Understanding Construction Drawings for Building Permits


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Constructing a building is a comprehensive process that involves a great deal of planning and preparation. It's not just about laying bricks and mortar; it's about adhering to local building codes, ensuring safety measures, and aligning with land-use guidelines. And at the heart of all these facets lie construction drawings for building permits.

What Are Building Permits and Why Do We Need Them?

Building permits are legal permissions granted by local building authorities. They are issued to ensure that the construction projects within their jurisdiction comply with state and local building codes, land-use guidelines, and safety standards. Whether you plan to build a deck, an outbuilding, or significantly alter one or more rooms in your house, you're more than likely to need a building permit.

The building permit application requires the submission of a set of construction drawings. These drawings must contain enough information to determine whether the proposed work conforms to all applicable regulations, primarily concerned with life safety.

The Significance of Construction Drawings for Building Permits

Construction drawings are the blueprint of your project. They provide a graphic representation of what is to be built. The quality of the actual building structure hinges on the quality of the construction drawings. These drawings contain all the information included in the permit set of drawings along with full specifications, detailed elevations, floor layouts, millwork details, trim packages, lighting, and much more.

Construction drawings are used by contractors to not only estimate a cost for the project but execute it. There will always be onsite decisions and changes that will have to be made, but a good set of drawings will be detailed enough so that contractors and trades can build from them.

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How to Design Construction Drawings

Designing construction drawings is a meticulous process that requires attention to detail, precision, and a clear understanding of the project at hand. Here are some steps to guide you through the process:

1. Begin with a Conceptual Bubble Diagram

Start by figuring out how different spaces are interconnected with one another. A bubble diagram is a list of rooms laid out visually in relation to each other. Lines are added to show how each "bubble" or room connects with another. This helps you create a simple diagram that shows the layout you intend to detail in the plan.

2. Find a Good Starting Point and Proper Scale

Next, draw the boundary outlines of the building or room you are designing and begin to fill in the spaces so that they effectively match what you've outlined in the bubble diagram. When drawing a building plan, starting from a corner or an edge rather than in the middle is often a good approach.

3. Practice Working With Your Scale

Once you've decided what scale you'll be working with, practice using that scale. Just because you have an idea in your mind doesn't always mean that it'll work. Keep in mind that what you outlined in your bubble diagram may shift as the realities of scale start to affect the layout.

4. Draw an Overhead View of Your Planned Construction

Most building plans are drawn from an overhead view, and this is what you should start with, as it's the easiest view to draw and envision. An overhead view of the layout will help you and others visualize the project better.

5. Add Relevant Information to Your Building Plans

Sometimes, people get so engrossed in their project plans that they forget that other people need to understand them. While you may be familiar with all of the elements shown on your plan, others are not. Therefore, ensure that you add things such as location markers, directions, and other property markings such as a stream, hill, or other relevant information for builders.

6. Add Other Details on the Property

In addition to your floor plan showing the layout of interior spaces, you may also need to include a site plan showing the building in relation to the property lines and other features of the property.

7. Label Every Part of Your Project

Making sure aspects of your building plans are labeled may be the most crucial step in the entire process. Not only is it essential so that you, the designer, don't get confused, but it's also to ensure that the person approving your plan and the actual builders know what they're doing.

8. Add More Information Depending on the Type of Project

Different jurisdictions require different views and information depending on the type of project and permit you're trying to fulfill. Including additional pages with different views is a great idea even if it isn't required.

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9. Seek Assistance from a Building Permit Expediter

A building permit expediter can assist in the process by making sure that your building plans are up to code and by speaking with the relevant professionals at the local building and safety department who are in charge of approval.

10. Finalize Your Construction Drawings

The last step is to finalize your construction drawings by reviewing them thoroughly. Ensure that all the necessary details have been included and that the drawings adhere to local codes. Once finalized, these plans can be submitted alongside your building permit application to the local building department for approval.


Construction drawings for building permits are more than just a prerequisite for a building project. They serve as a comprehensive guide for contractors, a roadmap for the construction process, and a safeguard against potential building code violations. By understanding the purpose and process behind these drawings, you can ensure a smoother and more successful building project.

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