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Surveying Terminology: What Is It All About?

Gov't Survey / Environmental SurveyLand surveyors stake the boundaries of land and create legal documents and maps depicting the property. A surveyor provides the knowledge of the exact property lines and methods of documenting and sharing that information so that we can buy, sell, mortgage and develop the property.  There are a few commonly used surveyor terms that everyone should know. Here are the definitions in layman’s terms so you can have a basic understanding of the processes involved.

• Boundary: A boundary is an imaginary line that defines the size and shape of a property as it is described in the property’s deed.

• Stake: A stake is simply a piece of wood, which is stuck into the ground to physically mark a boundary.

• Plat: A land plat is a map of property that depicts the placement of buildings and boundary’s of a property. Some plates even include details showing topography (elevations) and vegetation.

• Topography: This term most commonly refers to elevation depicted in a topographic map.

• FEMA Elevations: These are elevations that the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses to grade land when determining classifications for flood levels.

• Easement: The right of a specific use to land that does not belong to you, typically to reach a road or lake on the other side. For example, as easement could be granted to members of a neighborhood association to trespass over a neighbors yard to reach the community beach located on a small peninsula with no other point of access. This type of situation is common in Northern Michigan residential areas.

• Hydrography: The act of studying, mapping and surveying bodies of water including but not limited to rivers, lakes and oceans.

• Legal Descriptions: One of three forms of legally acceptable real estate identification, metes and bounds, recorded plat or the government rectangular survey.

• Metes and Bounds: A method of describing land that was very popular in England and subsequently used to define the property of the 13 colonies which later became the United States. This technique utilizes both natural and artificial physical features and directions and distance to describe a property. The term “metes” refers to a boundary that was created using measurements, while bounds refers to a general physical boundary like a river or road. This method is used to define large areas of land like a town where precision is not necessary.


DpS Surveying serves the Northern Michigan area including Benzie, Grand Traverse, Manistee, Leelanau, Wexford and Antrim Counties. If you have any questions regarding Northern Michigan surveying please feel free to call  231-715-1318 or email.