Building & Renovating

Building 101: How to Read Floor Plans

An architect and college professor sheds some light on an oft-intimidating, but all-too-important document


When building a house or buying a condo unit, a floor plan is one of the first drawings you are presented with. But what do the multiple lines, X's, arrows, and bubbles mean?

Richelle Baria, architect and professor at the College of Architecture at the University of the Philippines Diliman explains that a floor plan is like an apple sliced horizontally: the skin represents the walls and the fruit and core represent what's inside the structure. "It represents the sizes of the spaces and [their] relationship to each other," she says. "Floor plans are important because, as part of a structure's working drawings, it is an instrument for material takeoff and construction, means for granting a building permit, coordination within various trades like the suppliers, and it is a permanent record for future remodeling or expansion."

Photographed by Ocs Alvarez.

Read the original article in RL Notebook - September 2012 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App ( now! Log on to for more details.  

Do a walk-through.

Reading a floor plan is not different from examining the other aspects of the design. 

"It is better to look at it from macro to micro," Richelle says. Here's what you can check according to Richelle:

1. The lot configuration and the building foot print

2. The size and location with respect to the lot area and also the open spaces

3. The building configuration: How is it positioned? Does it have a certain shape?

A floor plan's orientation and flow also serves as a two-dimensional walk-through of the spaces of the home. As a guide, look at the entrances and the different rooms.

You may also look at the spaces allotted for the kitchen and bathroom fixtures, wall systems and cabinetries, and spaces for expansion.

The mysterious symbols

The different areas and design elements in the floor plan are all represented by various symbols. Whenever you can't understand a symbol drawn, feel free to ask your architect or designer.

Richelle says that there should be a hierarchy of lines to depict certain elements such as: thicker lines for walls, thinner lines for doors and windows, and so forth.

This holds true for floor plans of condo units. Aside from the architects, the developers should also be able to explain what's in the floor plans. Keep in mind that floor plans of developers are not absolute.

"You should also cross-reference the drawings with the site plan to help you understand the building's orientation," Richelle adds.


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