DW Timber Frame Design



How To Read A Floor Plan

  By learning how to read a floor plan, you'll be able to spot potential problems ahead of time, and find the home best suited to you. 

Floor Plan Areas 
Basic House  1672 sf 
Basement (opt)  1672 sf 
Garage & Mud Room, etc  546 sf 

By Michael Liewellyn 

  Most people believe that reading floor plans correctly is simple, and for the most part this is true. But there are, in fact, certain aspects you should be aware of to understand them to your best advantage. If you're about to embark on something as important as selecting a house plan, it's essential you know how to spot potential problems to avoid headaches and disappointments later. After all, these are decisions that will affect where you're going to spend most of your time in years to come. By using common sense and asking your contractor some pertinent questions, you can make most of those decisions with ease. It doesn't matter if your new home is colonial, Spanish, Tudor or country French -- it's what will be behind that facade that counts!

  The wide range of floor plans offered at this site result from careful research and designing by skilled designers who know their profession well. You shouldn't encounter problems with the homes' functionality and lay out. But if you're inspecting other floor plans or even architects' blue prints, you need to know precisely what those drawings mean. And that includes everything from how much closet space you'll have to which way doors open. Certainly you don't want to walk through your front door and immediately be confronted by a bathroom. Nor do you want a kitchen located so far from the dining room that serving a hot meal means running a marathon race. These may sound like extreme examples, but you'd be surprised how many simple pitfalls can entrap the unwary consumer.

The Question of Scale

  First of all, there is the matter of scale. Everything on the floor plan is laid out to be a certain scale which is clearly marked on the plan. It might be that 1/4" equals 1 foot or 1" equals ten feet. You must understand how these dimensions will translate from paper to reality, and there's a simple way to help you determine that. Pick up a metal tape measure at your neighborhood hardware store and pace off the number of feet in various rooms. Compare it to your present residence. This will better enable you to envision just how large--or small-- specific areas will be.

Analyzing the size of your home-to-be may turn up some unexpected discoveries. For example, maybe your new living room won't be able to accommodate those eight modular units in your present home. Or perhaps the master bedroom isn't large enough for that king size water bed you're accustomed to. And don't confine this scheme to just the house itself. How about the garage or carport? Almost all are designed to accommodate the standard American car. If you have a couple of automobiles that are larger than that, one of them may literally get left out in the rain and snow. It's important to think of everything, even what seems trivial.

Now that we've discussed size and scale, let's look at individual characteristics that make this floor plan appealing and suitable for your particular needs. For example, what about windows? Are they casement, jalousie or dormer types, i.e., do they slide up, open out, crank out or slide to the side? Are they strategically-placed and are they plentiful? Few people like a shortage of windows. Consider, too, what direction the windows will face once on your property. Do you prefer your kitchen to get the bright morning sun or do you want it flooding your bedroom to wake you up? And if you have a dramatic view of lake, ocean or mountains, will the windows take full advantage of it? Maybe your plan has floor-to-ceiling windows. If so, you may not want them receiving direct sunlight or your air-conditioning bill could be drastically affected.

  Carefully inspect the placement of doors including the previous mention of concern over which way they open. It's a small detail but one which can make a big difference. Front and back doors are essential, of course, but you might want to consider a third entrance/exit for your house. Perhaps you may want to add a new door some time to give easy access to your new terrace, garden or swimming pool. That brings up the matter of future alteration of your present floor plan. Is it a design which can easily, economically and safely be expanded? In other words, which are the support walls and which are the non-weight bearing walls? Knowing which is which now will tell you if they can be removed or altered later. This is very important to many who want their house to grow along with their family.

Other Considerations

  What about those areas that receive heavy traffic? Are they well placed and organized? The flow of people should not be concentrated anymore than necessary, and attention should be paid to saving wear and tear on floors and carpets. Well-placed doorways are also a factor if you're concerned about fire exits. The subject of wiring--a faulty, carelessly installed system being a common cause of fires--should direct your attention to what kind of heating system you want. Certainly not all plans are economically or functionally suitable for all types of environmental control systems.

Examine the placement of staircases, closets and other storage spaces, bathroom and kitchen fixtures and appliances. Can the area beneath the staircase be used for storage or is it "dead space"? Few can afford to waste space. Once again, pay attention to the size and proportion. Just as you can step off the scale of your new rooms with measuring tape, you can employ another method of understanding scale to establish the relative size of a room to furnishings and appliances. Simply cut out pieces of paper with the appropriately scaled size and shape of your furnishings or appliances. Put these shapes in their designated areas and look at their relationship to what's around them. For example, maybe you'll find that you want a double-decker washer/dryer unit instead of a side-by-side arrangement. Consider where the hook-ups for your washer/dryer are located. Are they convenient for where you want to do your wash? That extra space you can gain by the double-decker placement can free an area which might be used by a freezer unit, an important cost consideration if you have a large family or are planning one.

This "cut-out" furniture idea can solve other problems as well. Maybe you want an island-type butcher block for your ideal kitchen. Will there be room for it, or will you have to sacrifice the space for the kitchen table? These handy little cut-outs allow you to visualize such choices. They might even give you ideas such as combining a butcher block and kitchen table into a singular unit.

The size of various rooms is important for other reasons as well. If you're family oriented, you'll naturally want extra space in the den or family room. Those who entertain alot will want a large living room or perhaps even a formal dining room. The choice is yours, just make it ahead of time.

Ask yourself and your contractor such pertinent questions to determine if a particular plan is suited for you. This article should prompt you to raise questions as you examine plan details. After all, only you know precisely what you're looking for. By trying to consider everything, no matter how insignificant, you'll come closer to actually getting your dream home.

Look over each floor plan with care. Keep in mind all you've just read about. With the help of a competent contractor, you're now well on your way to not only becoming skilled at reading a floor plan, but also knowing which ones are suited for you.