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Can you read an architectural plan?

Written by Andreia Manarte

When you want to buy real estate, the seller first shows you the architectural plans. Given that this document is a sketch, it is filled with symbols and numbers, which means that it’s often hard to imagine the final result.

Here are some suggestions on how to read and understand an architectural plan.

Different types of architectural plans

Phot by Daniel Mennerich via Visualhunt

Photo by Daniel Mennerich via Visualhunt

When a construction project is underway, you have to take into account a multitude of general and technical bits of information. To make it as simple as possible, the architect will, therefore, draw several plans depending on the recipient. This way all those interested can find all the information specific they need.

If the architect only made one plan, the document would surely be unreadable because of the abundance of symbols and abbreviations. For prospective buyers, the floor plan is simplified to contain the essential information.

Related article: Why buy real estate in Barcelona

The main information of an architectural plan

Photo by jsmjr via Visualhunt

Photo by jsmjr via Visualhunt

Orientation: the orientation of your apartment will always be indicated in one form or another. Pay attention to this because it will influence the amount of natural light in your apartment. 

The surface of the rooms: it will be indicated for each room in square meters.

Level indicators: in every room, a number is usually circled. This represents the level of the floor of the room in relation to the project.

The scale of the plan: generally, for convenience, 1 cm on the plan corresponds to 1 m in reality.

Walls: the drawing of a wall can be thin or thick, which has two different meanings. A thin line represents a partition while a thick line represents a structural wall. So you can have two spaced thick lines, which represent an outside wall. Within these two lines, there will be a hatched area representing the thermal insulation.

Doors: they are represented by a quadrant. This can be divided into two quadrants for a French window.

Stairs: the first 6 steps are always drawn with a continuous line. The remaining steps are dotted.

What you should know: 

There are many symbols and abbreviations which are not always obvious. Here is a glossary to understand the basics. 


Abbreviation Meaning Abbreviation Meaning
CBD/CPD Cupboard R Refrigerator
CRWL Crawl space RW Retaining wall
DW Dishwasher RWH Rainwater head
GC Garbage chute V Ventilation
GPO General purpose outlet VP Vent pipe
HW Hot water unit WM Washing Machine

About the author

Andreia Manarte

Andreia fell in love with words even before she could really understand them. Now that she does, she loves to write about fictional people and unique places like Barcelona.

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