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How to Determine Materials Needed From a House Plan

By Charlie Higgins
Examine your drawings to determine exactly what materials you need.

To create a list of the materials needed to construct a house, carefully review the house plans in detail. In the construction industry, this list is known as a Bill of Quantities (BoQ). The general contractor uses the BoQ to determine the building costs of the house. If you are building your own house, you may need to produce your own BoQ to determine exactly what materials you need, their quantities and specifications.

Choose one material, and use a highlighter marker to highlight every instance that material is drawn on the house plans. Repeat this for each material, using a different color for each one. This will allow you to see at a glance where each material is used. You may want to use multiple sets of drawings for clarity, or if you run out of highlighter colors.

Choose one material, and measure each element where the material is used. This can be done using the plan's dimensions, but if dimensions are not provided you will need to use a scale ruler. Check the title block (the table of information at the bottom or the side of the page) to see the scale of the drawing. Measure each element on the plans, elevations and sections to obtain the length, width and depth of the material. For instance, to find out how much concrete you need for your house's floor slab, measure the width and length on the plan drawing and then refer to the section drawing to obtain a depth measurement.

Multiply your measurements. In this example, the length, width and depth of a concrete slab multiplied together would give the amount of concrete needed in cubic feet. If your material is two-dimensional, such as paint or tiling, you will only need to multiply length and width dimensions.

Repeat Steps 3 and 4 for each instance where that particular material is used. In this example, there may be concrete used in the ground floor slab and a basement level floor slab. You would need to measure both.

Add the figures together to get the total amount needed for that material.

Repeat Steps 3 to 5 for each different type of material that will be used to build the home.


Things You Will Need

  • Scale ruler
  • Highlighter markers
  • Calculator


  • There are professional standards that dictate how each type of material should be measured, but this may vary depending on your location. Contact your local architecture or construction association for specific information.

About the Author


Charlie Higgins is journalist, editor and translator based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has written for a variety of lifestyle and niche market websites, including International Food Trader, The Olive Oil Times, microDINERO, Sounds and Colours, Connecting Worlds and The Buenos Aires Reader.