Reading Floor Plans: The Beginner’s Guide

30th April 2021
Harrison Price

Today, I’m going to guide you through reading and interpreting a floor plan.

I remember looking through the classifieds and estate agents’ websites, seeing the plans they were presenting to they’re potential tenants and finding it difficult to understand how the house was being represented, especially if the plan didn’t reflect the true shape of the building. It was really confusing and frustrating.

This guide is set out to show you exactly how to read a floor plan.

So, what is a floor plan exactly?

A floor plan is the visual representation of a property’s layout. It’s important to show the interested parties the layout and geography of the house. Remember, a lot of people who look at a floor plan often see it before viewing the property!

For example, the floor plan below shows a 5 bedroom house:

Harpr Surveyors Floor Plan Example
Now that you understand what a floor plan is, it’s time for me to explain how to read one

Your first step in understanding any floor plan is actually to pinpoint the different floors.

Looking at the plan and separating the floors so you can easily digest the plan is a good starting point, otherwise it can be a little overwhelming trying to decipher the whole thing at the same time.

Start from the ground or lowest floor and move upwards, you may have a lower ground floor or basement level to consider too.

Identifying the floors on a floor plan

Next, you want to identify the rooms within the property.

Study the plan, look at where the rooms meet and count the number of bedrooms, reception rooms and bathrooms to get an overall feel for the space.

Identifying the rooms on a floor plan

At this point, you’ll have a good grasp of the layout and now we need to refine that by recognising the symbols used.

Every floor plan provider will always have a slightly different set of symbols but they’re usually similar and easily distinguishable. We’ve always used symbols that represent the actual item as much as possible to avoid any confusion.

We even go to the trouble of showing the location of the drain in a shower and if the hob is powered by electric or gas.

Harpr Surveyors Floor Plan Symbols

Area is next and it’s a biggie! The overall space you have within your property is a big factor for everyone when reading floor plans.

We always (unless instructed otherwise) draw our floor plans to the RICS Code of Measuring Practice so you can be sure that the Gross Internal Area (GIA) is standard across the board. This means that the calculated floor area includes everything from the internal face of the exterior walls on each floor.

Do you work well in feet or metres? Both the area and room measurements are in metric and imperial units to help anyone understand the areas without any external conversion needed. This also helps for you to plan your rooms with your existing furniture, bonus.

Here is an example of what is included in the GIA:

Calculating the Gross Internal Area (GIA)

Do you want the sun to rise and shine in your bedroom in the morning or would you rather the evening sun in your family room? Knowing the North point and the orientation of the property will help you decide. Just remember, the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

A good resource for finding out where the sun will be at any given time on a particular day is Sun Calc. Type in your postcode in the box in the top left corner and see where the sun will be! A great little tool.

Find the position of the sun with Sun Calc

We all need somewhere to sip that chilled cider or cool chardonnay and what better space to use than the outdoor space included.

Be cautious, some plans you find on estate agent websites and property portals don’t show the outside space, I don’t know why? Perhaps it’s always raining when the surveyor gets ready to measure it?!

We draw the garden areas and parking spaces on our floor plans, not always to scale as some gardens might be long but the measurements will always be on there.

Identifying the outside space on a floor plan

Don’t forget your storage and cupboard space! These spaces are fairly easy to identify in kitchens or around bedrooms but you might find the odd cupboard in a hallway. Be mindful that not all cupboards will be vacant, they might be home to the heating system or laundry facilities.

You may come across floor plans that have colored rooms or areas from time to time, these areas usually relate to the type of room. For example, bedrooms are purple, bathrooms are blue and gardens are green etc.

This further eases your identification of spaces in a floor plan.

By now, you should have an excellent understanding of how to read a floor plan thanks to “Reading Floor Plans: A Beginners Guide“; you don’t need to feel overwhelmed or unsure of certain aspects of these drawings.

If you’re looking for that top floor flat overlooking the city or that forever home in the country, check out those floor plans. If there’s any information listed here that isn’t on the floor plan your looking at, get in contact with the estate agent and they should be able to help you further.

All of us at Harpr Surveyors dedicate or time and expertise into ensuring every floor plan we produce are to the highest quality. If you’re interested in our floor plans, please contact us for more information or alternatively, leave us a comment.


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About Harpr Surveyors

We provide accurate floor plans, scale plans, HM Land Registry compliant lease plans, EPCs and retrofit assessments in accordance with PAS 2035 to estate agents, conveyancing solicitors and the public. We pride ourselves in the quality of our products.

Contact Details

Manobier, Fore Street, Nanpean, St. Austell, Cornwall, PL26 7YE

07837 800263