How Do I Learn to Read Blueprints?

My high school physics said the language of science is mathematics. Since I never spoke that language too well, I wasn’t much of a scientist. I’ve been an effective contractor, though, and have learned the language of construction: drawings. We communicate in job trailers by pointing to the significant sections of drawings. We make sketches, often quite rough, to show what we’re trying to say.

In short, if you want to advance in construction, learn to read drawings well and to make rough sketches. It’s a simple language to learn (I’m the least visual person I know and I learned it), but it does take some studying.

So, how do you learn to read blueprints? It’s a little like eating elephants. You might ask me, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer, of course, is “One bite at a time.”

Novice blueprint readers look at the entire page of words, lines and weird symbols and get overwhelmed. It’s easy at that point for your brain to shut down and you just say, “I can’t read blueprints.” If you tried to read an entire page of words at the same time, you couldn’t do that either. You simply have to calm down, start at one corner and begin figuring out what you can learn from the blueprint. The main difference between a blueprint and a page of text is that you know to start at the top left corner on a page of text, then to left to right till the bottom of the page. Blueprints don’t have a place you need to start.

So where should you start?