THIS IS NOT A SURVEY, NOR IS IT INTENDED TO BE OR REPLACE ONE

Site Plans: Everything You Need To Know In 2024

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Site Plans: Everything You Need To Know In 2024

Many people look for a property they can adapt, build upon, and renovate to create the home of their dreams. But renovating a home or property is never an easy task, especially if undertaken without proper planning considerations or a clear site plan, as there could be financial and legal consequences to pay later on.


It’s also important to note that renovation projects don’t occur in a vacuum. Your exterior home renovation projects could cause you to cross neighbor land boundaries unwittingly or could go against the rules of a homeowner’s association guidelines (if you're associated with one).


Besides making sure you perform renovations that you really need, you also need to ensure that your home construction project is up to code, especially exterior projects. And that is why you need a site plan before you start a building project.


Below, we discuss everything you need to know about a site plan, including what it is, why it’s important, when you need one, and how to draw it.

What is a site plan?

A site plan, also known as a plot plan, is a diagram that shows proposed improvements to a property. Typically, it includes both what already exists on a specific property and what you're proposing to build on that same property. This could, for example, include a building addition, such as a garage.


One of the most important features of a site plan is to show the relationship between what already exists and what you're planning to build.


Site plans are all created differently; they will not all be designed equally. This is because different building authorities will require different things. With some permits, you’re required to hire a land surveyor, whereas with others, you can draw the plan yourself on graph paper. You will need to check with your permitting department for clarification on this point before proceeding.

Why is a site plan important?

A site plan is important for four key reasons. It serves to ensure that you’re adhering to local building and zoning codes, that the local services can support these changes, that you’re using the land properly, and that there is an official record of all changes made to the property. 

what is a site plan?

Local building and zoning codes

The main purpose of a site plan is to show the exact way that the intended land use relates to the features of a parcel and its surrounding area. Governments require them to ensure that both local and state building codes are adhered to when making changes and additions to a specific property.


Beyond simply showing how your proposed structure or structures relate to what already exists on your property, however, a site plan will give your building officials the ability to check local building and zoning codes.


The site plan helps to ensure that what you might add to your property falls within existing authoritative codes.

Local services

Another important feature of a plot plan and a building plan, in general, is that it ensures that local services such as schools, sewers, roads, water, and emergency services are adequate for what you're planning to build.

Proper land use

Compliance with zoning will help to ensure that you're less likely to encounter lawsuits due to improper land use and that your project will be covered for potential future law sets, such as in the case of insurance coverage.


If you add something without a permit, or in a manner that does not comply with the appropriate zoning and building codes, you may not be covered by your insurance policy, in the case where you do have a loss.

Historical records

Another reason site plans are important and necessary is that governments typically retain them for historical records, especially when homeowners construct significant changes to their properties.

Do I need a site plan?

You may need a site plan if:

  • You want a road map for having yard work done — mark up your instructions to avoid any confusion

  • You're looking to Sketch out a new roofline

  • You’re having encroachment issues with a neighbor and need to submit a drawing of the overhanging encroachment to the city as an exhibit

  • You’re thinking of re-doing your landscape — start with a plot  plan to begin your process of what to keep and what to eliminate

  • You're applying for a building permit for a new outdoor structure

  • You're applying for a demolition permit for the demolition of your house or another structure

  • You're applying for building permits in cities with tree protection requirements — planning departments find it useful to determine if any extra protection is required for trees on the property

  • You're looking to remove or remodel your swimming pool

  • You need a conditional use permit for commercial properties

When in doubt it's always best to call your local permitting authority.



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When is a site plan required?

A site plan is required for:

  • Any building permit for new development

  • Any redevelopment that includes exterior work

  • Many types of land use applications, such as site plan review, conditional use, or land divisions

All site plans require property line locations in relation to any existing and/or proposed structures, parking, or other site features, but they may have more detailed requirements as well.


To determine what's required for your project, refer to your city or county application packet. This will include a list of necessary items that must be shown on the site plan, and you can use that information to determine what type of plan you require.

What’s included in a site plan?

What’s included in a site plan?

There are certain guides that site plans must follow in terms of site planning and design. Below is a list of features that they should typically include.

  • Your name and address

  • Legal description, including things like your range, township, tax las, and section

  • A diagram drawn to scale

  • The North cardinal direction to show how your property is oriented

  • Property lines must be included on the site plan

  • The location of your driveway, for example, and adjacent streets

  • Both your existing and proposed structures

Depending on where the property is located, certain building authorities may require more or even less information than what is provided in the above list.


Additional information that may be required by authorities includes:

  • Lighting

  • Trails

  • Landscaping

  • Draining facilities

  • Sanitary sewer lines

  • Garden elements

  • Utility services, including electrical service lines and water service lines

  • Sidewalks and other walkways

Although our drafters at MySitePlan.com can’t pick up on things such as utilities, those items can be added at the client's direction under our Detailed Site Plan .

How to obtain a site plan of your property

How to obtain a site plan of your property

If you’ve decided to make alterations to your property, such as adding a shed or in-ground swimming pool, or if you’re planning on selling your home, you’ll need a copy of your site plan. Fortunately, there are a few different places you can get a site plan, and in some cases, you may already have the document without even knowing it.

Closing documents

When you bought your home, a copy of the site plan should have been included in the paperwork you received. If you can’t find it in your closing documents, your mortgage lender or title insurance provider may have copies that they can send to you. However, if it’s been years since you purchased your home, you should look it over to ensure it’s still an accurate representation of your property.

Hire a surveyor

This is by far the most accurate and useful option since property conditions can change over time. A professional surveyor will be able to locate your property corners and add all features and structures currently on the property.


Additionally, they can add current topography. If you’re looking to find out if a feature falls on your or your neighbor's property, or you want to build exactly on your legal setbacks, this is the only option as all other lot lines are approximated with online sources. When in doubt, spend the money and hire a surveyor.

County government

In many places, the county government will hold copies of residential site plans to ensure that they conform to building regulations and city ordinances. Your local government may be able to provide you with either a hard copy of your site plan or a downloadable copy that you can print.


If you decide to get your site plan from the county government, you’ll need to double-check that it’s up to date, and you’ll probably have to pay a service fee.

Building company

If you know the builder or construction company that built your house, you can try contacting them as they may have your house plan on file. Again, depending on the amount of time that’s passed, you should verify its accuracy.

Online services

If you can’t track down your site plan from any of the above sources, you may think that hiring a surveyor to draw up a new site plan is your only option. Unfortunately, this can be incredibly expensive, so it’s best to avoid it if possible. Instead, you can order a site plan online from a company like MySitePlan .


At MySitePlan, we use up-to-date satellite imagery, county parcel maps, and other resources to create your site plan at a much lower price than a typical surveyor. The site plans are accepted nationwide for over-the-counter permits and other minor alterations.

How to draw a site plan yourself

How to draw a site plan yourself

If you can’t find an existing site plan, or the one you have found is no longer applicable, then you may need to create a new one. You can draw a site plan yourself. Here’s how.

Step 1: Determine property boundaries and lot dimensions

Before drawing a site plan, you first need to determine property boundaries and lot dimensions. There are four ways to do this:

  • Option 1 – Use tax assessor’s map: Using your property’s tax lot number, you may look up the County Tax Assessor’s Map that includes your lot. Assessor’s maps are regularly updated maps drawn to scale and based on the latest recorded surveys and plats of the area, and they will usually include lot dimensions for all sides of your property. The lot dimension information found on the Assessor’s map should allow you to correctly draw the property dimensions on your site plan, but it does not show the location of buildings, driveways, etc. You may then locate property corner pins.
  • Option 2 – Use subdivision plat information: Similar to the Tax Assessor’s map, you may also look up your lot on the recorded plat that your property is within. The legal description of your property, which should be included on the deed, usually contains your property's lot or parcel number and the subdivision name in which your lot is located. In cases where the property is not within a subdivision plat, the legal description will likely be a ‘metes and bounds’ description that describes the perimeter of the property in greater detail, without reference to a plat.
  • Option 3 – Use building records: Using a previously approved site plan of the subject property as a guide can save time when preparing your site plan. If there is an existing structure on the property, which required building permits, that was built in the 1950s through the 1980s, there is a possibility that the City may have an archived copy of the original building plans on file, including a site plan. If there is an existing structure on the property, which required building permits, that was built after the 1980s, then there is a high likelihood that the City has archived the original site plan. You must make a public records request through the City Legal Department to obtain old site plans.
  • Option 4 – Hire a licensed surveyor: A licensed surveyor can locate your property lines and prepare a topographic survey of your property, showing the property boundaries in relation to the street and existing buildings. This information can then be used to help you prepare your site plan correctly. This is a much more expensive option but necessary for larger projects.
  • Option 5 – Access GIS through your county website: A GIS (Geographic Information System) is a series of layers containing information about a place to give you a better understanding of that place. How you use GIS depends on what your objective is. It can be used to find a location for a new building, analyze property characteristics, detect patterns in environmental behavior, and so on. The information contained on this site is believed to be accurate but accuracy is not guaranteed. Mapping information is a representation of various data sources and is not a substitute for information that would result from an accurate land survey.

Step 2: Determine the location of structures relative to the property boundaries

Using the property boundary location and dimension information gathered in Step 1, you must next determine the location of existing buildings, streets, driveways, trees, and other site features in relation to the property boundaries. Measure the distance from these site features to the surrounding property lines. You can do this either with a tape measure, or you can use Google Earth’s measuring tool.

Step 3: Draw a site plan.

Use all the information gathered in Steps 1 and 2 to prepare your site plan. You may draw your site plan by hand on graph paper or use a computer graphics or drafting program. Remember the site plan must to be scale.


Click here for an easy to use site plan design software to play with.

Step 4: Check the drawing and make copies.

Check your work for accuracy before submitting it. The size and number of copies of the site plan required depends on what type of application you're submitting. Check the appropriate application submittal checklist.



Related content:

How to create a site plan online

If you want to create a site plan but don’t want to draw it yourself, then you essentially have two options: have a surveyor come out to your property and draw up a site plan, or have your site plan created online.

  • A surveyor will provide the most accurate plan. However, it's expensive. According to HomeAdvisor.com, the national average cost for someone to come out and conduct a land survey is $530, and rates can go as high as $1,000+ depending on the size of the area and your location.

  • An online site plan is a faster and cheaper alternative, assuming the alterations to your property are minor and your building department allows a non-certified site plan. You could draw it yourself for free if you're familiar with AutoCad or are handy with graph paper, or you can hire a company like MySitePlan for $99 to $159 to help draw it.

We use the most up-to-date satellite imagery, GIS information, county parcel maps, and other data sources to digitally create plot plans within just 24 hours. Plus, ordering a site plan online with us is incredibly straightforward. You can order a basic, medium detail, or detailed site plan straight from our website just by giving us your address, selecting a file type for the document, and uploading any helpful property documents that you have. (If you don’t have any, that’s fine, too!)


If you have specific questions before you order or want to learn about getting a customized site plan, you can fill out our short contact form, and we’ll get back to you right away.

How to create a site plan online

How the online site plan process works

  • You start by selecting the level of detail you require for your site plan. If you're unsure, your building department is the best source of information.

  • Then you will be asked to provide the property's address. You may also provide any additional information you may already have, such as surveys, deeds, or sketches.

  • You will have the option to select the specifications for the final site plan, such as file type and dimensions.

  • From there, the order is assigned to one of our experienced designers. We will look up information about the property from existing data, such as satellite imagery, GIS information, county parcel maps, and other public information sources. If additional information is required, we will follow up with you via email.

  • In rare circumstances, we are unable to find the information we need. When this happens, you will be notified as soon as possible, and you will receive a full refund. However, this does not happen very often.

  • Once the required information is gathered, our designer works in AutoCAD to create the site plan.

  • Then the site plan is delivered to you. You have the chance to review the site plan. You can then verify dimensions and if you need any adjustments, we will make them for no additional charge.

Learn more about how we work today.

How the site plan review process works

You’ve decided to make some big changes to your property, applied for a building permit, and submitted your site plan… and now the waiting game begins.


You may not be thrilled about having to wait to start your home improvement project, but the site plan review process is necessary to ensure you’re complying with all land development regulations and building codes for your city — and waiting to have your site plan reviewed is much better than paying a hefty fine for failing to get a permit.


Of course, you may be wondering what’s actually happening while you’re waiting to hear back from your city’s building department. The specific details will vary from city to city, but the general site plan review process is outlined below.

Step 1: You submit your preliminary site plan

The first step, of course, is to submit your preliminary site plan along with applications for the necessary permits to your city’s building or development department. To ensure a smooth review process, you should make sure your site plan includes all information that may be reasonably required for making an informed building decision, such as topography, walkways, drainage, structures, landscaping, and entry and exit points.

Step 2: Your site plan goes to the appropriate officials

Your County Administrator will designate a group of officials to review your site plan and make sure it complies with all the county’s ordinances and regulations. The review committee may include government members from:

  • Public Works

  • Fire Prevention

  • Zoning

  • Survey Review

  • Health Department

  • Land Development

  • Real Estate Services

  • Construction Services

  • Environmental Review

  • Landscaping Review

Step 3: County officials approve plan and issue permit

Once the county officials have determined that your building plans are up to code, they will be able to issue you the appropriate permits. Depending on the project, you may just need a building permit, while other projects might require something like a demolition permit or a plumbing permit.


From our 15 years of experience in the industry, we’ve found that professionally drawn plans are more likely to go through the process faster. Since they are clearer and easier to understand, officials typically have less questions or concerns, and it makes the site plan review process more straightforward for them.

Step 4: You receive a decision by mail

The officials will mail a letter of confirmation to you (as the applicant) and your agent (if you have one). In most cases, you should hear back within one week of the group’s scheduled review of your site plan, unless you’re told otherwise.


Once you’ve received the necessary permits, you can go ahead with the property changes you’ve envisioned. And remember, if you haven’t even gotten to the point of submitting the proper paperwork for review yet, you can get a PDF plot plan within 24 hours when you contact MySitePlan.

Choose MySitePlan for site plans

We make site plans quick and easy! We are a team of highly experienced CAD designers and provide drafting services to anyone who needs a site plan but doesn't have the time or experience to draw one.


We remotely create site plans in all of Canada and the US using GIS, public records, and client-provided information. Site plans are our specialty and we offer three types of site plans: the Basic Site Plan, the Medium Detail Site Plan, and the Detailed Site Plan.


At My Site Plan, we have:

  • Drawn 1,000's of site plans for a wide range of project types and sizes

  • Over 20 years of drafting experience for large and small construction and landscaping firms

  • Had our site plans accepted by building departments nationwide

We are proud to have grown to be the nation's largest provider of remote site plans. Orders yours today.

FAQs

What’s the difference between a site plan and a floor plan?

A floor plan is a scaled diagram concerning the arrangement of rooms in one particular story of a building. On the other hand, a site plan focuses on depicting everything within the property lines. This includes topography in regards to building structures, pathways, etc.


In most common cases, floor plans will not be included with site plans, unless the property is expected to undergo proposed changes with significant alterations to the residence’s footprint. Floor plans are fairly technical, but will typically be more understandable and more relatable to an individual who is not specialized in the field of site planning.


If you're interested in creating a floor plan, simply provide us with a rough sketch and we can recreate your floor plan in AutoCAD, as part of our additional services. If you would like us to conceptualize a space, we can take the exterior wall dimensions and create living spaces to your specifications.

What's the difference between a certified and non-certified site plan?

A non-certified site plan can be created by a homeowner, contractor, landscaper, or company like My Site Plan. It’s a non-authoritative drawing where the dimensions are verified by the homeowner or person who is onsite.


A certified site plan, on the other hand, is a site plan that is prepared and stamped by an architect, engineer, or surveyor and requires a high level of accuracy. This will require a visit to your site. it's not possible to do a certified site plan remotely.

Do I need a certified or non-certified site plan?

Most building departments accept non-certified site plans for simple projects such as small structure demolition, tree removal, shed installation, conditional use permits, short-term rental applications, and more.


Larger projects, such as new construction, additions, lot splits, and more, require an official survey. Often, permit authorities require a certified site plan for building additions or lot subdivisions where dead-on measurements are a must. Every city is different, so it’s always best to call to verify requirements before ordering a plan.


However, when a city does require a certified site plan, it's always best to use a local surveyor who understands the requirements of the different cities. This will ensure a smoother and more expedient permit process.

How does MySitePlan create site plans?

There are many ways to create a non-certified site plan including tax maps, GIS, Satellite, old surveys, on-the-ground measurements, metes and bounds, and more.


We use GIS (Geographical Information System) lot lines, satellite imagery, and client-provided information to create the first draft which is sent to the client to verify dimensions. We make no representation regarding the accuracy of our sources since they are from 3rd party public sources and we do not visit the site. After we send the first draft to the customer, all dimensions should be verified. If changes are needed, simply mark them on the plan and we will update them free of charge. And just like that, you have a scaled professionally drafted site plan!

When ordering a site plan online, will someone have to physically come to my house?

You won’t need to have someone physically come to your house. Online plot plan providers use a combination of satellite imagery, GIS information, county parcel maps, and other available information sources to create an up-to-date plot plan of your property without ever actually coming to your house. They can simply combine the information sources, use AutoCAD to draw the plan, and send you the final plan as a PDF file.


There is a quick turnaround time when you order a plot plan online. Since MySitePlan is able to email plot plans to our clients as PDF files, we can get your plot plan to you within 24 hours at most.

Can I make adjustments to a site plan ordered online?

You can still make adjustments to a plot plan that you order online. If you find any errors or need specific changes made to the plot plan you receive from MySitePlan, you can request to have those changes made at no extra charge. In fact, since all of the dimensions we have access to are approximate we expect most plans to need adjustments. That's why we do it free of charge.

How much does a site plan cost?

The cost of an online site plan is significantly lower than the cost of hiring a surveyor. According to the most recent data from HomeAdvisor.com, the national average cost of hiring a land surveyor is $530, with most homeowners spending somewhere between $376 and $748 for a certified plan. As you can see, My Site Site Plan's pricing for a non-certified plan is considerably less. So always make sure to verify whether you need a certified plan or not.

What happens if the plan and building permit are rejected?

Online plot plans can be submitted with building permit applications. You’ll want to do your research on site plan providers and make sure you’re working with a company that has years of professional experience, but as long as you choose a reputable site plan provider, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting your application for a building permit approved. If your plan is denied, though, don't worry! We're sticking with you until it gets approved.

If there’s anything else you want to know about ordering a plot plan online versus hiring a surveyor, check out MySitePlan’s FAQ page or contact us today.

This post was originally published on 2019-05-06. It was updated by Ryan Crownholm on 2024-04-09 to reflect new information and current prices.

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  • Ryan Crownholm