FAQ

Below we have tried to answer come of the most common questions visitors ask about surveying. If you find that your question is not answered on this page, please visit our contact page. We truly enjoy our profession and are more than happy to educate the public on our service.

The Art of Surveying:While one might assume that the manipulation of property and numbers might be devoid of art, only the contrary can be true. Many properties have considerable problems with regards to improper bounding, miscalculations in past surveys, titles, easements, and wildlife crossings. Also many properties are created from multiple divisions of a larger piece over the course of years, and with every additional division the risk of miscalculation increases. The result can be abutting properties not coinciding with adjacent parcels, resulting in hiatuses (gaps) and overlaps. The art comes in when a surveyor must essentially build a puzzle with pieces that do not exactly fit together. In these cases the solution is based upon the research and interpretation of the surveyor, and following established procedures for resolving discrepancies.

Frequently Asked Questions:


  • What Is Land Surveying?
    Land Surveying, per the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM), is the detailed study or inspection, as by gathering information through observations, measurements in the field, questionnaires, or research of legal instruments, and data analysis in the support of planning, designing, and establishing of property boundaries. It involves the re-establishment of cadastral surveys and land boundaries based on documents of record and historical evidence, as well as certifying surveys (as required by statute or local ordinance) of subdivision plats/maps, registered land surveys, judicial surveys, and space delineation. Land surveying can include associated services such as mapping and related data accumulation, construction layout surveys, precision measurements of length, angle, elevation, area, and volume, as well as horizontal and vertical control surveys, and the analysis and utilization of land survey data. Surveying has been an essential element in the development of the human environment since the beginning of recorded history (ca. 5000 years ago) and it is a requirement in the planning and execution of nearly every form of construction. Its most familiar modern uses are in the fields of transport, building and construction, communications, mapping, and the definition of legal boundaries for land ownership.

  • When Do I Need A Surveyor?
    A person generally has occasion to employ a land surveyor only once or twice in a lifetime. Since such employment is so infrequent, the average person is not aware of the logical steps to be followed in selecting a land surveyor. To help in making such a selection, the answers to a few common questions are noted herein.

  • What Are The Qualifications Of A Surveyor?
    Land surveying is a learned profession. It requires precision, facility with applied mathematics, technical knowledge, ability for discriminating investigation, logical thinking, and judicious judgment. A land surveyor in the execution of his projects will work with lawyers, architects, engineers, urban planners, local government officials, and the public in general. He will be involved in both field and office work. In the design of urban subdivision, the land surveyor utilizes extensive surveying principles, applied mathematics, including computer techniques, basic civil engineering principles, photogrammetry, and electronic distance measuring equipment. He is involved in planning, office design and field layout of streets, storm and sanitary sewer extension, and property boundaries. The land surveyor works with the lawyer in writing land descriptions or in locating existing descriptions on the ground.

    He also makes maps for architects, landscape experts, and urban planners to utilize for the design of houses, shopping centers, or housing developments. He does layout work for engineering projects. Hence land surveying requires knowledge in applied science and mathematics and basic planning, surveying, engineering, and legal principles.

    All 50 states have laws requiring practicing land surveyors to be registered. The state of Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky require the equivalent of a four year university degree in land surveying and four years experience under the supervision of a registered land surveyor, plus the passing of a 16 hour written examination, to become registered as a land surveyor. Each state requires several hours of continuing education per year to keep the registered professional up to date with modern technology, principles and practices.


  • What Does A Surveyor Know That I May Not Know?
    Surveyors must have a thorough knowledge of algebra, basic calculus, geometry, and trigonometry. They must also know the laws that deal with surveys, property, and contracts. In addition, they must be able to use delicate instruments with accuracy and precision. In the United States, surveyors and civil engineers use units of feet wherein a survey foot is broken down into 10ths and 100ths. Many deed descriptions requiring distance calls are often expressed using these units (125.25 ft). On the subject of accuracy, surveyors are often held to a standard of one one-hundredth of a foot; about 1/8th inch. Calculation and mapping tolerances are much smaller wherein achieving near perfect closures are desired. Though tolerances such as this will vary from project to project, in the field and day to day usage beyond a 100th of a foot is often impractical. In most states of the U.S., surveying is recognized as a distinct profession apart from engineering. Licensing requirements vary by state, however these requirements generally all have a component of education, experience and examinations. In the past, experience gained through an apprenticeship, together with passing a series of state-administered examinations, was required to attain licensure. Nowadays, most states insist upon basic qualification of a Degree in Surveying in addition to experience and examination requirements. Typically the process for registration follows two phases. First, upon graduation, the candidate may be eligible to sit for the Fundamentals of Land Surveying exam, to be certified upon passing and meeting all other requirements as a Surveyor In Training (SIT). Upon being certified as an SIT, the candidate then needs to gain additional experience until he or she becomes eligible for the second phase, which typically consists of the Principles and Practice of Land Surveying exam along with a state-specific examination.

    Typically a licensed land surveyor is required to sign and seal all plans, the format of which is dictated by their state jurisdiction, which shows their name and registration number. In many states, when setting boundary corners land surveyors are also required to place monuments bearing their registration numbers, typically in the form of capped iron rods, concrete monuments, or nails with washers.

  • What Kind Of Equipment Is Used For Surveying?
    As late as the 1990s the basic tools used in planar surveying were a tape measure for determining shorter distances, a level for determine height or elevation differences, and a theodolite, set on a tripod, with which one can measure angles (horizontal and vertical), combined with triangulation. Starting from a position with known location and elevation, the distance and angles to the unknown point are measured. A more modern instrument is a total station, which is a theodolite with an electronic distance measurement device (EDM) and can also be used for leveling when set to the horizontal plane. Since their introduction, total stations have made the technological shift from being optical-mechanical devices to being fully electronic with an onboard computer and software. Modern top-of-the-line total stations no longer require a reflector or prism (used to return the light pulses used for distancing) to return distance measurements, are fully robotic, and can even e-mail point data to the office computer and connect to satellite positioning systems, such as a Global Positioning System (GPS).

  • What Can a Surveyor Do for Me?
    A person generally has occasion to employ a Land Surveyor only once or twice in a lifetime. Since such employment is so infrequent, the average person is not always aware of the logical steps to be followed in selecting a land surveyor. To help in making such a selection, the answers to a few common questions are noted below. Surveys are required by law if you plan to partition or subdivide your property or to adjust your property lines. A survey is also desirable and advisable before purchasing real estate, and is frequently recommended by legal counsel or by mortgage loan companies. Remember, using the services of a Land Surveyor now could cost much less in time, worry, and money than the cost of moving a fence, or a building, or defending a lawsuit at a later date.

  • What If I Disagree with the Surveyor?
    Disagreeing with a Licensed Surveyor’s Boundary Determination:
    Surveyors work with the best information available. They utilize recorded survey and deed data information together with physical evidence found on the ground. From this data, in conjunction with the Indiana Revised Statutes and other laws concerning land surveying, they make their conclusions. Any land survey is only as good as the information from which the conclusions are drawn. Surveyors put their professional reputation and license on the line every time they determine a boundary location. It is in a surveyor’s interest to observe the survey laws and to make the most accurate boundary determination possible. They have no reason to deliberately locate a boundary line incorrectly. Occasionally, however, a surveyor can overlook an important piece of evidence that might change the boundary opinion in question. If you believe this to be the case, then it is your option to discuss the evidence in question directly with the surveyor. It is insufficient to disagree with a boundary line determined by a licensed surveyor without any legal evidence. You must show legal evidence in order to refute a surveyor’s findings. If after discussing the problem with the surveyor you still feel it has not been resolved to your satisfaction, there are other avenues that may be pursued. You can hire a land surveyor of your own choice to perform a separate boundary survey. The second surveyor may find a sufficiently different result or have a different boundary opinion. When a situation disclosing a conflict in a property boundary occurs, you must then decide what solution options you are willing to consider. Often, you may have to weigh the value of the land in question or the value of proving a point against the potential cost of what it might take to acquire written title. If you have not already done so at this point, you should contact an attorney for advice. The first solution if a conflict has occurred is to try to have the surveyors meet and mediate resolution. Other methods for solving a boundary problem also involve the cooperation of both parties in the dispute. A property line agreement or adjustment survey may be performed, with applicable deed recordings and survey map filings. A description may be written on the property or on a portion of the property, and recorded as an easement for a specific purpose to a specific party. Alternatively, you may choose to allow present ownership conditions to continue as is. If you choose to maintain the status quo, you may run the risk of being subjected in the future to acquiescence or adverse possession activity, either in your favor or contrary to your interests. The last choice for a solution is having the case heard before a court of law. The court process is often the most expensive, but may be the only solution if the problem can’t be resolved by other means. Written title to property acquired by unwritten means (acquiescence or adverse possession) can only be obtained through recording a mutually signed document or through court proceedings. For that reason, allowing present ownership conditions to continue as is in the hopes that a problem will resolve itself will not resolve the ownership problem. An accurate boundary survey, in which boundary lines are identified by a licensed surveyor and are legally defensible (and in which all necessary legal elements have been observed), is usually an effective means by which to resolve common boundary conflicts without burdening the property with additional legal encumbrances. If the licensed surveyor’s ethics or professional conduct are in question, a complaint may be filed with the licensing agency, the Indiana State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying, located in Salem. Please note, however, that ISBEELS historically will not deal with contract issues or with business matters. In Marion County for cases involving Public Land Corners such as Section Corner(s), Quarter Section Corner(s) and Donation Land Claim Corner(s) the County Surveyor should be involved. The County Surveyor in most counties has a program called The Public Land Corner Preservation Fund that may be able to find, restore, and/or replace corners set by the Government Land Office beginning in the early 1850’s.

  • How Much Will My Survey Cost?
    The cost for most land surveying work is based on the following variables:

    • Type of survey: Costs will increase as the required precision and scope of the survey increases.
    • Record search: This varies by (a) the number of parcels involved; (b) the number of past transactions; (c) junior/ senior rights and (d) complexity of deed description.
    • Size and shape of property: An irregularly shaped parcel has more corners to monument and lines to resolve than a rectangular parcel containing the same area.
    • Sectionalized Survey Work (Rural tracts): This could require the survey of the entire section (640 acres +) in which the land being surveyed lies, regardless of the area of the parcel. In exceptional cases, a survey of more than one section is required.
    • Terrain: A level parcel of land is easier to survey than a mountainous parcel.
    • Vegetation: Branches, brush, and small trees must frequently be cleared to afford a line of sight for the surveyor. Shrubs, flowers, and trees on home sites are normally not disturbed, but may require additional field time to perform work around them.
    • Accessibility: The time to perform the surveying work varies with the distance to, and the difficulty in reaching, the corners on the site.
    • Amount of existing evidence on the property: Existing evidence such as iron, wood, or stone monuments, old fences and occupation lines and monumentation is a considerable aid to the Surveyor.
    • Time of Year: In summer, foliage may present problems making traversing difficult. In winter, weather may slow travel to and on site.
    • Title Company Requirements: Title companies may require considerably more documentation than is normally required by the average landowner.

    Because of these variables, it is difficult to determine exact fees, however, if you provide us with all the information requested on the survey quote form, we can provide an accurate quote.

    If you would like a quote on a survey, click here.


  • How Do I Hire A Land Surveyor?
    Only a Professional Land Surveyor licensed by the State Board of Engineering and Land Surveying is legally permitted to perform land surveys. A Land Surveyor is a valuable integral part of a professional team composed of attorneys, engineers, architects and planners.
    Choose a reputable Land Surveyor in whose skill and judgment you can put your trust.
    A Land Surveyor should not be selected by price alone. Competency is of first importance. Your selection should be made when you are sure that the professional you have chosen has all of the facts, and is completely aware of your requirements and/or the requirements of the governmental agency having jurisdiction over the property or development process.
    A Surveyor’s knowledge of required processes, government personnel and legal requirements will speed your project and minimize conflicts. Reputation, standing in the community and a proven record of performance are essential.

  • Why Should I Have A Title Report?
    There are may things disclosed in a title report, many of which do not pertain to surveying. However, a surveyor generally will want to see a title report because it will disclose any easements and property rights that may exist on the property. When we are surveying a property to define it’s boundary, or building space, we will require the vesting deeds for your property, as well as those of your neighbors. A single piece of property is like a puzzle, in that it fits in between other properties. In order to see how your property fits, we need to see how the neighbors fit as well. The deeds are a written document that describes your land. The title company will provide these deeds to us along with the title report so that we can properly resolve your boundary. These records are available at the county, however, only a title company has the tools to properly research and assemble all the deeds necessary to get a clear picture of your property and the easements that may exist on it. There is a fee associated with a title report from the title company, but using their tools and being their area of expertise, their fee is generally lower than if you attempt to do all the research on your own. There is also a guarantee that comes with that fee.

  • Will the Surveyor Show Me What I Own?
    Surveyors do not prove ownership, but he/she will give you their professional opinion of what the records and facts indicate your ownership to be. This opinion is satisfactory under most normal circumstances. Only a court of law can determine ownership more decisively than a qualified Land Surveyor.

  • Can the Surveyor Aid in Subdividing My Land?
    A Land Surveyor is the only one qualified to prepare a plat for a proposed division of land. The Land Surveyor may prepare an individual description or, if lots/parcels are being created, the surveyor may prepare a legal plat with lot or parcel numbers for recording. Platting rules differ slightly with each county or city. A qualified surveyor would be familiar with local rules and procedures.

  • Can He Design Streets, Water Lines, And Sewer Systems For My Subdivision?
    A surveyor can design streets, sanitary gravity sewers (not force mains) and storm sewers within a subdivision. He will recommend an engineer to design the water supply system and to perform other engineering services that might be required. A professional surveyor will not attempt any aspects of engineering design with which he is not familiar and qualified to perform.

  • Can the Surveyor Design Public Improvement Systems for My Subdivision?
    The surveyor will recommend an engineer to design streets, water supply system and sewer systems and to perform other engineering services that might be required. The Professional Land Surveyor will not attempt any aspects of engineering design which he/she is not qualified to perform.

  • Can a Land Surveyor Perform Engineering Surveys?
    Land surveyors conduct most engineering surveys. They are knowledgeable and equipped to prepare topographic surveys, to supply control for aerial photography, to layout construction projects, to survey right of way for power lines and roadways, and so forth.

  • Can a Surveyor from an Adjoining State Perform a Survey in Indiana?
    Not under normal circumstances. The obvious exception is if the surveyor from another state also possesses a license from the State of Indiana.

  • Can an Engineer Do a Land Survey?
    An engineer cannot perform survey work unless he/she is also a licensed Professional Land Surveyor.

  • Can a Contractor Do Land Survey Work?
    A contractor cannot perform land survey work unless he/she is also a licensed Professional Land Surveyor. Also, beware of survey technicians who may be skilled in only some aspects of surveying and are not licensed as Land Surveyors.

  • Who Can Legally Perform a Land Survey?
    In the State of Indiana only a Professional Land Surveyor (PLS) can legally assume the responsibility for a land survey. The Professional Land Surveyor is an individual whose highly specialized background, training and skills have been rigorously examined, and who has been licensed by the State of Indiana to practice land surveying.

  • How Do I Locate a Land Survey Professional?
    Most survey work is acquired through the personal recommendations of satisfied clients, or through attorneys, real estate companies, and title companies who frequently handle real estate transactions. If it is difficult to obtain a recommendation, probably the most direct way would be to check the listings under “Surveyors – Land” in the classified section of the telephone directory. According to Indiana law, only licensed practitioners can advertise themselves as Land Surveyors. While the County Surveyor’s Office cannot make recommendations, they may be able to provide you with the names of surveyors who have worked in your specific area in the past. Surveyors should be able to provide you with references for their previous work.

  • Is a Written Contract Required?
    Traditionally, contracts for surveys have been by oral agreement. Many surveys have been requested over the phone. However, in recent years it is becoming more common for the client to visit the Land Surveyor’s office, discuss requirements of the survey, and enter into a written contract (which tends to assure a better understanding between the client and the Land Surveyor). A good contract contains a clear understanding of services to be provided, costs, time lines, and extra work contingencies. A good contract protects both the client and the surveyor.

  • Can I Determine in Advance What The Charge Will Be?
    In most cases it will not be possible to get more than an estimate, because many of the factors involved in the survey are indeterminable early in the process. Final cost is dependent upon the time required to perform research to obtain the necessary information of record, to perform preliminary fieldwork, to perform the required office computations, and to monument your lines on the ground. Most surveyors will prepare an estimate based on their experience in estimating hours of work (times their hourly fee schedules) which can be used as a basis for a written contract.

  • Should I Employ a Surveyor on The Basis of Price?
    Not necessarily. Competency, service and responsibility are of first importance. Since low cost and high quality are often inconsistent, and judging the amount of work necessary to produce a quality survey may be difficult before the project begins, it is probably unreasonable to expect your surveyor to “bid” on a project, then stick to the bid price.

  • What Information Should I Furnish the Surveyor?
    Furnish the Land Surveyor with an explanation of why the survey is desired (if requested, he/she will maintain confidentiality). With the client’s purpose in mind, the Professional Land Surveyor can work more efficiently and thus reduce costs. If you have a deed or mortgage description, aerial photograph of the land, or an abstract, give a copy to the Land Surveyor. In addition, if you have knowledge of a stone, wooden stake, iron rod or pipe, etc. which was reported to you as a property corner, pass that information along to the Land Surveyor. He/she will make the professional judgement as to which evidence should be used.

  • What Will the Land Surveyor Furnish Me?
    The Land Surveyor’s final product will vary with each survey (depending upon the reason for the survey), but generally you will be furnished with a copy of a signed and stamped plat or map showing what the Land Surveyor has done, showing the corners monumented or otherwise identified. A narrative on the map will describe why and how the survey was performed. Since 1947, Indiana law has required that all surveys performed by licensed surveyors (in which a property corner is set) be filed with the County Surveyor. Your survey should be on file and copies available to the public if it was performed after 1947.

  • What If My Survey Discloses Deed Overlaps, Encroachments, or Other Problems?
    It is not uncommon to discover during the survey process that there are existing fence or building encroachments or other problems. There are many methods of resolving property line disputes, the most expensive of which is resolution before a court of law. More congenial resolutions require the cooperation of both parties; creation of an easement, adjustment of a property line, even maintaining the status quo are among the options to be considered. Your surveyor and your attorney can help you determine the best option for resolving property conflicts.

  • There is a Surveyor on my property without my permission. He says he has the right to survey and locate monuments but he never told me he was coming. What can I do?
    Surveyors are permitted to enter private land without permission, however they must attempt to contact the Owner or Occupant beforehand. There is no wording in the Right of Entry law specifying how they must contact the Owner or Occupant. Frequently, this is notice in the form of a door hanger listing who they are and what they are doing. They must cause minimal damage to the property and are responsible for compenstating the Owner for any damages they cause. Check the Right of Entry on the left side of this page for more information.

  • DID YOU KNOW ……?
    That to correctly survey a 40 acre tract such as the NW ¼¼ of the SE ¼¼ (fig. 1) requires a survey of almost the entire section? Consider the steps that are necessary:

    a. Recover original government corners 1, 2, 4, 6 & 8.

    b. Establish the center of the section (point A) which is the intersection of a straight line between points 4 & 8 and 6 & 2.

    c. Establish 1/16th corners B, C, D & E (point B is exactly midway between points A & 2, etc.).

    d. Establish SE 1/16th corner (point F) which is the intersection of straight lines between points B & D and C & E.

    e. Analyze the above against existing monuments found at or near computed locations.

    The above steps are necessary to locate the four corners of (in this case) the NW ¼¼ of the SE ¼¼. Since most sections have dimensions such as in figure 2 (exaggerated to show that the lines are not straight or parallel, due to difficulties in the original surveys done in the 1850’s) it follows that the distances around a 40 acre tract as shown will not always be 1320′ or at right angles to each other.

  • figure1

    figure2