You'll want to put your best foot forward when visiting your jurisdiction's housing or planning department to apply for a building permit. Permit offices, which are often especially busy in big cities, rely on you to provide a plan showing the scope of your project. The closer you can come on your first trip to the permit window to what experienced builders and architects provide, the sooner you'll be on your way to a supply house ready to turn your plans into reality.
Mark a logical beginning point -- such as the northwest corner of the land parcel or of the structure itself -- in the upper left corner of a piece of graph paper. The drawing will need to be correctly oriented to match that of the house in relation to the north. Mark the outlines of the parcel or structure using an architect's scale, using the best ratio for the project. The 1/4-inch-to-1-foot scale will allow you to get a project of 44 by 72 feet or less onto a piece of 11-by-18-inch paper. This is the most typical scale to use, but you can twirl the scale to use different scales as needed.
Practice moving the scale on the paper as you begin to create your plan. You can pivot around your pencil point whenever you reach a corner of a feature on your project.
Continue to create an overhead view plan of your current property lines and existing house to scale. Move the architectural scale across the graph paper to note, for example, that your house is 80 feet long and 25 feet wide, and add any bump-outs, such as porches or recesses for outdoor air-conditioner condensers. Add trees, patios, driveways and retaining walls. Label setbacks between the house and the property line.
Note the direction of north on the plan with an arrow and an "N." Add your property's address, and draw in the name of the nearest cross street. Note the scale used -- for example, "Scale: 1/4":1'" -- and sign your name and add the date.
Sketch carefully the details for your planned outbuilding, shed, deck, fence or similar added structure in relation to your current property, as well as its width and depth. Maintain your chosen scale throughout. Note the height via a label. Write pertinent notes about its construction if required, such as "wooden fence, 6 feet high," after checking any restrictions on the type of structure you are erecting against online city or county codes.
Start with the perimeter if you are drawing a floor plan for a new house. Label each room, as well as doors, windows, counters, bathroom fixtures, kitchen appliances and closets, and their sizes. Note the location of smoke and carbon dioxide detectors.
Sketch additional pages to meet requirements specific to your project. For a new building or addition, provide a foundation plan with an overhead view that shows slabs, footings and the strength of the concrete to be used. For a house addition, create a section drawing to show a side view that allows the viewer to see how these will be constructed. For example, show the location of new wall studs, rafters, insulation and roofing. Add an elevation drawing for any permits sought that entail a change to the exterior of your home, and show any new windows, chimneys and other changes.