What is a land survey?
In its most basic form, a land survey is a report, drawing or map of a parcel (or parcels) of land. It often includes details of a property pertaining to shape, size, boundaries and beyond. Land surveys can vary in detail, but often include precise property measurements taken by a licensed land surveyor.
In this blog, we’ll learn more about:
– When land surveys are useful and/or necessary
– Various types of land surveys and where they are applicable
When do you need a land survey?
When most people think of the term “land survey,” they likely associate it with the idea of purchasing a home or piece of land. While this is a very common scenario for a land survey to take place, there are many other circumstances where a land survey may be useful or even necessary.
Let’s explore some common scenarios where a land survey is useful or required:
Purchasing a home or parcel of land:
- If you are planning to purchase a home or piece of land, you will want to know exactly what you’re purchasing and where the property boundaries begin and end.
- Land surveys are not always required when buying or selling a home or property. Many lenders and title companies will require a land survey prior to purchasing, but every situation is unique.
- It may be tempting to skip the land survey but be warned! Only a survey by a licensed surveyor can determine a property’s boundaries, and a survey will also provide further details regarding encroachments or easements if they exist on the property.
Securing financing or title insurance:
- Most lenders and/or title companies will require a land survey of a property prior to finalizing the financing and/or insurance details. This may be dependent on the company you’re working with or the type of loan you’re looking to obtain.
Installation or repairs on your property:
- When installing or repairing utilities on your property, a land survey is useful to ensure that the work is being completed within the boundaries of your
Disputes between neighbors:
- We hope you’ll never need a land survey to resolve a dispute between you and your neighbor, but it does happen. If there’s ever uncertainty between neighbors regarding encroachments, easements or property boundaries, a land survey is the solution to put the problem to rest.
- Any individual or organization that has intentions of dividing a property into smaller parts will need to hire a licensed surveyor to create a drawing of the current property’s boundaries, as well as a proposed plan for how the land will be divided
Updating an old survey:
- Even if you aren’t planning on buying or selling a property, you may want to get a new land survey if your survey is more than 10 years old. Although there’s not typically an expiration date on most surveys, a property can change over time due to environmental conditions and other factors.
- Every piece of land is classified into a land zoning category by a professional land surveyor based on the intended use of the land. There are many different types of zoning categories including industrial, commercial, residential, agricultural, historic, and beyond. A land surveyor may determine the zoning of a property based on internal and external factors relevant to the property.
Land development and construction:
- Any time there are plans to develop or build on a property, land surveys will be necessary at several stages of the project.
Creating public spaces like parks and playgrounds:
- Land surveys are also required for projects on government-owned or public property. For example, if a township wishes to build a new park in town, they will need a land survey at the beginning of the planning process.
While we can’t review every scenario where land surveys may be beneficial or required, the examples above give us a great start to understanding where they are applicable.
Now, let’s dive into various types of land surveys, how and when they are used!
What are the different types of land surveys?
There are many different types of land surveys and each reports different findings and features about a property. Let’s discuss a variety of different surveys and what each type entails:
- Boundary Survey: A boundary survey is the most common type of land survey. It is a drawing or a map of a property that outlines the “start” and “end” of the property, as well as its shape. This survey will often include measurements of each side of the property, as well as the total square footage.
- Boundary surveys are used in almost every circumstance that requires a land survey – to subdivide, purchase, improve, dispute, or build upon any piece of land.
- Location Survey: A location survey is like a boundary survey, but it also provides specific details for the site’s improvements (like curbs, utilities, any current structures, etc.). Location surveys are often used to meet loan application requirements and/or zoning permits.
- Topographic Survey: A topographic survey shows the sizes, locations, and heights of natural and manmade features on a piece of land. It also displays any elevation changes on a property.
- Topographic surveys are commonly used by engineers and architects in projects ranging from new construction to creating new designs for roads or bridges and beyond. This type of survey helps determine the physical conditions that already exist on a property.
- Construction Stakeout Survey: A construction stakeout survey involves driving wooden stakes into the ground to identify the location of planned improvements such as utilities, foundations, surfaces/pavements, columns and more.
- Subdivision Survey: A subdivision survey is used when an individual or organization plans to divide a property into smaller parts. This survey outlines the current property, as well as the proposed division of the property into smaller lots.
- New Construction Survey: A new construction survey is completed prior to a construction project and outlines the proposed structures, utilities, roads and more.
- Both vertical and horizontal grading is detailed on a new construction survey. The vertical grading outlines the differences in elevation throughout the property. The horizontal grading outlines the distances between the proposed or already existing buildings and structures on the property.
- ALTA Survey: The ALTA (American Land Title Association) survey is completed specifically for lenders and title companies. It provides the necessary data for an organization to grant an ALTA insurance policy. These surveys are commonly required before purchasing or investing in a new property or home.
- Mortgage Survey: A mortgage survey is like an ALTA survey, as it is also used when acquiring a piece of land or purchasing a home. This survey confirms the structures on a property, as well as the owners of the property’s title. It also ensures that the property meets all building and zoning codes before the purchase is made.
- Utility Survey: A utility survey is a detailed map/drawing of both overhead and underground service lines such as cables, pipes, ducts, manholes, poles, transformers, hydrants and beyond. This survey is required when any changes are made to public or private utilities like water and sewer systems, electricity, telecommunications and more.
- Wetlands Survey: Also known as a wetlands delineation. A wetlands survey is a type of topographic survey that shows where wetlands exist within or surrounding a property.
- Many wetlands are home to protected plants or species. It’s important to know wetland boundaries to ensure you’re in compliance with local, state and federal regulations. In some cases, you may need to obtain a permit to build on a property with wetlands.
- As-Built Survey: Also known as record drawings, an as-built survey documents the final results of how a project was completed. Every construction project or home that’s built will have a proposed plan, which may differ from the final plan that is constructed.
- The as-built survey is necessary to confirm any changes made to the proposed plan alongside details explaining why the changes were made. This survey helps in maintaining a structure post-completion. It may also be necessary to refer back to the as-built survey in the event of structure malfunctions or future changes.
- ADA Compliance Survey: The ADA (American with Disabilities Act) was enacted officially in 1990 and is a civil rights law to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. An ADA compliance survey identifies any barriers a facility may have (inside or outside) that would prevent access for individuals with a variety of disabilities.
- An ADA compliance surveyor will assess the layout of a facility and identify any potential barriers that need to be addressed to operate within ADA regulations.
While we can’t review every type of survey in just one blog, the different types we’ve reviewed are some of the most common. Each type of survey has its own purpose and may pertain to various circumstances.
When in doubt, survey it out!
When looking to purchase or make changes to aproperty, it never hurts to consult with a professional, state-licensed surveyor. As with any big purchase or decision, it is better to be safe than sorry, and confident in your final decision!
How Can Carroll Engineering Help Your Next Project?
Carroll Engineering’s Surveying Department provides an array of professional surveying services including topographic and boundary surveys, ALTA/NSPS (American Land Title Association/National Society of Professional Surveyors) land title surveys, construction stakeout including site improvements; utilities, curb, basins; as well as house-line items such as to permit plans, foundation, and final as-constructed plans. Our services also include site improvement As-Built surveys such as utility and basin as-constructed plans, and easement and right-of-way acquisition plans. Consisting of licensed surveyors and experienced field crew technicians, the department utilizes state-of-the-art equipment that includes total station robotic equipment, global positioning systems, 3D Laser Scanning, and an unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) to complete surveying projects with precision.
Our team is available for projects of all sizes – from small, residential projects to large-scale construction endeavors and beyond. Our licensed professionals are happy to help you in your next project, and you can always count on us to get the job done right.
To learn more about all of the surveying services we offer, visit our Surveying page. If you have any questions or would like to discuss a project of yours, please contact our Surveying Department Manager, Gary Zanolini, at email@example.com or (215) 970-7274.