Home improvements, additions, and new construction all begin with one thing — a plot plan. It provides an on-paper plan for the property, detailing the proposed modifications. Plot plans are often required to obtain building permits and contractor quotes. 

If you live in a homeowners association, plot plans will surely be required for all significant changes and may even be necessary for seemingly minor changes. HOA's tend to be much more strict than local governments when making changes to your property. 

As limiting as it is, the benefit of living in a homeowner's association is that there are strict rules about aesthetics, so you don't have to worry about your neighbors building eyesores and tanking your property values.

What is a Plot Plan, Exactly

The terms site plans and plot plans are interchangeable. These terms refer to a map or diagram of a plot of land which details all existing (and proposed) structures, features, and typography. These renderings are drawn to scale using computer-aided drafting (CAD) and often include every detail down to trees, poles, and power lines. 

These diagrams are more technical than a floor plan. Floor plans are documents that most people are familiar with. These are a different set of CAD plans detailing interior building layouts. By comparison, plot plans describe exterior features and layouts. 

If you are wondering how to draw a site plan for a building permit, or if you need to hire an architect before building a deck — continue reading to learn more about site plot plans.

Related: Difference Between Residential and Commercial Construction

Five Functions of a Plot Plan

Local and county governments commonly request these residential diagrams for historical records, tax valuation, and ordinance enforcement. Thus, they serve many different functions depending on who is requesting these documents.

  • Navigation
  • Development
  • Communication
  • Function
  • Aesthetics

In addition to local officials, designers and contractors regularly use these plans to draft designs and quote pricing or bid work. These plans help each party understand how the proposed changes will impact the function or aesthetic of the property. They also communicate a clear picture of the proposed changes to all parties.

What Types of Projects Require a Permit (and a Plot Plan)

fencing installation


Homeowners perform all kinds of work to their homes that might require the use of a plot plan. In general, any job that requires a building permit will also need a plot plan. This includes project like:

  • Fencing installation (or significant changes to fencing height)
  • Structural changes like adding a deck or porch
  • Utility work like plumbing or electrical
  • HVAC work like changing duct systems or adding a fireplace
  • Installing new windows, doors, or skylights

Some homeowners with a little bit of CAD experience can draft up simple plans. However, it is a good idea to rely on the expertise of an experienced designer when making significant structural changes to your home. 

My Site Plan offers three levels of plot plans drawn by expert designers to fit many different needs. Our site plans are accepted by building departments nationwide and make a convenient alternative when an architect is not required. Learn more today!

Related: Subdivision Development: A Complete Guide

What Does a Plot Plan Include

What are the essential features that all plot plans should include? If so many different professional service providers rely on these plans, what are they looking for?

  • Designer Name and Date
  • Property Address
  • Labels (structures, square footage, distances)
  • Property Lines
  • Structures
  • Typography
  • Landscaping
  • Easements
  • Legend (scale, orientation, etc.)

The first information that should be easy to locate is the designer's name, who drafted the plans and the date they were created, and the property address for the plot plan. Property changes occur over time, so it is essential to quickly identify the current draft of the plot plan.

The plans should begin with a clear definition of property lines and then work inward to detail the location and size of all structures and features. All items on the plan should include clear labels like 'house' and 'garage.'

In addition to property lines, site plans should also include setbacks defined by local ordinances or HOA regulations. This defines how far back from the property line a structure can sit. For road frontage, these setbacks are typically between 30 and 40 feet. For other property lines, the setback may be between five and ten feet.


One of the primary purposes of a plot plan is to depict an accurate representation of the property and proposed changes. Therefore it is important that all measurements are precise and drawn to scale. In addition, plan labels should include square footage measurements for structures where appropriate.


The typography can include many different things depending on the composition of the property. The most common typography items include the house, outbuildings, pools, decks, patios, and driveways.


Once all of the essential structures are in place and relative distances are noted, it is time to add slope and elevation. This element will help builders and designers make sure that they do not interfere with drainage patterns. Trees, shrubbery, and bushes are included if they are relative to the proposed changes.


Additional features include all utilities like gas lines and water mains which should be noted on the plans. Easements for external access to the property, as well as driveways, should also be drafted.


And finally, you will need to provide directions for interpreting your plans. This includes a legend that depicts symbols used in the plot and defines the orientation of the drawings so that there is no confusion.

Related: Types of Section Views You Need to Know About

Final Word 

hand drawing site plan


The takeaway from creating useful plot plans or site plans is that the drawings need to include essential elements drawn to scale. Plot plans are required by city governments and homeowner's associations whenever a homeowner wants to make a significant change. These drawings help everyone from the entity that issues the building permit to the contractor who performs the work understand the proposed changes. 

My Site Plan can provide you with detailed site plot plans for your next home improvement project. Our team of expert designers has more than twenty years of experience to provide you with professionally created plans. Contact us today to get started.



FAQ Answer
What are the differences between a plot plan and a floor plan? A plot plan maps the exterior features of a property, including landscaping, structures, and utilities, and is used for planning exterior modifications and obtaining permits. A floor plan, however, focuses on the interior layout of a building, detailing room sizes, door and window locations, and the arrangement of fixed installations like cabinets and appliances.
How often should a plot plan be updated? A plot plan should be updated any time significant changes are made to the property, such as additions, demolitions, or significant landscaping changes. Updating is crucial to maintain accurate records for future modifications, permits, or sales.
Can a homeowner draft their own plot plan? Yes, a homeowner with CAD experience can draft their own plot plan for smaller projects. However, for significant changes or when precision is crucial, it's recommended to hire an experienced designer to ensure accuracy and compliance with local regulations.
What are common setbacks included in plot plans? Setbacks vary by local ordinances but typically range from 30 to 40 feet for road frontages and 5 to 10 feet from other property lines. These setbacks dictate how far a structure must be from the property line, impacting where structures can be placed.
What should be considered when choosing a designer for a plot plan? When choosing a designer for a plot plan, consider their familiarity with local building codes and ordinances, experience in drafting detailed CAD plans, and their ability to clearly communicate the proposed changes. It’s also beneficial to review their past work to ensure it meets your needs.