Home Floor Plans in 2021: The Ultimate Guide

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Have you ever been in a home that just seems to “flow” really well?

Some homes you walk in and you can immediately sense the functionality. Obviously, you can tell where you eat, cook, sleep and hang out.

But in really well designed homes, the interaction between those rooms is almost perfect.

You can see where you would watch tv while others are cooking or preparing dinner. You can see where you would come in from the garage and where you put your coat and handful of bags. The owner’s bedroom has the perfect combo of closet, bathroom and sleeping area.

Many of the best homes also have extra “bonus” spaces to be used for an office, kids playroom, arts and crafts room or any other use you can think of.

These homes are not only about having the most space, but rather the best use of space. They are intuitive, inviting and pleasantly surprising.

Alternately, you probably have been in a house that is the opposite. The home just does not seem to have any flow to it.

The rooms are broken up and isolated, and generally has “dead” areas where you say “I have no idea what I would do with this space”.

Floor Plans

So what is the difference? How are some homes so well laid out and others not?

The answer is simple: great new homes start with a great design. Great designs are reflected in great floor plans.

The floor plan is the backbone of your new home project, remodel, addition or can be a great tool for more casual uses. What is dreamt up on paper, is later executed to be lived in and enjoyed by you.

What is a Floor Plan?

This floor plan shows a split level home, with the primary bedroom on the main level. You can see the different symbols intuitively mark the home’s features, such as a sliding glass door off the dining room and windows throughout the homes.

A floor plan, most simply, is an overhead drawing of the layout of one floor of a home or building, complete with room labels, sizes and often other fixtures within the home.

Floor plans vary on what they include. But here are some common elements.

  • Room Labels
  • Measurements
    • Room dimensions
    • Home width/depth
    • Other measurements (windows, doors, staircases,etc.)
  • Structural walls
  • Windows
  • Doors (interior and exterior)
  • Stairs (down and up)
  • Closets
  • Tiled areas
  • Furniture

This is just an example, floor plans could be more complex, or more simple.

Throughout the building process, remodeling through over the years and throughout the life of your home, there is likely to be many different drafts of floor plans.

Floor plans may be of just one level, but commonly will show all levels of a home, each with its own 2D overhead.

Floor Plan Symbols/Legends

An example of different symbols on a floor plan. Once you get used to seeing these kinds of symbols, you realize architects make it easy to spot function. For instance, which way a door opens and a french door vs standard door.

If this is your first time looking at a floor plan, it can be a little confusing.

The first time I saw one I didn’t even notice there were window symbols, much less which stairs went up or down and those were not birds you draw in elementary school, they were closets.

But after seeing a few floor plans, you realize that they are drawn very well and each element of the floor plan shows its function.

Architects and other tradesman may differ on what symbols are used in their drawings, but you will find many common elements.

Other Types of Plans

If you are building a home or doing a major renovation project, you may see other plans that are reviewed as you go through the design and building process.

  • Site Plan. A site plan is larger scale than a floor plan in that it will include land surrounding the project. Here are some examples. A site plan could be used by an engineer, developer, builder, landscaper and other professionals.
  • Cross Section Plan. This type of plan shows all the levels of a home as if you are looking at the home straight on, then cut in half. This is often used for showing what kinds of structural/insulation material is used between different floors and walls.
  • Elevation Plan. For new construction homes, this shows how the exterior of the home is designed. Front, side and back elevations will all have different drawings showing.
  • Electrical Drawings. This is generally a copy of the floor plan that will have everything that an electrician needs to wire the home. This includes location and types of outlets, light fixtures and other electrical fixtures.
  • Plumbing/HVAC Drawings. Similar to electric, plumbers need a floor plan and/or cross section plan showing all the plumbing fixtures, HVAC ducts and plumbing within the walls.
  • Other. There may also be other plans that are used for permitting, construction, planning and other purposes.

When Do I Need a Floor Plan?

There are many different times that you may need to get a floor plan. If you are building a home, you may be looking at many different floor plans before choosing one to build.

And finally, you may want to get floor plans before you sell and move on to the next home.

Here are some of the most common times you will need to get a floor plan.

Planning Phase of a New Home

This is perhaps the most important time to be thinking about house plans. Getting good plans at this stage will give you a well designed home that is enjoyable to live in.

Floor plans and other types of plans are the first step in building. Before you build, you want to make sure you can envision yourself using and loving the space.

This is the phase when you may want to make minor tweaks to the layout, so that once the home is built you get that harmonious flow to the home that you want.

Building The Home

Once you decide on the layout of the home, this will be where you refer as the home is being built.

If something is off you and your builder have something to refer back to: the plans that you and the builder both signed off on.

It also will give you a blueprint to make any changes (if possible) as the build goes on. The best practice is to keep open communication with your builder so they know what the latest amendment to the plans are.

And it is a good idea to get your builder to sign off on any changes.

Remodeling or Building an Addition

Even if you are not building a new home, you will use floor plans in a similar way for a remodel, especially if square footage is being added to your home’s footprint.

If walls are moving, structures added or removed, or a room is being redesigned you definitely will want and need a floor plan.

Building Permits

When you or your contractor/builder go to obtain building permits from your local jurisdiction, they almost always will want a copy of the finalized floor plan.

They often will ask for the other plans as well such as plumbing, electrical, elevation and other drawings.

Redecorating

Is it time for change in your home?

If you are going to be moving large furniture, reorganizing and redecorating one or more rooms a floor plan can be a huge help. There are also computer programs that you can add furniture to if you want to do it yourself.

You would be surprised what a little refresh will do for your home and how you enjoy it! Floor plans can help you visualize the changes before you start just randomly moving furniture and other items.

Selling Your Home

If you are looking to sell your home, a fresh floor plan for the buyer to look at is a great marketing tool.

First of all, the buyer wants to know how their furniture will fit into the home. Secondly, they want to know they will have enough open spaces once their furniture is in. And finally, floor plans help buyers who are out of state and trying to make a decision about your property.

The larger and more unique your home, the more you should consider getting some kind of floor plan done. Your real estate agent can even put the floor plans as part of the listing photos for buyers to easily find.

Whenever You Want!

Look, sometimes you just want to have a copy of your floor plans! Hopefully, you have a copy from one of the above scenarios, like when your home was built.

But if you don’t, or you just want an updated one, there is never a wrong time to get a layout of your home.

Who Creates Home Floor Plans?

These professionals are a good source of floor plans. You can also go the DIY route. Here are the most common ways to get a floor plan.

Architects

Architects are used by builders, developers, homeowners and government agencies when a building project needs to be done.

Your builder may have one that they partner with. But you can also go find your own in some cases (if you are buying in a large planned community, or buying a spec home, the architects work is finished).

Architects construct floor plans, blue prints, site plans and more.

Draftsman

A draftsman is usually employed by an architect or another professional. A draftsman does less design and more, well, drafting.

They are skilled at making floor plans and spend a lot of time on design software and/or with a good old fashioned pencil and draft desk.

Builders

Your builder may or may not be skilled at creating floor plans. Some are very skilled, and some tend to leave it to someone on their team like an architect.

Either way, they are very knowledgeable with floor plans and other types of plans as they use them all the time to make sure they build your home how it is intended to be built.

Engineers

Different types of engineers spend a lot of time on software that create plans. They usually are making more large scale plans, such as site plans. But some engineers specializing in residential structure make floor plans as well.

Other Tradesmen

Electricians, plumbers, general contractors, handymen, landscapers and others involved in real estate MIGHT be a good source for floor plans.

It really depends on if they have spent lots of time drawing them up.

You?

If you are a do-it-yourself kind of individual, you can tackle doing floor plans for your home as well.

This can be as easy as pulling out a pencil and paper, or you can use a CAD program (more on that below) of some kind as well.

So if you DIY, go for it. Just like any new skill, you will find you get better the more that you play around with the task.

Where Can I Get Floor Plans for a Home?

If you are looking now for floor plans, here are some of the best ways to get them. Which method you choose will depend on what you need them for, when and your personal goals.

Best Online Floor Plans For a New Home

If you are looking to get floor plans to build a home, one way to do so is to get them done online.

Many sites are affordable, customizable and many are run by architects who have drawn many thousands of floor plans and different site plans.


• Truoba.com Floor Plans

If you are looking for a company to give you floor plans to build, Truoba is a great place to start.

Truoba.com is run by a team of designers and architects who focus on helping you get a floor plan you want to start to build your new home.

You can explore their options on their site. If you use my code at checkout “realwillrodgers” you can also save 10% off.

A selection of different floor plans being offered by an online company that designs homes.
Truoba has a selection of portfolio plans and also can create custom plans.

Here are some of the features Truoba offers their clients.

  • Choose from one of their existing floor plans.
  • Have a custom floor plan designed.
  • They offer a site plan and other drawings as well.
  • Customization services if you want to make changes.
  • Flexible payment options.
  • Competitive & transparent pricing.

Best for: Truoba is a great option if you are looking for a home that 3,000 square feet or under and something functional and efficient. They have great contemporary plans and smaller homes. Although they do offer custom plans of larger sizes, this is their speciality.


• Dongardner.com Floor Plans

Search Home plans by Donald A. Gardner Architects.

Donald A Gardner, Architects have been around since the 1970s, and been involved in over 250,000 home building projects throughout the country and world.

The company has a massive amount of home plans in their portfolio with over 1100 homes to choose from currently on their site, of many different styles from modern farm homes to luxury estate homes.

Here are some of the benefits of going to Don Gardner to start to design your new home.

  • A huge selection of plans ready now.
  • Lots of experience with larger, luxury homes.
  • Modifiable plans to be tweaked with your builder for local codes.
  • Option to get engineer stamp for your local building codes.
  • Offers some plan customization.
  • Lots of home styles to choose from.
  • Award winning architects.
Home Plan The Laurelwood
An example new home that was built from one of Don Gardner’s floor plans.

Home Plan The Laurelwood

  • 3014 Total Sq. Ft.
  • 4 Bedrooms
  • 4 Bathrooms
  • 2 Stories

View Plan

Best for: If you are looking to get started on a home and want to choose from a great floor plan already existing. They have tons of options for all different tastes. It is also a great option if you are looking for plans for a larger home but want competitive pricing.

Floor Plans for Your Existing Home

Remember, floor plans are not only for when you are building a new home. You also can get them done for the home you currently live in.

If you are looking for some to have on file, to provide to a contractor, to redecorate, or just for fun they are possible to get them done as well.

Fiverr.com has a whole selection of designers and freelancers who can draw up your floor plan using a CAD program. They also have different styles of floor plans available or 3d renderings.

Each gig on here is a little different, so for most you will have to provide them with either a rough sketch, dimensions or another way for them to know the layout of your home.

This is a great option if you want floorplans done affordably, quickly and do not think you can spend the time to do it completely yourself.

Creating Your Own With Online CAD Programs

Maybe you are the type of person who thinks the best way to get something done is to do it yourself.

If that is not you and you would rather leave it up to someone with experience, check out another option above.

But if this is you and you want to create your floor plan, there are several online options for you.

Keep in mind, if you are building a new home, it is best to use professionals unless you have experience with architecture and/or construction.

But if you need a floor plan for everyday use, I have used and recommend Planner 5d.

Planner5D is an awesome “freemium” cloud software that allows you to make floor plans complete in 2D, 3D, renderings, with tons of features. Free for basic features, and a subscription will unlock the entire design experience and is well worth it.

Your Builder

If you are buying a new home, and you have hired a builder they often have a relationship with a professional that they can recommend.

Maybe you are buying a new home that has already started construction. Plans are likely already complete in this scenario. This would be the case for a spec build or a home in a large planned community.

If the home is under construction or through permitting, you may still be able to make some modifications to the floor plan depending on your builder and how far along they are.

If you are doing a custom build, you will have much more involvement in the design phase of building your home.

Architect

In some cases, you want to find a local architect. Some people want to sit down at a table in person with someone face to face. This is a good option if you have an ample budget and/or are building a very unique custom home.

When looking for an architect, find one that has relevant experience. They will have a portfolio of example homes they have designed for you to look through.

How To Draw Floor Plans

Floor plans are created one of a couple different ways.

By Hand

Technically, anyone can draw a floor plan. You could technically use the back of a napkin (and you would not be the first person to do this).

Draftsman, engineers and architects have drawn floor plans by hand for a very, very long time. The first recorded reference of construction plans dates all the way back to Vitruvius, an architect and engineer in Ancient Roman Times.

Fast forward to today, and you will find architects that draw or edit plans by hand.

Plans are best drawn on drafting paper or graph paper. This type of paper allows you to get the correct scale for all of the rooms.

CAD Programs

CAD stands for “Computer Aided Design”. This method involves using a computer program to help design construction plans, create renderings, 3d images and other design functions.

CAD programs were introduced around the 1960s, and continue to evolve each year. Today, CAD software is the gold standard for creating floor plans and other types of construction and engineering plans.

The programs have also become much more affordable and accessible to the public. While professionals use high powered programs such as AutoCAD, there are alternatives that are cheaper and more intuitive for the casual user.

Conclusion

Floor plans and other home plans are an important part of real estate. New construction homes and additions they are essential and often the first step along with finding land to build on.

However, floor plans are also great for everyday purposes. These could include redecorating, marketing material for selling your home or to envision future projects!

Will Rodgers

Will is an award winning real estate agent, author and high tech marketing expert. Adopting a consultative approach he has helped hundreds of clients meet their real estate goals in the Northern VA real estate market.