How Do You Read a Land Survey Drawing?

If you own property or you are thinking about purchasing property, a land survey is a document that you’re going to need to become familiar with. In the most basic terms, a land survey is a map and a report of a parcel of land that includes key details about a piece of property. A land survey will include information about a property’s shape, size, boundaries, and more. The details of these documents vary, but the precise measurements of the land, which are taken by a licensed land surveyor, are the most basic and essential information. In this article, we cover everything you need to know in order to read a land survey drawing like a pro!

How Do You Read a Land Survey Drawing?

Knowing how to read a property survey drawing is crucial for many reasons. Below, we’ll take a closer look at the reasons why you might need to read one, and how to do so.

Why You Might Need to Read a Land Survey

There are several instances when you might need a land survey. Some of the most common scenarios include:

  • Purchasing a parcel of property or home – You’ll want to know precisely what you’re buying and where your property boundaries start and end. A land survey will provide this information to prospective property owners.
  • Securing financing or title insurance – Most lenders or title companies will require a land survey before they will finalize the financing and/or the insurance.
  • Building or repairing your property – The information that a land survey provides will allow you to ensure that the work your contractor, or utility company is doing is within the boundaries of the property that you own.
  • Dispute with neighbors – For example, if you’re arguing with your neighbor about where your property line ends and theirs begins, then you’ll need a land survey.

Additional Reading: Who Needs a Land Survey?

What’s Included in a Land Survey Drawing?

A land survey drawing, also known as a survey plat or cadastral map, is a detailed graphical representation of a specific piece of land. It typically includes a variety of information related to the property’s boundaries, physical features, and legal descriptions. Here are the key elements commonly included in a land survey drawing:

  • Property Boundaries
  • Monuments and Markers
  • Lot Dimensions
  • Land Features
  • Easements
  • Topography
  • Zoning Information
  • Legal Descriptions
  • North Arrow and Scale
  • Surveyor’s Seal and Information
  • Date of Survey
  • Title or Property Identifier
  • Certification

How to Read a Land Survey Drawing

Whether you’re planning on installing a fence or a new pool on your property, you’d like to extend your house, you’re planning on purchasing a new house or a piece of land, or you’re having a property dispute with your neighbor; whatever the case may be, knowing how to read a land survey is important.

Reading a land survey might seem like a simple task, and it is, as long as you know what you’re doing. Below, you’ll find an introduction to reading a land survey.

1. Identify the parts of your survey

A land survey is comprised of two parts: an illustration and a written report. The illustration is a map of the land that has been surveyed. The written report documents the details of the land.

2. Locate and understand the legend

Lay your property survey out on a flat surface and locate the legend. On most land surveys, the legend is located in a corner of the illustration. The legend features icons that indicate key attributes of the property; borders, structures, utility lines, and wells, for example.

If you are unsure of any of the elements that are documented on your property legend, contact the surveyor who surveyed your land. If you are unable to locate the individual, contact another certified land surveyor in your area, as they should be able to provide assistance.

Note: you may need to pay a fee for another surveyor’s assistance.

3. Orient yourself using the compass

Use the compass on the illustration part of your land survey to orient yourself. A well-done survey will distinguish the difference between magnetic and astronomical north. It if doesn’t, then the north on the compass is likely magnetic north.

4. Understand the boundaries

Boundaries on your property are highlighted with bearing and distance. The bearing is a series of degrees, minutes, and seconds, and there are compass point letters set before and after every element. The distance between each element shows how much distance there is between boundary lines.

5. Locate key features

Both parts of your land survey should highlight key features of your property, including:

  • Boundaries, both physical and overlapping
  • Water elements, such as rivers, streams, or lakes
  • Shared elements with a neighboring property, such as walkways, fencing, and driveways
  • Nearby driveways and roadways
  • Existing points of entry or egresses
  • Any buildings, modifications, repairs, or structural improvements that have been made to the property
  • Utility locations, such as electrical lines, plumbing pipes, cable lines, gas lines, etc.

6. Highlight the scale and scope of the illustration

The survey will have a scale, which should be located near the legend. The scale illustrates how the distances are represented in the illustration and will be useful for gauging distance on the property, including distances between the property and any landmarks that may be nearby. For example, one inch on the illustration might represent one mile.

Understanding Land Survey Drawings

Reading a land survey is similar to reading a land map. Take the time to familiarize yourself with your land survey, and if assistance is required, then ask a professional surveyor near you for help.

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Contact Precision Surveying & Consulting to learn more!