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Land Surveying and Civil Engineering FAQs

Land Surveying and Civil Engineering FAQs

When working on most engineering projects, professional surveying is key to ensuring the land is ready for the job. But tons of questions are likely crossing your mind before embarking on your new build or even getting the land surveyed. With the help of Ludlow Engineering and Associates LLC, we’ll answer some of the more common land surveying and civil engineering FAQs and give you insight into what you can expect from our team before, during, and after operations.

We’ll start with one of the questions we come across the most — “why do I need professional surveying?” Professional surveying ensures that you know exactly where your property lies. This can inform individuals of the exact amount of land they’re purchasing, how to divide the land between neighbors or neighboring businesses, or give buyers more confidence in their purchase. Additionally, professional surveying is a necessary step in many city and county building codes if you’re looking to begin new construction.

Many property owners wonder what they need to do to begin their surveying project. Fortunately, we make sure our survey process is simple to get started. First, our customers are given verbal information about the time frame and cost according to the specific project. If these terms are agreed upon, both parties create and execute a contract. The client will be asked to sign the contract, give a half-down deposit, and provide us with a deed or tax notice and plat if available. Then, we go to work!

Before beginning any project, it’s essential to know the basics. Having an understanding of what a structural engineer can do for you is an important step and one of the most critical questions to ask.

Structural engineers are a vital part of the construction process — their expertise ensures that buildings and other structures are designed with safety considerations in mind. They collaborate closely with architects, builders, and contractors to meet all codes, regulations, and structural design standards. By skillfully balancing strength & stability requirements against cost-effectiveness considerations during every step, structural engineers play an essential role in ensuring the property is built to last.

What is a structural inspection? They’re conducted by experienced engineers and used to protect the safety and stability of a structure. During an inspection, structural engineers search for adverse movements, wall cracks, foundation damage, storm damage, drainage issues, and heat loss issues that compromise the structure of your property. Measurements will also be taken, along with soil analysis if required for further evaluation. The documentation collected from structural inspections associated with the property is also reviewed, and suggestions are made based on the results. If you have an issue, quality inspectors can identify problems or alert you to any potential issues in the near future.

Have a property project in mind? How do you know what type of land survey you’ll need? With help from a professional land surveyor, you can get expert advice to help you identify which kind of surveying is necessary for your project. Usually, this means determining if you need boundary surveys to locate markers or monuments, topographic surveys that provide an understanding of terrain and elevation, and land surveys for construction on land with various types of elevation.

Another one of the most critical factors, an ALTA survey provides all parties involved with more data regarding the parcel of land. At the client’s request, they fill out a document referred to as Table A. These items are selected: Vicinity maps, utilities, adjoining landowners, flood plain issues, etc. These surveys are requested when properties change hands and become developed pieces of ground.

A boundary survey has components that are similar to an ALTA survey but deals primarily with boundary lines. These surveys are often referred to as property surveys, land surveys, and, as mentioned above, boundary surveys. They’re usually performed when a buyer has owned the property for a given amount of time and desires to know their boundary lines. Boundary surveys are often associated with smaller transactions and projects.

This type of survey is completed after a development has been finished. It gives the owner, financier, and all who are part of this project a real-time view of how it was built. Was the project built according to the design drawings? This type of survey provides that information.

Construction surveying is the process of surveying buildings, roads, and utilities at the time of construction. As you visit sites that are being developed, you will notice survey stakes throughout the subject area. This is what those stakes are suggesting to the contractors. They provide details, elevations, and locations of each designed component.

Land surveys can differ due to various factors. One primary reason is the methodology used by different licensed land surveyors. Some may use advanced technology like GPS and laser scanning, while others might rely on traditional tools. Variations in equipment can lead to slight differences in property boundaries and measurements.

Another factor is the interpretation of legal descriptions. Legal descriptions are detailed accounts of property lines and corners, but they can be interpreted differently depending on the surveyor’s experience. Changes in landmarks, such as trees or fences, can also cause discrepancies if one survey was done years ago and another more recently.

Inaccuracies in previous surveys can also contribute to differences. Not all civil engineering firms maintain the same standards, so it’s possible that earlier surveys missed important details. Always ensure you hire a reputable civil engineer and land survey firm to avoid such issues.

Start by examining the title block, usually located in a corner of the document. This section includes the surveyor’s name, date of survey, and project information, which helps identify the context of the survey. Surveys also include a legend that explains the symbols and abbreviations used throughout the survey. Common symbols include property corners, boundaries, and utility lines. There’s a scale that indicates how the distances on the map relate to actual ground distances and a notes section where specific details about the property are mentioned. These notes might include information on easements, encroachments, or any special conditions affecting the property.

Identifying the location of underground utilities — such as gas lines, water pipes, and electrical cables — prevents accidental damage during excavation or construction. Damaging these utilities can lead to repair costs, project delays, and safety hazards. Utility locating also ensures compliance with local regulations. Many areas require that all underground utilities be identified and marked before any digging begins. Failing to do so can result in legal penalties and fines.

Streamlining the process involves knowing what your land surveyor needs from you. Providing the right information helps many civil engineering firms and land surveyors deliver timely and accurate results. Here’s what you should have ready:

  • Property Deed: Contains the legal description of your property, which defines its boundaries.
  • Previous Surveys: Any old surveys of the property can provide a starting point and save time.
  • Title Insurance Policy: This can include valuable information about easements and encumbrances on the property.
  • Utility Maps: If available, utility maps can help locate underground utilities quickly.
  • Property Improvements: Information about recent additions or changes like fences, buildings, or landscaping.
  • Neighbor Information: Contact details of adjacent property owners if boundary disputes need resolution.
  • Access Instructions: Any specific instructions for entering the property, especially if there are locked gates or security systems.
  • Project Details: Clearly explain why the survey is needed (e.g., construction, dispute resolution, sale).

An easement is a legal right to use someone else’s land for a specific purpose. It does not grant ownership but allows access or usage under defined conditions. Easements are common in both residential and commercial properties.

There are different types of easements. A utility easement allows utility companies to install and maintain pipes, cables, and other infrastructure. For example, power lines running across your property are likely there because of a utility easement. A right-of-way easement grants passage through a property. This is often used when a property is landlocked, providing access to a road through a neighbor’s land.

After completing the survey, your land surveyors will provide several important documents. These typically include a detailed survey map showing property boundaries, property lines, and corners. This map is important for understanding your property’s exact dimensions and location.

You’ll also receive a written report that describes the survey findings. This report might include information on any discovered encroachments, easements, and other relevant observations. It’s an important document for resolving any disputes or making informed decisions about property improvements or sales. If requested, your licensed land surveyor might provide a digital copy of the survey, which can be useful for sharing with contractors, architects, or legal professionals involved in any ongoing or future projects.

In some cases, the surveyor may also offer recommendations for the next steps, particularly if they’ve identified issues like boundary disputes or required adjustments.

Surveying is foundational in civil engineering, setting the stage for successful project execution. Accurate surveys provide essential data on land contours, property boundaries, and existing structures, forming the basis for design and construction plans.

Civil engineers rely on precise survey data to determine the best locations for roads, buildings, and infrastructure. This planning helps avoid costly mistakes and optimizes land use. Surveys are also important for legal compliance. Many civil engineering forms require detailed land survey data to meet local, state, and federal regulations. Also, surveying identifies potential challenges early. By mapping out property lines, utility locations, and topographic features, surveyors help engineers foresee obstacles and plan solutions proactively.

High-risk areas often require additional surveying to address unique challenges and ensure safe development. These regions might include flood zones, earthquake-prone areas, or unstable soil conditions. Extra precautions and detailed surveys are necessary to mitigate risks.

In flood zones, surveys help civil engineers design drainage systems and structures that can withstand flooding, protecting both the property and its occupants. For earthquake-prone areas, surveys assess soil stability and seismic activity, guiding the construction of buildings that can endure earthquakes. Detailed topographic surveys are also crucial to identify fault lines and other risk factors.

These are just a few factors, but there are so many more benefits to surveys for high-risk areas. Contact Ludlow Engineering today to survey your high-risk civil engineering project.

Have more land survey FAQs and civil engineering FAQs that need to be answered? Ludlow Engineering is here to help with answers to some of your more detailed and property-specific questions. Let us lead your land surveying operations today and answer things like how to know what type of land survey you need. Contact a representative today to explore the collection of services our team offers.