About Surveying


The Temple of Horus featuring Thoth, Egyptian god of math, science and the originator of surveying (third from right). Photo by David Short.

"The measurement of dimensional relationships, as of horizontal distances, elevations, directions, and angles, on the earth's surface especially for use in locating property boundaries, construction layout, and mapmaking." - Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Mount Rushmore, featuring 3 surveyors and another guy. Said by some to be the second oldest profession, land surveying has a long and storied past. In relatively recent history, in 1803 Merriweather Lewis and William Clark were directed by United States President Thomas Jefferson (who was himself a surveyor) to investigate the Pacific Northwest in seach of the Northwest Passage:

"… The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri river, & such principal stream of it, as, by it’s course & communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce.

Beginning at the mouth of the Missouri, you will take observations of latitude & longitude, at all remarkable points on the river, & especially at the mouths of rivers, at rapids, at islands & other places & objects distinguished by such natural marks & characters of a durable kind, as that they may with certainty be recognized hereafter.  the courses of the river between these points of observation may be supplied by the compass, the log–line & by time, corrected by the observations themselves.  the variations of the compass too, in different places, should be noticed.

… Your observations are to be taken with great pains & accuracy, to be entered distinctly, & intelligibly for others as well as yourself, to comprehend all the elements necessary…."

Excerpts from the Diaries of Thomas Jefferson

Surveying in Idaho Today

Idaho Law states that only a Professional Land Surveyor is authorized to survey land for the public. The Idaho Board of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors lists all license holders on its web site found HERE. Requirements for obtaining Professional Land Surveyor status in Idaho are:

  • A 4 year degree in surveying or a related field
  • At least 4 years combined office and field experience.
  • Good moral reputation.
  • Successful completion of a sixteen hour examination administered by the Idaho Board of Professional Engineers and Professional Land Surveyors.

Types of Surveys

  • American Land Title Association Survey or Extended Title Insurance Coverage Survey: may be required to obtain title insurance.
  • Boundary Survey: Establishing or re-establishing boundary lines of a parcel of land.
  • Subdivision Survey: Dividing a tract of land into smaller parcels for development.
  • Topographic Survey: Locating natural features, structures and other improvements on the land.
  • Site Planning Survey: combination of boundary and topographic survey for design of improvements or developments.
  • Control Survey: Precise location of horizontal and vertical positions of points and lines for use in subsequent surveys.
  • Court Exhibit Survey: Preparing a visual or photogrammetry exhibit to be use in a specific court case.
  • Construction Survey: Measurements made while construction is in process, used by the contractor for placement of roads, buildings, pipelines, and other improvements.
  • Cadastral Survey: Original survey, resurvey, or retracement of public lands within the Public Land Survey System of the United States for restoration of property lines.
  • Route Survey: Reconnaissance, preliminary survey and location survey for a linear facility such as a road, railroad, canal, pipeline or transmission line.
  • Geodetic Survey: A precise survey which takes into account the size and shape of the earth.
  • Mineral Survey: Mining claim surveys. Requires a special license.

Phases include:

Conference to determine scope of the survey
  • Designate property to be surveyed and purpose of survey
  • Determine deliverable products: plat, map, description, etc.
  • Agreement between client & surveyor to establish responsibilities & expectations
  • Examine client's deed, abstract of title and property description
  • Check county records for adjoining property deeds and descriptions
  • Locate record control information.
Preliminary Field Survey
  • Locate monuments
    • On site
    • Control
  • Distances
  • Angles
Office and drafting operations
  • Computations to compare field measurements to deeded calls
  • Map or plat drafting
  • Prepare descriptions and reports
Final field survey
  • Locate required corners or lines for the client
  • Set permanent markers as required by agreement
Recording the survey
  • File Record of Survey at county
  • File Corner Perpetuation & Filing with county if any new monuments have been set or any changes have taken place since the last survey.
Reports for client, client's attorney, and/or title company
  • Copies of Record of Survey, Corner Perpetuation & Filing document and property description
  • Plats, maps and drawings as agreed at beginning of project.

How much will a survey cost?

Costs are determined by a number of variables, such as:

  • Type of survey.
  • Record research required.
  • Size and shape of property.
  • Location of premises in regard to existing survey control.
  • Natural constraints: terrain, vegetation, accessibility, and weather conditions.
  • Filing requirements: Record of Survey and/or Corner Perpetuation documents may be necessary.