How-To draw up blueprints for your Tiny House

by andrewodom on August 10, 2011 · 4 comments


Please don’t let the logo (er, um, header image, I mean) for Tiny r(E)volution fool you. I know very little about blueprints. In fact, before we started this adventure I knew next to nothing even though I worked for a blueprint and large format copy shop for nearly 2 years. But as I have learned I have gotten to understand that there are basically two ways to make your own blueprints.

  • Using home design software (or web based apps like Google Sketchup).
  • Drawing them by hand.

What I have really found is that it is much easier to draw blueprints by hand on either a sheet of graph paper or even a piece of posterboard rather than to take the time to learn design software in order to completely generate the cross sections, framing, electrical work, and other details required to have your building plans approved; if necessary, of course. What I have also found is that many of the FREE and inexpensive programs simply do not generate enough detail for full construction illustrations. They are more generic and focus on changing wall colors and adding a two-seat sofa rather than a three-seat.

When I first thought of designing my own blueprint and then drawing it I was plagued by cold sweats and thoughts of CAD and other expensive, and difficult tools. But with a resource like Sketchup or even your own hand drawing, you can easily move walls, add built-ins, give stairs in place of ladders, etc. Consider it drag and drop for the blueprint challenged. But whether you are using home design software or drawing your blueprints by hand, the first drawings to start with are your floor plans.

Basic Blueprint Tools

When drawing your blueprint by hand you need very little. However, the following tools are most handy and I found myself using them repeatedly.

  • T-square
  • Adjustable triangle
  • Lead pencil (old-fashioned or mechanical although mechanical is easier to keep sharp)
  • Fine tip sharpies
  • Gum eraser
  • Compass
  • Straight edge or ruler
  • Big flat working surface (table)
  • White poster board as a base for your working surface

Drawing to Scale

I am no mathematician. I know that 1+1=4. But I am fairly insecure when it comes to fractions and division of whole numbers. So needless to say the concept of 1/4″ = 1 foot is almost impossible for me to grasp. But to make your own blueprint to scale you simply have to use an architect’s scale. That means for every 1/4″ you draw you are actually plotting out 1 foot of house. Correctly notated this is 1/4″:1′.

More Than Just Blue Paper

To make your own blueprint floor plans, use a sheet of large paper. This is going to allow you your first blueprint. And all that time I thought it was a blueprint because it was drawn on blue paper. How wrong I can be. For lack of technicality, I personally prefer a card stock that is about 24″ by 36″.

Architecturally speaking, the lower right hand corner of your drawing is reserved for the title block. You should write the name of the view you are drawing (floor plan, elevation, cross section), the scale of the drawing, the name of the house (could just be the family name), designer’s name and date. We were a little more crude though and simply put in the upper center the following:

Tiny House – Draft 1 – October 3, 2010

Just like with digital files, the date is very important for when you make changes to your plans. You don’t want to slip up and lose track of what changes were made when and what plan you should be working with at the present. This will also help come build time as everyone on site should be using the same plan with the same date.

1. Draw the exterior walls of your design. We first centered our rectangle (which represents the tiny house) on our paper and used our scale to make sure our “trailer” was the correct size. For the floor plan drawings you should draw the framed walls; interior and exterior. Finish elements such as sheetrock and paneling will come much later and may not even require blueprinting. They typically do not. Remember, most tiny houses are not much more than 190 sq. ft. and the builders are usually one in the same with the architect.

2. Draw the interior walls of your design.

 

For your interior walls:

  1. Draw both sides of each interior wall. If you will be using 2″ x 4″ studs to frame your interior walls, the actual thickness of each framed wall will be 3-5/8″ inches. Just draw the wall first. Doors and walk throughs will be added later.
  2. Draw walls around any stairwell or ladder areas. This is especially important if you are building a sleeping loft and will have some sort of permanent staircase type structure. If there will not be a physical wall (or partition) around the stairwell simply draw a faint dotted line.
  3. Draw staircases (or ladders) within these walls.
  4. Draw an arrow labeled “up” in the up direction of the stair.
NOTE: Most tiny houses don’t have many interior walls. Before you begin to draw think about the purpose of a wall, if you could do without it, if there are any original ways to offer privacy without closing in your already small space.

3. Add windows and doors to your design.

The next step as you make your own blueprint is to draw your doors and windows onto the floor plan. For each door, window or wall opening on your floor plan:

  • Use your scale to locate its position keeping in mind every 1/4″ = 1 foot of build.
  • Draw the appropriate door or window symbol using the blueprint symbols on this page as your guide!

 

4. Assign Appliances, Plumbing and Fixtures.

Using your scale, symbols, and straight edge, draw the symbols for:

  • All appliances (this includes those that are on wheels)
  • Built in furniture such as kitchen and bathroom cabinets and counters
  • Plumbing (sinks, toilets and tubs)
  • Fireplaces/heating elements and AC/cooling devices

 

5. Draw Electrical Symbols.

This can sometimes be the most difficult step as tiny houses often locate and relocate things such as electrical outlets and hard-wired lights. Even right now we aren’t sure where our plugs will go. But for all intensive purposes, add all electrical to your plans.

Place the appropriate symbols along walls for the following electrical items:

  • Plug outlets
  • Wall switches for lights or switchable plugs
  • Wall light such as sconces and LED strands

For ceiling mount items, draw fixtures lightly on the floor just below the spot where the item would be installed.

6. Label Floor Surfaces and/or materials

Even if you aren’t quite sure of the finish of your floor, you should still add some amount of detail to your plans by indicating how the floor space will be finished and any required sub-flooring. Ours reads:

  • 1/4″ cork flooring over 3/4″ plywood decking
You remember we talked about Cork flooring posts in an earlier post.

 

7. Add Measurements To Your Plans

The next step to make your own blueprint is to draw accurate measurements in the form of dimension lines. You will need to draw dimension lines for:

  • Each room (although most tiny houses do not have “rooms,” per se)
  • Closets
  • Cabinet depths and/or bookshelf depths
  • Distances from wall to back of toilet (know as the rough in dimension)
  • Sizes of tub/shower unit
  • Distances from walls to edge of any appliances or fixtures.

 

8. Indicate Windows and Doors

For this step we turned to Microsoft Excel in order to make a table of our windows and doors. It is a simple layout with three columns. Column one contains the labels for our door or window. Column two is the door or window type (awning, double hung, single hung, sliding glass, etc). And the third column is the actual size of the door or window.

On the actual blueprint each door and window receives a number or letter which directly corresponds with the Excel doc.

9. Dream!
Perhaps the best part of making your own blueprint though is dreaming. What will I put here? What kind of door do I want? Where will we put our pots and pans? What if we tried tile? The possibilities are endless. So long as you have an eraser and a pencil you can change anything and everything as much as you like – BEFORE you start to build!
  • Andy

    Check out http://floorplanner.com, its super simple to use. I found it last week and within a couple of hours had drawn up a couple of designs. For a free app its awesome.

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us/ anotherkindofdrew

      Thank you Andy. I’m gonna give it a shot!

  • Vonrock

    Top Notch. Thank You for precious time an energy shared. You’ve told me what I need to know, saved me hours and dollars. Great writing .

  • Joyce M Gardner

    Thanks! I just took a course at Cal-Earth, learning to build with earth bags (super-adobe). I learned so much but we had little time to go extensively into drawing your own blueprints. I got a few basic drafting books from a used bookstore and I’m ready to dive in. Reading this helped me take some of the “heebeegeebees” out of getting started. Thanks again for breaking the ice!

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