Thumb rules for designing a Column layout | Civil Engineering

Guidelines to be followed for making a column layout | Building Construction

Today, we will discuss something very general. Inspite of knowing these general thumb rules, Civil Engineers still end up making disastrous mistakes which would not only cost them but also cost the people living in the building designed by these engineers.

Earlier, I wrote an article describing one of my projects where structural designing was executed on site (which was extremely pathetic) even before Architectural design was done. (Check out: Consequences of Wrong Structural Design | Live Project example)

In this article, we will go through the essential thumb rules to be followed for giving a column layout. Ofcourse RCC columns have to be designed in accordance to the total load on the columns but apart from that it is essential for every Civil engineer and Architect to remember a few thumb rules so that they are prevented from making mistakes.

Three thumb rules to be followed are as follows:

  1. Size of the Columns
  2. Distance between Columns
  3. Alignment of columns

Thumb rule no.1

Size of the columns

The size of the columns depends on the total load on the columns.

Minimum size of the column should not be less than 9”x9”.

9”x9” columns are to be used for a single storey structure with M15 grade of concrete.

In case, 9”x9” column size is to be used for 1 and half storey structure, then it is advised to use M20 grade concrete.

A safe and structurally sound column size for a 1 and half storey structure should not be less than 12”x9” using M15 grade concrete. This should be in your most preferred and practical options list.

 Thumb rule no.2

Distance between the columns

Try to maintain equal distance between the centres of two columns. Always plan a column layout on a grid.

The distance between two columns of size 9”x9” should not be more than 4m centre to centre of column.

If larger barrier free distances are required then going for larger column size is to be used.

The size of the columns increase because of two factors:

  1. Increase in the distance between two columns (This increases the dimensions of the columns as well the depth of the beam.)
  2. Height of the building (Increase in the number of floors is directly proportional to the dimensions of the columns.

 Thumb rule no.3

Alignment of Columns

A rectangular grid is to be made for placing the columns. This helps in avoiding mistakes and placing in columns can be done in the right way.

The columns can preferably be arranged in two different fashions:

  1. In a straight line with the help of a grid
  2. In a circular fashion for circular buildings.

Zigzag arrangement of columns is an absolutely wrong way of working out Structural design. It should be remembered that when columns are erected, beams are laid connecting the columns.

The Zigzag column placement causes three major issues:

  1. Unbalanced load transfer
  2. Problems in wall construction
  3. Problems in laying beams

If these three thumb rules are followed by Civil Engineering and Architecture students, implementation of wrong Structural design can be prevented.

In the next article, I will explain these three thumb rules with the help of an example “Column Layout for a Residence“.

Also read:

Introduction to design of RCC Structures

Building Design Guide which includes design of:

  1. RCC columns
  2. RCC beams
  3. Foundations
  4. Staircase


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  1. #1 by Ghulam Mustafa Vira on September 9, 2011 - 10:58 am

    wow gr8 stuff thanx

    • #2 by BenzuJK on September 9, 2011 - 11:53 am

      Hello Mustafa,
      I am glad our article has been of help to you. Do keep visiting.
      Cheers :)

      • #3 by Ringwang on December 22, 2011 - 1:36 am

        Dear Sir/madam.
        My site plan total area is 45’X40′. I required longest distant b/w two coulmn is 20ft and 10ft. can you suggest me what size of column i have to take and also beam depth. and types.

        • #4 by Ringwang on December 22, 2011 - 3:01 am

          i need one office room for the five empolyer and one for the cheif person. also two toilet. and verandha of 7ft. please how i have to make the column layout

        • #5 by BenzuJK on July 26, 2013 - 5:33 pm

          Hello Ringwang,

          You can now approach our experts at Civil Projects Online for advise and also for getting the structural design done.

          Design Services by Civil Projects Online

      • #6 by awais on April 2, 2012 - 9:27 pm


      • #7 by ADIL YOUSAF ADIL on August 13, 2012 - 5:05 pm

        thanks for this good welfare

      • #8 by Abdul on September 22, 2012 - 7:54 pm

        Hi Benz!!
        I really find this site educative..I am a new bee in this field..I am now planning to construct a 2-storey residential house with my 25cmX25cm column with 4-20mm rebars is safe? Average distance between column is 3.5m..waiting for your valuable comment..thanks a lot.

      • #9 by venkatesh on November 21, 2014 - 11:06 am


        It is really very informative.

        Thanks a lot…!

  2. #10 by Poonguzhale.V on September 27, 2011 - 2:53 am

    worth stuff. thanks a lot

    • #11 by sharif on November 13, 2012 - 3:39 am

      Hello dear
      I have some question in column and beam
      about column please tell me the minimum and maximum
      steel bars in column and beam
      numbers and dia of steels

  3. #12 by Vaibhav kashyap on December 3, 2011 - 4:42 am

    Igts really worth article…..

  4. #13 by sunita on January 31, 2012 - 3:02 am

    Really helpful article
    Thanks for sharing

  5. #14 by rhon ammang on February 15, 2012 - 11:14 pm


  6. #15 by YTSRAO on March 11, 2012 - 11:50 pm

    I am new to RCC & Structural design. Can i know suitable books for Slab, beam, Staircase designs etc.

    • #16 by BenzuJK on December 7, 2013 - 5:15 am

      There are a lot of books, most of them have the same technical information. My personal favourite was a book by Shah-Kale. Very easy to understand and learn structural design.

  7. #17 by Raju on March 20, 2012 - 6:46 pm

    I’m building a 2 storied residential building (800) sq.ft. There are 12 columns. height of each column from base to floor level is 9 ft. I want to make singletie beam of 10×12 at pl level. My engineer suggests me for 2 tie bems, one at 5′ & another at 9′ height. Is it required? pl. mail me

  8. #18 by khan on April 14, 2012 - 2:51 am

    how i calculate steel of roof if we have 20 meter short bore and 40 meter is long bore steel type is 6# and how we will convert in weight, thanks

  9. #19 by loi on April 20, 2012 - 12:08 am

    it helps me a lot…thanks for sharing.

  10. #20 by KANNAN on May 1, 2012 - 2:35 am


  11. #21 by Gerard on May 2, 2012 - 4:51 pm

    Sorry, if I may sound dumb as I am a new bee.
    What does ‘1 and half storey structure’ mean? A house will be either 1 or 2 storey.

    Also, would it be ok if the column size is 12″x12″ using M15 grade concrete?

    Thanks in advance.

    • #22 by BenzuJK on May 15, 2012 - 10:17 am

      Hello Gerard,
      1 and half storey is calculated by adding the length of the plinth beam and the parapet wall. When their lengths are added, they sum up to 5′ which is equivalent to half storey. This is assumed so since they have to be considered in the structural design calculations.
      As far as column size is concerned, the column size for any building is derived from its structural calculations.

      Go through the following article. It will be of help to you.
      Building design Guide | Structural Design

  12. #23 by mahantesh on July 13, 2012 - 4:56 am

    hi..its very nice article if possible mail me thumbrules for brick masonry.

  13. #24 by Gourav tiwari on July 30, 2012 - 4:49 am

    Very nice articles. Thanks for such a wonderful job.
    GhPlease mention some more thumb rule practised in civil eng.

  14. #25 by Nishi on August 22, 2012 - 9:18 am

    hey.. that was really helpful but can u tell me what should be the size of the columns and c-c distance if we are working on a large area and have to give a barrier free movement like in a hospital?
    also if we plan to give some parts double height.. will that change the dimensions of the column?

  15. #26 by Dongapar Nyikango on October 8, 2012 - 12:28 am

    Could you kindly provide with an article on how to design flat slabs. You are articles are helpful to civil engineers.
    with best wishes,

  16. #27 by Shweta on November 5, 2012 - 8:32 pm

    Really its very easy to understand.

  17. #28 by Rollson Lasrado on December 2, 2012 - 7:17 am


    tons of useful info on the site. Awesome work. Kudos! Would like to clarify a few things about though – when you say zigzag arrangment of column is wrong what exactly do you mean. i’ve come across projects where there is a basic grid but all the columns may not be alligned to form perfect rectangles. but the beams connecting four columns do form a rectangles. when you say zig zag what exactly do you mean? clarification much appreciated!


    Rollson lasrado

    • #29 by BenzuJK on July 26, 2013 - 7:07 pm

      In this case, it means the columns should preferably in a straight line and not placed randomly.

  18. #30 by shankhpal shivdas D. on May 19, 2013 - 12:07 am

    sir,i am planned to construct g+1 storey my depth is 6’on hard strata i.e on hard murum strata.length of house is 50’*10.5′ .pl.advice me about r.c.c. footing, no.of columns placing of columns,reinforced bar details in column, same details about beams and slab

    • #31 by BenzuJK on July 26, 2013 - 5:11 pm

      Hello Shankpal,

      There is some good news I would like to share with you. Civil projects Online has officially launched its Architectural and Structural Design Services. You can immediately get in touch with them and get the answers to your questions. It is important for you to understand that we cannot generalize the structural design of columns and footings. It needs expertise without which it cannot be constructed safe and sound. We spend lacs of rupees on the construction of our houses because we build them once in our lifetime. Hence, it is important to go the right way and not take chances by deciding the number of columns and footings on our own.
      The entire aim of offering design services at such low costs is so that people belonging to all levels are able to afford it. We want the best for you.

      Take a look and you should definitely get in touch.

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      Look forward to hearing from you.

  19. #32 by Ram on July 20, 2013 - 6:13 pm

    KANNAN :

  20. #33 by Ram on July 20, 2013 - 6:18 pm

    hi . i need some another web sites for our civil related

  21. #34 by Ritesh kumar singh on July 20, 2013 - 10:44 pm

    nice guidance

  22. #35 by gokul on October 29, 2013 - 3:45 am

    it’s very nice

  23. #36 by victor on December 5, 2013 - 3:55 am

    Dear sir, room size 36feet /13 feet. please let me know reinforcement details of coulmns and slab. soil is gravel in loose

  24. #37 by hemanth on July 24, 2014 - 11:21 pm

    Is 12 mm iron 8 numbers enough for column size of 6″*18″ for site measuring 250 sq feet for 4 floors

  25. #38 by lakhwinder singh on September 27, 2014 - 10:34 am

    Sir.i want to construct two stories house problem is that we want to live on first floor leaving ground floor on columns for parking a car tractor area is 800sqft

    • #39 by BenzuJK on October 26, 2014 - 5:01 pm

      Dear Mr Singh,

      It would be wise to employ a Civil Engineer to guide you.

  26. #40 by ASHISH SAHU on January 10, 2015 - 11:02 am

    Hello Sir,

    Thanks for all the posts & your suggestions, it is very helpful for all peoples. Here after reading the post “thumb rules for designing column”, I have some problem. Last year I have constructed my home of G floor & made all column & beam of 9″x9″ with 4 nos. 12mm bars & used M15 concrete. Distance of all column are 12′.

    I want to construct this year one floor more (so G+1), pls suggest whether my home will be at risk or OK to survive. And another thing, Suppose in future I want to construct one more floor, How the same can be achieved???

    ….Ashish Sahu

    • #41 by BenzuJK on July 16, 2015 - 6:23 pm

      If you do that your house will collapse. Thumb rules are minimum standards and not meant to be used by layman like you. They are to be used under the supervision of a Civil engineer who is an expert in this field. If you need experts working on your project, you should be willing to pay them as well unless you want your house to collapse and your family killed under the debris.

  27. #42 by virender on January 26, 2015 - 10:47 pm

    Dear Sir\mam
    I want to know that if we are constructing a 3 storey house than what should be the distance between 2 columns. please tell the minimum distance which can be between the two coloums.

    • #43 by BenzuJK on February 18, 2015 - 12:41 pm

      There is no minimum or maximum distance. It all depends on the design. You should hire a structural designer. You are building a house for 60 years lifespan. You can get a good structural designer for Rs 7 per square feet builtup area. That is a small investment for complete peace of mind.

  28. #44 by bidul boruah on May 29, 2015 - 9:47 am

    thanks for your article

  29. #45 by nimesh on January 3, 2016 - 11:28 am

    Sir if architect plan a building with columns not in grid instead structural engineer what are factors to be considered?

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