March 7, 2022 | Brad E. G. Oliver, PS

7 Types of Land Surveys

Order the Right Survey Type for Your Project

“I need a survey.” It’s one of the top requests we hear from developers, financial institutions, municipalities, and utility companies. A survey means different things to different people, and many don’t know which type of land survey they need. Our job as consultants and survey professionals is to dig deeper and define the true scope so the client receives the right amount of data. This article covers seven of the most commonly used surveys.

1) ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys

Developers, builders, real estate firms, and lenders use ALTA surveys to identify improvements, right-of-way, easements, boundaries, and restrictions on a piece of land. This comprehensive survey documents all the characteristics of a site and follows strict national standards established by the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) to ensure lenders receive consistent information regardless of location in the United States. ALTA surveys can take weeks or months to prepare.

2) Boundary Surveys

A boundary survey combines field research and record research to identify and confirm a parcel’s corners and boundary lines per state law. Boundary surveys may include easement lines—right(s) of others over the property; encumbrance on the property—and encroachments which are important information for realtors and homeowners. State and local requirements govern these surveys, so it’s important to be aware of the laws in your area. This type of survey can typically be done in a matter of days, depending on the size of the parcel.

3) Topographic Surveys

Topographic surveys, usually sought by engineers, developers, or government agencies, use aerial and/or ground-based methods to document natural and man-made features on property like elevations, contours, streams, trees, utilities, and building structures. Researching local requirements is important here – it’s more effective to know what you need ahead of time instead of skimping on features and having to pay for additional fieldwork later. For example, suppose the field crew isn’t aware of a municipality requirement of 50-foot overlap for the topographic features and only captures 25-feet. In this case, an additional field trip is required that was not in the budget.

4) Construction Staking

Like the name says, construction surveys put stakes in the ground to let contractors and builders know where features – like roads, buildings, and utilities – should be built per the construction documents. Communication is critical with all parties involved – engineer, surveyor, and contractor alike. The sharp, experienced eye of a savvy field surveyor will save an untold amount of money and time on projects!

5) As-Built Surveys

As-built surveys are a critical part of the overall construction process. Detailed survey information helps compare what was in the proposed drawings to what was actually constructed in the field, as unknown changes on site are inevitable as construction progresses. Along with traditional field techniques, advanced survey technologies such as laser scanning and drone-captured data help create the as-built set of drawings with as-constructed dimensions, geometries, structure locations, materials, setbacks, and slopes.

6) Route Surveys

Route surveys are used in transportation and energy/utility projects to push projects from point A to point B along a corridor. Route surveys are a combination of boundary surveys and topographic surveys that identify locations of natural and man-made features, ownership, utilities, pipelines, power lines, highways, railroads, river crossings, and more. Route surveys are an instrumental part of the project package during the design phase and to obtain landowner easements along the project route. Completing a route survey can be a lengthy process depending on the stretch and complexity of the route.

7) Floodplain Surveys/Elevation Certifications

Developers, landowners, and site selectors use floodplain information/surveys in the early stages of a project to help determine the feasibility of the site or where to place structures on a site. To determine whether a property is located within a flood zone, the property must have a flood certification with the findings reported in hopes of getting the landowner out of flood insurance. Or in the case of new construction, make sure the structure is not built within the published floodplain.

Surveys are critical legal records, so arm yourself with the right surveyor that fully knows and understands the importance of the different types of surveys required. Download our free cheat sheet to navigate the different types of land surveys.

Learn more about our survey capabilities and contact our team to help you determine the right survey type for your project.

About The Author

Brad E. G. Oliver, PS

As a founding member of the firm, Brad offers more than 20 years of land surveying, project management, and operations leadership experience, specializing in large, complex corridor projects for program level clients.

Stay connected!

Subscribe to News + Ideas