Locating Property Boundaries on the Ground

Before building on your property, you will need to know the location of the property boundaries on the ground.  If you have an engineering description of your property, you may be able to find your property boundaries on your own.  Land which has been surveyed in the past will generally have markers at the corners.  Some common corner markers are shown below.

You can find these markers with a method similar to the method you used to make a scale drawing of your property. But in this case, you will be measuring distance with paces rather than with a ruler and will be measuring direction with a compass rather than with a protractor.

In order to find the corner markers, first you will need to update your table of bearings from from the deed.  The first step is to change the bearing directions to magnetic north with the current declination.  You can calculate the current declination on your property here.

Next, you will need to know the length of your pace since you will use paces to measure approximate distances on your property.  A pace is the length of two steps.  To measure your pace length, mark a starting point and walk 50 steps from this point.  Then mark your end point and measure the distance between the two points.  Divide this distance by 25 and you will have your pace length.

Finally, make a chart with one column for magnetic north and one column for distance in paces.  Now you're ready to head out to your property and search for the boundaries.

Starting at a known corner, pace the correct distance and direction to the next corner.  Since your distances and directions are only approximate, you may have to search the surrounding area for the corner marker.  You should do this by walking in larger and larger circles around the point you have paced to until you find evidence of the next corner marker.

Once you have found the second marker, pace off the correct distance and direction to the third marker.  Continue until you end up back at the first corner.

Do You Need a New Survey?

Even if your property has been surveyed in the past, you should consider having the survey done again, especially if the last survey is quite old.  At the very least, you should have an accurate survey report.

If you are able to find all of the corner markers on your property, you might opt not to have the property resurveyed. In this case, you should carefully flag the corner markers so that they will be easily found in the future.

If you are unable to find all of the corner markers, they may have been moved, vandalized or somehow destroyed.  In this case, a survey is essential.  Knowing the precise boundaries is particularly important if you intend to build within 5 feet of the the property line, and even more so if there will be a fence along that line.  A surveyor will be able to locate and verify the markers using the land description, or to replace them if they have been lost.

The cost of a survey depends on the job.  It can be as low as \$100 to simply find existing corner markers, or can run into thousands of dollars for more complicated work.  On the average, a survey team will cost anywhere from about \$55 per hour to well over \$100 per hour.