the challenges of providing a survey in the winter weather. While surveys are completed in the winter time, there are several factors to consider when deciding if the weather is a detriment to your goal. The first thing to consider is what kind of survey do you need? Once you have determined the need you can then look at the conditions, timing and cost to see if it really would make a difference to wait. A few of the most commonly known surveys are as follows:
Boundary Survey: In a nutshell, this type of survey is required to establish the property boundary and mark the corners of any property. The more formal explanation says: * “….…The purpose of a boundary survey is to establish or re-establish the extent of title lines, and to define and identify those lines so as to uniquely locate each lot, parcel or other specific land area in relation to well recognized and established points of reference, adjoining properties, and rights of way.”
Since this type of survey defines the boundaries, it is necessary to find fixed points, features or previous monumentation (markers) which can mean breaking ice, digging snow and fighting with the frozen ground. This can make surveying in the winter challenging, but not impossible. A client can expect a slight increase in cost, depending on the size and nature of the property and its’ associated legal descriptions. This may also mean waiting a day or two if there is a snow storm or extreme cold, but should not prevent a surveyor from completing the project goal.
Mortgage Survey – This is a boundary survey that also includes the building locations and easements. This is different than a Mortgage Inspection (See Mortgage Inspection below).
Mortgage Inspection - *“A Mortgage Inspection does not approach the standards of other survey categories, though ….the services of an Illinois Professional Land Surveyor are required. A mortgage inspection is not a type of boundary survey or ALTA/ACSM survey and does not constitute a boundary survey of the subject real property. A mortgage inspection includes field investigation, measurements and graphic representation of improvements. The mortgage inspection is intended for use by a mortgage lender and/or title insurer and is only a professional opinion of the relationship of improvements with respect to the deed lines and the existence, location and type of building on the property, the intent of which is to assist in the determination of the property's suitability to serve as collateral for a mortgage. It is not an opinion as to deed, title or platted lines. It is not to be used in matters of boundary disputes, legal actions between landowners, or for construction purposes. No new legal descriptions can be created from a mortgage inspection.”
Topographic Survey – While a boundary survey is completed in one dimension (flat), a topographic survey depicts elevations and contours of the land, buildings, sidewalks, utilities, and other features of the property. This would include both natural (rivers, trees, etc.) and man-made features. A more technical definition is: *“……the delineation of horizontal and/or vertical locations of the existing natural or man-made features of a portion of the earth's surface, subsurface or airspace and the graphic representation of the results of such delineation. ..” Topographic surveys are frequently used in the design stage for new construction projects and may include boundary lines and easements (boundary survey) and may be part of a survey performed per the ALTA/ASCM standards.
Since a Topographic survey looks at all of the land features and the height or elevation of those features, it makes winter surveying more difficult. Snow and ice covering the ground, especially in open areas with heavy drifting can make it difficult or impossible to determine vertical changes. Utility structures, concrete, and monuments can be buried in the snow. In order for a surveyor to take accurate measurements they may need to shovel snow to get to the roadway or other fixed height in multiple sections meaning the surveyor may spend more time shoveling the 5 ft of snow at the side of the road then they do actually measuring for the survey. Again, this can affect the timing and add cost or delay the survey if the weather prohibits proper measurements.
ALTA/ASCM – While other surveys may have slight variations in how they are presented, the ALTA standards were established to maintain uniformity in the information provided to lenders and Title companies. This is not so much a type of survey, but a standard set of information that has to be included with the survey that is requested. It includes a boundary survey and some, if not all of a Topographic Survey. There are some options as to what is included or not and that is typically determined by the Lending Institution. Commercial land transactions are the most common reason for an ALTA/ASCM survey. Overall it is much more detailed survey and higher in cost due to the established standard that is followed.
As in the boundary and Topographic survey, the winter Cold, snow, ice, and frost cause longer monumentation searches when measuring and locating boundaries. When Extreme cold occurs it can affect equipment calibration and battery life. Since the ALTA/ASCM has more detailed and exacting standards it is of the utmost importance to have visibility and access to the whole site with few or no obstructions. Winter conditions can greatly affect the surveyor’s ability to perform. While it isn’t impossible, these factors can affect the timing and cost of providing this type of survey in the winter months. A survey of this type will almost always bear a notation that it was performed in winter conditions and may not depict certain features otherwise found in optimum conditions.
While the winter months tend to keep most people indoors, it is nice to know that a surveyor is still able to get out and perform the job. Just as Snow Drifts can hide features in the winter, a large bush or trees can be an obstruction in the summer. It is important to consider the type of survey, the level of detail needed and timeframe required. While there may be a slightly higher cost or a weather delay to consider in the wintertime, a quality surveyor can accomplish the needed survey no matter what time of year.
Please contact us for more information about our Land Surveying Services or to get pricing.
- By Jonathan Spinazzola , PLS
Edited by Rebecca Luginbill
*The 2012 Illinois compiled statutes and administrative rules for the practice of professional land surveying in the state of Illinois, published by: Illinois professional land surveyors association