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.

What You Need to Know About Hiring a Land Surveyor

Hiring a Land Surveyor

 

land surveyorWe pay good money to hire somebody just to get them do what needs to be done. If you want to make the most of your money, it just makes sense to hire the best. I’m sure nobody wants to pay good money and get lousy service in return.

If you’re looking for a land surveyor, here are a few things that you should remember.You need to choose from a pool of land surveyors in order to find the best. Looking for land surveying companies in your area would be a very good start. Aside from the Yellow Pages, you can also check the newspaper and the internet. Compile a list of the companies’ contact information that includes their phone numbers, email addresses and websites.

Hire a Licensed Surveyor

Make sure that the person you’ll be working with is a licensed surveyor. Ask for a copy of his or her license so you could check its authenticity. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints against the company.

Another important thing to remember is to hire someone whom you’ll be comfortable working with. In order to determine this, meet with the land surveyor you’re planning to hire. You’ll be able to decide by the way he or she talks to you or answers your questions. Aside from seeing if you’ll be comfortable around him, you’ll also be able to assess how knowledgeable he is.

Make sure that you thoroughly read and understand the contract before signing it. Read everything, especially the fine print. Also make sure you’ll be getting the services that you’ll pay for, and that there are no hidden charges. Signing a contract makes you legally bound to its terms, so make sure that you fully understand what you’re signing up for.

It’s not really that hard hiring a land surveyor. Just remember to hire someone who is honest when it comes to doing the job so that you get the best bang for your buck.

Winter Snow Melt Could Mean Higher Flood Risk Than Last Eight Years

flood survey | flooding potentialWhile we here in Alabama may not have to worry TOO much about snow melt, this does affect our flooding potential, especially in the northern counties of the state.
Folks in the Huntsville area, and many other areas of the state, have seen their FEMA flood maps change recently. Many who were “out of the flood zone” are now shown “in the flood zone.”
While, technically, the flood zone hasn’t really changed, the new and more extensive drainage studies that were done have identified more areas that are at risk of flooding.
Well, this new study could be just in time for you IF you pay attention to your flood risks.
If you live along, or near, a major river in our area, then you should pay attention to this issue as an article on this year’s flood outlook warns.
“It’s kind of hard with this much on the ground to start talking about flooding and planning and thinking flooding, but when you’ve got this much snow and we’re coming into the time of year we’re coming into, if you’re wise you’ll start planning for flooding,” said Marion County Emergency Management Director John Hark.
Another factor for river flooding is ground saturation level, based on the amount and frequency of spring rains. If you get a couple of days of light to moderate rain, and on the next day you get a “toad strangler” (technical term), then the ground will likely be saturated and unable to soak up any more water.
This means that the majority of the storm water will run off and cause the streams and rivers to swell more than they would normally in an equal size rain event. This is actually called the “antecedent moisture condition.”
We normally count on the ground to soak up from thirty to sixty percent of the rainfall it sees. With a high antecedent moisture condition, this could be reduced to as low as ten percent, about equivalent to runoff from paved surfaces.
If you are unsure of the flooding potential or flood risk in your area, please contact a land surveyor before it is too late. A land surveyor can conduct a flood survey or elevation survey,which will determine the elevation of your house in relation to the base flood elevation. Armed with this information, you will know if you need to purchase flood insurance through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program.
Flood insurance will minimize the risk of flood damage to your home. You might not be able to prevent a flood, but you can sure prevent it from costing you a tremendous amount of money. See this article to estimate the costs of flood damage to your home.
You can use the included instructions to find your home on the new Flood Insurance Rate Maps. If you have trouble, please call us today at Dadeville Land Surveying  at (256) 307-1447.  Don’t wait till the river starts to rise.

New ALTA Survey Standards from ALTA/ACSM

New ALTA Survey Standards

ALTA SurveyThe ALTA Survey Standards are being revised and will become effective February 23, 2011. Recently, committees from both the NSPS and ALTA met to review and approve the upcoming standards.

The National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS), which is a member organization of the American Congress on Surveying & Mapping (ACSM), is a trade organization for the profession of surveying and mapping.

For years ACSM has been the leader among surveying organizations in working with ALTA to develop these nationally recognized surveying standards.  ALTA is the American Land Title Association,  and is the trade association and national voice of the abstract and title insurance industry.

2011 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys  

Summary of Significant Changes from the 2005 Standards to the 2011 Standards

– Annotations on American Congress on Surveying and Mapping – ALTA/ACSM Standards

Changes to ALTA Survey Wording

The ACSM website has a “Summary of Significant Wording Changes” document, which spells out changes to the ALTA survey standards, which have not changed since 2005. Some of the noted changes are:

  • Expands on the “Relative Precision” of the survey
  • Expands on documents to be provided by surveyors
  • Requires more measurements when a water feature is one of the boundaries
  • Suggests that new legal descriptions might not be necessary
  • Requires a lot more information on easements
  • Reinforces that the title opinion should be furnished to the surveyor before the survey begins
  • Expands Table A to include a number of new items which may be requested by clients

While none of these are major changes, surveyors AND those ordering an ALTA survey should be aware of them. One item that I’ve heard a lot of noise about is item #21 on Table A, which, if checked, would required the surveyor to obtain professional liability insurance for the particular survey project.

Many surveyors don’t carry professional liability insurance because of the expense of this type of insurance. This will significantly change the price of an ALTA survey if the item is checked.

Surveyors and Clients should discuss the Table A items in detail each time anyway, but this is a big red flag that should be addressed. We’ll see how this plays out in the future and what it will mean for ALTA Surveys.