While floor plans do reveal a lot about the functional characteristics of a house, they often lack the information needed to describe the home's overall feel. This is because they can't easily show us what is going on in the third dimension. So when looking at a floor plan, remember that you're looking at just one view of the house and you'll need to look at other views to really understand all of the house's features.
Having said this, let's look at what a floor plan shows.
The rooms are labeled so we know where each functional area is in relationship to another room. And we'll be able to see how we can get from room to room. Because windows and doors are shown, we can see how each relates to the others and to other items in a room. For example, we'll be able to see if doors and windows are aligned to create view corridors.
I find that the best way to understand a plan is to put yourself in it and "walk" around the home. As you take this virtual walk, record what you see, what you feel and how you get from room to room. Another way to understand the plan is to virtually put yourself in the middle of a room and record what you see as you look in at least four directions.
A legend can also include a north arrow. In fact, it's a drawing convention that the top right of the drawing page is always north.
Other items that can be included in a legend are the owners' names, the project address, the architect and other designers' names and the date (especially important with a construction drawing so revisions can be managed).
Walls are drawn as parallel lines with breaks where windows and doors occur. A particularly useful drawing convention that's used in a remodeling or addition project is to show the existing walls with no fill between the parallel lines while showing the new walls with a pattern or dark color between the lines.
It's often a good idea to have interior elevations drawn for these rooms. While we can see in the plan where the cabinets, appliances etc. are all located, we don't know their height, type, or style. Only in an interior elevation will we see this information, because this drawing looks across straight at wall or other vertical surface.
Note that for the mudroom, the two doors leading into the room are directly across from each other. This creates not only a strong circulation pattern but also a sight line that reinforces the pattern.
As with many such items, the plan will indicate the relationship between the fireplace and the other elements of the room. So the plan tells us if the fireplace is centered in the room, between windows or something else — all very important information. But it won't provide any third-dimension information.
Modern building codes have a significant impact on the size and arrangement of stairs. From width to riser height to tread width and railing issues, no stair should be designed without a thorough understanding of these codes.
While ceiling transitions aren't readily shown in a floor plan because they occur above, drawing conventions can reveal them. Dashed lines, as in the drawing here, allude to a change in the ceiling above the floor. We may not know what exactly this ceiling change is, but we know that there is a change, and we can then go to other drawings, such as a section (a vertical slice through the house instead of the horizontal slice that a floor plan is), to learn more.
Houzz Contributor. My name is Bud Dietrich and I am an architect located in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. I am licensed to practice architecture in Illinois, Florida, New Jersey & Wisconsin and I am a certificate holder from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). Since 1996 I have worked from my home office and provide full architectural services exclusively to the single family residential market. My passion is to transform my clients' houses into their homes. I strive to have the "new" home accommodate my clients' lives without fighting them at every junction. I look to add curb appeal to encourage a beautiful streetscape.