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Floor Plan Design – The 3 Things You Need To Know Before Getting Started


Whether you’re looking to downsize and want to get the most out of a smaller space, or looking to build something new to accommodate family and friends, the floor plan of your home is where you need to start.

In order to provide you with a better understanding of what a floor plan is and how the floor plan relates to the remainder of the structure, we’ve broken it down into a short guide:

1: What is a Floor Plan?

2: Conceptual vs Schematic Floor Plan Design

3: Structural Engineering of Designs

What is a Floor Plan?

A floor plan is essentially the birds-eye view of a scaled architectural diagram. The floor plan of a structure provides you with a better understanding of the overall layout of the rooms and helps you capture a better feel for what the interior might be. 

Trinity Building Systems San Juan model floor plan - lower levelDepending on the scale of the project, a unique floor plan may need to be drafted for each room, each floor, or the entirety of the building. The level of detail in each and every floor plan may vary as well. Certain floor plans will include all furniture, appliances, and other amenities, while others simply represent the shell of the room ready to be customized.

Floor plan design is without a doubt the most important aspect of the entire custom timber home design process. Unlike modular or mobile homes,  timber and log home material packages are unique and can be tweaked and engineered to fit a pre-existing floor plan of your own. They may also be custom designed through your material package provider or selected from a range of pre-existing models.

Many aspects of the finalized design all play off of the floor plan, such as elevations, engineering, and exterior design. That’s why, while designing a floor plan, you’ll work with your designer to discuss the layout so that it is structurally feasible and able to accommodate the necessary utilities (plumbing, gas, electrical).


Elevations and floor plans have many similarities, but they fundamentally are very different. The floor plan reflects the overhead, “birds-eye” Trinity Building Systems Floor Plan Design Tips - Elevationsview of the structure and the components within. 

Elevations refer to the side views of the structure that have been designed based on the initial floor plan. They display the height and width dimensions of the structure and the individual elements with respect to the floor plan. 

A well-designed set of elevation designs helps forge the connection from the inside of the structure to the outside by displaying the location of windows, trim, siding, and timber elements. Therefore, the elevation designs are often much more detailed and far less abstract than a floor plan, making them easier to fully understand.

Conceptual vs. Schematic Design

Oftentimes, when designing a custom house, the floor plan design process begins as a sketch on paper. The sketch encompasses all of the information from the initial design meetings and is supposed to give a better idea of what the final floor plan and elevations will look like. 

Once the sketch is approved, the floor plan can be input into a computer-aided drafting program (CAD) to generate the schematic drawings. Within the CAD software, the original sketch is refined to ensure the highest degree of accuracy. 

At this point, you will be able to view the actual measurements of the floor plan and make any necessary adjustments. Considering that the schematics are what are used for construction detailing, you want to be as specific as possible and ensure the plans are everything you hope for before moving forward.

Trinity Building Systems conceptual floor plan design.
Trinity Building Systems schematic floor plan design tips.

Structural Engineering

With your approval on the schematic designs of the structure, the designs can be submitted for structural engineering. Trinity Building Systems structural engineering of floor plans. At this point, your designer will work one on one with a structural engineer to refine the schematic drawings to your local code requirements.

No matter where you are in the country, wind loads, snow loads, seismic loads, and elevation limitations must all be accounted for. Therefore, the construction detailing and structural engineering of every set of schematic designs is going to differ (even if you select a pre-existing floor plan). 

Therefore, there is a major difference between a standard conceptual floor plan and a floor plan that has been stamped and ready to be used as the foundation of a custom home new construction project. A floor plan is just a starting point that needs to be refined, and custom-tailored to fit your needs, desires, and geographic location.

Stay Tuned For More Floor Plan Design Insights!

Keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming post discussing The Top 10 Floor Plan Design Tips in 2020 by our lead designer James  Kroeker. We will be touching on everything from Traffic Control to Children and Elderly accommodations.

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