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Some of the more common types of surveys are listed below. Please contact us if you would like more information or have a specific need.


ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey - An ALTA survey is a property survey prepared to minimum requirements set forth by the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM). This type of survey is often required by lending institutions and title companies prior to the closing of a real estate transaction or refinance. An ALTA survey shows improvements, easements, rights-of-way, and other elements impacting the ownership of land. An ALTA Survey is often prepared for commercial properties, as it will provide the title company with the information required to insure the title to the land and improvements to the high degree that a commercial development may require. In addition to the minimum standards set forth, a table of optional elements is included in the ALTA/ACSM standards. A careful review of the elements from this optional "Table A" is helpful in delineating a clear scope of the land surveyor's services. A current title commitment is required to complete an ALTA survey. The title commitment will provide the surveyor with the legal description of the property and any easements or restrictions of record affecting the property. The surveyor is required to show these easements graphically on the survey map along with the “Table A” requirements requested by the client. Any encroachments discovered by the surveyor will also be shown. The surveyor will certify the map to the client, the client’s lender and the title company issuing the commitment.


As-Built Survey – An as-built survey may be performed to verify that a particular improvement has been built according to design plans or codes (e.g. setbacks). This type of survey may also be used to document the size or location of an improvement to aid in the design of additions (e.g. building additions, sewer extensions).  As-built surveys are sometimes requested by lending institutions to protect their interests or by local municipalities to ensure code compliance.


Certified Survey Map (CSM) - A certified survey map is a minor subdivision of land used to create no more than four new parcels in a five year period. A CSM can also be used to combine contiguous parcels of land or to dedicate roadways to the public. A CSM must show the property boundaries, existing buildings, watercourses, easements and monuments found or set at the property corners. The CSM will also include a legal description and surveyor’s certificate. Consent of owner and/or mortgagee certificates may also be required. Local ordinances may also require additional information or be more restrictive in the number of lots created. The CSM is subject to review fees and approval by local, county and sometimes state governments. Once the CSM is approved it is filed at the county’s register of deeds office for public record.


Condominium – A condominium is a form of property ownership in which each owner holds title to an individual unit, plus a fractional interest in common areas. A unit may consist of buildings, parts of buildings, or land. A condominium declaration describes the details of ownership, associations, terms and conditions, etc. The declaration, combined with the Condominium Plat, plans and exhibits comprise the complete condominium instrument which, when recorded, creates a “condominium”. The surveyor will work with the client’s attorney in preparing these documents.


Condominium Plat – A condominium plat is one of the documents required in a condominium instrument (the others being the condominium declaration and plans). The condominium plat includes a Property Survey of the boundary of the development. In addition, the plat will show any unit or building located or to be located on the property. Diagrammatic floor plans of each building located or to be located on the property must be shown with dimensions, approximate area and location of units referenced by number. Common elements will also be shown graphically to the extent feasible. The surveyor must certify that the plat is a correct representation of the condominium and the identification and location of each unit and the common elements can be determined from the plat.


Construction Staking – Construction staking is performed to aid a contractor in building a particular project. It usually includes setting stakes in the ground at a designed location or offset. The contractor may request grades to be placed on the stakes if the construction project needs to be placed at a certain height. At the request of the client/contractor, the surveyor will provide cut sheets showing the relationship between the grade stakes and the actual elevation of the improvement.


Existing Conditions Survey - An existing conditions survey is used to aid the engineer or architect in the design of a site plan for a proposed development. It contains all of the elements of the Topographic Survey (i.e. grades, contours, existing drainage) and additional information necessary for proper site design. A checklist describing what additional information is to be shown on the survey will be included under the scope of services for the survey. Typically, this additional information includes all structures and improvements to the property such as buildings, driveways, parking areas, concrete/asphalt areas, curb and gutter, water, sanitary and storm systems, invert elevations and pipe sizes, culverts, topsoil depths, etc.  As with the Topographic Survey, approximate property lines may be shown for reference only and should not be construed as a Property Survey. The surveyor encourages the client to consider the importance of a Property Survey and a current Title Commitment and to either supply or order both when requesting an existing conditions survey. (see Title Commitment).


Floodplain Survey/Determination – A floodplain is the low and relatively flat lands adjoining a river, stream or lake which runs a risk of being inundated by flood waters. This risk is usually calculated as percent annual chance of flooding, usually a 1% annual chance or 100 year floodplain. The scope of work in a floodplain survey can range from plotting a designated flood zone from a Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) onto a survey map to shooting grades on a parcel to determine the floodplain location. Often, field verification of grades can prove FIRM maps to be inaccurate, in which case federal forms can be filled out to apply for a Letter of Map Amendment or Letter of Map Revision from FEMA to remove an area or structure from an inaccurately applied flood designation. Flood studies can also be performed in areas that have not been previously studied by FEMA to determine flood hazards.


Legal Description – A legal description is used to define an area of land. Legal descriptions can be use for many purposes including rezoning, annexations, land transfers and easements.


Property Survey - A survey performed to define and mark the boundaries of an existing parcel of land. This survey is also known as a boundary survey or plat of survey. The surveyor will locate and measure evidence in the field such as existing property corner monuments (iron pipes, rods, etc.), subdivision corners, section corners, fence lines and lines of occupation. This information will then be analyzed and compared with the recorded deed for the subject parcel to determine the property boundary. Iron rods are set at property corners where missing. A survey map is then prepared showing the boundary location, monuments set, encroachments, legal description and certification by the land surveyor. The survey must conform to standards set forth in Chapter A-E 7 Wisconsin Administrative Code “Minimum Standards for Property Surveys” unless waived by the client. Optional information may include easements as disclosed in a title commitment or improvements such as buildings, driveways or utilities.


Subdivision Plat – A subdivision plat is required whenever more than 4 new parcels are created within a 5 year period. This is a state requirement and local ordinances may be more restrictive. A subdivision plat can consist of 2 lots to several hundred lots. The process usually starts with a consultation with the client to review the project and the clients design expectations. The surveyor will then review the feasibility of the project looking at issues such as rezoning, annexation, highway access, sewer availability, wetlands, floodplain, state and local ordinances, construction costs, etc. The concept plan phase is next which usually includes a Property Survey of the boundary of the subdivision, a Title Commitment and Existing Conditions Survey. The concept can also include preliminary lot and street layouts, address storm water management issues, utility connections and easements. If the concept meets with the approval of the client and local authorities we then move into the preliminary plat phase.  At this point, the preliminary plat is sent to the state and local authorities for approval. Grading plans, utility plans, storm water management plans and developer’s agreements are finalized. Permits are also applied for. Bid documents are prepared and sent out at this time if the surveyor is acting as construction manager. Once the preliminary plat is approved, the final plat is prepared and submitted for approval. The final plat contains exact lot dimensions, acreages, street names, easements, restrictions and monuments set. It also contains approval certificates to be signed by all agencies involved. Once all approvals and signatures are obtained, the final plat can be recorded at the Register of Deeds Office making the land divisions official.


Title Commitment – The contract issued by a title insurance company giving the terms to be included in a title insurance policy. Prior to issuing a commitment, the title company will perform a search of the public records which relate to a particular parcel of land. The title commitment will provide a legal description of the property, the current owner’s name, and any recorded documentation which would affect title to the property also known as “exceptions”. These “exceptions” are items which the title company would need to disclose if an actual title policy were to be issued. Exceptions can include easements, liens, judgments, agreements or other restrictions of record. If the title commitment is being used in conjunction with an Alta Survey, the title exceptions may also include deed overlaps or encroachments shown on the survey. The importance of a title commitment when performing survey work or any land development can not be overstated. Without one, the client assumes the risk of problems arising from inaccurate property descriptions or unforeseen easements. The surveyor strongly advises its clients to supply a current title commitment.


Topographic (Topo) Survey - A topographic or “topo” survey shows the natural features of a parcel of land. A topo survey will map grades and elevations of the land by the use of contour lines. This type of survey can be used to define hills, valleys, drainage patterns and wooded areas. A topo survey may also include improvements such as buildings, roads, manholes, etc. (see Existing Conditions Survey). The approximate location of property lines may be shown on a topo survey for reference only and should not be construed as a Property Survey.


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