Sunday, April 8, 2018

Types of Land Surveying Equipment

Types of Land Surveying Equipment

Land surveying, which involves measuring the distance, directions, and elevations to determine the shape of the earth's surface, requires special land surveying equipment to enable surveyors to make accurate measurements.

There are various types of land surveying equipment, some that range from the very basic, which requires no additional training or licensing, to more high-tech versions, which may require additional training. Some of the most common types of land surveying equipment include:


A theodolite, which includes an infrared, a laser, and an electronic decoder, looks similar to a telescope and has a readout screen that is used to show vertical and horizontal angles. There are also nondigital theodolites; however, they are not used quite as often.

The theodolite, especially the digital version, is often preferred for its technology, which enables surveyors to make more accurate measurements. It operates by allowing the surveyor to peer through the telescope and then lock in the image to be measured. The instrument then rotates around in both vertical and horizontal directions to measure the object's vertical and horizontal angles. It can also be used to determine elevations.

Satellite and GPS

The satellite and GPS also called place surveying equipment, are important because they allow the surveyor to identify the boundaries of an area. They can also be used to document any variations on the ground. The satellite and GPS system generally operates by utilizing a GPS antenna to send broadcast signals to the satellite.

The satellite, which spins around the earth, then communicates the signal to the GPS receiver carried by the surveyor, at which time it enables the surveyor to take various precise measurements of different land coordinates.

Using the satellite and GPS system gives the surveyor access to updated information via a laptop, which is set up with surveying software. The GPS receiver, in addition to other hand-held electronic devices, then serve as data collectors.


The compass is a basic instrument that is used to measure the course of a line, using a suspended needle that points north as its point of reference.

There are two main types of compasses: a vernier compass and a plain compass. A vernier compass consists of an adjustable scale that allows for the correction of the magnetic declination so the compass can read true north, while a plain compass needs no adjustment because it always points true north. The surveyor uses the compass by rotating it in the direction of the line being examined so that the line of the direction can be observed.

The Level

A level is used to calculate elevations.

There are various types of levels; however, the three main types of levels are the dumpy level, the automatic level, and the Wye level.

A dumpy level contains a telescope with crosshairs positioned on a pair of arms and is typically used in building to find elevations. The telescope of the dumpy level revolves to allow for measurements in all directions, and it can also magnify from twenty to thirty times. It also has spirit levels built into its base to ensure the device is level so that accurate measurements can be taken.

An automatic level is similar to a dumpy level, except it includes a compensator that instantly adjusts for slight errors in the equipment set up, and the Wye level has a telescope with crosshairs that are detachable from the arms.

Which level the surveyor uses typically depends on the degree of accuracy that is needed. A level generally stands on a tripod, which allows it to be steady while taking measurements.


A stable tripod is essential for gathering precise measurements.

The legs of the tripod are made of fiberglass, wood, or aluminum and are adjustable for use with various pieces of surveying equipment. Fiberglass tripods are heavier to carry through the field; however, wood or aluminum tripods are lighter and can influence readings in certain weather conditions.

The head of the tripod is either dome or flat. Dome heads allow for more adjustment, while flatheads are easier to fit but have less play. They also come in different thread sizes to adapt to newer equipment.

Tapes and Chains

Tapes and chains are steel tapes that are used to measure linear distances and are considered the easiest way of taking measurement because they are only utilized on the field while the remainder of the survey is being completed in the office.

Tapes and chains are typically handled with clamp or tension handles in order to apply pressure and prevent damage to the tape as well as the surveyor's hands.

Standard tapes and chains come in various lengths from 100 feet to 500 feet, and they can be wrapped on a wheel or gathered in loops.

Land Surveying Equipment Training

Surveying equipment requires an understanding of the intricacies of measuring angles, computing land mass areas, and calculating averages as well as an understanding of global positioning technologies, electromagnetic instruments, and other specialized equipment to obtain spatial data and perform data reduction.

Professional land surveyors are required by employers to have at least an associate's degree in survey technology, which includes training in modern surveying equipment, as well as state licensing through their local board. However, because surveying equipment is ever-changing, professional surveyors typically undergo ongoing education.

But, if you are a property owner who is just curious where your legal property line is, and you have a working knowledge of measuring, calculating, and computing land instruments, you can perform an approximate land survey yourself. But be warned, because it is not official, it may not be admissible in legal matters.

About the Author

Dennis McCaffrey is a Land Surveyor for Empire State Layout, leading Expert Land Surveyors for NYC, Manhattan, The Boroughs, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Long Island, and the Surrounding Area. Learn more by visiting their website.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What is the ACSM and What Do They Do?

What is the ACSM and What Do They Do
Empire State Layout is committed to helping each of its clients with all of their land surveying and mapping needs. Our team has been serving the local community for many years, and we have combined experience of more than 50 years.

As part of our devotion to excellence in all that we do, we are proud members of the American Congress of Surveying and Mapping. Since 1941, this reputable industry organization has set the standard for surveying and mapping across the country and has been instrumental in advancing the industry and in lobbying when necessary. Its primary goals are to promote the technical and professional development and overall education of its members in all related areas.

In addition to being a member of the ACSM, our team at Empire State Layout also uses advanced technology to ensure accuracy in every project that we complete. Some of the many technologies that we regularly employ as needed include building information modeling, high-definition laser scanning, and deformation modeling. Accuracy is critical in this industry, and you can rest assured that you are in good hands when you reach out to Empire State Layout for assistance. We actively pay attention to new industry technologies that are reviewed and deemed beneficial by the Congress.

Understanding Surveying and Mapping

Since 2004, the American Congress of Surveying and Mapping has included reputable affiliate organizations as members. These include the Geographic Land and Information Society, the National Society of Professional Surveyors, the Cartography and Geographic Information Society and the American Association of Geodetic Surveying to name a few. In addition, most states have their own industry organizations, and most of these organizations are also members of the Congress.

The ACSM is a broad organization that covers all aspects of surveying and mapping services that the team at Empire State Layout provides to its valued customers. Some of the many services that are available through our company include boundary surveying, topographical surveying, utility surveying, building information modeling, property surveying, ALTA surveying, and more. Each of these services has unique features and benefits that offer important information to our customers.

Generally, however, you can learn about everything from the exact location of boundary lines, structures on the property, easements, and even existing land rights related to your property or related to a property that you are preparing to buy through the surveying and mapping services available to you through Empire State layout.

Learning About the Importance of Surveying and Mapping

Surveying and mapping reports can be completed by the skilled team at Empire State Layout for many reasons. For example, you may have a boundary dispute with your neighbor over the placement of a fence that is being installed, and you may need to rely on information on one of our reports. You may think that someone is encroaching on your land. In some cases, you may want to know where the easements are on the property so that you can complete a building project.

Another reason to order a report from Empire State Layout is to learn about the topography of the property. In many cases, surveys and maps are ordered by existing property owners, but they also can be beneficial for buyers. Through our affiliation with the American Congress of Surveying and Mapping, you can rest assured that our reports are precise and comprehensive.

ACSM has many reputable industry members throughout the country. Membership regularly elects representatives from each state to meet regularly. These representatives discuss new technology that has been introduced in the industry that could possibly improve the efforts of its members, improve the accuracy of the reports, or provide other important benefits. The representatives also discuss ways for the organization to improve public awareness of the importance of land surveying and mapping.

In addition, the representatives work to provide more beneficial educational opportunities for its members. When needed, the Congress acts as a spokesperson for the industry when legal matters arise, such as the potential to change state or federal laws regarding surveys and mapping. In these ways, the Congress works hard to advance the industry and to provide minimum expectations for the quality of work expected by its members.

Exploring Membership Requirements

The Congress has significant membership requirements, which attest to the caliber of individuals who are members and representatives in this organization. There are different levels of membership available, which are based on the membership of the different organizations that are affiliated with the Congress. This includes:
  • American Cartographic Association
  • American Association of Geodetic Surveying
  • National Society of Professional Surveyors
  • Geographic and Land Information Society

Each of these organizations has full and associate memberships available, and both will make the surveying professional a member of the Congress. The full membership requirements are typically more substantial and have both education and experience requirements. Congress members only need to belong to one affiliated organization as a prerequisite for membership.

As a proud member of the industry's Congress, Empire State Layout uses all of the beneficial aspects of membership effectively. This includes taking advantage of the many excellent educational opportunities offered by the Congress on a regular basis. It also includes learning about the latest technologies that are available in the industry that may enhance the quality of our work. If you are interested in learning more about the Congress or about the many services offered by Empire State Layout, contact us today.

About the Author

Dennis McCaffrey is a Land Surveyor for Empire State Layout, leading Expert Land Surveyors for NYC, Manhattan, The Boroughs, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Long Island, and the Surrounding Area. Learn more by visiting their website.

Monday, December 11, 2017

How To Choose A NYC Land Surveyor

How To Choose A NYC Land Surveyor

Selecting the Best Land Surveyor

If you are a property owner or developer and need a NYC land surveyor, you should only hire a professional land surveyor that is licensed by the New York State Board for Engineering and Land Surveying. Only licensed land surveyors are authorized to provide land surveys, and it is important to consider the qualifications of the surveyor. Be sure to request references and get a list of past experience with the type of surveying you require.

This is especially true for more complex development projects. Boundary disputes can occur with more complex projects, and a qualified surveyor should have a good working knowledge of all aspects of surveying, including legal ones. Surveyors often work on a team that includes some other professions such as attorneys, architects, planners, engineers and other specialists.

Surveying Terms To Understand

Land surveying in NYC can range from being very simple to very complicated. There are some terms you, as a client, should understand when looking at surveyors.
  • Adjoiner: The neighbor or property next-door to the property being surveyed
  • Adverse Possession: This is a situation in which ownership of a property can be claimed by use or occupation. Different rules apply according to the law a land surveyor with legal counsel is often required.
  • Agreed Boundary: When boundary locations are in conflict, the adjoiners can use this resolution instead of resolving the dispute in court.
  • Encroachments: When physical evidence represents any intrusion onto a property that they do not have the legal rights to.
  • Occupied Boundary: Land that the property owner occupies that is defined by physical boundaries such as a fence or hedges.
  • Ownership Boundary: The perimeter of a piece of land or parcel that is either the boundary specified in the deed or is represented by a partition plat. Sometimes the Occupied Boundary and the Record Title Boundary come into conflict.
  • Record Title Boundary: The actual perimeter of a property as outlined by the property owner's deed.
Types of Surveys

There are many different types of land surveys. When choosing a land surveyor, you need to be sure they are experienced in the specific type of surveying you need for your land surveying in NYC situation. Common types of surveys include ALTA, boundary, construction, site planning, topographic and subdivision surveys.

Boundary surveys locate property boundary lines and are often involved in other survey types. This surveying typically involves record and also field research then measurements to make sure that the lines are in accordance with the law. A NYC land surveyor will sometimes find easement lines and encroachments when performing this very common type of survey. Topographic surveys are also used in conjunction with other types of surveys. They are intended to locate topographic features on a property, which include buildings, fences, trees, and contours.

An ALTA Surveyor Extended Title Insurance Coverage Survey sometimes require a boundary survey as well, but they are specifically to show the relationships of existing improvements on a properly relative to the defined boundaries. This type of survey supplies a title company and lender with relevant information for insurance purposes.

Control surveys establish precise vertical and horizontal positions of points on the ground. These points are used in boundary determination, mapping, construction staking and related projects. Site planning surveys are similar but involve topographic surveying, and they are used when designing improvements and large construction projects. Site planning surveys are required when applying for a development permit. Subdivision surveying is sometimes referred to as partition surveying. This type of survey is meant to divide a parcel of land into smaller parcels.

Surveying Methods

Land surveying in NYC involves a lot of specialized equipment that a licensed surveyor should be very familiar with. Most of this equipment is electronic and measures distances and angles. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) may also be used. A surveyor then analyzes and evaluates the information collected, and compares it with public and private records to complete the type of survey required for different projects. Sometimes they must research information at libraries, title companies and various other repositories that keep records on deeds and land ownership.

The Importance of Client Relations

As a client in New York, you should seek out a surveyor that is not only licensed and experienced but also is also excellent at client relations. A NYC land surveyor will be providing you with a highly-technical service. Any land project is built upon the information provided by a surveyor. Sometimes disputes arise, and your surveyor may have to appear in court on your behalf, so it is extremely important to build a relationship with your surveyor.

Surveyors also appear at planning commission meetings and other types of public hearings at city and county levels. They are very closely involved in the acquisition of certain building permits. One of the requirements of land surveyors is to have strong characters and follow a strict Code of Ethics. Your surveyor should be committed to these tenants.

About the Author

Dennis McCaffrey is a Land Surveyor for Empire State Layout, leading Expert Land Surveyors for NYC, Manhattan, The Boroughs, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Long Island, and the Surrounding Area. Learn more by visiting their website.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Construction Surveys in NYC

Why Are Construction Surveys in NYC Needed for Commercial Projects

Empire State Layout NYC Construction Surveyors

What Are Construction Surveys?

Construction surveys in NYC are sometimes referred to as building surveys or taking surveys. They may also be called property or construction staking, a layout survey, or just called "setting out." These terms refer to the same type of survey, which is necessary for any commercial project in NYS, such as buildings or roads. 

Stakes are used in this kind of survey to establish reference points and act as markers to guide construction. Stakes are laid out at suitable coordinates by a surveyor based on the specifics of the project and take into consideration pre-existing structures and also the landscape. They are quite complicated, and it is important that they are completed by an experienced, knowledgeable professional.

The History of Construction Surveys

Construction surveying has a very long history that is believed to have begun with the building of the Great Pyramids in Egypt around 2700 BC. The bases of every pyramid is a nearly a perfect square with a north-south orientation. Egyptians obviously had an excellent understanding of surveying to accomplish this. There is no way that the massive structures could have been so expertly built without first surveying the land and planning their construction. 

Stonehenge is also believed to have been set out using peg and rope geometry, which is a common practice in modern surveying. Modern surveying today also incorporates a lot of modern equipment and makes use of the latest technology to accuracy such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which are used in conjunction with staking. NYC Construction surveyors also use radar and radio frequencies to assess things like land contours, elevation, and subterranean structures.

The profession of construction surveying as we know it today began fairly recently. It got its start in the 1970s in the United Kingdom. Interestingly, there are some countries around the world that do not yet recognize it as a profession, even countries that recognize other types of surveying. Construction surveying can be a separate profession from other types of land surveying, and the requirements for licensure are slightly different, but most surveyors in NY are licensed for construction surveying along with the other types of land surveying. Some general surveyors specialize in construction surveying, and this is their primary focus.

The Parts of a Construction Survey

Construction surveys are one of the more complex types of land surveys because they are required for any commercial project in the state of New York. Most commercial projects are quite large and more is involved than with a private project. NYC construction surveyors will begin by surveying the existing conditions of the property, such as topography, other buildings and even underground for things like sewer lines. They then stake out the corners of the property and references points to guide the new structures or buildings. 

During construction, the surveyor remains on the site to verify the locations of construction and provide horizontal control, especially for buildings that will have multiple floors. At the end of the project, they conduct another survey called an as-built survey that again verifies the construction based on the specifications established in the initial construction survey, making sure everything is as close to the original plans as possible.

Types of Staking

Two types of staking occur in construction surveys in NYC. One or both may be used, depending upon the project. Rough grade staking is used a lot for parking lots, roadways, and anything that has a slope or there is a lot of sloping on the parcel. This type of staking defines structure location based on the final elevation and does not consider structures below the ground. Site layout staking is used for buildings. 

Existing underground features like sewer, drain, water and electrical lines are surveyed and reviewed. Locations of new underground features are also included in the staking, so that they can be installed by sub-contractors. Building corners are also staked along with other onsite items like curbs, drains, ditches that are planned. Site layout staking is much more extensive because more work goes into the construction of buildings.

Why Surveying Is Important For Construction

To complete any large project a great deal of planning is involved if you want the project to turn out the best that it possibly can. You cannot construct a road or build a building anywhere, even if the land belongs to you. Complying with applicable codes and laws is even more important for commercial projects, which are often more large-scale. 

NYC construction surveyors interpret the proposed building plans created by an architect or engineer and ensure that they will work in reality on the proposed piece of land. The staking they do guides the entire construction process to complete the project on time and on a budget as well as correctly for legal and safety purposes. Without the help of a skilled construction surveyor, the sub-contractors would be working blindly when creating structures and would be unaware of anything under the ground that may impact their job. 


Empire State Layout is a leading construction surveyor serving the NYC and Long Island areas. Learn more about all of their services by visiting their website.

Additional References

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Different Types of Land Surveys

NYC Land Surveying is a crucial tool used to identify features and boundaries of the land to determine ownership. Many people will require a land survey at some point and time; therefore, it is beneficial to have a general idea of the various types of land surveys. Some of the most common types of land surveys include:

Mortgage Surveys

Mortgage surveys are primary surveys that are most commonly used to determine building locations and land boundaries. They are usually required by lending and title companies when they provide financing to show the conditions of the property in question. They are also used to show that there are no structures infringing on the property and that any structures located on the property satisfy current building codes and zoning.

A mortgage survey differs from a mortgage inspection in that it is performed by a licensed land surveyor. Also, it is a standard survey that complies with set standards and is governed and accepted as an official land survey. On the other hand, a mortgage inspection is simply a substandard survey that does not adhere to any set standards and is not accepted or regulated as an official land survey.

Boundary Surveys

A boundary survey, another common type of survey, is typically used to establish the true boundaries of a specific property. To determine the true boundaries of a property, the surveyor will use previously recorded markers in addition to new landmarks. Using this data, the surveyor will then mark lines of the plot and the corners using markers, such as nails set in asphalt or concrete, concrete monuments, pipes, or iron rods.

Topographic Surveys

Topographic surveys are land surveys that are used to identify man-made and natural features on a piece of property, such as trees, improvements, streams, buildings, fences, land contours, and elevations, etc. These land features are measured for their altitude on a particular parcel of land and displayed as contour lines on a plot. Topographic surveys are most commonly used by architects and engineers to assist in the design of developments and improvements on a site; however, sometimes the government will require topography surveys.

Construction Surveys

Construction surveys are one of the fastest growing types of land surveys. The majority of construction surveys fall under civil engineering, which may require additional certifications and degrees to carry out. All construction projects begin with a plan of survey, or Site Plan, which sets out the plan for the complete project including all current and suggested conditions on a particular site. In fact, surveys are used throughout the construction process from the planning to the actual construction of the project to the maintenance afterward. There are three main types of construction surveys: as-built surveys, foundation surveys, and deformation surveys.

  • As-Built Surveys are conducted numerous times throughout a building project to conform to state and local boards that the authorized work is being finished in compliance with their specifications set on the plot. 
  • Foundation Surveys, a type of as-built survey, gathers the positional data on a foundation that has been poured and is now set. Foundation Surveys are used to ensure that the completed foundation has been assembled in the proper manner and location as stated in the plan.
  • Deformation Survey is conducted on existing structures to determine if the object or structure is moving or deviating in shape.

By recording the three-dimensional positions of specific points on an object, then allowing a set period of time to pass before remeasuring these points, NYC Land Surveyors can determine whether a structure is moving or shifting, as well as by how much.

ALTA Surveys

An ALTA survey, also known as an ATLA/ACSM survey, combines all elements of a boundary survey, mortgage survey, and topographic survey with a set standard established by the American Congress on Survey Mapping and American Land Title Association.

ALTA surveys are mostly used for commercial properties. By having a universal standard, companies can rely on the level of accuracy because the results are guaranteed by American Congress on Survey Mapping and American Land Title Association standards.

Right Away Easement Surveys

A right away or easement is a legal right of one person to access property owned by another person, such as a narrow walkway to arrive at a community park or other area that hinders the deed owner from improving the property in any way.

An easement survey is a method of gathering, reporting, or displaying the necessary data to reestablish or establish the location of adequate property lines of the favored parcel or strip of land to assure the correct location of the area of land being described for the benefits and use of others. Easement surveys are required to comply with the same standards as boundary surveys; however, markers do not need to be set. 

Additional Resources