Deck Designs 101: Reading a Blueprint

If you’re building a new deck you’ll need to get plans approved in order to get a permit. Reading a blueprint can be confusing at first. You’re not reading words, you’re reading symbols and lines. It’s a graphic representation rather than a write up of what the work will entail.

Old BluePrint

The blueprint is a 2D mockup that shows dimensions, materials and feature placement. They are used by architects, contractors and officials that enforce building regulations, but more importantly they are used by you the homeowner. You can use the blueprint to better visualize the end product and make more sound decisions on the construction. You just have to know how to read them!

Reading Between the Blueprint Lines

Blueprints are made up of a lot of different lines. Lines are used to define many things, not just shapes. How the lines are constructed can have different meanings. Below is a quick breakdown of some of the most common blueprint lines.

Dimension Lines – As the name suggests these lines indicate the distance between two points. They include arrowheads at each end of the line and the numeric measurement in the middle of the line.

Object Lines – These thick lines represent the outline of visible surfaces.

Hidden Lines – This type of line is representative of hidden surfaces, and they are identifiable because they consist of evenly spaced dashes.

Phantom Lines – Thin and dashed, phantom lines show alternate positions as well as parts that aren’t yet present.

You’ll Probably See the Existing Structure

In addition to the new deck the blueprint should also include existing structures. These include the house if the deck attaches to it as well as an existing foundation if there’s one to build off of. Existing structures are often identified with dark solid lines.

Patterns Represent Materials

Decks incorporate wood, of course, but these days it’s not uncommon to mix materials. This is accounted for on blueprints as well. Different materials will have different patterns. For example, wood has a pattern that closely resembles wood grain. The steel pattern looks like bars that run diagonally.

Know Which Type of Blueprint You’re Looking At

Blueprints aren’t all the same. There are different types of blueprints to show a project from different angles. Here are the three to familiarize yourself with:

Plan View – This is the most common type of blueprint. It’s an aerial view looking down at the project’s footprint.

Elevation View – This blueprint looks at the construction from a vertical, side view. It will only show one side of the project.

Section View – This blueprint gives the viewer an inside look at a project as if it has been sliced open and shows how it will be built.

One last tip: use the legend. There should be a legend listing the meaning for all the different symbols used. If something isn’t listed ask the drawer for further information. Never sign off on a blueprint if you’re unsure of what something means.


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