What is Land Surveying? Land Surveying Equipment

What is Land Surveying? Land Surveying Equipment

What is Land Surveying?

Land surveying is the art and science of creating or reestablishing real property (land) corners, lines, borders, and monuments based on documented documents, historical data, and current norms of practice.

Land surveying also covers services such as survey data analysis and usage, subdivision planning and design, legal description writing, mapping, construction layout, and precise measurements of angle, length, area, and volume.

A land survey is a map, drawing, or record of the dimensions, positions, and boundaries of real property.

It typically sets out its scale on paper with north arrows at the top and east to the right. The work may have been prepared by one of many surveying professionals before release.

Land surveying is used to determine where improvements are located relative to their legal lot lines or other property markers for considerations of boundary disputation resolution and to establish locations of monuments.

Some land surveying services are also used to survey existing property as part of a boundary dispute resolution.

Types of Land Surveying

Land Surveying has different types.

Topographical Surveying

Topographical Surveying uses maps and plotting instruments to measure the shape, dimensions, and boundaries of the property.

It uses separate instruments to measure the heights of points, to make measurements of distance, horizontal and vertical angles, relative heights, specific elevations (on important points like corners), etc.

Topographical surveying is used for land recordation or for construction layout purposes.

Boundary Surveying

It is the determination of land boundaries, which could be done by either Boundary Marking or by Boundary Calculating.

Mortgage Location Surveys

A Residential MLS, which is ordered by a lender or title insurance, is meant to give confirmation that certain improvements are truly placed on the property as indicated in the legal description.

The survey plat must reveal specific information acquired through measurements conducted at a place, which is not always supported by public records.

A commercial MLS is a less expensive alternative to an ALTA Survey, although it compromises some accuracy.

Because the commercial mortgage location survey adheres to the same state requirements as the residential mortgage location survey, the lender must be ready to accept these standards in lieu of the ALTA standards.

Construction Survey

It is the creation of a drawing plan of land or property boundaries or incorporating this information into an existing plan. It can eventually involve multiple people and offer sophisticated solutions.

Construction Surveys are used to submit estimates to contractors, during construction, as long as they comply with all legal requirements.

Site Planning Survey

A Site Plan is an architectural plan showing the property boundaries, lot lines, setback lines, and a survey of the property where applicable.

It is similar to a Building Plan and has to be registered in real estate.

Site planning surveys involve the construction of floor plans for real estate development projects and are usually ordered by the owner when developing a new land parcel. Also known as “site plans.

Subdivision Survey

A Subdivision is the creation of a drawing plan for the building of multiple properties and is an important process for new construction projects.

This survey is usually done by registered surveyors or licensed engineers, who can provide additional services such as drafting plans and reports.


An ALTA survey is surveying undertaken by an Association of Land Titles Administrators (ALTA) or a Land Surveyors Apprenticeship Council of Mexico (ACSM), both members of the International Surveyors Association.

It is the most commonly used surveying process for title searches, title descriptions, and legal descriptions. In most cases, this may be considered an “official” survey. In an ACSM survey, the engineer must be registered on the ACSM website.

Land Surveying Equipment

Major Surveying Equipment that is used in land surveying include:

Global Positioning System (GPS)

It is considered a way of modern surveying and is also a very useful tool for its various uses.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is used as a survey tool by land surveyors and engineers to determine a position on the earth’s surface. GPS receivers use signals from orbiting satellites to detect position, direction, and speed.

Airborne Laserscope

Airborne laserscopes are the newest instruments used by land surveyors to make maps of property boundaries.

Total Stations

Total Stations, also called an Optical Distance Meter (ODM), is a combination of electronic distance meters, electronic compass, and telescope.

The instrument measures the distance to within a few millimeters and compares it with known coordinates. The operator can then make a map that shows lot lines and boundaries.

Mobile Computerized Mapping System

A Mobile Computerized Mapping System (MCMS) is a device used to document information about an expansion or development project.

It is considered a portable GPS system for use by land surveyors and engineers.

The computer is used to gather the basic information required for a plot or plot plan and the data can then be digitized and stored into electronic databases, which are updated as new data are received.

Optical Levels

Optical Levels are used to visually determine elevation. Whereas, electronic levels are exclusively used to measure elevations.


A ProLink is a handheld device that can be used in conjunction with total stations and electronic levels. It includes a receiver that displays the horizontal and vertical position of the telescope for use by land surveyors and engineers to create plot plans during land surveys.


A Theodolite is an instrument used in land surveying to determine horizontal and vertical angles. Theodolites can be connected to computers to help build a three-dimensional picture of a property.

Computers are used by land surveyors and engineers for various purposes, the most common being the creation of multiple plan sets, which include boundary maps and floor plans for a building or development project.

Eagle Eye

An Eagle Eye is a surveying device that makes use of High-Resolution Scanners and is used to digitize data collected by total stations.

High-Resolution Scanners are software programs that can analyze extensive amounts of data much faster than electronic levels and total stations.

The process involves scanning the area with a high-resolution scanner, then importing the scanned data into a computer that displays it as images, graphs or maps.

Electronic Distance Meters (EDM)

An Electronic Distance Meter (EDM) is an electronic surveying device that uses a microprocessor and memory to do faster surveying, reporting and measuring.

Its main advantage is the elimination of radio waves interference and the ability to make important measurements in relatively inaccessible locations.

Electronic distance meters are used by both professionals and amateurs in aerial photography, field mapping emergency services, road construction, and other activities.

Land Surveying Importance

Every property development project begins with a land survey. Surveyors measure and inspect the terrain, including formations, slopes, features, and heights, to prepare a complete report that includes a map of the site.

Here’s why this knowledge is vital.

  1. Making Informed Decisions

Surveyors are frequently the first people to arrive on a construction or development site. The collected data is then used by architects and engineers to accurately and safely understand and plan the landscaping, design, and structures.

A land surveyor can accurately measure a large area of land. This technology provides information on easements, which is used to plan out how to develop or build on the land while also adhering to local codes and regulations.

  1. Safeguard Your Investment

Land surveying can help to protect the investment made in the construction of a property. It will reveal important information that will help with the planning process.

A land surveyor will provide you with critical information that will help you determine whether or not a property is a good investment. It can assist in determining:

If the seller’s deed shows that the land is the correct size,

The documents you must inspect before purchasing land

If the property is located in a flood zone,

  1. Adhere to the Planning Codes and Guidelines

Understanding the exact dimensions and topography of any site is critical to ensuring that what you intend to do will comply with building codes and town plans.

If your development project necessitates the construction of new rooms or additional dwellings after subdividing a block, you must first determine whether everything will fit on the site. You must also ensure that all city planning codes are followed.

  1. Provides Surety to Construction Teams

A surveyor’s equipment can measure distances to within a few millimeters. They can also measure vertical distances, which are useful for providing cut and fill measurements when building a road, drain, or excavating for a pipeline.

Having the right data in the beginning phases provides surety to the construction teams. It reduces time loss and allows those on-site to perform their tasks accurately.

  1. Encroachments on private property

As a property owner, you need to understand possible encroachments on your property. A land survey identifies where the property lines and corners are so that you know your exact property dimensions.

This information can come in handy in case of a dispute later on.

A qualified land surveyor will survey the site to provide information such as vegetation, fences, land slope, building heights, road features, and utility services.

If your project requires a city planning application, the adjoining property buildings are also surveyed including the location of habitable windows, doors, and roof ridgelines.

Land Surveying Applications

Land surveying is used in a variety of applications, including:

Building and Development Management

Land Surveying is critical in the development of any residential or commercial property. All construction begins with a Land Survey Report. The surveying report includes the following:

Site Evaluation

An in-depth review of the soil, landscape, topography, and other features that determine suitability for construction

Alignment Planning

Land Surveying is Applied as a matter of course to ensure the construction of roads, rail lines and any infrastructure development. This type of surveying is also used for:

Mining Surveys

Land Surveying is used to ensure that mining operations are conducted within legal boundaries and surrounding regulations.


Land Surveying is used to determine the exact measurements of buildings and structures to ensure compliance with codes and standards.

Sewer Surveys

Land Surveying is used to determine the exact sewer line dimensions required for proper installation. This can be important for developing new commercial or residential properties, since sewage lines are usually placed underground.

Technical Manpower Supply

Land Surveying is used to determine the suitability of a property for development. It is also used to determine the exact requirements for construction, including easements and encroachments.

A land surveyor must complete a field examination of a given project or location that includes measurements and calculations using their tools, instruments, software and knowledge about mapping, boundary lines, and real-estate law.

This data is then recorded on paper or entered directly into the computer so that it can be drawn on a map or other diagram.

Underground Utilities

Land surveying is used to ensure the safety of gas, water and other utility lines buried underground. This task is performed by using a metal detector, which is connected to a computer to accurately record the diameter, depth and location of utility lines.

Locate Collision

Land Surveying is used to ensure that streets and highways are constructed in accordance with national standards. This process also helps to identify issues like low-hanging trees or power lines that may impact drivers or pedestrians walking along the roads.

Site Plan Surveys

Land Surveying is used to determine the exact dimensions of a property that will be developed, as well as any easements or encroachments. This information is used to determine proper road locations, right angles, and water flow.

Land Surveying FAQs

What is a land survey?

A land survey is a physical process of recording the outlines and dimensions of a piece of real estate. It requires a surveyor to accurately measure, delineate and record property boundaries, encroachments and easements. A surveyor is also charged with ensuring that all zoning regulations are followed.

Why do I need a Survey?

A land survey is essential in any development project since it helps ensure accurate measurements, which is vital when planning or building new structures or improvements on the property.

The land survey also records all easements and encroachments that are located on the property.

What does a survey cover?

A land survey will cover everything that is located on the property, including any encroachments and easements. It will also cover information about fences, walls, buildings, driveways and other improvements or features found on the property.

The survey may also indicate architectural features such as windows, doors, roof ridge lines and chimneys.

What does a land surveyor do?

Land surveyors design, direct, and carry out legal surveys. They locate and interpret borders, buildings, structures, and other natural or man-made objects.

How does a land surveyor do this?

A land surveyor must use a variety of equipment to record the location, shape and dimensions of the property. This type of equipment includes field meters, transits, chains, total stations and hand-held computers.

The computer program that is used to input data can be in a number of formats including digital/electronic, paper or hand-drawn maps.

What tools and instruments do surveyors use?

Land surveyors use a number of tools to carry out their surveys. These tools may vary depending on the size and complexity of the project.

Others tools that are used include: Total Stations, Theodolite, GPS, and Optical levels

May I have one done at my home?

Yes. Land surveyors can perform a survey at your home, business, or other location where you own property. A survey will include information about the existing property boundaries and any encroachments or easements on the land.

What is a boundary survey?

A boundary survey identifies the location of property boundaries. This can be important if there are disputes regarding encroachments, easements, or improvements that have been made on the property.

How much does a boundary survey cost?

Different factors determine what an individual survey might cost, including job size and complexity. The quality of the results will also impact the price. If an individual requires a specific-sized survey, then the price may be higher since a surveyor will be responsible for making recordings at a specific scale or level.

Why should I do a boundary survey?

When there are disputes regarding property borders or encroachments, it is vital to have accurate information to prove that they pertain to your property. Doing this will help show that any encroachments have been made on your property.

What are the types of land survey?

Some types of land survey are Topographical, Boundary, Location and construction surveys

How much do Land Surveyors make?

Land surveyors have different salaries depending on their education and experience. The average salary for a surveyor is $45,000 per year or $22.77 per hour if the job is done in salaried hours.

Salary ranges from $45,000 per year to $100,000 per year, plus bonuses

Are surveys public record?

Yes, the survey of a private property is public information and is often recorded with the county. This document will show all encroachments, easements and property lines that are located on your property.

How do I find out when my land was last surveyed?

Visit your jurisdiction’s building inspector or the land records office. Many jurisdictions retain surveys on file at the city building inspector’s office.

You may also receive surveys coupled with tax maps or half-section maps from the county’s land records office — generally the county assessor.

What happens when two surveyors disagree?

If two surveyors disagree on a particular point, the issue will be resolved by the state association. If the state association cannot resolve the issue, then the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping is contacted.

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