What is Boundary Surveying? Steps and Importance of Boundary Surveying

What is Boundary Surveying? Steps and Importance of Boundary Surveying

What is Boundary Surveying?

Boundary surveying is the process of surveying the boundaries of parcels of land in order to determine their legal dimensions and placement. This includes measuring the property’s dimensions and marking the boundaries on the ground.

Boundary surveys are often used to determine the legal description of a property, which is important for deeds, mortgages, and other legal documents.

It generally entails the use of land surveying equipment to establish the location of the boundaries of a parcel of land, and the taking of measurements to determine the size and shape of the parcel.

The surveyor will mark the boundaries of the land with physical monuments, such as metal rods or posts, in order to create a legal record of the parcel’s dimensions.

Reasons for Undertaking Boundary Surveying

Boundary surveying is the division of land into parcels. This division is done for both legal and practical reasons.

Legal reasons may include developing a new subdivision plan, dividing property to sell, arranging an inheritance distribution, or solving boundary disputes between two parcels.

Practical reasons include understanding the size and shape of a tract of land with respect to its current use – such as agricultural use, timber production or mining – or for planning future uses such as residential development or roads.

Steps in Boundary Surveying

Determining these boundaries is a lengthy procedure. The following overview summarizes the normal approach for conducting a boundary survey:


The first procedure in determining the boundaries of a piece of property is to do research. Surveyor will do research in a variety of categories, but our primary focus is on the public records maintained at the Clerk of Superior Court for the applicable state.

Furthermore, they will request from the Department of Transportation any right-of-way designs for any bordering road rights-of-way.

They also interview the property owner and neighboring owners for any and all information, including deeds, unrecorded plats, or parole proof, that may aid them in determining the border location. Also, they frequently depend on information acquired from the subject property’s title inspection report.

Typically, the owners provides the title inspection report, which is necessary if the boundary survey is performed in accordance with ALTA/ACSM standards.

Land Measurements

The boundary surveyor will measure or calculate the dimensions of the property by using precision surveying equipment. These calculations are sometimes complex, and the surveyor will use a calculator or tape measure to determine the measurements.

There may be several physical restrictions that limit the measurement of one parcel of land as opposed to another, such as a structure or a tree that is touching (or possibly overlapping) one of the boundaries.

Boundary Marking

The next step is to mark or monument the boundaries of the property. The boundary surveyor will take measurements, and then locate and identify a physical point on each boundary where other lines intersect.

The boundary surveyor will place steel or concrete monuments where the surveyed lines intersect these identified points (such as a corner stake) in order to identify that intersection.

Boundary surveys are associated with a variety of methods for marking the boundaries of properties:

The most common method is placing permanent physical monuments at each corner.

Many surveyors will place steel monuments or the like at intersections of surveyed lines.

A surveyor may use the surveyor’s chain, or another cordage, to configure a boundary.

Some surveyors use a combination of permanent and temporary markers such as concrete blocks or sticks.

Some people construct “post and beam” style monuments using four-foot posts driven into the ground at approximately 20-foot intervals.

Data Recording

The last step in the boundary survey process is to document the survey data in order to prepare a land survey report of the results.

This generally involves using a specialized computer software program or entering the data manually into a spreadsheet or database.

Boundary Surveying Equipment

Surveyors use a variety of equipment and techniques to conduct their work. The particular equipment they use depends on several factors.

These equipment’s include;

  1. GPS/GNSS – Global Positioning System
  2. Total Station – Measuring Systems
  3. Electronic Distance Meter (EDM) – Electronic Length Measure
  4. Transit – Instrument used to take angles in the horizontal plane
  5. Clinometer – Instrument used to measure vertical angles, such as slope and pitch of a surface
  6. Level – Instrument used to determine if an object is on an even plane or plumb
  7. Range Finder – Instrument used to determine object distance and height or depth, in relation to the observer
  8. Geodetic Software – Software for calculation of coordinates and area
  9. GPS/GNSS Antennas

The nature of the boundary being surveyed. The available time and budget. The type of ground and vegetation.

The instrumentation and equipment a boundary surveyor will use seem to depend mostly on the nature of the boundary they are surveying.

For property lines that are not surveyed in accordance with Public Land Survey System (PLSS) standards, surveyors will frequently use a tape measure to measure the distance between points – sometimes supplemented by a transit and rough notebook.

Cost of a Boundary Survey

The cost of a boundary survey varies depending on several factors, including the area to be surveyed, the equipment used and the level of detail required.

Key factors include:

  • Accessibility and terrain of parcel land to be surveyed
  • Parcel size
  • Seasonal variations of the land
  • Shape and size of land parcel
  • Reason for a boundary survey

Surveyors can charge for boundary surveys based on their hourly rates. The average cost for a boundary survey range from $200 to $700 for a platted lot less than 10,000 sq. ft.

What is Plat Survey?

A plat is a scaled map that depicts the boundaries of a property. Because it is impossible to make an accurate map by hand, specialists undertake plat surveys.

A plat survey makes use of topography, distances between points, and directions to designate the boundaries of a prospective new piece of property.

A plat survey is especially beneficial when acquiring a big tract of land, such as farmland or land for a municipal development.

Obtaining absolutely precise estimations and bounds in these circumstances would be prohibitively challenging.

What Is the Boundary Survey vs. Plat Survey?

The boundary survey and plat survey are two important types of surveys that are conducted for different reasons.

The boundary survey is used to determine the boundaries of a property, while the plat survey is used to create a plat map or plan of a property.

Boundary surveys are used to determine the boundaries of a property, while plat surveys are used to create a plat map, which is a detailed map of a property that shows the location of all of the individual lots and the boundaries of each lot.

A plat is a public document used in real estate that details the borders of each unit of property within a certain region.

While both boundary and plat surveys define land borders, plat surveys map the boundaries of many parcels of property within a region, whereas boundary surveys focus on a single private parcel of land.

Plats are drawn by surveyors from the United States General Land Office and are public documents that are normally located at the county recorder or assessor’s office.

Plat surveyors will also measure several other characteristics of a property, ranging from topographic elements to its location.

Often, a property owner would hire a boundary surveyor to precisely measure the borderlines of their land. Additionally, boundary surveys are more exact than plat surveys.

Importance of Boundary Surveying

Boundary Surveying is an important component of land surveying and central to its legal aspect. However, it is not the only component.

The boundary surveyor is typically a licensed land surveyor and can perform all manner of surveying tasks and functions.

Key importance include;

  1. Preparing the initial survey of a property
  2. Maintaining the boundary information which is submitted to the tax assessment office
  3. Preparing the subsequent surveys of a property (i.e., resurveys)
  4. Appraisal of individual land parcels
  5. Boundary Changes

Methods used in Process of a Boundary Survey?

Boundary surveys can be performed in one of several ways, depending on the accuracy desired and the time, expense and labor required to perform the survey.

Drive-By Inspection

The simplest method of surveying a parcel’s boundaries is a drive-by inspection of the property. Using this method, an observer can look at a parcel from an elevated vantage point, such as a highway overpass or hilltop.

From this observation point, they can note visible landmarks that are easily identifiable from that viewpoint.

When the observer returns to the ground and drives around the property, they can locate these landmarks, and walk the perimeter of the land.

The measurements made during a drive-by are not precise, but they may be precise enough for some uses, such as registering a deed or checking a property line for encroachment. The principal drawback of this method is that it is unlikely to produce results with great precision.

Using licensed surveyor

Another method of boundary surveys is to use licensed surveyor. These surveys are more precise and accurate than a drive-by survey, but they cost more because of the secure property access needed to perform a professional survey.

A licensed surveyor is one that has been approved by a state to perform boundary surveys.

To become a licensed surveyor, one must meet certain educational requirements and pass a state licensing exam.

Once licensed, the surveyor maintains their license by continuing to purchase further education courses and passing periodic certification exams.

The cost of becoming a licensed surveyor varies based upon the number of required CE credits, availability of continuing education courses, and the regulatory requirements.

Using Electronic Instruments

A third method of performing a boundary survey is to use a handheld electronic device. These devices are waterproof and very durable, but they are not very precise when compared to the precision offered by a professional surveyor’s device.

This method is adequate in most cases where precise measurements with minimal expenditure on labor are required.

Boundary surveys can be performed at any of several different scales, from a small scale of 100 meters to a large scale at 200 meters (320 acres). The smallest scale boundary survey is the one-kilometer square parcel.

The method used to perform boundary surveys depends on the accuracy required and the time, expense and labor required to perform the survey.

The most difficult problem that the boundary surveyor must deal with is determining where the boundaries of a given property lie in three-dimensional space.

Boundary Survey FAQs

1. What is Boundary Survey Process?

Boundary surveys are a process by which the boundaries of a property are determined. The surveyor will use a number of tools and techniques to mark the boundaries of the property, including land markers, measuring devices, and aerial photography.

This information is then used to create a legal description of the property that can be used for legal purposes.

2. What is the Purpose of a Boundary Survey?

Boundary surveys are typically required for any real estate transaction, from simple deeds to farmland transactions.

In addition, boundary surveys are also used to create maps of properties.

The boundary surveyor is also typically responsible for creating information about neighboring properties that will be used in future transactions.

3. Who Performs the Survey?

In most cases, a licensed surveyor will be responsible for performing the survey. If you are unsure who is responsible for performing the boundary survey, contact a local Realtor or real estate professional.

4. How Long Does a Boundary Survey Take?

For small parcels (up to 10 acres), boundary surveys can be completed within two to four hours of surveying the land via aerial photography, some land markers, and in some cases a marker stake into the ground with string.

For larger parcels, surveying can take longer, and may include a drive-by inspection with a surveyor’s rod.

The time required to complete the survey depends on the size of the parcel. However, it will generally take fifteen to thirty minutes per acre.

5. How Much Does a Boundary Survey cost?

A survey of one acre can be completed for as little as $200 to $300. For larger parcels, additional factors such as the number of existing boundaries, the needs posed by the landowner and use to which the property will be put, will influence the cost of a boundary survey.

6. What are Landmarks?

Landmarks are identifiable objects on the property that can be used to detect properties in three-dimensional space, such as a house or fence line.

Landmarks are usually selected by the surveyor.

7. What are Aerial Photographs?

Aerial photographs simply refer to a photo taken from above (i.e., an aerial photograph).

8. What is a Surveyor’s Rod and what is its purpose?

Surveyors’ rods are surveying instruments used in boundary surveys to measure the lengths of boundaries on land parcels.

9. What is proven boundary?

The legal definition of proven boundary is the property line a property owner can be expected to know about and maintain.

Proven boundary does not include easements and rights-of-way.

10. What is an Easement?

An easement is a type of agreement that grants a holder rights to use or enjoy another person’s property.

11. What is a Right-of-Way?

A right-of-way is an easement or other type of agreement that grants a holder the right to use, access, or pass over another person’s property.

12. How Do I Find out What Property I Own?

If you own real estate in the United States, you can find out your property boundary by performing a boundary survey of your property and then taking note of the boundaries in your deed.

13. What is a Deed?

A deed is a legal transfer of property ownership from one person to another.

14. What is Contour Boundary Survey?

Contour boundary survey is the method of surveying land and determining the dimensions of property lines.

15. What are Above and Below Grade Boundary Surveys?

Above grade or below grade surveys refer to whether or not the property line was determined on land that sits above the natural grade level, or below it.

16. What are Topographical Boundary Surveys?

A topographical boundary survey, also known as a contour or changing line survey, is the most accurate form of surveying.

17. What is a Real Property Survey?

A real property survey is a boundary survey performed at the order of a court or other legal entity.

18. What is an Orphaned or Abandoned Property Boundary Survey?

An orphaned or abandoned property boundary survey is performed when there are two parcels separated by an eroding stream that is causing the two properties to disappear from each other over time.

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