How Important is Land Surveying in Today’s World?

land surveying

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Most of you have probably never thought about land surveying until you needed it at some point. Many of us hear about land surveying all the time but never really give it much thought.

Since an investment in land and/or a home will likely be the largest investment you will ever make in your lifetime, knowing where your property lines are becomes very important indeed.

The art of land surveying was developed centuries ago. In fact, it’s one of the oldest professions in the world. The fact that it was used by man at such an early time and is still being used now shows how important surveying is to our survival.

Modern Uses of Land Surveying

Surveying land has many uses. Boundary surveying, for instance, allows you to know where your property corners or property lines are. This is especially helpful when disputes with a neighbour or with other people arise in terms of where your property ends.

If your family wants to divide a tract of land and transfer ownership to other family members, a boundary survey is the first step to do so. If you’re having a building constructed, it is very important that you have the land surveyed to make sure that you are not encroaching onto other peoples’ property. A mistaken building location is very expensive to fix so you might as well invest in a boundary survey to prevent this.

A topographic survey, or topo survey for short, is another important type of land surveying. A topo survey is done to locate natural and man-made features on a particular parcel of land. A topographic survey is different in that the elevation of the land is surveyed which means it can show man-made underground features, retaining walls, utility lines and etc.

Before you start any kind of construction activity, it’s important to have a topo survey done in the area so they’ll have an accurate record of the land’s existing conditions. Yes, that spot with the new mall in the neighbourhood had to have a topo survey done first.

Now, a flood survey or flood determination – this is very important too. It isn’t evident just looking at a property whether you are at risk of flooding or not. And, in some cases, even looking at the flood maps doesn’t give you an accurate answer.

The flood survey determines the elevation of the home and compares that to the base flood elevation. This is the only way to be sure you’re not in a flood hazard zone. If you’ve just been told that you live in a flood-prone area, having that confirmed by a professional land surveyor would let you know how to best proceed.

When getting flood insurance, insurance companies would require an elevation certificate from you. A land surveyor would be able to assist you with this.

If a company wants to invest in another state, or if there is a national lender on a commercial project, they will likely need an ALTA Land Title Survey done before anything is constructed. An ALTA Land Title Survey is a lot like a regular boundary survey except that nationally accepted ALTA Standards are used to guide the surveying effort.

Land surveying standards vary widely from state to state and an ALTA Land Title Survey is used to cut down on this variation. Also, an ALTA Land Title Survey typically is more involved than the state standards variety.

Because of this, an ALTA survey can be more anywhere from 50% to 200% more expensive than using the state standards only. If you need this type of survey, I suggest seeking an experienced land surveying company who is familiar with these additional requirements.

In summary, there are many uses for a land survey and for seeking the services of a land surveyor. If you’re unsure of your situation, consult Dadeville Land Surveying at (256) 307-1447 today or go to the Contact page and send us an email.

Land Surveying: Estimating the Cost

land surveying

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Land surveying, simply speaking, is the science (and art) of establishing or re-establishing property corners, property lines and/or boundaries.

There may be different reasons why someone needs a piece of property surveyed. Probably the most common one is to evaluate if a piece of land is vulnerable to flooding, to subdivide real estate to sell or deed to members of the family or to know if there are any encroachments.

This could happen when a neighbor disputes that you’re using a section of his lot or or vice-versa (for more on this, check this page).

How much does Land Surveying cost?

If you need to have a piece of land surveyed, the first thing that may come to mind is “how much will it cost?” There are numerous factors determining just how much land surveying your property would cost. The fact that this type of service must be accomplished by an expert contributes a lot to the total cost of the service, but choosing a non-professional to survey your land is dangerous, and probably illegal for the non-professional to do.

Because of this you should to take a good look around before settling with a surveying company. If you must work inside a particular budget, discuss this with the surveyor up front. Often he or she may be able to offer cost-saving steps to get the work you need done within your cost limits.T

he form of the land should also looked into. A square or a rectangular piece of land is easier to survey than an odd-shaped parcel, or one with many sides. With the latter, the surveyor will need to take more time in surveying the curves and the bends, which would mean the cost of the service would be higher. The actual measurement of the land is also a key factor here.

Keep in mind that the cost of land surveying is typically proportionate to the time and effort that a land surveyor would spend on the project. If the land that you’re having surveyed is not accessible, or has thick vegetation, then the total price of the survey could go higher. This is also true of the climate conditions, which could affect the work. Surveying in the summer is slower, in order to keep from putting the crew members in danger. Also, most surveying cannot be done in the rain.

When requesting an estimate, remember that surveyors base the estimate on expected conditions at the site. These conditions could change, resulting in additional costs. Always ask about these potential additional cost scenarios.

All that being said, competitive prices are also to be expected, which is why we recommend selecting a surveyor based upon his experience and reputation and not on the price he writes on a piece of paper. Usually it is far better to spend a good amount of money on a survey that’s well-done rather than pick a company with a very “affordable” price, but have the survey repeated because the results were wrong.

In conclusion, it is best to discuss the costs of the survey before you ask the surveyor to begin with his work. It’s also advisable to obtain a contract that lets you know what is expected of the land surveyor. This is one of the most important steps in having your land surveyed.

To get a free land surveying quote, call Dadeville Land Surveying at (256) 307-1447 or send us a message by going here.

Why You SHOULD Have a Land Survey Completed Before Purchasing Land?

The importance of land survey before purchasing land

land surveyBuying land, whether commercial or residential, is actually a costly endeavor, even though prices have eased somewhat lately. This is the reason locating a parcel you like and making a deal for it without performing a land survey within the area is likely to be the greatest mistake that you could make.

Here’s why it’s extremely important that you have a land survey done first:

Land surveyors can determine whether you’re actually getting what you’re going to pay for. Land surveying establishes whether or not the sidewalks, trees, driveways and even the bird bath are part of the property you’re planning to buy. Land surveying also determines whether the neighbors are encroaching onto your property, which would then mean you’re likely to have problems later on with your neighbors.

Getting a land surveyor doesn’t only mean you will know what you’re getting or not getting; land surveyors are the experts, so they can help with building regulations, wetland regulations, etc. Please note that these regulations may change any time, but land surveyors ought to be updated on these regulations; or if not, they’ll refer you to somebody who is.

Let’s say the present landowner (the one selling the land) supplies you with old land survey documents. You should still hire your personal land surveyor to find out if the boundary monuments remain in position. Also, land surveying done a couple of years back might not show recent changes to the land. When the existing survey is older than about 10 years, you need to get the latest survey. Technology and surveying standards are much better now and could give you more confidence in the survey work.

In addition, that survey was completed for that owner. He might have instructed the surveyor not to show some things on the drawing. At least have a land surveyor get out there and evaluate the parcel using this survey in hand. We have witnessed numerous cases when a whole new land survey would save the customer thousands, so don’t be a victim.

I’ve heard many say getting a land surveyor is nothing but unnecessary expense. I’ll let you know what’s unnecessary: the worries brought on by paying thousands of dollars for something and finding yourself not receiving whatever you were expecting. If you’re smart, you’ll hire a professional surveyor to do the land survey prior to making any land purchases.

The Lost Art of Locating Property Corners

Locating Property Corners

Article by Glen Tanner, Professional Land Surveyor, Copyright 2011, Used by Permission

property cornersThe art of finding property corners is being lost. The following picture shows what inspired this article.
The two rebar, a #4 rebar and a #5 rebar, shown in the photo to the right are 1.9 feet apart and set in 1994 or after according to the client.
Did surveyors not have Minimum Technical Standards and magnetic locators or at least an aqua locator in 1994?
How many of you surveyors had your crew come in and the party chief tells you that they had to set an iron because they couldn’t find an iron pin? How many of you accept this or do you check it out yourself?
There is a lot of iron ore in the rocks around these two rebar, which will mess with magnetic locators if you;re not patient. (Photos taken 03-16-11)
Any time I go into an old subdivision, pre-1980-85 before surveyors started using rebar, and see capped rebar at corners where galvanized iron pins, solid bars or old irons should be, I always ask myself how hard did the surveyor look before setting the corner.
Setting a new pin Increases the land surveyor’s liability AND causes confusion as to the true location of the property boundaries.

In old neighborhoods, especially those that go up and down steep inclines, very seldom do the irons on the ground match the recorded plat or deed, in angle or in distance, and if you try to use a pre-set data collector and a total station, 9 out of 10 times you will not find all the property corners – not because they’re missing, but because you’re probably in the wrong place or weren’t looking hard enough.

We should always remember that in old subdivisions and old boundary surveys, surveyors used plumb bobs, chain, theodolite, and no one knows what the closure of the survey may have been, if it even had one.


Property CornersAlmost all survey crews today have a magnetic pin finder and either a bushaxe or machete. But for some jobs, these aren’t adequate. As a Professional Surveyor, I use the tools shown to the left.
Without them, how do you expect your crews to locate property corners if they can’t even dig them up?
The magnetic locator in this picture is about 17 years old. It is held together with JB-weld and duck tape.
The reason I don’t buy a new one is because new isn’t always better; when it growls I understand why, when it screams I know why. Most of all I’ve had very good luck with it finding corners.
I have always used an aqua locator, the small black box in the picture, near fences or when I doubt what the magnetic locator is doing. An aqua locator works as deep as 2 feet. I go through a sharp shooter a yearl the pick is for hard ground, the post hole diggers are for when the sharp shooter doesn’t work getting out the dirt.
The next question is how low will you go to find a property corner? In other words, how deep will you dig before you give up and set a property corner?

The following pictures were taken 3-16-11 but the work was done about a week before. (That is why you will see a post in the picture.) I re-dug the hole to get the photo of this rare find. The first item I found was the bottom of a coke bottle (center of the photo).

How many of your crew members would quit here, thinking this is garbage? Would they keep digging and discover the property corner UNDER the bottle?

Property Corners
Property CornersHow deep does your crew dig to find a property corner? I personally go until I’m absolutely sure.

One open-top iron pipe found – the original property corner on this subdivision lot. 

The deepest I have ever had to dig to locate an iron is 3 feet. I have found old irons that a tree has grown over or around as much as a foot in the tree. This lot was a 100 by 200 according to the plat, but on the ground along the road it measured 98 feet, along the rear of the lot, 96 feet and 198 feet in depth.

Boy, this one sure matched the plat. This lot originally was an Autauga county gully that has been filled. The plat was recorded in 1969 and all lots shown on the plat along the south line were shown to be 160 feet plus or minus. Do you believe the rest of the subdivision is going to match the plat?

Finding instead of setting property corners

Due to improper equipment, lack of skill and training, or proper time and effort by land surveyors and survey crews to locate or find property corners in old subdivisions, more and more corners are being set instead of being found. I have always believed it is better to find an original corner than to set a new  corner.


Property CornersAsk anyone that knows me, they will tell you, before Glen Tanner quits looking and sets an iron, the ground will look like it has been attacked by armadillos and groundhogs.
The art and skill of finding property corners is disappearing.
We as surveyors need to teach and emphasize the need to look for and locate property corners. I find about 90% of property corners in old subdivisions. It isn’t always easy and some of the time it is very time consuming.
I have been known to go back on a different day, after having had time to look at my field data, and start fresh with a better idea on where to look before setting an iron pin. It does work but it takes time; it is something we don’t allow ourselves or allow our survey crews – time to look.

Isn’t our duty as a land surveyor to follow in the footsteps of the original land surveyor as closely as possible, not to re-interpret or move a corner to where it calculates? Many of you surveyors are going to say that your “clients aren’t going to pay for it” or “I didn’t allow that much time in the job to be going back.”

That’s our job, Isn’t it? Isn’t it required by the Standards of Practice? Isn’t it our ethical duty to protect the public and to do these things regardless of what the client is willing to pay or how much time we have allowed in the job?The art to finding old irons is to listen to property owners, who know the area, or how it was surveyed, but most of all taking the time to look and dig.

That’s right – dig – a lot. My magnetic locator doesn’t have a brain, it didn’t go to school, it doesn’t speak English, Spanish or French – But, it will lie to you. Learn to understand your equipment, something that may take months, even a year or two.

Understanding the squeaks and squalls of the magnetic locator signal being sent to the user is important. Remember be patient, learn what what to look for and most of all – dig, dig, dig. THIS is the art of locating old property corners.

If you need help locating your property lines or property corners in the Dadeville area, please call the Dadeville land surveyors at (256) 307-1447. Our field crew strives to live up to the high standards Glen talks about in this article.