Site Plans: Everything You Need to Know

A site plan—to use one or not to use one, that’s the question.

If you’re unsure about whether or not you should be using a site plan, or if you just want to learn more about them, you’re in the right place.

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about site plans. From the basics of what a site plan is, to how they are used and who uses them, this post goes over it all.

What is a site plan?

A site plan—sometimes referred to as a plot plan—is a drawing that depicts the existing and proposed conditions of a given area.

It is a document that functions as a readable map of a site, which includes its property lines and any features of the property.

A site plan will typically include locations of buildings and structures built on the property, as well as any property features such as driveways, pools, and gardens. They also include natural landmarks like trees or water sources.

Site Plan in ArcSiteA site plan showing a residential property, with the buildings and features represented.

Why do I need a site plan?

If you’re planning to make any substantial changes to an existing property, you probably need a site plan.

For example, if a customer hires you to add a mother-in-law suite to an existing building, it would be helpful to have the site plan to help you design and lay out the structure. That way you can create a to-scale design that takes into account the already existing structure and any additional features of the property.

Site plans are great for any number of home improvement projects—anything from new landscaping to adding an inground pool to redoing a roof—and they’re important for accurate planning and design.

(Not to mention, a site plan is especially helpful if there’s any concern about property lines.)

Site plans are also useful for marketing. Real estate agents often use site plans to show an overview of the property they’re trying to sell. Site plans give the potential buyer a better idea of how the home or building is situated in relation to other features and landmarks on the property.

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

You may be asking yourself: “I’ve got the floor plan, isn’t that enough?”

The short answer is that it depends on what type of work you’re doing!

A floor plan is a detailed and to-scale drawing of the inside of a residence. It depicts the arrangement of each room within a building, sometimes even including where large furniture and appliances are placed.

Essentially, a floor plan is all about what’s happening inside the walls of the home.

A site plan, on the other hand, is a comprehensive overhead view of everything within the property lines. This includes natural topography and any additional features such as driveways, walkways, gardens, patios, etc.

It’s worth mentioning that most site plans will not include a floor plan, only a view of the building as it is depicted in relation to the rest of the property.

If you’re only working within the home, you probably don’t need a site plan. But if you’re making any changes to the exterior of the home or adding/taking anything away from the property, you most likely will need a site plan.

Elements of a good site plan

When looking at a site plan, you should take notice of these features:

Property lines

All property lines should be distinct and easy to understand. Some site plans will show any distinct features in the neighboring properties (such as buildings or trees) to make it easier to know where one property ends and another begins.

Natural landscape

Any trees, bushes, bodies of water, or man-made gardens should be included.

Existing structures/features

The home or building location should be precise, and so should the measurements for any existing driveways, walkways, patios, terraces, decks, or garages. Fence lines, utility, and powerlines should also be included.


These are the spaces between a building and its property line.

Directions, notes, abbreviations

Any necessary project data needs to be included. There should also be a vicinity map that depicts how the property functions within the nearby streets that surround it.

A legend table

Above all, a site plan needs to be easy to read. So a legend table is a must in order to know what the measurements are to scale, which way the building is facing, and what each feature is exactly.

further out-1An example site plan that used an aerial shot of the property as the starting point. 

Types of site plans

There are two types of site plans: 2D and 3D. Both have their pros and cons.

Most site plans are 2D aerial maps that show everything encompassed within the property. A 2D site plan gives you a clean and professional-looking overview of the property and its features.

A 2D site plan can be black and white or it can be color-coded to better depict distinct features, such as grassy areas or paved areas. These site plans are perfect for applying for permits, renovation projects, landscape design, and property plans.

A 3D site plan is less common but gives you a full-color 3D rendering of the entire property. This makes it easier to see and understand the size and scale of the structures and smaller details like materials, plantings, and more.

A 3D site plan rendering is typically better for design-specific projects, as it allows you to visualize the end result and plan tiny details better than a 2D site plan.

How can I draw my own site plan?


Though your first thought may be to hire someone to complete a site plan for you, there are several reasons that you should complete it yourself.

The biggest reason is the money you can save! The average architect or engineer will charge between $60 and $125 an hour to render a site plan.

So here are the ways you can complete a site plan yourself:

Pen and paper

You can take the necessary measurements and transfer everything to paper by hand. However, this method does leave room for human error and is often difficult to read (not to mention it’s incredibly time-consuming).

Desktop CAD software

A better option is to use CAD software. After taking your measurements, you can then sit down at your computer and the software will aid you in creating an accurate and readable design.

There’s also less chance of losing your site plan when using CAD software, as you can save your design to your computer or the Cloud.

However, desktop CAD software can be expensive and take years to master. It's also clunky and not easy to use when at the site.

Mobile CAD

For ultimate ease of use, we would recommend using a mobile CAD app. Similar to the desktop software, the app will assist you in creating an accurate design but with the added bonus of being able to do it in real-time while making your measurements.

With ArcSite, users can also add location-based photos for ultimate readability. And your entire design is easily uploaded to the Cloud for easy access and collaboration!

IMG_0141A site plan in ArcSite, with each blue camera representing location-based photos

The takeaway

Site plans are a great tool for designing and laying out your work. Being able to identify the existing structures and features of a site makes planning your work faster and easier.

When creating your own site plan, ArcSite can help you to quickly create a precise and professional-looking design without leaving the site.

Request a demo of ArcSite today!

Similar posts

The latest ArcSite features and updates, right in your inbox.

ArcSite is always improving. Be the first to know about new developments in ArcSite and how they help move your business forward.