This will be a series of posts all designed to take some of the mystery out of a set of home plans. We will start with a little history about where home plans came from. Each aspect of the home plan will be explained in terms that you can understand. A set of plans is broken down into sheets. Each sheet is dedicated to a specific aspect of the structure. Each upcoming post will be dedicated to explaining in depth each sheet of a set of plans. In the end you will have a much better understanding of what a set of home plans contains as well as what it takes to build a home.
Paper was commonly used for creating blueprints but for durability printing linen was used. Over time linen will shrink which is not good for measured drawings. Later imitation vellum and mylar was used to increase durability and stability. Today the term “vellum” usually just means standard bond paper.
Measured drawings are no longer hand drawn but are created in the computer. This makes creating accurate copies much easier. The blueprint does still exist but for the most part printed sets of plans are just printed out on bond paper using large format printers and are no longer blue.
The thing that killed the traditional blueprint was the advance of “Computer Aided Design” software, also known as CAD. The root of this goes as far back as the 1940’s. But the modern CAD software really appeared in the 1980’s and it developed along side the home computer. The leader in the industry is a company called Autodesk which was founded in 1982. Today all home plans are created using CAD. This gives great flexibility when it comes to alterations and changes. When plans were drawn by hand, changes and modifications to a plan would require a lot of erasing and re-drawing. If you have the software and the training you can purchase a set of plans in CAD format and make whatever changes you want.
Once CAD became popular it became useful to be able to easily move plans around and to print them out. Not everyone has the CAD software and many times all you need to do is print the set out. The “Portable Document File” or the PDF was the perfect format for the CAD file. Once a CAD file is exported as a PDF file it can be emailed and saved to any computer. The best part is that a PDF can be printed out by any computer. The freedom of taking your home plan to any large format printer and getting a scaled set of drawings when you need them is convenient and cost effective.
Many towns will no longer allow you to submit plans on paper. They will only accept PDF files. This is because archiving thousands of plans in paper format is very expensive and takes up a lot of room. By switching to PDF format a town can store all the archived plans on a single computer. This also makes them easier and faster to search, update, and file.
Home plans have come from scale drawings created by hand and reproduced using basic chemical reproduction methods to computer generated files. But no matter how a set of plans is created or reproduced they still contain the same basic information. Next we will break down each sheet in detail starting with the Cover sheet.