featured image for a blog post teaching you how to read blueprints

Taking a Blueprint Reading Course is the first step in developing an essential skill for any construction professional. Construction blueprints are 2-dimensional design drawings created by architects that indicate to builders the size of planned structures.

They also indicate placement of features, details for its construction, and what materials are to be used.

Blueprints provide builders with critical information on foundations, structural components, plumbing, electrical, HVAC systems and in some cases landscaping.

Furthermore, they indicate necessary information to estimate: Cost of materials, labor and time frame to project completion. 

Blueprint Reading for General Contractors

Generally, a developer hires a designer or architect to create the construction blueprint which is delivered to a General Contractor.

The General Contractor's job it is to see the project to completion within a specified budget and time frame.

This blueprint reading course will give you a snapshot of the various types of blueprints used across the different trades.

For example, someone installing pre-fabricated equipment like a filing cabinet or desk may look at blueprints to make sure they aren’t obstructing a light switch or raised flooring system. 

Likewise, a General Contractor may inspect a blueprint to calculate materials and labor needed for a home build.

General Contractor License

It is critical that a general contractor possesses at the very least basic blueprint reading skills. For this reason, the General Contractor license exam will also require blueprint reading skills.

Equally important, for a  licensed contractor hoping to win bids and get hired for more lucrative jobs, blueprint reading becomes a necessity. There are many books and programs available to help you learn this critical skill.

The most effective method would be to take an in-school blueprint reading course. Quickly identifying electrical and foundation plans, exterior elevations, wall elevations and interior plans will make your life easier.

Furthermore, it will create a sense of ease in your potential clients that they are dealing with a professional.

Blue Print Reading Course

Floor Plans

understanding how to read floor plans is essential to learning how to read construction blueprints
  • Floor Plans show relationships between various rooms and spaces on one level of a structure. 
  • Drawings are shown from above and identify room sizes and wall lengths. 
  • Floor plans often include indications of water heaters, furnaces, sinks and electrical units.
  • Often floor plans may consist of notes on specific finishing or electrical items.
Sample electrical plans commonly found in most construction blueprints

Understanding electrical plans is critical to anyone looking to get the C-10 license

Electrical plans indicate various aspects of an electrical system including sockets, outlets, wiring, and in some cases heating ventilation and air conditioning. 

Understanding blueprints and correctly identifying areas to safely access and install or repair wiring are crucial skills for any electrical contractor.

Plot Plans

Blue Print Reading Course

Plot Plan

Plot plans indicate an entire construction site and its immediate area including the position of roads, utility runs, surrounding buildings, elements surrounding the job site, and landscape.

They show a bird’s eye view of the proposed construction area giving contractors perspective and critical information prior to or during a build.

Multi-View Drawings

Sample blueprint drawn up in the multi view format, showing multiple views of an intended build
  • Multi-View drawings may show one portion of a design in greater detail within one page of a single print. 
  • Top View, Front View, Isometric and right-side drawings often make up the four quadrants of print.
  • Multi-View drawings give contractors a better understanding of how a single aspect of the design will look once completed by showing the finished and may also indicate how much space it will require. 

Isometric Projection Drawings

Blue Print Reading Course

Isometric drawings essentially create perspective for builders to understand better how various parts will fit together once completed. 

They may show multiple sides or a three-dimensional view of a structure and often include various dimensions as part of the blueprint. 

Isometric perspective is an invaluable tool for engineers and is a critical aspect of an architect’s skill set.

Elevations

Blue Print Reading Course

Elevations are two-dimensional drawings of structures and indicate what a construction project will look like once finished from a flattened perspective.

Elevation prints typically consist of front, side, and rear elevations. In some blueprints they may be written as north, south, east, or west.

Concept Drawings

A man with a pen making a simple concept drawing, which is a method used by construction professionals to communicate ideas

Sometimes referred to as sketches. Concepts drawings are simple freehand ways of illustrating ideas for designs.

They are not intended to be accurate necessarily, but more to communicate design concepts and principles quickly and easily.

CAD

Blue Print Reading Course

CAD

CAD stands for Computer Aided Design and refers to various types of computer and design software that are used to create and alter construction blueprints.

The software creates 2D and 3D designs which ideally reduce production costs and errors. 

There are various specialized CAD software systems available that can produce an array of precision drawings as well as technical illustrations.

Construction Math

Math skills are critical skills for construction professionals.

A typical blueprint reading course will require you to have a foundational knowledge of various math concepts.

There are also books available that will teach you the basics and valuable math skills in the construction world. Fundamental skills you will need to know include:

  • Using tape measures
  • Fractions to decimal, and inches to fee
  • Percent of increase & decrease
  • Adding mark up
  • Fractions
  • Standard Formulas
  • Rebar

You will want to be familiar with all of these fundamental concepts.

Being able calculate roof framing, estimating paint, identifying essential measurements you must know, and calculating area are critical.

With some diligence and focus you can quickly learn all of this.

​​​​Technical Drawing

A sample handwritten technical drawing, a skill set which is taught a typical blueprint reading course

Technical drawing is a discipline that refers to composing technical drawings which communicate how something may function or how it should be constructed.

Sometimes these types of professionals are referred to as a draftsperson or drafter. 

  • Technical drawings provide essential information including perspectives 
  • Units of measurement
  • Various visual styles
  • Notation systems

Aspects of the drawings may vary depending on the area of construction, engineering or architecture.

Generally, technical drawings all follow a codified international standard known as ISO 128.

Finding a Blueprint Reading Course

There are several abbreviations and symbols that are critical to you fully understanding the design.

Books and software systems can help you learn quickly.  

Most blueprint reading books and software teach you: 

  • Plot topography sections
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    Match drawing symbols with their meanings
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    Making measurements using an architects scale
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    Interpret construction requirements specified on architectural drawings
  • Explain the difference between True north and Plan North
  • Read Contour lines
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    Recognize common features of site plans
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    Understand stair details and terms
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    Recognize metal framing systems
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    Recognize plumbing fixture symbols on prints
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    Identify standard dimensioning practices
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    Identify HVAC and electrical symbols
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    Estimate a cost sheet
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    Read a piping diagram

The books below are all excellent resources to begin your journey of learning how to read blueprints.

A thorough understanding of blueprint reading is often a critical aspect to obtaining a contractor license.

For a more in-depth look into the licensing process you can check out our articles that break it all down.

Continuing education is vital and a construction professional never stops learning. 

Invest in yourself

In summary, people pay you based on the skills you bring to the table. A blueprint reading course much like a certification or license are critical to moving up in your industry.

Your goal on every job should be to instill in your clients a sense of confidence in you. That confidence must begin inside of you.

Those that take the time to invest in themselves and their career almost always end up on top.

While this is a very basic blueprint reading course, designed to give you a brief introduction into the world of construction blue prints.

Below you will find a list of some of the most comprehensive options available. Choose the blueprint reading course that best fits your skill level. 

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