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Student Surveyor

Ā (I'm a property owner in the central Florida area. The lot is 11 acres in dense hardwood forest with changes in elevation and several sinkholes.)

Ā I want to locate my property borders. The corners are marked with metal stakes which are probably flush with ground level and covered with leaves.

Ā Distances from known points are 495 and 990 feet. Hopefully I can get close enough to find the stakes. I have a good compass and handheld GPS. I'm not sure how accurate the GPS is for this purpose.

Ā I am considering buying an inexpensive rangefinder to help narrow down the locations. I see laser rangefinders start at about $100. Golf rangefinders start at around $20. (I don't need to do this often enough to invest a lot.)

Ā Any tips on locating needles in haystacks? (My respect for surveyors grows as I stand waist deep in palmetto bushes and rattlesnakes!)

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  • Just get a licenced surveyor, or the US equivalent. Don't play games with the boundaries, they are someone else's corners as well.Ā 

    The points about GPS are moot. He wants to find where the monuments are, not refer them to a geodetic datum. We could sit here all day and debate the efficiency and accuracy of handheld and RTK GPS and its applications to cadastral work, and the usefulness of all that in regards to Billy's request but it's redundant.

    Hire a professional, then let that professional take liability for any error and get your guarantee that your property has been surveyed and the reinstatement carried out properly.

  • David, You are correct & found original monuments do still govern under the law. GPS is great for certain survey application but unfortunately, it usually needs pretty good sky to work well. I don't think GPS should be viewed as a replacement or substitute for monuments but properly done, it is an excellent method for documenting & perpetuating their location. There was no GPS in the 1920's. As you know, there are a number of datums & they are still evolving. The earth is dynamic & the geoid is ever changing. Fortunately, they can be converted from one to another, usually with good precision. With only monuments, you have nothing when the monuments are destroyed. You still have a basis for a resurvey if they were tied to a geodetic datum. Boundaries can often be established with much greater precision with GPS than measurements from monuments of distant adjoiners set with dubious precision (assuming they were tied to a geodetic datum in the first place). Surveyors should not forget basic principles & boundary law but at the same time, stay abreast of new technology. The troubling thing is an alarming number of surveyors don't understand geodetic datums or State Plane coordinates. I recall the head engineer of a State engineering & surveying department that didn't know how to apply grid factors to GPS measurements on a State Plane grid. Then there was the guy that created a plat entirely from GIS. The corners are rumored to be some 60' in error.
    GPS is here to stay & it has become a basic tool of our profession. We should understand it & take advantage of it's uses.
    • 1201384886?profile=original?width=721

      It's not just about finding corners as you can see I found 3 4 if U count the 1 out of the image. all set by some PLS. now back when land was selling for $1 even $10 an acre who cares but now at $1 even $10 a sq. ft everybody cares.

    • Doesn't GPS stand for GET IT SURVEYED ( it should)

      Oh come on now anyone who has ever roamed around in the woods looking for property corners knows that you can find all matter of thing that might appear to the uninformed as a property corner. Ā So get a pro out there & at least have a fighting chance of relying on the info he can produceĀ 

  • I once had an adjoiner to a parcel I was surveying ask me, "are you a surveyor or just a pipe finder". I don't know if I got through or not but I tried to explain to him that finding all the evidence of the property lines is imperative to performing a good survey. If your property has a proper survey & you can find & identify your property corners, you are fortunate but I would advise caution. It has already been pointed out above that corners that appear to be your corners may not be for a variety of reasons. However, if you find what appears to be your corners & measurements between them & the adjoiners are in harmony with the plat(s), you have likely found your property lines. The problem is that in practice, you are lucky if you find some of the corners. Just because a survey may be old does not mean it isn't a good survey but much of the property here was surveyed when the land was near worthless. You don't pay $100 to survey $25 worth of land. It is quite common to find deeds for 50 acres of land that sold for $50 in back taxes. Consequently, many plats & deeds are garbage. You may have heard of deeds that convey clear title to land that can't be found on the ground. Admittedly, these are extreme examples but I have seen this situation in the past & am working on cases like these now. The description you give of your property does not sound like it was surveyed recently. It wouldn't hurt to talk to a reputable surveyor with experience in your area & get his opinion. Should you have the misfortune to encounter any of these problems, you will need a good surveyor familiar with boundary retracement (sometimes called a forensic survey). You may also need a good attorney well versed in boundary law.
    In regard to GPS. I would steer clear of any surveyor that tells you that GPS is not a great surveying tool but it does not change boundary law or the principles of Land Surveying. The biggest value of GPS is that it facilitates tieing property lines to a geodetic datum which greatly helps retracement when monuments are lost. I think all current & future boundary control should be tied to a geodetic datum.
    Please forgive me for getting on the "soap box" but I hope this has helped you understand the animal you are dealing with.
    • Land Surveyor

      Yes, GPS is a great surveying tool, bur the World Co-ordinate system has changed several times in the last several years by votes of the International Geophysical Union....I have been completely "bumfoozled by trying to find old USC&GS discs and finding that the US system set in the 1920's was not a "World System", and also that there have been adjustments to the World system since 1990 that have changed the co-ordinates of a point many personal experience has shown that these changes in the 1990's until today have changed some of my corners by as much as 130.00 feet, certainly not enough to solve any legal problems. Yes, GPS is great for getting "close" but it still does not meet the rules of evidence standards which still are very much concerned with the relationship of parcels to each other, not to a world co-ordinate system.

      • Agreed Dear David,
        Fortunately your boundary corners are steel,but in our country they are boundary stones.
        Then any owner can keep dead measurements of the boundary marker for him but those are not leagal evidence when the point is in conflict.
  • Hi.

    I'm a party chief and I look for a lot of corners. Your regular consumer GPS will probably be next to useless, especially if its in a hardwood forest. Our GPS that surveyors use can get to like 1 hundredth of a foot....but they cost something like 10k, and even in forests (which is what I'm imagining your property to be like) they can be useless to us.

    Looking for a property corner without a metal detector is not going to be fun. If my boss asked me to survey a property like yours without a detector, I would ask if he is mad. Unfortunately, those cost somewhere around 400 used and 700 new. You might be better off financially speaking just hiring a crew to come out. About the rangefinders. I don't have a clue how accurate they are. But I think if you are just going to wing it DIY style. Take a shovel because they are probably not plumb with the ground but a few inches to a few feet underground (I am imagining soft dirt in florida), take a 100' tape, and mb a civilian metal detector will help, though honestly I don't know. Last but not least, take your head.

    Look for signs someone put something somewhere. Do you have fences? Chances are if you have a property fence the corner will not be far off from the fence corner. Do you see a pile of rocks? An old wooden stake with deteriorated faded flagging attached to it? These are all clues. Also, use your tape to pace yourself out. How many paces does it take for you to walk 100 feet? I got a special way I walk to where I make myself pace 40 paces so its easy to divide and multiply.Ā 

    Honestly, finding the corners is the hardest part of surveying. And a property like what you describe could take a guy a good chunk of the day just spent looking for them.

    • Land Surveyor

      Mr. Sharpstick,

      The relationship of your property corners to the abuttors property (your neighbors) is of critical and legal importance. The relationship of your property corners to a World Co-ordinate system is of no legal importance....hence GPS may please you but it will not tell you if the iron pins, etc. you find are your legal corners. Ā need a surveyor, not only to find the corners, but to tell you if they are where they should be according to your and your abuttors deeds. Ā Costs money...yes, but a lawsuit in which you lose is much more expensive!!

      David C. Garcelon

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