How to Find the Plans or Blueprints to Your Old House

If you’ve recently purchased an older home, finding the original house plans or blueprints can provide useful insight into the home’s layout, construction details, and any renovations or additions. Accessing these documents helps owners, contractors, and architects better understand the property when planning renovations or restorations. Here are some tips on tracking down vintage house plans and blueprints.

Check with the Local Building Department

The first place to look for older house plans or blueprints is your local building or permitting department. When a home is constructed, the builder must submit a copy of the plans along with the permit application. The department keeps these records on file for reference.

To obtain a copy, contact the building department and provide the property’s address and approximate year of construction. While rules vary by jurisdiction, these records are usually available to homeowners. There may be a small retrieval fee.

The building department should have the original drawings, though blueprint copies have likely faded over the decades. Some areas have digitized older records, making them easier to access. If you’re unsure which department to contact, your local city or county government website is a good starting point.

Search Property Deeds and Records

If the building department doesn’t have the documents, the next step is checking property records for any attached house plans. When a home is bought and sold, the deed recording can include ancillary documents like surveys, appraisals, and blueprints.

Contact the recorder’s office or deeds registry in your county or city to do a records search. Provide the property address and sale year if possible. There may be a fee to access documents.

Skim records for attachments relating to the home’s specifications. Keep in mind that really old records or hand-drawn plans may not have been saved digitally. You may need to schedule an appointment to view hard copies in person.

Look for Filings at the Planning Office

For newer properties, the local planning department may have the plans on hand. This is more likely for homes built within the last few decades. Builders submit drawings to ensure compliance with zoning, setbacks, height restrictions, and other regulations.

Contact your city or county planning office to ask about filing procedures for house plans. Provide the address and year built. There is usually no charge to view plans, but options to obtain copies vary.

One caveat is that planning departments generally keep limited decades of records readily available. If the home is quite old, these filings may have been archived or destroyed. But for newer builds, it’s worth inquiring.

Check with Previous Homeowners

Contacting past owners of the home can yield originals or copies of the floor plans. Make sure to ask both recent sellers and those who lived there decades ago.

Long-term residents may have been given the prints during the sales process. Or they may have copied the plans for their own records. Track down their current address and write a letter requesting information about house documents.

For more recent owners, prints may have been included in the home sale disclosures. Reach out to ask if they retained any helpful drawings or schematics about the property layout.

If you lack contact information, online people search databases may help locate past occupants’ current addresses. Search by name and location history to find the best records.

Search Historical Archives

Local historical societies and university archives can house vintage house plans, especially for older or architect-designed homes. If your residence dates back 50+ years, contact area archives to ask about their collections.

Provide the year built, neighborhood, builder’s name, and any other notable details. The archivist can search their catalog for any related materials. This may turn up scans, microfilm copies, or original prints filed away for preservation.

You may need to visit in person to view records, or pay a small fee for document retrieval. If the prints are one-of-a-kind, the archive likely can’t release the originals. But arrange to have copies made for personal use.

Check with the Architect or Designer

For architect-designed homes, contact the original firm to request a drawing set. Mid-century modern houses, Victorians, and other custom builds may have records still retained by the architect.

Search online or directory listings to find contact information for the designing firm, if still operating. Provide the build year and client name to ask if project documents are available. There may be fees involved for printing copies.

If the firm has dissolved, research to find the inheriting business or archived collections. Professional associations for architects may also help you trace who took over closed practices.

Search Online Databases

Various internet databases have searchable collections of house plans that may contain your home’s original schematics. Most focus on specific styles or decades.

For mid-century modern homes, Retro Renovation offers a database of post-war blueprints from designers like Frank Lloyd Wright. Search by designer name, model name, or browse by style. They provide article scans and info on ordering reproductions.

House Plans Helper contains over 100,000 designs from 1910-1970. Browse by decade or architectural style. Purchase downloads or prints from their expansive archives.

The Sears Archives has catalogs of kit homes sold in the early 20th century. Search to see if your Sears-Roebuck house matches anything in their collection of models.

Hire a Professional

If your own search comes up empty, consider hiring a professional. Some companies specialize in retrieving archival records, including house plans.

Firms like Archive Builders use specialized research skills to locate plans, even tapping into restricted archives. They also contact previous homeowners, builders, city offices, and design firms.

Professional fees range widely based on the time investment required. Define the years to search and records wanted to get a price quote. Make sure to request electronic copies for your own records.

Locate Similar Floor Plans as Examples

If original schematics remain elusive, use original houses of the same style and era as a guide. Finding similar designs provides approximate room layouts, dimensions, and features.

Consult archives and databases to locate floor plans for homes matching yours in square footage, bedrooms, style, and age. For common styles like ranch houses, many examples exist.

While not an exact replacement, similar plans from the same time period act as a handy reference point for your remodeling projects. Adapt these borrowed blueprints as needed.

Recreate Plans from Scratch

When all else fails, create as-built plans yourself from careful measurements. This process takes time and some DIY drafting skills. But for homes lacking documents, it may be your only recourse.

Start by sketching an overall outline with interior room sizes. Use a measuring tape to capture each dimension as precisely as possible. Mark window and door placements.

Take pictures of each room and direction to supplement your drawings. Note any sloped ceilings, odd angles, or additions that require special attention.

Use an online room planning tool or CAD software to recreate a measured floor plan. Add detail like fixtures and appliances. Triple-check accuracy before using these owner-drafted prints.

Hire an Architectural Draftsperson

If DIY plan creation sounds daunting, hire a professional draftsperson to draw as-built blueprints. These experts take exact measurements and create CAD technical drawings.

Look for independent floor plan sketch artists, or architects and building firms that offer drafting as a standalone service. Provide overall dimensions and a sketch to begin.

Onsite measuring typically takes 1-3 days depending on the home size. You’ll receive digitized drawings within another 1-2 weeks. Prices range from $1,000-$5,000+ depending on detail level.

Though pricier than DIY plans, professionally drafted blueprints offer greater accuracy. Know the home’s quirks before major remodeling.

Review Property Surveys

Checked with the county surveyor’s office for any existing property boundary surveys. These documents indicate exterior dimensions, easements, and key site features.

While surveys don’t show interior layouts, they provide exact exterior footprint dimensions as a reference point. This helps accurately position the home on the site when recreating plans.

Order a boundary survey if none exists. Use this to scale your drawings appropriately and determine overall size. Add interior details based on room measurements.


Rediscovering your home’s original house plans or blueprints takes some detective work, but unlocks valuable insights. Check with building departments, records offices, archives, past owners, and design firms to uncover vintage documents. Consider hiring a professional researcher or architect if needed. Refer to similar plans or recreate your own measured drawings as a last resort. With a bit of diligence, you can resurrect the home’s original blueprints.

Frequently Asked Questions About Finding Old House Plans

Searching for the plans or blueprints to an old house often involves lots of questions. Here are some common FAQs about the hunt for vintage home documents.

Why are old house plans useful?

Original plans let you see how the house was first built and any changes over time. This helps guide remodeling, expansions, repairs, and restorations. Plans also provide helpful construction details not always evident by just looking at the home.

What years of records do building departments keep?

Retention periods vary greatly by jurisdiction. Most have 20+ years of readily accessible records. Very old plans may be archived or destroyed after several decades. Check with your local department about their practices.

How do I trace previous homeowners if I don’t have their names?

Search property transaction records via the county assessor’s site to find past sales with owners’ names. Cross-reference names with people finder sites to locate current addresses and contact info.

What if my home is historic?

Contact local historical societies about archived records for historically designated homes. Special collections may hold rare documents not available elsewhere locally.

What blueprint details should I recreate myself?

Measure all room dimensions, window and door placements, ceiling heights, and fixture locations. Photograph each room from multiple angles. Note any odd angles, alcoves, or uneven floors/ceilings.

Who should I hire to create as-built plans?

Look for an independent residential draftsperson, architectural firm, builder, or renovation contractor experienced in creating existing-home floor plans. Review past drafting projects and CAD skills.

How much does it cost to have plans recreated?

Expect $1,000-$5,000+ depending on the home size, detail level, and professional’s rates. Complex layouts, angles, or alterations require more onsite measuring time.

How accurate are the original house plans after years of changes?

Older plans reflect the original design but not necessarily how the home currently exists. Use them as a reference point but verify current details yourself before major work.

Finding vintage house plans takes some sleuthing, but yields invaluable home insights. Follow these tips to hunt down original blueprints and resurrect your home’s as-built architectural history.


Uncovering original house plans or blueprints for an older home often requires persistence, creativity, and looking in unexpected places. But the hunt pays dividends through unique home insights that can’t be gained any other way. Vintage schematics provide a useful guide for renovations, restoration, repairs, and remodeling work.

Contact local municipal offices, archives, former homeowners, architects, and internet databases in your search. Don’t be afraid to dig deep and tap unconventional resources. If all else fails, consider hiring a professional researcher or carefully recreating plans yourself. Rediscovering the home’s architectural origins and evolution is well worth the effort. The past plans become a valuable reference tool for improving and updating your house for the future.