What’s a Land Survey, and Do I Need One?

A land survey is a process of defining the boundaries of a parcel of land. It not only outlines the edges, but details the topography, or physical features, of the lot. Land surveys can be conducted following various guidelines, and for various purposes. If you plan to develop a parcel in any way, it’s beneficial to have a survey completed.

Types of Land Surveys

Depending on what you plan to do with a piece of land, different types of surveys should be conducted. Anderson Engineering conducts the following types of surveys to help you understand the lay of your land.


ALTA stands for American Land Title Association; before a mortgage lender or title company will insure a property, an ALTA survey needs to be completed. 


Some properties have physical features that indicate their borders in addition to government records or boundary lines. A boundary survey ensures the data is accurate and requires both research and fieldwork.

Construction Staking

Perhaps you’ve already surveyed the land, and are now in the process of physically mapping out the footprint of your project. At this point, construction staking allows a project manager to see a drawing come to life, and if there are any problems with how it’s laid out.

Easement Drafting

In the case that there is an easement on a parcel, it needs to be documented in government records and its dimensions specified. A land survey can help determine the specifics of the easement location and use. An easement might be for utility company access, or it might permit a building to be constructed on the parcel as long as it abides by certain height restrictions.


Before a parcel can be divided into smaller pieces and sold for development, a subdivision survey needs to be conducted. State and government records should be updated to reflect how a parcel is divided into lots.


A topographical survey looks at both natural and man-made features on a property. This survey will note any existing roads, hills, lakes, or buildings present. 

Lot Consolidation Plat

The opposite of a subdivision survey is lot consolidation. When two or more parcels are going to be combined for a project, a land surveyor must draw up the plat so it can be approved by the government.

Phases of a Land Survey

There are typically three phases in a land survey:

Data Collection

The surveyor determines what the land boundaries are via researching government information on the parcel.


The surveyor spends time on the parcel to get a scope of its physical specifics. Fieldwork can be conducted on foot, using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or via 3D laser scanning technology.

Data Analysis

Based on the data from the government and time spent on the property, the data is analyzed and used to create updated maps and records of the property.

Did you know Anderson has a service called AESTEP that efficiently collects and analyzes data on your project, saving you time and money? Our expert engineers take the guesswork out of project management with AESTEP, making your survey field data, and more, easily accessible.

Why You Need a Land Survey

Sometimes, a survey is required to settle a dispute over how land can be used, and by whom. Whether it’s neighbors discussing fence placement or a corporation interested in mining some acreage, a survey can ensure who has legal rights to the land. Other reasons a land survey may be needed include:

Making Improvements

Land surveys can determine whether or not you’re permitted to make improvements to the land, such as increasing the height of a structure, adding parking, or expanding closer to a property line.

Installing or Accessing Utilities

Adding utilities has to be approved, and a survey can ensure the water, gas, electric, and even telephone lines are in accordance with local regulations. A survey also outlines how a utility company or municipality can access any equipment on the property.


Before breaking ground, you need a land survey to discover what’s there. Maybe there’s an old cemetery on your land or an underground spring. 

Land Classification

Surveys specify zoning classifications for land, and how it can be used. While residential vs commercial zoning may be a given, you may discover via a survey that your parcel is or isn’t open for agricultural, industrial, or recreational use.

A survey is always a smart move, as the data collected can inform the next steps of the design process. Additionally, survey records can provide legal protection in the event someone wants to dispute land boundaries or property lines. If you need assistance with land surveying, contact Anderson Engineering today.


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