HOW TO DRAW ACCURATE HOUSE PLANS IN LESS THAN A DAY
It may be a house that you already own or one you are thinking of buying. Perhaps you are planning to renovate or re-use an existing property. Whatever the project, drawing up plans will give you a far better idea of the space you have to work with.
This is about more than just taking measurements.
A good building survey covers all aspects of a buildings construction, stability, condition and appearance as well as the existing drainage, plumbing and electrical services.
Producing your own survey plans might sound difficult but really anyone can do it. Simply follow the guide below and you will have accurate drawings of your existing property in no-time.
It should take the best part of a day to do this properly, depending on the size of your property and the level of detail you go into. It is time well spent. You will really get to really know your building.. the good, the bad and the ugly!
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
- Pen or pencil (it doesn’t matter – I prefer a pen because i don’t like rubbing out!). I would recommend two different colours, such as black and red ink -I’ll explain why later.
- Lots of A4 sheets of paper. You should have at least one sheet for each room in the house, one for each floor plus a few extras to cover mistakes.
- A clipboard – it really helps to have something to lean on. You can easily make a clipboard out a thin piece of MDF or hardboard and a bull-dog clip.
- A good measuring tape. The longer the better. Aim for a decent quality one if you can as it will get a lot of use.
- A directional compass (or an app on your smart phone). This will help you work out the orientation of each room and any outdoor spaces relative to the path of the sun.
- A camera (or your smart phone). You will want to take lots of photos. Try to follow a logical sequence when taking pictures so that you can easily locate them later.
- A ruler, preferably a scale ruler in either metric or imperial scales depending on where you live.
- Sheets of A3 paper for producing scaled drawings
- A helper – like a lot of things, surveying is much better with someone else. You will need a helper to hold the end of your tape or note down the dimensions as you call them out.
CREATE BASE PLANS
First, sketch out each room on a separate sheet of paper, noting the location of any doorways (including door swings), windows, fireplaces or other fixed features. Also note on the rough location of any power-points, light switches, plumbing and drainage if applicable. If there are any steps or changes in level add these to your drawing too.
It doesn’t matter if these sketches are not to scale or in proportion, the lines don’t even need to be straight. They just need to be legible enough for you to work from them later.
Label each drawing with the room name, which floor it is on (if applicable) and the orientation relative to north.
PRO-TIP: I recommend drawing these plans in black ink, with perhaps the walls in a thicker line (like a black felt tip) to help pick them out.
Draw lines on your plan for the dimensions you want to record. I would recommend doing this in red or another bright colour so that you don’t confuse these lines for building features later(!)
As you measure each dimension in the room, you or your partner should jot them down in the relevant spot on your base plans. Make sure you take overall dimensions from wall to wall as well as measuring individual elements
Dont forget to measure ceiling heights, wall thicknesses, window sill & door heights.
PRO-TIP: After measuring each room, take a diagonal dimensions from corner to corner as well. This will help you check the accuracy of your measurements when you come to draw it all up to scale.
LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICTURE
Once you have surveyed each room individually, go back and sketch the overall layout of the house. Use a separate sheet for each floor if there is more than one.
You will need to draw smaller (or use a larger piece of paper) to fit it all on.
Use the location of doors and other openings to connect the different parts together.
When producing your final plans it is important they are exact or you will struggle with the design later on. The process of producing accurate drawings of buildings is called ‘drawing to scale’. This essentially means that the drawings you produce are an exact number of times smaller than the real thing.
For example, 1:100 is a metric drawing scale. This means that every 1mm drawn at this scale represents 100mm in the real building.
PRODUCE SCALED DRAWINGS
You have two options here. You can either draw the plans out by hand or input your survey information directly into a computer program.
The benefit of drawing by hand at this stage is that it forces you to process the information. Producing hand-drawn scale drawings might take a bit of practice, but you will have a far greater intimacy with the layout of the building as a result
For this you will need your scale ruler. Make sure you choose one that has at least the scales of 1:20, 1:50 and 1:100 (for metric users anyway – only the USA still uses imperial measurements these days).
Lay out your A3 sheets of paper on a decent sized table or flat surface. Look at the overall dimensions of your house and choose an appropriate scale that will fit on the page (1:100 is usually sufficient, I certainly wouldn’t go any bigger than 1:50 at this stage).
Aim for your plans to be large enough on the page that they are clear and legible, but with enough space around them to add notes and comments.
Referring to your survey notes and sketches, simply start in one corner of the building, drawing each room to scale before moving onto the next.
Make sure you make lots of photocopies of your final drawings so that you and your family can sketch and scribble ideas over them.
Using a computer to create your drawings means you don’t have to worry about understanding a scale ruler (!) The program will be able to reproduce the plans at any scale you want, and you can print as many copies as you need
Architects usually use large, expensive and complicated CAD programs to produce their drawings, but you really don’t need all that.
I would recommend giving SketchUp a go. Not only is it free, it is pretty easy to use and quick to learn, plus you get the added benefit of being able to view your plans in three-dimensions!
Alternatively, there are loads of free or cheap programs available online for drawing plans. Some examples are Roomsketcher, SmartDraw & Floorplanner to name a few. Try a few out and find out which one works best for you.
SOMETHINGS NOT QUITE RIGHT..
If you find you have made a mistake or something just doesn’t add up, simply go back.
Take the time to get your survey plans as accurate as you can now to avoid costly mistakes later on. Don’t be tempted to fudge the drawings and ‘make them work’. You are asking for trouble if you do.
There you have it – an accurate set of drawings with which to begin exploring your ideas. This is just the start of your journey – now the real design work can begin!
I hope this article has helped you to understand your existing home better and visualise what it might become. Let me know in the comments box below.