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Learning Objective:

Upon completing this section, you should be able to recognize the different types of drawings and their uses.

The building of any structure is described by a set of related drawings that give the Builder a complete, sequential, graphic description of each phase of the construction process. In most cases, a set of drawings begins by showing the location, boundaries, contours, and outstanding physical features of the construction site and its adjoining areas. Succeeding drawings give instructions for the excavation and disposition of existing ground; construction of the foundations and superstructure; installation of utilities, such as plumbing, heating, lighting, air conditioning, interior and exterior finishes; and whatever else is required to complete the structure.

The engineer works with the architect to decide what materials to use in the structure and the construction methods to follow. The engineer determines the loads that supporting members will carry and the strength qualities the members must have to bear the loads. The engineer also designs the mechanical systems of the structure, such as the lighting, heating, and plumbing systems. The end result is the architectural and engineering design sketches. These sketches guide draftsmen in preparing the construction drawings.


Generally, construction or "working" drawings furnish enough information for the Builder to complete an entire project and incorporate all three main groups of drawings-architectural, electrical, and mechanical. In drawings for simple structures, this grouping may be hard to discern because the same single drawing may contain both the electrical and mechanical layouts. In complicated structures, however, a combination of layouts is not possible because of overcrowding. In this case, the floor plan may be traced over and over for drawings for the electrical and mechanical layouts.

All or any one of the three types of drawings gives you enough information to complete a project. The specific one to use depends on the nature of construction involved. The construction drawing furnishes enough information for the particular tradesman to complete a project, whether architectural, electrical, or mechanical. Normally, construction drawings include the detail drawings, assembly drawings, bill of materials, and the specifications.

A detail drawing shows a particular item on a larger scale than that of the general drawing in which the item appears. Or, it may show an item too small to appear at all on a general drawing.

An assembly drawing is either an exterior or sectional view of an object showing the details in the proper relationship to one another. Assembly drawings are usually drawn to a smaller scale from the dimensions of the detail drawings. This provides a check on the accuracy of the design drawings and often discloses errors.

Construction drawings consist mostly of right-angle and perpendicular views prepared by draftsmen using standard technical drawing techniques, symbols, and other designations. The first section of the construction drawings consists of the site plan, plot plan, foundation plans, floor plans, and framing plans. General drawings consist of plans (views from above) and elevations (side or front views) drawn on a relatively small scale. Both types of drawings use a standard set of architectural symbols. Figure 2-6 illustrates the conventional symbols for the more common types of material used on structures. Figure 2-7 shows the more common symbols used for doors and windows. Study these symbols thoroughly before proceeding further in this chapter.

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Figure 2-6.-Architectural symbols for plans and elevations.

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Figure 2-7.—Architectural symbols for doors and windows.

Site Plan

A site plan (figure 2-8) shows the contours, boundaries, roads, utilities, trees, structures, and any other significant physical features on or near the construction site. The locations of proposed structures are shown in outline. This plan shows comer locations with reference to reference lines shown on the plot that can be located at the site. By showing both existing and finished contours, the site plan furnishes essential data for the graders.

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Figure 2-8.— Site plan.

Plot Plan

The plot plan shows the survey marks with the elevations and the grading requirements. The plot plan is used by the Engineering Aids to set up the corners and perimeter of the building using batter boards and line stakes, as shown in figure 2-9. Thus, the plot plan furnishes the essential data for laying out the building.

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Figure 2-9.— Plot plan.

Foundation Plan

A foundation plan is a plane view of a structure. That is, it looks as if it were projected onto a horizontal plane and passed through the structure. In the case of the foundation plan, the plane is slightly below the level of the top of the foundation wall. The plan in figure 2-10 shows that the main foundation consists of 12-inch and 8-inch concrete masonry unit (CMU) walls measuring 28 feet lengthwise and 22 feet crosswise. The lower portion of each lengthwise section of wall is to be 12 inches thick to provide a concrete ledge 4 inches wide.

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Figure 2-10.—  Foundation plan.

A girder running through the center of the building will be supported at the ends by two 4-by- 12-inch concrete pilasters butting against the end foundation walls. Intermediate support for the girder will be provided by two 12-by-12-inch concrete piers, each supported on 18-by- 18-inch spread footings, which are 10 inches deep. The dotted lines around the foundation walls indicate that these walls will also rest on spread footings.

Floor Plan

Figure 2-11 shows the way a floor plan is developed: from elevation, to cutting plane, to floor plan. An architectural or structural floor plan shows the structural characteristics of the building at the level of the plane of projection. A mechanical floor plan shows the plumbing and heating systems and any other mechanical components other than those that are electrical. An electrical floor plan shows the lighting system and any other electrical systems.

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Figure 2-11.— Floor plan development.

Figure 2-12 is a floor plan showing the lengths, thicknesses, and character of the outside walls and partitions at the particular floor level. It also shows the number, dimensions, and arrangement of the rooms, the widths and locations of doors and windows, and the locations and character of bathroom, kitchen, and other utility features. You should carefully study figure 2-12. In dimensioning floor plans, it is very important to check the overall dimension against the sum of the partial dimensions of each part of the structure.

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Figure 2-12.— Floor plans.


The front, rear, and sides of a structure, as they would appear projected on vertical planes, are shown in elevations. Studying the elevation drawing gives you a working idea of the appearance and layout of the structure.

Elevations for a small building are shown in figure 2-13. Note that the wall surfaces of this house will consist of brick and the roof covering of composition shingles. The top of the rafter plate will be 8 feet 2 1/4 inches above the level of the finished first floor, and the tops of the finished door and window openings 7 feet 1 3/4 inches above the same level. The roof will be a gable roof with 4 inches of rise for every 12 inches length. Each window shown in the elevations is identified by a capital letter that goes with the window schedule (which we’ll discuss later in this chapter).

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Figure 2-13.— Elevations.

Framing Plans

Framing plans show the size, number, and location of the structural members (steel or wood) that make up the building framework. Separate framing plans may be drawn for the floors, walls, and roof. The floor framing plan must specify the sizes and spacing of joists, girders, and columns used to support the floor. When detail drawings are needed, the methods of anchoring joists and girders to the columns and foundation walls or footings must be shown. Wall framing plans show the location and method of framing openings and ceiling heights so that studs and posts can be cut. Roof framing plans show the construction of the rafters used to span the building and support the roof. Size, spacing, roof slope, and all details are shown.

FLOOR PLANS.— Framing plans for floors are basically plane views of the girders and joists. Figure 2-14 is an example of a typical floor framing plan.

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Figure 2-14.—Floor framing plan.

The unbroken, double-line symbol is used to indicate joists, which are drawn in the positions they will occupy in the completed building. Double framing around openings and beneath bathroom fixtures is shown where used. Bridging is shown by a double-line symbol that runs perpendicular to the joists. The number of rows of cross bridging is controlled by the span of the joists; they should not be placed more than 7 or 8 feet apart. A 14-foot span needs only one row of bridging, but a 16-foot span needs two rows.

Notes are used to identify floor openings, bridging, and girts or plates. Nominal sizes are used in specifying lumber. Dimensions need not be given between joists. Such information is given along with notes. For example, 1 x 6 joists @ 2-0 cc indicates that the joists are to be spaced at intervals of 2 feet 0 inches from center to center. Lengths might not be indicated in framing plans. If you find this to be the case, the overall building dimensions and the dimensions for each bay or distances between columns or posts provide such information.

ROOF PLANS.— Framing plans for roofs are drawn in the same manner as floor framing plans. A Builder should visualize the plan as looking down on the roof before any of the roofing material (sheathing) has been added. Rafters are shown in the same reamer as joists.


Shop drawings are sketches, schedules, diagrams, and other information prepared by the contractor (Builder) to illustrate some portion of the work. As a Builder, you will have to make shop drawings for minor shop and field projects. These may include shop items—such as doors, cabinets, and small portable buildings, prefabricated berthing quarters, and modifications of existing structures.

Shop drawings are prepared from portions of design drawings, or from freehand sketches based on the Builder’s past building experience. They must include enough information for the crew to complete the job. Normally, the Builder bases the amount of required detailing on the experience level of the crew expected to complete the project. When an experienced building crew will be doing the work, it is not necessary to show all the fine standard details.

When you make actual drawings, templates (when available) should be used for standard symbols. Standard technical drawing techniques are recommended but not mandatory.


Builders must be able to read and work from drawings and specifications and make quick, accurate sketches when conveying technical information or ideas. Sketches that you will prepare may be for your own use or for use by other crewmembers. One of the main advantages of sketching is that few materials are required. Basically, pencil and paper are all you need. The type of sketch prepared and personal preference determine the materials used.

Most of your sketches will be done on some type of scratch paper. The advantage of sketching on tracing paper is the ease with which sketches can be modified or-redeveloped simply by placing transparent paper over previous sketches or existing drawings. Cross-sectional or graph paper may be used to save time when you need to draw sketches to scale. For making dimensional sketches in the field, you will need a measuring tape or pocket rule, depending on the extent of the measurements taken. In freehand pencil sketching, draw each line with a series of short strokes instead of with one stroke. Strive for a free and easy movement of your wrist and fingers. You don’t need to be a draftsman or an artist to prepare good working sketches.

Freehand sketches are prepared by the crew leader responsible for the job. Any information that will make the project more understandable may be included, although sketches needn’t be prepared in great detail.


David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015