6 Common Surveying Problems and How to Minimize these Challenges

Common Surveying Problems and How to Minimize these Challenges


Every work has its own set of difficulties, and land surveying is no exception. Every day offers new challenges that do not always yield easy fixes.

However, there are a few problems that are very prevalent in the field, and we’d like to present an overview for your consideration.

Firstly, there are the common problems that arise from basic inexperience. These are the most common problems that are easily avoided if a little common sense is applied.

Surveying refers to the science of accurately measuring horizontal and/or vertical distances in the field.

Common Surveying Problems

The following are some of the most prevalent challenges encountered.


Time is a prevalent concern for land surveyors, but we are not discussing time management or organizational issues. Instead, the surveyor may have difficulties due to the length of time some owners keep rural estates.

In summary, a family-owned property that has been passed down through generations has undergone alterations that are not reflected in the original deed.

The old survey stakes and witness trees have vanished. Streams and riverbeds alter channels. The physical evidence that supported the legal land description just faded into the mists of time.

In addition to missing markings, allowances for neighbors and other undocumented understandings can distort the property limits, occasionally catching the current owners off guard.

Strips of land that have long been used by everyone in the area are discovered to be private property, or a fence has been built along an inaccurate boundary but never rectified.

A new owner arrives, and the first survey in decades documents all of the changes. When determining the borders of a multi-generational property, the surveyor may use both art and science.

Mechanical surveyors have the advantage of having been around for a long time. They understand the physical laws of gravity and nature, as well as the property itself.

Unfortunately, more often than not, there is no one to be found who has acquired expertise in these areas. For example, just because a property owner has lived at a property for six generations should not excuse the surveyor from taking the time to inquire why they are there.

Traditional Survey Frameworks vs. GIS

In terms of technology, the states are still playing catch-up. Their surveying frameworks are out of date and do not account for new, GIS-enhanced surveying methodologies.

With GIS being so prevalent in the field, the mismatch with outdated frameworks is a real issue.

If the state in which the surveyor works has not updated its framework, and the surveyor uses a geographical information system that is not recognized by the established legal framework, he or she may not be legally protected or recognized within that state.

However, lawmakers have long been aware of the deficiency and have pushed to include GIS into their legal property surveying processes.

As of yet, the new system has not gone into effect.

Additionally, the surveying framework of one state may not be recognized in another. That is why land surveyors are encouraged to become licensed in each state in which they do surveys.

That way, they will be able to apply for work and conduct their projects with the confidence that their efforts will be accepted and recognized by the states’ laws and authorities.

Changes in the weather and seasons

Another problem is the shifting of the seasons and the weather. The ideal setting for a surveyor is hard to come by.

Land surveyors may desire that all the trees were bare, the ground was clean of snow and leaves, and the weather was pleasant and the light was optimal. This is not a common occurrence.

  • Rain wets surfaces, and even when it stops raining, water drops from the trees.
  • Deep shadows are cast by bright sunlight, masking details.
  • It’s difficult to walk in the muck that comes with rain when you’re carrying pricey equipment.
  • Snow is beautiful, but it hides property corners, flagging, ancient fences, and other evidence. It’s also difficult to go through without slipping and tripping.
  • Cold temperatures can cause the surveyor and the lubricant needed to keep the instruments running smoothly to freeze. Many of today’s electronic equipment list “usable” operating temperature ranges that don’t necessarily correspond to what Mother Nature provides.
  • Wind raises temperatures and makes it difficult to keep a prism plumb pole steady. It blows things out of trees and off roofs.
  • In the fall, the leaves that cover the earth obscure it in the same manner as snow does.
  • Most seasons have at least one allergy that causes watery eyes and sneezing, slowing down the workgroup.
  • Land surveyors adore the perfect spring day, which is all too often lacking on the date you are scheduled to work.

The Issue of As-Builts

As-builts are pre-construction drawings that establish a record of the size, shape, and location of structures and improvements on surveyed properties.

Unfortunately, during the construction process, building contractors may disregard or amend as-builts.

Contractors are normally responsible for combining final property drawings from surveyors into a thorough as-built, although many fail to do so.

They either don’t know how to make usable as-builts or believe the task isn’t worth the effort. Other contractors either fail to understand the project’s requirements or postpone the as-built procedure until construction is completed.

As a result, border conflicts, code violations, and other major problems arise. When complications emerge, the landowner may blame the first surveyor for a contractor’s inaccuracy, depending on the circumstances.

Adverse Possession and Paper Streets

According to the legal framework of the time, the original developers of older neighborhoods may have been forced to submit a design for every inch of the property before gaining construction permits.

This approach gave rise to what are now known as “paper streets,” or streets that start on paper but never become built.

After the community construction is completed, the developers may not require all of the planned streets or alleyways, and hence do not construct the highways as marked on the original plans.

Without the owners’ awareness, the underutilized property is frequently absorbed into one or more homeowners’ property use over time.

If the city decides to use the designated property as a paper roadway later, property owners may be able to claim adverse possession of these nearby places.

Deeds can be changed to allow for the private use of public access roads. A landowner may even appropriate a neighbor’s plots for building construction or other purposes.

Only when a land surveyor does a new survey and compares the supposed boundaries to those in the original deed will the problem be discovered.

Model Laws that are Incomplete

The term “land surveying” is defined broadly in most jurisdictions. They encompass practically any mapping or schematic representation activity that takes place on or beneath the soil.

The concept encompasses both man-made and natural features used to identify qualities or generate representations of mineral extractions.

Secondary fabrication of maps, plats, and other post-survey documentation is listed as a surveying activity in several model legal frameworks.

Other model laws may be more tightly defined and limited to surveying operations directly related to determining and mapping property boundaries for the initial establishment of borders.

They may not include natural features mapping or subsurface surveying, which might provide a significant difficulty to the state’s land surveyor.

In either case, the regulations regulating the surveying trade might clash and produce confusion between professionals working in various countries.

Therefore, problems encountered in surveying generally are:

  1. Lack of recognition of a landsurveyor’s qualifications or expertise.
  2. Lack of acceptance and recognition of the surveyor as a professional, especially in another state.
  3. Failure to understand the relations between boundaries, property lines, monuments, and land areas within jurisdiction parameters.
  4. Failure to understand the responsibility for each party involved in the boundary survey process.
  5. Failure to understand the changes caused by climatic conditions that could adversely affect operations on-site and with equipment during surveying projects.
  6. Time factor problems that cause job delays and loss of business.
  7. Costs incurred due to defective boundary surveys and problems with as-builts, which drive up the cost of the project.
  8. Costly delays and disputes over property rights caused by a lack of understanding of legal issues involved in surveying regulations.
  9. Inadequate experience or training on the part of other survey professionals who could produce or provide the information needed to complete a boundary survey project effectively and efficiently, especially with advanced GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technologies.
  10. Recording, indexing, and filing problems because of a lack of understanding of the importance of accurate and reliable as-builts.


Land surveying is a lucrative and satisfying profession for individuals who can handle these and other challenges.

Anyone considering entering the profession or advancing in their career should be aware of the issues that modern land surveyors confront, as well as the solutions available to avoid or reduce them.

There are many surveying problems that can occur during the surveying process. Some of the most common problems are:

  • Instrument errors – this can be caused by incorrect calibration or incorrect use of the instrument.
  • Environmental factors – such as wind, rain, or fog can distort or block the survey signal.
  • Topographical factors – such as hills, valleys, and ridges can cause errors in the survey results.
  • Human error – surveyors can make mistakes in taking measurements or in reading the instruments.
  • Equipment failure – survey equipment can malfunction or break down, preventing the survey from being completed.

Surveying Problems FAQs

What are some challenges and problems in Surveying?

The surveying profession is one that is critical to the success of many engineering projects. Despite its importance, surveying can be a challenging profession.

There are a number of common surveying problems that can occur during a project.

Here are some of the most common surveying problems: Uneven terrain can make it difficult to take accurate measurements. Poor weather conditions can make it difficult to see well and take accurate measurements.

Complex or inaccessible terrain can make it difficult to take accurate measurements. Lack of manpower can make it difficult to take accurate measurements. Poorly written survey instructions can make it difficult to take accurate measurements.

Is surveying a dying profession?

The average age of a surveyor in the United States nowadays is above 55 years. This means that many surveyors will retire over the next fifteen years.

With fewer students graduating from surveying programs, there is a good chance that the existing scarcity of surveying experts will worsen.

What is the most difficult aspect of land surveying?

Time because most surveys require some amount of time. Furthermore, the uncertainty of weather may cause delays and increase costs.

What technology has most helped surveying?

The advent of computers with GIS capabilities has made surveying more efficient than ever before, but many land surveyors are still unfamiliar with this advancement.

How does a surveyor determine property boundaries?

Some boundary surveys rely on monumenting, in which established markers mark the property boundaries on one or both sides of a survey area.

Can land surveyors be wrong?

Yes, but they can only be wrong in one of two ways: they misperceive the boundary, or they identify the boundary itself incorrectly.

What is the role of a land surveyor?

The land surveyor’s main objective is to ensure that the accuracy and consistency of any boundary description is as high as possible. They must be confident in their own skills and abilities, and evaluate those of others.

Are surveyors happy?

Surveyors are one of the unhappiest professions in the United States. At CareerExplorer, we perform an ongoing poll with millions of people to determine how satisfied they are with their careers.

As it turns out, surveyors rate their career happiness at 2.8 out of 5 stars, placing them in the bottom 20% of all careers.

Where do land surveyors make the most money?

As with most things, location is crucial. Land Surveyor salaries are highest in California, New Jersey, New York, Washington, and North Dakota.

Is it worth being a surveyor?

Yes, it is worth becoming a land surveyor. Surveying is a rewarding profession.

Land surveying is associated with various health benefits and helps to improve the quality of life for many people around the world.

How can a land surveyor get laid off?

Surveyors may lose jobs because of economic slowdowns or other issues related to their employers.

If they do not have competitive pricing, they may lose the opportunity to get new clients due to prevailing market conditions or their failure to market themselves effectively.

Are surveyors in demand?

Surveyor employment is expected to expand at a 2% annual rate from 2020 to 2030, which is slower than the national average for all occupations. Despite slowing job growth, an average of 4,000 surveyor job opportunities are expected per year over the next decade.

Is Surveyor an engineer?

Surveyor is not an engineer. According to the National Society of Professional Engineers, a surveyor is someone who measures and describes features on the earth’s surface for the purpose of mapping, real estate transactions, and related work.

Is Engineering in Surveying?

Surveying includes activities normally associated with engineering. However, it does not grant you a professional engineer license if you work in this field.

How much does a surveyor earn?

The average salary for Land Surveyors is $63,950 per year. Entry-level surveyors with less than 5 years of experience earn around $46,000 annually on average.

Experienced professionals with 10 to 19 years of experience can expect a median salary of about $80,000. Top-earning Land Surveyor professionals bring in over $115,000 per year.

How many years does it take to become a surveyor?

To be an entry-level surveyor takes 3-4 years. A bachelor’s degree is required for this job.

Can surveyors work in the rain?

Most surveyors have high-tech meteorological instruments that help them work in the rain.

What are the components of a boundary survey?

The main components of a boundary survey include the instruments and equipment used, plus the levels of involvement and skill.

How do you become a land surveyor?

To become a Land Surveyor, you must have a degree in Surveying or Geomatics from an accredited college or university.

What does a land surveyor do?

A land surveyor is a professional who conducts surveys on property boundaries for the purpose of constructing or maintaining maps, plans, layouts, and monuments.

What is surveying?

Surveying is the science that measures, records, and describes physical features on land or another surface.

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