What is a floor plan?

by | Apr 28, 2023 | Floor plans, Home design

When it comes to building a home, a floor plan is an essential part of the process, providing a bird’s eye view of the entire space of your proposed house. Whether it’s defining your ideal room layout or forming the plans for your dream home, the floor plan is the beginning of transferring your vision into a blueprint. In this article, we’re looking in-depth at what a floor plan is including its role in the building process and how to read one.

What are floor plans?

In architecture and building, a floor plan (sometimes called a layout), is a technical drawing to scale which shows the home design of a project. Floor plans typically illustrate dimensions, rooms, traffic flow, and other physical features and structural details. It will help get an idea of how different rooms, including bedrooms, living rooms and bathrooms A floor plan can be thought of as a map that allows both client and builder to have an idea of the room layout.

3D Floor plans

Some builders may offer 3D floor plans, which are virtual models of a floor plan. These are often offered as part of a virtual tour and can provide an idea of the builder’s floor plan examples to the consumer. A 3d floor plan can provide a tactile feel that regular floorplans lack.

Floor plans vs building plans – what’s the difference?

Though on a surface level, a floor plan and a building plan may seem like the same thing, they’re actually two very different animals.

While a floor plan provides scaled measurements that are best used to sell properties or give a more general idea of a house. It can also be a way for the buyer to convey what they want in a home.

Building plans, or complete blueprints, are construction-ready drawings that are much more detailed and will contain information on every aspect of the building. This is what your builder and construction team will use to actually build your home, as it will have all the details they need.

Floor plans and building plans serve different purposes but are both important features in the building process.

Non-certified plan vs certified plans – what’s the difference?

A non-certified plan is one created by the homeowner, an unqualified person, a computer program or as a rough idea of the house plans. It can be a great conceptual starting point for your home design, though you won’t be able to submit it for approval.

A certified plan is one prepared and stamped by a licensed architect, draftsman or building designer and requires a high level of accuracy and meets all legislation and guidelines. This will be a necessity for getting approval for your house design.

How to read a floor plan?

A floor plan won’t be much use to you unless you know what you’re looking at. The good news is once you know the basics, you should be able to read most floor plans you come across. In this section, we’re taking a look at the floor plan symbols and what architectural features each represents.

The more detailed and complex the plans, the more symbols there are likely to be. Here is an example of the type of symbols


Both outer and interior walls will be shown on the floor plan. Depending on the detail in the floor plan, the material on the wall may be specified. Below is an example of how you should expect wall symbols to be shown on your floorplan.


Door symbols not only indicate where the location of your door but in which direction the door opens (for example, the toilet door will open into the room rather than outwards in most houses). Sliding doors have their own distinct symbol, and open doorways will be portrayed by a gap in the wall.


Floor plans will provide a visual representation of the floor space you’ll have in each room and how each room compares to one another. Depending on what stage of design you’re in, you’re plan may use shading to indicate flooring material (carpet, hardwood, etc).


If your home has stairs, the plan will need to indicate both the size of the staircase and will also feature an arrow to indicate which way it goes up.


Windows, like interior doors, will be drawn as a break in the wall, with three parallel lines being the symbol to represent a window.

Fitting and Fixtures

Fittings and fixtures that will be shown on your floor plan will include:

  • toilets
  • sinks
  • baths and showers
  • built-in cabinetry
  • ovens
  • dishwashers
  • other built-in features

Unless you have a particularly unusual fixture, there will be a symbol to represent all these features. Ideally, these will be drawn to scale in the plans.

How to read floor plan measurements

Understanding the measurements of your scale drawings is one of the most important details of a floor plan. A good floor plan should feature a written ratio that explains the scale of the drawings. House plans will often specify in square metres the entire house area, while also offering x and y measurements for each room in the house.

Common floor plan design examples

Remember some home designs can fit into a multiple of the below categories (for example, an acreage home is also a single-storey floor plan). Here are some of the most common floor plan layouts you’ll find on the market.

Single Storey Floor plan

The most common home design by quite a margin, is a single-storey home. It comes in a wide range of sizes and prices. The most affordable homes on the market are single-storey homes.

Double Storey Floor Plan

With a double-storey floor plan, you’ll have a layout for the ground floor and the second-floor side by side.

Split-Level Home Floor

A distinct-looking, multi-level design, split-level homes are ideal for sloping blocks and uneven terrain.

Acreage Design Home Plan

Ever seen those sprawling, country home designs? Those are known as acreage designs and are best suited for rural properties.

Custom design floor plan

A custom design floor is pretty much what it sounds like. Instead of choosing a pre-design layout offered by the builder, you instead design a unique layout. This can be a more expensive option, particularly if you have some imaginative ideas.

Pros and cons of designing your own floor plan


  • More choice and flexibility
  • Chance to bring your specific vision to life
  • Usually end up owning the copyright of the floor plan
  • Less beholden to the builder. Changes to existing plans can be expensive.


  • More expensive option compared to using a pre-existing plan
  • Will take longer to construct
  • Material costs may be higher
  • Design can be tricky for the first-timer. Some may find it overwhelming.

What is the cost of designing your own floor plan?

The cost of a house plan can be anywhere between $3,000-15,000 plus. The deciding factors in the final cost include:

  • who do you hire to draw your floor plans
  • the complexity of your floor plan
  • how many revisions are needed?
  • the size of your house

Hiring a draftsman can cost anywhere between $80-200 per hour for their services. Draftsman won’t be able to design a house plan from scratch.

If you go all out and hire an architect, it’s going to cost you extra. For an entire building project, an architect can charge anywhere between 5-8% of the construction cost for just construction-ready drawings. To hire them to supervise the project as well, you’re looking at closer to 8-15%.

Are there any design considerations & restrictions to be aware of?

  • When coming up with a house design, think of what will work best for you and your family members.
  • Every local council will have their own guidelines and these are often updated. Therefore, no matter how many houses you’ve built before, it’s always worth double-checking.
  • You’re design will need to meet the requirements of the National Construction Code. New changes will come into effect as of May 2023.

Get free advice from an experienced building broker

Building a new home can be an overwhelming experience and it’s easy to worry about making costly mistakes. Buildi is here to help during your entire building journey. We’re here to give power back to the customer, meaning when you start your new home, the builder won’t be the one holding all the cards. Our services have saved our clients money, frustration and time. So, why not get in touch today to find out how we can help you?

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