested in. The kitchen is usually pretty easy to spot, as it's usually labeled KITCHEN or KIT. Common, shorthand labels you'll often find within kitchens include:

  • REF = Refrigerator
  • DW = Dishwasher
  • DBL = double ovens (typically seen in larger than average kitchens)
  • P, PAN or PANTRY = Pantry. Depending on the plan, the pantry could be as small as the refrigerator or as large as a luxury walk-in closet.

Common symbols for stove (range) and sink. Note: in the examples below, the sink is a double sink, and the stove has six burners. It's also common to see a single sink and a stove with four burners.

Bathroom Labels and Symbols

Next, let's tackle the bathrooms. Bathrooms are also pretty easy to spot, as they're typically labeled as BATH 1, BATH 2, MASTER BATH (or M. BATH), etc. Common shorthand labels you'll find in bathrooms include:

  • L or LIN = linen closet or small storage area

Common symbols that typically live inside bathrooms include

Now, if you're looking at a bathroom and all you see is a shower, that means there's no bathtub in that particular bathroom. On the other hand, if you're looking at a bathroom and all you see is a bathtub, that usually means it's a tub/shower combo. Master bathrooms are often large enough to enjoy a separate tub and shower. Example: see the master bath of house plan 430-99 below.

Walls, Doors, Windows, Oh My!

Below is a good cheat sheet when it comes to wall, door and window floor plan symbols.

That said, don't get too hung up on memorizing all of them. The main ones you'll need to recognize are:

  • solid shaded wall -- This is typically how a solid wall is presented. Porched walls, cross-hatched walls, and detailed walls are less common.
  • opening in wall
  • door
  • window

And then being able to recognize variations of these. For instance, take house plan 47-891 below, and note the blue arrow that's pointing at the front entrance. This plan's front entrance presents two doors right next to each other, otherwise known as French doors.

In house plan 18-1057 (below), see the blue arrows? They're pointing at a three piece window in the dining room and master bedroom, both of which jut out farther than the surrounding wall. These are bay windows.

Other Common Labels and Symbols

Closets/Storage

  • CLOS. = Closet
  • MSTR CLOSET = Master Closet
  • HIS / HER - These labels are sometimes given if a master bedroom offers two closets.
  • WIC = Walk-in Closet (sometimes a large closet will be labeled as WIC, but other times it will simply be a larger than average space with a label of CLOS., CLOSET, M CLOSET, etc. Some will even present room dimensions and ceiling height, such as seen in Farmhouse house plan 430-166. Basically if a closet looks big enough to be a walk-in closet, it probably is, but call 1-800-528-8070 if you're not sure.
  • STOR = storage space. You usually won't find this in a bedroom, but it will pop up in other locations, like in or just off of the garage.

Washer and Dryer Units

  • often found in rooms labeled UTILITY or LAUNDRY
  • Represented by two squares--one with a W and one with a D--or one square with a marking of W/D. If it's one square, that means it's a stacked washer/dryer unit.

Fireplaces

  • typically seen in the main living area, often referred as the "Living Room," "Great Room," or "Family Room."
  • may also be seen in the master bedroom of a more luxurious house layout.
  • see below--there's a fireplace in the great room of house plan 72-110. The blue arrow is pointing at the fireplace symbol.

QUIZ TIME

First, take a look at the main and upper level floor plan for house plan 497-13 - click here.

Question 1: If you're standing in Bedroom 1, can you see the back porch?

Question 2: If you're standing in the kitchen, can you easily walk onto the back porch?

Question 3: Which level features the washer and dryer?

Question 4: The main level's bathroom features what? A) a sink, toilet, and bathtub B) a sink, toilet, and shower or C) a sink, toilet, and tub/shower combo?

Question 5: What's cool about the master bathroom's toilet? (Note: While none of the bedrooms in this plan are specifically labeled "master," Bedroom 2 should be considered the master, as it offers it's own bathroom and walk-in closet, while Bedroom 1 does not.)

Ready for the answers....

Ok, here we go...

Answer 1: Yes, you can! Bedroom 1 features a window that looks out onto the back porch.

Answer 2: Yes, you can! The kitchen feature French doors that open onto the back porch.

Answer 3: The washer and dryer are on the main level. Note the stacked W/D unit in the middle of the main level floor plan (just above the study).

Answer 4: C) a sink, toilet and tub/shower combo. Remember: while bathrooms will often feature a shower and no tub, they rarely feature a tub with no shower. Therefore, if you're looking at a bathroom and only see a bathtub symbol, this is most likely indicating a tub/shower combo.

Answer 5: The master toilet is enclosed in its own space by a pocket door, allowing for extra privacy.

RULE #3:

Chill out! Being able to read a floor plan takes time and practice. No one expects you to understand what every single symbol or label means right away. Furthermore, I review house plans every day and I still sometimes come across a symbol that I don't recognize. When this happens, don't panic, and do NOT feel dumb! Just call 1-800-528-8070 and our House Plan Experts will help you get to the bottom of it.

November 15, 2019


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