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Frequently Asked Questions

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How Much Does a Survey Cost?

Often, one of the very first questions we receive during an initial phone call is:  How much does a survey cost?  The answer, of course, would depend on so many features.  It’s a bit like asking – How much does a plane ticket cost – totally depends on where you are going, along with some other personal preferences and technical requirements.   The first thing we do is determine the needs and parameters of your request.  Listed below are a couple features that have to be determined:

a.) What type of survey do you need? 
…Property boundary Survey?  …Setting property corner markers with a Corner Record, or maybe a Record of Survey Map?   Topographic Survey and Map for engineering or architectural design?   Construction Staking?  Certificate Letter for a Building Inspector?  The list goes on.   During an initial phone conversation we will be trying to gather information and understand the parameters of your project, the Scope of Work, the Limits of Survey,  what you are trying to solve or resolve with a survey, and what, if any, jurisdictional requirements may affect your project fees and timing.

b.) Evaluate details about the Subject Property… 
There are a set of critical features and attributes of your property that will have to be evaluated and determined before a relevant fee proposal can be prepared.   It is imperative to know how your Property/Parcel/Lot is described or defined?  In what city or jurisdiction is the land?  How big or complex is the project and what are the terrain and site conditions.

c.) Other features and project requirements can include… 
Availability of relevant recorded maps and Survey Monuments, Property access issues, Compressed Turn-Around Schedule for the survey, Need for Underground Utility locations, receipt of critical documents, and the requirement to make document submittals to a jurisdiction.

What are the factors that go into the cost of a survey, and are there ways to reduce fees?

The typical Land Surveying projects involve two main features:  A two-person field surveying crew in a pickup truck with all the necessary survey equipment, instruments and gear to do their work,  and secondly, a set of Office activities and tasks that are very important to the success of a project, but which are mostly not seen nor understood by the client, at least until they receive their final drafted map.   The office work can include parcel/property research, computations/calculations, post-survey field data processing and reduction, Computer-aided Drafting/AutoCAD Drafting of map, review of the project by the Professional Land Surveyor, and the delivery/distribution of the map product to the client.

Of these two features of a Land Surveying project, the two-person field survey crew is the most expensive part of the equation.  Our procedures are to prepare and equip the Survey Crew with as much good, relevant and accurate data, top quality equipment, and office support to help their day move along successfully, gather the most data and reduce their time in the field.

When you call our office to discuss your project, we can go over some of the fees associated with these tasks and a written proposal will be prepared and supplied so you know all the features of the Scope of Work, Limits of Survey, project costs, delivery schedule and any other details before any work is started.

What is a Survey Monument?

Surveyors both rely on Monuments and they also set Monuments. You might say Surveyors even love monuments – we sure like finding them and measuring to them.  Monuments are Markers – most often they are set in the ground and can hold or mark what we call Horizontal Positions.  Depending on what kind of marker was set, they can be called:  Property corners, Brass disk, Nail & Brass Tag, Pin & Cap, Rebar & Cap, Iron Pipe, even a Cut Cross in Concrete.   Very often you will notice the markers have a cap or a tag with a number on the top.   That four- or five-digit number is the specific state-issued number for each individual registered Land Surveyor/Engineer, and it allows us to know who set the marker.  

Monuments are established with the intent to hold and perpetuate mathematical positions as they mark the corners, lines, limits and boundaries of parcels, properties, street rights-of-way, easements, and even vertical elevations (benchmarks).  These monuments are called-for, shown and described on the recorded maps and without them your survey project usually gets more expensive.  

Monuments can be 3” or 4” diameter brass disks on large iron pipes, or they can be small nail and brass tags that may be difficult to see.  Note that monuments can also be physical objects like building corners, a specific tree, a specific place or mark on a rock wall, and one deed from a Colorado property called for a “four-foot-tall stack of deer antlers” – which we did find.   Here on our website we have a photo gallery with photos of various types of monuments that surveyors use and set.   

U.S. Coast Survey Survey Monument

What is a Benchmark? 

A Benchmark is a specific type of Survey Monument that marks and holds a specified Elevation (a vertical measurement).  Often you will see an Elevation with a reference to AMSL.  For instance:  427.15 AMSL – which stands for 427.15 feet Above Mean Sea Level. A Benchmark can be referenced to a specific official DATUM for a specific city, agency or government projects, or the benchmark elevation can be assumed (made-up) for simple residential projects.   There are many types of DATUMS for instance the City of San Francisco has its own scale, as does the City of Oakland.  There are various Tidal Datums and over time and after new surveys, DATUMS get adjusted or replaced by new ones.  The advent of the Global Positioning System (GPS), new equipment, more satellites, additional measurements and updated computer models, have resulted in new datums and more accurate elevations for many places.

Fence Lines versus Property Lines? 

We often receive calls from land owners who have questions about the location of fence lines.  Sometimes they are in a dispute with their neighbor over the placement of a new fence.  We have had literally hundreds of conversations with clients and callers about fences, and it is completely understandable.   For most people, if you ask them, they will say the fence line is the property line, at least they function and behave that way.   In most cases, a fence line does not establish a property line, however, over time it may establish rights-of-use.  Fences take on different importance when they have marked land owner occupation, maintenance and use lines by different owners over longer periods of time on larger tracts of land in which the only marker has been a barbed wire fence, however for most wood fence lines in typical residential subdivisions, the fences simply are where they are and generally are close to the line.  But many heated issues have been started over the fence location.  If you have that issue, please give us a call.   


Working Men Surveying Surveyor Truck
Man with Tool Rocks Bridge