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How to Read and Interpret Any HDB Floor Plan in 5 Minutes

March 28, 2019

It's all about understanding the symbols.

Floor plans are scaled 2D diagrams that are meant to provide clarity on the overall structure of a house or building unit.

And while they’re relatively easy to understand for a professional or seasoned homeowner, the same can’t be said for anyone who’s seeing one for the first time. (Here’s looking at you, newbie BTO flat applicants.)

HDB floorplans how to read

To save you the headache of figuring out what each symbol represents, here’s a detailed, novice-friendly breakdown of every icon that you’ll see on a modern-day floor plan from HDB and/or your interior designer!

Walls (represented as filled/unfilled lines on floor plans)

HDB floorplans how to read

To an untrained eye, almost every wall looks the same: solid structures that act as separators between rooms or the outside.

However, knowing how to read a floor plan will tell you more about these partitions – which will certainly come in handy if you’re planning to demolish a wall (or two) to create an open-concept layout for your home.

1. Structural walls/columns (i.e., cannot be demolished)

HDB floorplans how to read

Represented by bold lines, structural walls/columns are the foundations of HDB flats and hence cannot be demolished away. However, there are ways to cover up these building elements, either by concealing them behind a false wall or building cabinetry around them.

Similarly, the walls around a household shelter, which also can’t be hacked, are likewise depicted as bold lines on floor plans.

Bedok North by Lemonfridge Studio

Interior Firm: Lemonfridge Studio

Regular walls (i.e., can be demolished)

HDB floorplans how to read
Yung Loh Road by Swiss Interior Design

Interior Firm: Swiss Interior Design

Partition or non-structural walls are shown on floor plans as a pair of thin lines with a gap between them.

These are the walls between rooms that you’re legally allowed to demolish (with HDB’s permission), if say, you’re interested in creating an open-concept layout for your home or replacing your study room’s partitions with glass partitions.

Bedok South Road by Carpenter Direct

Interior Firm: Carpenter Direct

3. Gable-end walls (cannot be demolished too)

HDB floorplans how to read

Depending on the position of your HDB unit, you may or may not have gable-end walls in your home (only end point units have them), and they typically show up on floor plans as a pair of thin lines with another line or slit between them.

These structures are essentially part-internal and part-external because they are the only barriers separating the inside of your home/bedroom from the outside. For this reason, gable-end walls cannot be demolished.

Bedok Central by Image Creative Design

Interior Firm: Image Creative Design

4. Wall/floor length (measured by mm)

HDB floorplans how to read

Though they aren’t structural elements or home features, the numbers indicated on a floor plan are no less important because they indicate the internal dimensions of your flat (in millimetres), such as floor length or wall length.

Taking note of these figures is important as they’ll inform some of your renovation decisions, such as the amount of vinyl you need to cover your floors or how long you might want a new kitchen island to be.

Tampines Central 8 by ChengYi Interior Design

Doors (indicated as curves on floor plans)

HDB floorplans how to read

Just like walls, doors have their own unique symbols indicating key details such as opening direction and radius. Here are some examples:

1. Swing doors

HDB floorplans how to read

The bread-and-butter fixtures of indoor privacy, swing doors are represented by a quarter circle, which in turn indicates their swing radius.

Taking note of this detail in the early stages of your renovation can come in helpful later when you’re planning the size of built-ins that are close to doorways, as it’ll save you from dealing with tight passageways and/or obstructions.

Pasir Ris Street 13 by Darwin Interior

Interior Firm: Darwin Interior

2. Folding doors

HDB floorplans how to read

Folding doors are commonly found outside bathrooms, service yards or other tight areas where they provide privacy without taking up too much space.

You can identify a folding door on a floor plan from its triangular icon, which also indicates which way it slides to open.

Skyville @ Dawson by Inizio Atelier

Interior Firm: Inizio Atelier

3. Doors that aren’t provided by HDB

HDB floorplans how to read

Although they’re also shown as a quarter circle just like swing doors, these entryways don’t have doors installed in them unless you’ve signed up for the Optional Component Scheme (OCS).

A dotted or dashed arc on a floor plan not only indicates the absence of a door but also an optimum opening radius if you were to install one with a hinged opening mechanism. So take note, especially if you’re a (to-be) owner of a brand-new, unrenovated BTO flat.

HDB floorplans how to read

4. Doors that are provided by HDB

HDB floorplans how to read

Conversely, an arc (for swing doors) or wedge (for folding doors) with solid outlines is indicative of doors that come with a new BTO flat (i.e., provided by HDB).

Examples of doors that are usually provided in BTO flats include service yard bi-fold doors as well as household shelter doors, which are made of steel.

Ang Mo Kio Court by Artspaze

Interior Firm: Artspaze


HDB floorplans how to read

Though not all of these windows will offer a panoramic view of your neighbourhood, it’s still important to take note of where they’re positioned in your BTO/HDB flat – if not for space-planning reasons then for ones relating to ventilation.

1. Sliding windows

HDB floorplans how to read

Sliding windows show up on floor plans as thin, hollow lines that can be quite hard to notice, so keep your eyes peeled.

Knowing where they’re positioned can prove to be helpful when looking for the optimum layout for your living area, especially if you’d like a seating/TV watching spot that’s as airy as possible.

Shunfu Road by Metamorph Design

Interior Firm: Metamorph Design

2. Casement windows

HDB floorplans how to read

Compared to their sliding counterparts, casement windows are a much more common sight in modern-day BTO/HDB flats as default fixtures. And just like swing doors, they appear on floor plans as one or more quarter circles that indicate opening radius and direction.

Lorong 1 Toa Payoh by Free Space Intent

Interior Firm: Free Space Intent

3. Top hung windows

HDB floorplans how to read

In most BTO/HDB flats, top-hung windows are installed to provide bathroom ventilation. You can identify these openings on floor plans by tiny rectangles with a dotted line in the middle. The same applies to louvered windows as well, which are more frequently found in older HDB flat bathrooms.

Skyville @ Dawson by Inizio Atelier

Interior Firm: Inizio Atelier

Other symbols that you might find on an HDB floor plan

HDB floorplans how to read

1. Staircases

HDB floorplans how to read

If you’re lucky enough to live in an HDB maisonette with stairways, you’ll find them indicated in your floor plan as a series of lined rectangles. You’ll also see an arrow indicating the way up, as well as the number of risers (the vertical part of a stair, usually abbreviated as ‘R’ on floor plans) that the entire staircase has.

Hougang Avenue 8 by Toke & Chen

Interior Firm: Toke & Chen

2. 50/100mm level drop

HDB floorplans how to read

A number – usually 50 or 100 – accompanied by the word ‘drop’ on a floor plan indicates in millimetres the difference in height between one part of your HDB flat to another. (E.g., between the front entrance and living area OR kitchen and bathroom.)

This Is a useful detail to take note as it’ll help you identify the threshold between different parts of your home, as well as inform you about how much material you may need if you wish to level the floors of two areas with varying heights.

Pasir Ris Street 13 by Darwin Interior

Interior Firm: Darwin Interior

3. Laundry rack

HDB floorplans how to read
HDB floorplans how to read

Image credit: HDB

Last but not least are the trio of black lines on a floor plan that indicate where your BTO/HDB flat’s laundry rack is located.

Though these fixtures have been installed in modern-day HDB flats by default since 2018, you may find them missing on the floor plans of older units – which means you’ll probably have to shop for your own!

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