Knowing how to read construction plans is a critical skill.
Are you a skilled tradesman? Maybe you are a general contractor or you work in the construction industry. Either way, knowing how to read construction plans is a critical skill.
Learning how to read construction plans is an essential skill for building a career as a construction worker. Construction drawings vary from simple to very complex, so understanding how to interpret the drawings is crucial for completing the project efficiently and accurately.
The ability to read construction plans will not only increase your value to your current employer but is a staple to anyone serious about advancing their career as a professional contractor.
In our beginner’s guide on how to read construction plans we will cover the basics of what plans are, what sort of information they contain, and how to interpret that information.
Construction Plans are 2D Drawings
Construction plans (blueprints) are 2-dimensional architectural drawings that explain the details of a project. They provide a unique visual representation of what exactly needs to be built. Information such as dimensions, parts, placement, and materials for each project can all be found in construction drawings to assure the project is completed correctly.
Aside from the apparent specs and dimensions, construction plans also help communicate what the project is about. They provide construction workers with other important information for the project including building codes, installation techniques, measurements, and quality standards.
Construction Plans Come in Different Sizes
Depending on the size and complexity of a project, some construction plans will require to be printed on oversized sheets while others may fit in the confines of a notebook.
With the continued advancement of technology throughout the construction industry, digital plans are becoming increasingly popular due to ease of making edits and sharing plans among construction team members.
Regardless of how the plans are presented, the importance of understanding construction drawings remains a top priority.
From residential construction jobs to large commercial projects, construction plans are required to estimate your costs for materials and labor, obtain your permits, establish a construction schedule, and complete the project in a timely manner.
Every project is unique, therefore how you interpret the information is critical. It is a lot like having your own language as a construction worker. You need to understand everything on the construction plan (blueprint) to complete the project under budget and ahead of schedule.
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What is Included in a Set of Construction Plans?
When learning how to read construction plans, it is essential to understand what is contained within typical construction plans. Most include a cover page, time block, key notes, general notes, revision block, drawing scale and a legend.
It is crucial that you read everything and understand it before you estimate or start the construction project!
This page usually contains a drawing of the actual project. It also includes the title block, revision block, notes, drawing scale and the legend.
Each plan contains a “title block.” The title block often appears at the beginning of a set of construction plans. If you are involved in any type of construction work, you will want to make sure to read it thoroughly and understand it before starting the project!
The shape, size, and placement of the title block can vary. This area of the sheet contains important information about the project as well as the company, typically a professional design firm, that created it. You will see things like copyright information, revision date, plan number, creation date, scale of the drawing, and sheet number.
The title block’s first section lists the blueprint’s name, number, and address as well as the location, site, or vendor. If the drawing is part of a set, that information will also be included. This allows for easy filing and organization. Every block or cell contains an important piece of data. If there is a blank in the title block, the drawing is not ready for release. The authority (checker or engineer) will not sign it if there is missing information.
The second section of the title block contains routine information. Approval dates and signatures are located here. Should you need more information regarding a project’s construction plans, this information should include contact information for further discussion.
The final section of the title block is the list of references. This section lists all other drawings that are related to the building, system, component, as well as all construction plans (blueprints) that were used as a reference or to inspire the project.
Any time there is change to a building, system, or component, the drawing must be redrafted. Those changes are listed in the Revision Block – usually with a date as well.
Construction plans (blueprints) are scaled down representations of the final project at a ratio of the actual size. For example, 1/8″ = 1′ (one eighth inch equals one foot). When construction plans are scaled, it helps to put the part into a print size drawing that is easily read by the crew.
The notes will reveal any specifications, details, or information the designer (engineer) thinks may help you understand the drawing. Some notes may even include information as to when the project start time is, for example, “Do not begin work until 7 am.” Information like this can be beneficial to the crew and might even be a requirement of the municipality in which the work is taking place.
General notes eliminate the use of lengthy written explanations. It is a note that provides technical information that will apply to the entire drawing.
When learning how to read construction plans, one of the most important components is the legend. The legend is used to define the symbols used in the construction plans (blueprint).
In some cases, similar symbols can have different meanings depending on the line of work being performed. Your company might also have their own symbols for certain items. The important thing is that you understand the meaning of the symbols regarding the plans you are reviewing.
In addition to the above mentioned, construction plans are also often composed of industry-specific symbols. Be sure you understand what those symbols represent by reviewing the legend for the drawing that you’re working with.
A roofing project, for example, will have symbols for items located on a roof such as HVAC units or skylights, while an electrical plan will have symbols for outlets and conduits.
In conclusion, if you are in the construction industry, knowing how to read construction plans is an absolute must to do your job!