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How Do I Read a Site Plan for My Property? 6 Tips

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You know that you need a site plan. But once you have it, how do you go about reading it? There are lots of features to a site plan, and all of them mean something important to your planned renovation, building, landscape, event, or property line dispute.

First, let’s define the differences in types of site plans you may be using. There are two different types: existing site plans and proposed site plans.

Both types show a particular site from a top-down view, with all important features, including the size and shape of the site, its geographical location, contour and property lines, easements, rights of carriage, features that have to be preserved, and all physical elements of the site – natural and unnatural.

If your plan reflects the property as it currently is, then what you’ve got is an existing site plan. A proposed site plan is one that shows a future addition that is being planned for the property. If you have an idea for building something new, then you’ll have to become familiar with both types.

Read on to find some tips on how to understand the elements that make up your site plan.

  1. Find The Title Block. In the bottom right corner of most plans, you’ll find what’s called a title block. It contains important administrative information about the site plan and the people involved in making it.

 

  1. Learn the Plan’s Scale. The scale at which the site map is drawn relative to the actual physical site is represented on the plan in both ratio form (i.e., 1:300) and in a block scale. The block scale is a visual description that tells you how distances and heights are depicted in the site plan.

 

  1. Determine the Orientation of the Plan. The site plan should feature a “north point,” a symbol indicating how the site that’s depicted is oriented to true north in the site plan. The symbol will often come in the form of the letter “N” capitalized with an arrow attached, indicating which direction north is in the site plan.

 

  1. Know the Datum Point. The datum is a reference point on the site map that shows a known or assumed height that is used as a reference for all other heights and elevations shown by details of the site plan.

 

  1. Note the Site’s Contours. Lines drawn on the plan that show the fall of the land are called contour lines, and they are usually referenced to the datum point so that you can get a sense of how the land’s elevation may impact what you want to do.

 

  1. Locate Existing Structures. The plan will show the structures that currently exist at the site, such as buildings and landscape elements that must be preserved. Buildings are easy to recognize, but other elements may have particular symbols assigned to them to differentiate between types of structures.

Don’t worry if a lot of these site plan details are starting to sound a little daunting. As long you study the symbols and terms and familiarize yourself with their meanings, we’ll handle the rest and make sure you have a plan that passes city regulations.

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  • Ryan Crownholm
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