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How to Read Structural Drawing – A Step by Step Guide

Updated: May 10

How to Read Structural Drawing – A Step by Step Guide

Introduction to How to read structural drawings

Structural drawings are the essential maps of construction projects, but decoding them can be daunting. As a professional, understanding these blueprints is crucial. In this guide, we'll simplify the process, empowering you to navigate through structural drawings with confidence.

The first step toward the preparation of the bar bending schedule is to consult, arrange and organize the drawings.

Discussed the importance of a bar bending schedule in this article.

The principal purpose of drawings is to provide accurate detail and measurement of each component of the finished product. This blueprint is a key document that enables contractors to execute any activity on site. Nowadays, the three most common types of structures built are steel structure, concrete frame structure and wooden structure. In this article, we will discuss concrete frame structure.

Key Plan/ General Arrangement Plan It comprises a key plan that identifies the site location the outlines of the building works in relation to the wider context of the area where construction work will carry out.

How to Read Structural Drawing – A Step by Step Guide
Key Plan

Site/Location plan

This is a zoom image of the key plan that locate the position of the building and the general layout of the site works. This further identifies the adjoining roads, existing buildings structures and highlights areas of the site where work shall be carried out.

How to Read Structural Drawing – A Step by Step Guide
Site plan


The plan is a top-down two-dimensional representation that shows the position occupied by different objects with the help of geometric shapes and corresponding dimensions. the plan shows two dimensions that are Length and breadth and in the coordinate system, it is known as X-axis and Y-axis In the case of structural plan drawing/diagram, it comprises concrete structures like foundation, column, beam, slab, staircase etc.

How to Read Structural Drawing – A Step by Step Guide


In the case of plan drawing, we saw that an imaginary horizontal cut through the plane is assumed. But, in the case of a section, the imaginary cut shall be vertical which creates two dimensions. The first dimension shall be Length or width and the second dimension shall be height. In the system of coordinates, X-Axis and Y-Axis shall remain the same as in the plan a third coordinate that is Z-axis is formed which actually shows the height of the object.

How to Read Structural Drawing – A Step by Step Guide
Section of A

Symbol of Section and meanings

In the below plan drawing, different numeric values show the symbol of the section that shows the direction of the section. For example, Elevation 9 shows cut-through from the walls toward the left side where we can see the wall and a door.

How to Read Structural Drawing – A Step by Step Guide
Plan of Apartment

How to Read Structural Drawing – A Step by Step Guide
Symbol of section

If we see the section we can see a door and all around the door there is a wall in between two walls. In short, the section is helpful to see things from four sides which are right, left, front, and back. In the below illustration left side corresponding to the plan can be seen.

How to Read Structural Drawing – A Step by Step Guide
Sectional View

Detail of the Drawing

Plan and sections show a relatively larger picture of the object. But, in some cases, a small detail is required by taking out a small portion either from the plan or section. This detail is relevant to the larger area of the building component. For example, a beam in the building has a uniform size and steel composition, instead of showing every beam separately, a single representation is made and it will relevant to all areas.

Typical Column Detail
Typical Column Detail

In the above example, wherever, column C1 is located typical column details shall be followed. This reduces the effort and confusion by keeping details as simple as possible.


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Schedule of Bars

Unlike graphical representation as discussed above, schedules are itemised lists of different components, materials, and requirements that are brought into a single paper. For example, as per the below, table reinforcement detail has been shown in various locations.

The first column shows the area in the house/building, the second column represents main bar data that comprises a diameter of bar and spacing between successive bar centre to centre distance. In the column, distribution bars with similar details to the main bars as shown. This kind of schedule not only saves huge time to represent this detail on drawing it also provide a great level of clarity to everyone on the project. Similar kinds of schedules are also prepared for other components of the building which are enlisted below.

  • Bar bending schedules

  • Door and Windows schedules including ironmongery

  • Drainage schedules

  • Landscaping and Hardscape Schedule

  • Finishing schedule like Floor, Ceiling, paint finish etc.

  • Mechanical and electrical engineering services

Bar Schedule
Bar Schedule

In conclusion, reading and understanding drawing is inevitable to progress in the field of construction. Drawing endured the way to present what is to be built? By keeping the above point in mind, drawing justifies having sufficient time to read and study to avoid potential misinterpretation of any information. If it happens due to lack of understanding or haste this may lead to a disaster for the project.


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