Check out this scenario: You are planning to do a project in your house, say a kitchen remodel, adding a new bathroom, a new bedroom.
You are excited, you did your research online and figured out the financing of the project. Nice! The hardest part (financial) is out of the way.
Next, you call a builder or a remodeling service requesting a quote and the first thing they ask you is: Can you show us the blueprints of your house? or do you have as built drawings of the property?
What are blueprints or as built drawings?
In case you are not familiar what are blueprints, here’s a brief description: blueprints are essentially drawings that represent the layout and the construction of the house. It comes in several formats such as floor plans, elevations, roof plans, and sections.
As Built drawings are blueprints as well – As Built Drawings are usually created to show the existing layout of a house and not necessarily as detailed as the blueprints used to build the house.
Designers and engineers create blueprints of buildings and pass it to builders who follow the notes and instructions on these blueprints to build a building.
Generally, original blueprints of a house are passed from one property owner to another when the sale happens but more often than not, these blueprints & docs are lost at some point in time and no copy is to be found.
If this is your case, then you came to the right place where I will guide you through different steps to help you find blueprints of your house.
Check With These Parties First
There are several parties that could have copies of your house blueprints and that includes:
Your Local Building Department
Building departments has archives for building plans for most of the buildings across your city (at least, this is the case here in Los Angeles – Check LADBS HERE).
They also have records of the house architect or engineer (or both) in addition to the name of the builder who did the construction for the property.
Building departments usually charge a fee for obtaining & looking up the archives for your house blueprints but the fee is in the hundreds range.
Depending on how old your house is, they might not have the drawings as they have archives up to a certain year which takes you to the next person in this list.
Architect or Designer
Almost all architects and building designers keep copies of their designs throughout the years. Even when a firm or a design company is sold, the blueprints they created over time are passed in the sale to the new management/company.
If you happen to know who is the designer that did your house, give their office a call and request a copy of the plans for your property address.
There’s a good chance they will have a fee to give you these drawings (Archive & Admin Fees) but that will relatively be low and anyway it will be good to have the blueprints of your house.
If you don’t have the architect info, or that designer is out of business then the next party you can try to call is the builder of your house after you found they contact info at the building department.
To be honest, builders don’t necessarily keep records of blueprints they worked on but if it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Create Your Own House Blueprints
If you hit a wall with all the previous people, then you might consider creating your own house blueprints or what can be called at this point: As built drawings.
The process can be a little challenging at first but once you start your sketch, you will see that the problem is not the drawing part, but actually the time it might take to document everything.
Start simple, grab your tape measure, a note pad and start from the farthest corner of the house or from the entry – whichever you prefer.
Before you measure, I highly recommend you draw the layout first then add the dimensions to your sketch.
Some people prefer to draw each room on an individual sheet but my recommendation is to get a big piece of paper (think 11×17 or tabloid size) and work the whole layout on a single sheet. I promise you this will be easier to work with and to read afterwards by someone else.
Speed Up 1: Using A Laser Measure
If you think using the classic tape measure is annoying, you’re not alone – get yourself a little laser measure instead and I promise you, this measuring project will become a whole lot easier!
As cheap as $30 (last time I checked Home Depot) this little device will allow you to cast lasers and demonstrate the distance on the screen – virtually tripling your measuring speed if not more!
Speed Up 2: Using An App to Draw
Just open your phone app store and search house layout apps and you will find, literally, more than a hundred options to use.
These apps make adding a wall, door, and a window more of a game than a task at hand. It might you take some time to get used to the app, and in my opinion, stick to the simple stuff:
Do not start adding furniture or try to find the perfect door or window.
Just focus on the layout as this will anyway take several hours of your time.
Speed Up 3: Using An App To Scan
There’s a different breed of apps that allows you to measure the space by actually scanning it from your phone.
These apps not only allow you to measure but it will actually draw the layout as well as it scans the different spaces you have at your home.
This is one of the tools we use at Jay Cad to create as built drawings and it’s one of the most efficient ways to rapidly document a space layout.
There’s free options but most of the good apps will charge a fee to purchase or subscribe which is relatively sub $50
Hire an As Built Service
This is definitely the last step in the process of figuring out your house blueprints – I would only come to this point if you weren’t successful in getting copies or you gave up on doing the drawings yourself.
It’s okay, you are not to blame – the process of documenting a house layout and creating required as built drawings can become challenging quickly.
In all honesty, the challenge is not necessarily with the floor plan layout. The real challenge is rather with the other drawings needed by a building department or a building design professional who would ask for things like: Exterior elevations, Cross sections, Roof Plan.
Unless you are in the AEC industry, it will be very difficult to generate these additional as built drawings.
You need to know that hiring an as built service is not cheap – the price tag won’t come near your design fees or even close to 10% of your construction cost but think of it this way:
IF design fees are 10% of your construction costs, then as-built fees are about 10%-20% of design fees – it should not exceed design fees (such as architectural and engineering fees)
IF it does, then you either have a cheap designer (red flag) or getting an overpriced as built quote (I guess another red flag).
As it stands, Jay Cad is actually an as-built service based in Los Angeles and we would love to quote you on your project! I guarantee we are not the cheapest, but certainly not at the highest price tag. Our focus is on the fastest turnaround so if you would like a quick service, reach to us and we would love to assist!
Now, promoting us aside, most of design professionals offer as built documentation as part of their service package, so there’s a good chance you won’t need to hire an independent as built service – some builders even offer design & as built services as part of their package so honestly, that would probably be the best way to go about this!
Feel free to email us for any questions – we answer all of them 🙂