In this post “How to draw a floor plan” I will show you that it’s easier than you may think. If you can use a tape measure and draw some straight lines with a ruler, you can do this!
Why is drawing a floor plan to scale important?
Drawing a floor plan to scale is important for a few reasons. First, it will save you lots of time and energy. Imagine you want to rearrange the furniture your room. Normally you would move the furniture around, and around, and around, until you’ve figured out what fits and what looks good. Then after hours of exhausting hard work, you may not even be happy with the results.
Second, it could save you hundreds, or even thousands of dollars. Imagine shopping for a new sectional only to have it delivered weeks later and it doesn’t fit in the room. UGH! Don’t do this. Draw a floor plan first so you don’t make this mistake!
By making a plan to scale you can do the heavy lifting on a piece of paper. Literally you can move the furniture around on the plan until you have it just the way you want it and make sure everything fits. You won’t even lift a finger in the room saving you hours of trial and error and possibly burning a lot of calories. 😉
For more decorating tips check out my post “How to Decorate like a Pro”
I apologize for the quality of the images. I really wanted to focus on showing you the process and how it’s not always about being perfect. Drawing a floor plan to use for your own purposes is more about being accurate with the measurements than it is how professional it looks. These are my actual drawings for my living room that I drew to show you how this works. I take will take you step by step to create a plan for a room in your home.
Here is a picture of my actual room that I based this scaled drawing on. Use it to reference the examples in the floor plan drawings.
Step one – Draw the basic shape of the room
Draw the basic shape of your room on a piece of paper. No ruler. Just draw out the four walls of your room with a pencil and show the approximation of the doors and windows.
This is just for your reference. You will make the actual scaled drawing on another piece of paper.
Step two – Measure from wall to wall
Using this hand drawing you will pick one wall and use a tape measure to measure the actual wall from one end to the other. Write this measurement above this wall in your drawing. Do the same for all four walls.
Use a parallel line with small perpendicular marks to show what the measurement represents. In the picture below I’m showing the 20′ (20 feet) represents the beginning of one wall to the other.
Don’t worry about measuring doors and windows just yet. Just measure the walls.
Step 3 – Draw permanent structures
Now draw in anything else that is permanent in the room. Permanent structures could be a fireplace, built-in cabinetry, stairs, or any other structure that can’t be moved and could affect the layout of your furniture.
For example I have built-ins that go the whole length of one wall and stop just before the two side windows. I would draw them in the plan like the image below. Don’t worry about the measurements just yet.
Step 4 – Measure doors and windows
Now we are going to measure any doors, doorways, windows, permanent structures, as well as the wall space in between them.
Start at the beginning of a wall and measure the distance from there to the beginning of a door, window or permanent structure. Mark that measurement on your plan between the wall line that you drew and your whole wall measurement. (See close up image below)
Measure the next item on the wall, mark it on the plan, and continue measuring and marking everything all the way across the wall.
In the example below I start off with a 33.5″ wall then have a window measuring 37.5″ Then there is more wall space at 28.5″, then a window 37.5″, then wall 27.5″, then window 37.5″, a wall space at 9″ and finally my built-ins measuring 25.5″ deep.
After writing in the measurements use parallel lines and perpendicular marks to show just what the measurement represents. The lines in red are showing you what the measurement above represents just so it’s easier for you to see it. Don’t actually write those lines inside the room. And I just realized that I didn’t write in all of my parallel lines. My bad. Finish the wall measurements like I did on the first measurement on the wall.
If you add up all of those individual measurements they should total the whole length of the wall. If it doesn’t, re-check your measurements. It doesn’t have to be exact though. An inch or two for a whole wall is fine. Your just using this to help you place furniture and an inch here or there isn’t going to ruin everything. However, if you’re trying to squeeze something into a tight space, like kitchen cabinets that have to fit between two walls, then you may have a problem. If that’s the case you may be better off having a professional draw a floor plan just to make sure you don’t run into any issues.
Step 5 – Convert to a scaled drawing
Now we are going to take your hand drawing and convert it to a scaled drawing. Grab another piece of paper, a ruler, and a piece of graph paper. I’ll explain how to do a plan two ways. Then you can decide which way you like better.
First way to draw a floor plan…with plain paper, a ruler, and a pencil.
If you measured your room using inches, instead of feet and inches, you might want to convert that measurement to feet and inches first to make this step easier. See example below. 62.75″ = 5′ 3″
With your ruler your going to convert all your measurements from feet and inches, to inches and fractions of inches. I know I just told you to convert to feet and inches. But this is different. Hang in there. It’s easier than it sounds.
Here’s an example. If your wall measured 12′ 6″ (twelve feet, six inches) then you’ll draw a straight line with your ruler that is 12.6″ (twelve and a half inches). Your converting the feet to inches, and the inches to fractions of inches. If you kept the measurement at 62.75 inches you wouldn’t be able to convert this correctly. Make sense?
Repeat this for all of your walls.
What’s happening is we are basically shrinking your room down so it will fit onto a piece of paper while keeping the scale of everything in it the same.
If your room is larger than 8′ x 11′ then you will need a larger piece of paper for this to work because your drawing will be bigger then an 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper. My room is 16′ x 20′ so I will need a larger piece of paper at least 16 inches by 20 inches. Actually more because I need room to write my measurements on the outsides of the walls.
Below is my initial scaled drawing showing the walls at 16′ and 20′.
Step 6 – Convert measurements from hand drawing to scaled drawing
Now you need to take the hand drawing with your doors, windows and permanent structures and transfer them onto your new drawing. So starting at the beginning of your drawn wall, measure, with your ruler, the distance to the first window/door.
Your basically taking the measurements from your hand drawing, changing them to inches, and marking them on your scaled plan with your ruler.
Below you can see on my wall I measured some wall sections, a window, and a french door onto my first wall with lines. The ruler shows you how I changed my measurement on the french door from (six feet, three inches) the actual size of the door, to (six point three inches) our scaled measurement, and marked that measurement with perpendicular lines.
Do this for all of your measurements starting from the beginning of a wall to the end of the wall. Your still going to write the actual measurement on the plan. Your just changing the size of your drawing.
Mark all walls.
Step 7 – How to draw doors, windows, and other structures when you draw a floor plan
If you’re marking a window you can now make it look like a window by adding a line on the outside, and inside, of the wall line to connect your perpendicular measurement marks. It kind of looks like a box with a line in the middle.
If you are marking a doorway or wall opening then mark the start and finish with perpendicular lines then erase the wall line in between to show the opening.
In the example below I may have confused you. This is the bottom wall of a plan. That’s why the measurement is under the wall line. The line I erased is the wall line and below is the measurement lines. This is showing that I have an opening in between my living room and kitchen. There is no door. Just an opening.
If you have an actual door on the doorway then you can show the swing of the door by adding a line and a curve like this below. It is important to note the door swing on a plan. This way you know not to put a piece of furniture in the way of a door so it can open and close properly.
The example below is a drawing of my french doors that lead outside. That is why it looks like windows with a door swing. If it were a regular wood door I would show this on the plan by erasing the line in between the marks and then adding the door swing.
To mark a fireplace draw it like this example below. Of course your fireplace may look different from the shape of this one. It’s the measurements that are important and not necessarily the shape so don’t freak out about getting it perfect.
The second way to draw a floor plan is using a piece of graph paper
Another way you can convert your actual measurements is to use graph paper. To use this method you are basically counting squares as feet. For example, if your wall was 12′ 6″ (twelve feet, six inches) your line would be 12 1/2 squares long.
Your windows would convert from 3′ to 3 squares. A fireplace could go from 5′ to 5 squares and so on.
One thing to keep in mind with making a scaled drawing with graph paper; if your room is small, your scaled drawing will be small too. You can fix this problem two ways.
One: You can use 2 squares per foot instead of one. This will double the size of your plan.
example: 1 square per foot based on my 16′ x 20′ room. You can see that even though my room in reality is quite large, the square is still small. This graph paper is 8 1/2 x 11 inches. Imagine how small a 10 x 12′ room would be.
Example: same plan using two squares per foot. Now my plan takes up most of the 8 1/2 x 11″ paper. This will be much easier to use.
Two: You can enlarge your plan with your printer. BUT…if you do this you will also have to enlarge everything you draw for the plan, like furniture, at the same percentage. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!
Step 8 – Measure the contents of your room
Once you have the room all drawn out to scale you will now measure everything you are going to put into the room such as furniture and rugs.
If you are using existing furniture then just measure it the same way you measured the room and convert it to scale. For example, if your sofa is 7′ long x 3′ wide then your scaled sofa will be 7″ x 3″ or 7 squares by 3 squares if you’re using graph paper.
If your purchasing furniture then take the measurements and convert them the same way…before your buy it!
Just remember…you must use one of the two methods for both the room and the furniture. If you used the plain paper method to draw your room, then draw your furniture with plain paper and a ruler. If you drew your room with graph paper then draw your furniture with graph paper using the squares method.
Draw everything going into the room, with a ruler, on another piece of plain paper or graph paper and label them. Then you are going to cut out these pieces. They should look something like this example below. I’m showing you the graph paper version. Remember, if you drew your room with 2 squares per foot, then your furniture has to be at 2 squares per foot!
Make sure to mark each piece so you know what it is. And don’t forget if you enlarged the drawing of the room, you are going to want to enlarge this page the same way before you cut out the pieces.
Now that you have your room to scale and your furniture pieces to scale you can move the furniture around in the room as much as you like until you find the perfect arrangement for your space.
Graph paper furniture arrangement example 1
Plain Paper furniture arrangement example 1
Plain paper furniture arrangement example 2
Notice in the second furniture arrangement that I put the sectional in the left upper corner. You can clearly see that the sectional is too big for that corner because it extends in front of the door. In just two seconds I can see where my furniture will, or will not, work.
When you draw a floor plan to scale it will save you so much time and frustration when decorating or shopping for your room. Keep your plan safe and the next time you get the decorating bug you can pull it out and play around with ideas to your hearts content.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to post them below.
Before you decide to draw a floor plan just yet, be sure to check out this post on my Top 10 Decorating Mistakes