Land Surveying – How Do I Know if I Need A Land Survey?

Land surveying is needed for different reasons. It’s not inexpensive, but there’s also no other better way to protect your home and property than to hire a professional land surveyor.

Typically, the client is handed a copy of the survey drawing after the land surveying is done. Sometimes the drawing gets lost or misplaced. The land surveyor will typically keep a copy of the survey in his files.

Because land surveying can be costly (depending on a number of factors), people sometimes wonder if they can use the results of the last survey on their property again.

Generally, the answer to this varies per state but there are general guidelines:

First, it really depends on what kind of survey you had. There are different kinds of survey, each with different functions. A boundary survey, for instance, determines the boundary of a property while a flood elevation survey finds out if a certain property is at risk of flooding.

Because they were done to find different results, you cannot use the results of a flood elevation survey if you’re trying to find the boundaries of your property.

It also depends on how long ago the survey was done. Surveying pins that mark the boundary corners are made of permanent materials but that doesn’t mean they will always be where the surveyor put them. You’d be surprised at how these “move” over time. In most cases they’re just destroyed or disturbed. Sometimes your neighbor or kids can pull them up on purpose.

If the last survey was done 20 years ago, for instance, then you might want to have the property surveyed again, just to locate the corner monuments again. This will also identify if there have been any additional encroachments onto your property.

If you lost the copy of your survey, the first thing to do is to contact the surveyor who worked on your property. If you don’t know how to contact him, the stakes put around your property should have his license number on them. You can use this to get his name (if you don’t have it anymore), search for him online and then contact him to ask for a copy.

land surveying

photo courtesy of

In some States, surveyors must file a copy of the survey with the county recorder. You can also go to them and check if they have a copy of the survey done on your property. If they do, it’s really not that hard to obtain a copy. But, you should know that this copy is only good as of the date of the survey, not later. As we’ve discussed the conditions change over time.

The last resort is to call another surveyor in your area. They may already be familiar with your property (from working around it) and they may be able to help you reach the surveyor you’re looking for. Some may even be able to assist you by calling around to find out which surveyor surveyed your property, and only charge you for the cost of their time. If all else fails, another new survey may be in order.

If you are considering adding a fence on your property, by all means, contact a surveyor. They will identify your corners so the fence can be placed within your boundary lines, and not too far within them.

If you are considering a home addition, contact a surveyor to find out how much room you have. Local surveyors will also be familiar with local zoning ordinances and can help you with knowing the building setbacks and easement locations on your property for planning purposes.

Surveyors can also draw a site plan showing the addition planned for your home. Then, when you’re ready to build, they can provide staking of the corners to insure they are placed in the correct location.

Finally, when you’re done, a surveyor can then prepare an as-built survey for your bank or mortgage company to insure them it was built in the correct location and doesn’t encroach on your neighbors.

For land surveying needs in Munford,AL and the surrounding areas, call Maxwell Land Surveying at 256-854-9503 or fill out our contact form.

The Land Surveying Process

There can be a dozen reasons why anybody would need land surveying. One of the most popular is to check the boundaries of a property, to determine if a property is prone to flooding (a certificate for this is usually required by insurance companies) and to subdivide a property, among others.

When someone learns or decides that they need to have their property surveyed, they don’t know where to begin. Because of that, we’d give you a simple guide on the land surveying process.

The first step is to hire a land surveyor. You can find a land surveyor in your area through searching it on the internet, looking it up on the Yellowpages or asking around. Be clear on what kind of services you need, and what you expect of the outcome.

Surveyors usually give price quotes free of charge, and being clear on what you need will help the surveyor give an accurate price quote.

Your surveyor might also ask you for documents like records of title, deeds and survey maps. These will help the surveyor find out necessary information about your property.

land surveying process

After signing a contract, your surveyor will proceed with the surveying itself. He will find more information about your property by going through County Clerk’s offices as well as other agencies.

He will also review the documents you provided to make sure that they are accurate. After all these pieces of information are gathered, your surveyor, along with a crew will perform a field survey on your property.

Depending on the type of survey that you need, they might start looking for physical evidences that may affect your property’s boundary. They might also look for stakes or monuments left by previous surveyors. Other tasks might also involve percolation testing and wetland delineation.

Once the results of the surveying are in, the surveyor will proceed with uploading them into a computer using specific software and then it will be drafted into a parcel. You will get a copy of the results of the surveying done from your land surveyor.

You can use this for future reference as well as evidences in case you have to bring a case (such as encroaching into your property) into court. For help on land surveying, give us a call at 256 854-9503 or send us a message through our contact form.

Land Surveying: The “Pincushion” Effect

land surveying

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Boundary monuments are an important part of land surveying. “Monuments” are what we call the objects used to mark the corners during a land survey to know where the property boundary lines are and the property begins and ends.

Monuments can be destroyed over time, usually by nature and not by man. Over time, the monuments that have been used have changed. Over the years, surveyors have used stones, all types of wooden posts (cedar, pine, oak), a gun barrel, a buggy axle, a live tree, or a running creek.

During the U.S. Public Land Survey, surveyors use marked wooden posts at the section corners (1 mile spacing) or at half-mile spacing within the 6 mile by 6 mile boundary of a township. Today most of the corner monuments set are iron or metal pipes or rods. Also, in most states, the surveyor is required to provide some kind of indication of who set the pin by placing a mark with their license or authorization number.

According to property law and the law of boundaries, there should only be one original land surveyor. Meaning, once a surveyor places land surveying monuments on a property, that should be respected at all times. The following surveyors should always follow the monuments put in place by the first surveyor. This is called “following in the steps of the original surveyor.” Further subdivision of a larger parcel of land can also be considered an original survey, but technically it is just a re-subdivision of a larger tract that was previously surveyed.

What the land surveying world is having a problem with is that a lot of following surveyors want to put their own land surveying monuments at a location where there are already corner monuments found. This is what we call the “pincushion effect”. Generally, people would see this as nothing but having two land surveyors who differ in opinion – not really a problem right?

Well, not really. Setting additional corner monuments will certainly bring into question the boundary location and cloud the picture. Of course, surveyors will never fully agree on the precise location of a corner but, in most cases, a found monument should be left alone and accepted.

Certainly if the found monument is “original” then it would control and there is no need for any further points to be placed. Surveying and the placement of property corners involves property law, measurement science, evidence interpretation, relevant experience, and then some professional judgement. This means that an exact answer is probably not usually known. BUT, there can be a best answer.

The addition of more “corner monuments” will also diminish the public’s view of the surveying profession. How would the public trust the land surveying industry when we can’t even have two land surveyors agree on results?

Because of pincushion dilemma, it is now a common perception that no two land surveyors can agree on the location of a given property corner. This is giving such a bad image to land surveyors, and this can give us even more problems in the future.

The land surveying industry is still in the process learning more about how to resolve this professional problem – through continuing education and through additional practice. A number of legal cases have been tried which lend to the resolution. One Alabama surveyor, Jeffery N. Lucas, also an attorney at law, is on the front line of getting to the bottom of this problem in our state. He has written a book about the different effects of these pin cushion corners that should be read and debated by all land surveyors practicing boundary surveying.

For your Land Surveying needs, give us a call at 256-854-9503 or send us a message by going here.

How Important is Land Surveying in Today’s World?

land surveying

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

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.

The Many 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 Maxwell Land Surveying at 256-854-9503 today or go to the Contact page and send us an email.


Land Surveying: Estimating the Cost

land surveying

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Land surveying, in a nutshell, is the art and science of establishing or re-establishing property corners, property lines and/or boundaries.

There are different reasons why someone needs a piece of land surveyed. The most common would be to evaluate if a piece of land is prone to flooding, to subdivide a property to sell or deed to members of the family as well as to determine if there are any encroachments.

This could happen when a neighbour disputes that you’re using a part of his lot or vice versa (for more on this, read this page).

The Cost of Land Surveying

If you need to have a chunk of property surveyed, the first thing that will come to mind is “how much will it cost?”There are lots of factors determining exactly how much land surveying on your land would cost.

The fact that this kind of service has to 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 possibly illegal for the non-professional. Because of this it is best to take a good look around before settling with a surveying company.

If you must work within a particular budget, discuss this with the surveyor up-front. Many times he might be able to offer cost saving steps to get the work you need done within these cost limits.

The shape of the land also needs to be considered. A square or a rectangle piece of land is somewhat quicker to survey than an odd shaped parcel, or one with many different sides. With the latter, the surveyor would have to take more time in surveying the curves as well as the bends which means the cost of the service would increase.

The overall size of the land is also an important factor here. Bear in mind that the cost of land surveying is usually proportionate to the time and effort that the 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 might go higher.

This is true of the varying weather conditions that might impact the work. Surveying in hot weather is sort of slower to keep from putting the crew members at risk. Also, most surveying can’t be done during the rain.

When requesting a quote, keep in mind that surveyors base the estimate on expected conditions at the site. These conditions could change, leading to additional costs. Always ask about these potential additional cost scenarios.

All that being said, competitive prices are also to be expected, this is why we recommend deciding on a surveyor according to his experience and reputation rather than on the price he writes on a piece of paper.

Mostly it is better to shell out a good amount of money on a survey that’s well-done rather than choose 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 get started on his work.

You should also obtain a contract that lets you know what is expected of the land surveyor. This is one of the most important steps in getting your land surveyed.

To get a free quote on land surveying, call Maxwell Land Surveying at 256-854-9503 or send us a message by going here.