Beginner’s Guide to Floor Plan Symbols
Floor plan symbols are graphical representations of architectural features in a written floor plan. These floor plan symbols help you make sense of where the architectural elements are located in the two-dimensional drawing.
Floor plans feature standardized symbols common within the architectural field so that experts like builders, architects, engineers, and designers can easily recognize them and understand what they represent. Knowing common floor plan symbols can help you as you navigate floor plan drawings and help ensure that miscommunications don’t arise between interested groups.
Decoding Floor Plan Symbols
Floor plan symbols enable precision, clarity, consistency, and communication between everyone working on the same project. This guide provides the basic ideas to help you understand symbols for walls, doors, windows, appliances, kitchen counters, plumbing features, furniture, and service symbols in all the rooms in a house.
Each floor plan should have a legend to help you make sense of the symbols and a compass to orient you in the direction the plans should be read.
Depending on the type of floor plan you are viewing, you might see detailed wall symbols or not. Architectural drawings will feature very detailed wall symbols to indicate the type of wall in the floor plan, i.e., if it is load bearing, a foundation wall, a partition wall, etc. Other floor plans will indicate just if a wall is interior or exterior. Exterior walls are usually thick double lines that are either left open or contain shading in the middle. Interior walls will be distinct from exterior walls. Sometimes, artists indicate interior walls with just a single line but some feature thin double lines with shading.
Floor plans will indicate door openings with a variety of symbols based on the door type. Some of the most common door symbols are swing doors, pocket doors, sliding doors, double doors, bi-fold doors, and revolving doors.
- Swing Door Symbol – A swing door is the most common type of door and one that you will see on floor plans. Architects indicate a swing door with a wide arc opening.
- Pocket Door Symbol – Artists represent pocket doors by a line that recedes into a thicker rectangle on the same side.
- Sliding Door Symbol – Designers represent sliding doors with two parallel lines that just touch in the middle.
- Double Door Symbol – A double door is usually two swing doors that are side by side. Architects represent these with two arcs next to each other.
- Bi-fold Door Symbol – Bi-fold doors are represented as two triangles in the door opening.
- Closet Door Symbol – Closet door symbols are similar to swing doors. They are represented by a small arc that is partially open. You can usually spot the difference between swing doors and closet doors because of their location on the floor plan.
Windows create another break in the wall. Window floor plan symbols differ slightly depending on the plan. Most single and double-hung fixed windows are indicated by a set of three lines that have a different shading than the wall. Sometimes they are also indicated by a break in the wall with just one narrow line. More specialized window types like casement, sliding, and bay are indicated with unique shapes.
- Casement Window – Casement windows are represented by a rectangle with a diagonal line and an arc on one side to indicate that it swings outward.
- Sliding Window – Architects draw sliding windows using two narrow rectangles with one in the middle. Arrows dictate the direction of the sliding glass.
- Bay Window – A bay window indicates a projection of three windows that are side by side.
Artists feature appliances like a dishwashing machine or stove on floor plans because they are often built into the design. Sometimes they have a simple notation like “DW” to indicate the name like a dishwasher. Artists indicate a built-in appliance by a dotted “X” above the appliance to symbolize the counter or a cabinet.
- Stove/Oven – The stove/oven symbol is usually a rectangle or square with four circles on the top to indicate burners.
- Refrigerator – A refrigerator symbol is a rectangle with a small and narrow rectangle on the front to indicate the door. Many times, this symbol will feature a dotted “X” on the top to indicate that the builders will build the refrigerator into the cabinets.
- Dishwasher – A dishwasher symbol might be as simple as just a rectangle with a dotted “X” on the top. Sometimes, you may see a small “DW” to differentiate it from the counters.
- Microwave – A microwave symbol is a small rectangle with a narrow rectangle on the front, indicating a door.
Kitchen counter symbols are a collection of graphical drawings to indicate the location and shape of the kitchen counters. Common kitchen counter shapes include long rectangles, “L” shapes, an “L” with an angled middle section, and stand-alone islands. Interior kitchen floor plans may feature a simple notation to indicate the color and material of the counter.
Plumbing symbols include sinks, toilets, showers, and bathtubs. Plans should indicate the type of plumbing elements featured in the plan, as these can vary greatly between designs. Common plumbing symbols are single and double sinks, the size and shape of the bathtub, the orientation of the shower, and the toilet. Some plans with more detail will provide information regarding water supply and drainage lines, shut-off valves, water heaters, and boilers. This depends on the complexity of the floor plan and the needs of the builders and engineers.
Designers sometimes include movable furniture in floor plans. Furniture in the floor plan helps to give the user a better sense of the scale of a particular room. Common furniture floor plan symbols include double and twin beds, sofas, dressers, lounge chairs, dining tables and chairs, nightstands, and bookcases. The inclusion of furniture floor plan symbols does not just provide context for the scale of the room but indicates the most optimal placement.
Stairway symbols show the size and shape of stairways in the design. These symbols show a set of connected rectangles or triangles with an arrow to show the direction of movement. Common stairway types include curved stairs, “L” shaped stairs, circular stairs, split stairs, stairways with a landing, and straight stairs.