Q: I am preparing to polish a large concrete floor at a big box retailer and have a set of blueprints to study. This is the first time I've seen such prints. I'm not sure why they are important for me. Where should I start?

A: Let's start with the basics. Understanding how to read blueprints in construction is like a carpenter knowing how to use a hammer, drill, or tape measure. It should be a basic knowledge requirement for any person in the construction and contracting environment.

Drawings (construction documents, prints, blueprints) provide the owner, general contractor, sub-contractors, and suppliers the information needed to bid and build the project.

Visualizing the plans is the initial component. Viewing an architect's perspective of the project, a detailed elevation, or simply flipping through the drawings begins the print reading process. Absorbing the image of the project in its entirety provides a sense of completeness.

Interpreting the information follows visualization. Interpretation requires more time delving into the drawings. Each building is different and every architect and engineer draws and details each project differently. Interpretation begins by flipping through the entire set, sheet by sheet, and noting the information pertinent to your scope of work.

I have been asked how I learned to read drawings so well. I earned my degree in architecture, spent several years drawing buildings for a variety of architects and engineers, estimated for a general contractor, and did some project management. My work experience required reviewing plans repeatedly and researching the information needed for each project. The more I did this, the more I understood print reading.