Welcome to Madison Land Surveying

Welcome to Madison Land Surveying

This site is intended to provide you with information on Land Surveying in the Madison, AL and Madison County area of Alabama. If you’re looking for a Madison Land Surveyor, you’ve come to the right place. If you’d rather talk to someone about your land surveying needs, please call our local number at (256) 585-6346 today. For more information, please continue to read.

madison land surveyingLand Surveyors are professionals who make precise measurements to determine the size and boundaries of a piece of real estate.  While this is a simplistic definition, boundary surveying is one of the most common types of surveying related to home and land owners. If you fall into the following categories, please click on the appropriate link for more information on that subject:

Madison Land Surveying services:

    1. I need to know where my property corners or property lines are. (Boundary Survey)
    2. I have a loan closing or re-finance coming up on my home in a subdivision. (Lot Survey)
    3. I need a map of my property with contour lines to show elevation differences for my architect or engineer. (Topo Survey)
    4. I’ve just been told I’m in a flood zone or I’ve been told I need an elevation certificate in order to obtain flood insurance or prove I don’t need it. (Flood Survey)
    5. I’m purchasing a lot/house in a recorded subdivision. (Lot Survey – See Boundary Survey)
    6. I’m purchasing a larger tract of land, acreage, that hasn’t been subdivided in the past. (Boundary Survey)

Contact Madison Land Surveying services TODAY at (256) 585-6346.

Surveying For Fence Contruction

In a recent article “A lot on the line with a new fence,” the writer mentioned one of the sayings that I always think of regarding fences:

“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”

Know Where Your Property Line is Located

A large portion of the calls I get are from homeowners wanting to know where their property line is to build a fence, or check whether their neighbor’s fence, or other improvement, is over the line. Knowing where your property lines are on your property is one of the most important things to know when planning for a fence.

While most fence contractors will require you to have a surveyor come out and mark the property lines before they start, some contractors will try to do this themselves. Skipping this step can cost you more than the fence cost. Even though the article writer (no name given) said that “hopefully, you won’t have to hire a surveyor” you should heed my advice on this one, get a surveyor to find and mark your corners.

Fences Usually Cost More Than a Survey

The writer also said that “a full survey could cost more than the fence.” From my experience, a fence can run anywhere from $10/linear foot for chainlink, to $20/linear foot for a wood privacy fence, or higher for more elaborate or ornate fences. Most lot line surveys, for less than an acre lot, will run anywhere from $400 to $600. In my area, I see them normally at about $500 max if the pins are still in. You’d have to have a pretty short cheap fence to cost less than a survey. AND, who wants to move the fence when you find the corners your contractor marked are wrong.

Surveying Cost Savings

If you want to save some money, do the research for the surveyor before you call to get a price. You should get a copy of your deed, scan it to PDF of take a legible photo of it. And, if you live in a subdivision, get a copy of the subdivision plat that is recorded in the Probate Office. Sometimes you can get the Probate office to email this to you. You should send all of your research to the surveyor.

I want to add that a “good fence” is built along the property line. THAT will make good neighbors. Sometimes it has to be 14 feet high, barbed and electric. If you need to know where your property lines are located for a fence or for any reason, call a land surveyor.

To talk about your fence construction job, call Madison Land Surveying at (256) 585-6346 today.

Difference in FEMA Elevation Certificate and LOMA

I get calls all the time from someone requesting an Elevation Certificate or Elevation Survey. Usually it’s because they’ve gotten a letter in the mail from their mortgage company telling them they have to get flood insurance. This leads them to contact their insurance company and that leads to a surveyor.

“purchasing flood insurance is mandatory…if the loan is federally insured or the lender is regulated by the federal government”

Purpose of the Elevation Certificate

FEMA Elevation CertificateAn Elevation Certificate is a form “…used to provide elevation information necessary to ensure compliance with community floodplain management ordinances, to determine the proper insurance premium rate, and to support a request for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA)…” Make sure that your surveyor uses the latest version of this form as it’s currently being revised (March 2016).

Surveyor Measures the Elevations

The surveyor determines the lowest floor elevation of the house, the lowest adjacent grade (LAG) elevations of the house, the elevation of the lowest element attached to the house (like a porch step,) and the lowest elevation of machinery or equipment servicing the building. The surveyor also identifies the building type according to the instructions in the Elevation Certificate form.

Base Flood Elevation Determined

After these are measured, then the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) is determined from either the Flood Maps (FIRM), the Flood Insurance Study (FIS), or by the local community. The difference in elevation between this BFE and the LAG and/or Lowest Floor will determine the insurance premium rate.

LOMA Removes Flood Insurance Requirement

Even if an Elevation Certificate shows that your house is above the Base Flood Elevation at all points, you still have the requirement to obtain flood insurance. Only after the submission and approval of a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) can the Flood Map be amended and the Federal mandate for the purchase of flood insurance be removed.GIS with Flood Hazard Zone Overlay

The LOMA process can be done online and typically takes 30 days or less but sometimes a review of the LOMA submission can identify additional information that is needed.

It should be noted that the Elevation Certificate must be completed by a Land Surveyor, Engineer, or an Architect who is authorized by law to certify elevation information, though I don’t know of any Architects that will do these, and not too many Engineers.

Call Madison Land Surveying at 256-585-6346 for help with an elevation certificate or LOMA.

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Can Engineering Flood Study Help Your Neighborhood?

Can an Engineering Flood Study Help Your Neighborhood?

flood zone | flood surveyA recent article in the Allied News in Grove City, Pennsylvania reminded me of the Engineering Flood Studies that I have completed over the years and how these have helped the neighborhoods adjacent to the streams that were studied.

“FEMA says it does allow the municipalities to pay for their own engineering study to prove that areas along Wolf Creek are no longer affected by flooding since dams were taken out.”

Not only are flood studies useful when conditions change, like a dam being taken out, but for the following conditions:

  • A stream has never had a detailed flood study completed (called Zone “A”)
  • Contemplation of widening a ditch to handle the flood waters within it
  • Proving that a stream Base Flood Elevation (BFE) and flood hazard zone are incorrectly shown

Every Stream Has a Base Flood Elevation

The fact about flood zones that most people don’t realize is that EVERY stream has an elevation that it will rise to given a certain amount of rainfall. The more rainfall, the higher flood waters will rise. So, when an area receives the 1% chance storm (formerly called the 100-year storm), you will see the flood waters rise to a level called the Base Flood Elevation (BFE). And, again, every stream has a Base Flood Elevation.

So, if you live by a dry ditch, an intermittent stream, or a year-round flowing creek, you should be aware of the Base Flood Elevation of that stream. So, FEMA doesn’t “PUT” you in a flood zone. They only map the flood hazard of more and more streams each time, and “SHOW” you in the flood zone that you were already in. There are also instances where development has occurred since the previous flood maps were created and your area has experienced an increase in the flood elevation because of the change in the amount and speed of the runoff.

Estimated Flood Zone “A”

The most common areas that are in need of a flood study are those estimated flood zone “A” areas on the flood maps. This means that a “detailed study” hasn’t been done for that area and the flood zone is estimated based on contour maps of the area. It is difficult for insurance companies and surveyors to determine your risk in these areas because we don’t have an elevation to use to compare to your home elevation.

The steps for an Engineered Flood Study are:

  1. Determine the length of the stream to study. This can be 500 to 5000 feet or more.
  2. Collect cross-sections of the stream. This gives the shape of the stream bed which tells us how much water can move through the stream and how far outside the banks the flood water will come.
  3. Determine the drainage area for the stream. This is done using contour maps of the area.
  4. Estimate the runoff coefficients for the drainage basin. This is not easy to accurately estimate and this step is where lots of variance is built into the equations.
  5. Use the data collected and an approved method and software program to determine the base flood elevation.
  6. Submit the findings to FEMA for concurrence and approval.

As I said in one of the steps, drainage calculations are only estimates. All of the approved methods and formula have a certain amount of variance in them. Most methods are from 65% to 85% accurate. This is based on the many types of soil, vegetation, and ground cover that occurs within the drainage basin, and the estimates used in the amount of rainfall and runoff that occurs.

flood survey | flood study | flood zoneThis is why most flood ordinances require that new homes are built at least one to two feet above the BFE. And, it’s the reason that I always recommend that you get flood insurance if you are close to a stream, even if you are shown as being OUT of the flood hazard zone. The insurance policy is cheapest in that situation. And, flooding over the 1% storm happens all the time. Consider it similar to your homeowners insurance which covers fire damage.

References: Trends in Floods,  and The Human Impact of Floods

If you have questions about a flood study, or any other flood elevation questions, call Madison Land Surveying at (256) 585-6346.

The Basics of Land Surveying

What is Land Surveying?

Land Surveying dates back to ancient history. Surveying is used for multiple projects.  A survey is done to establish a specific location of a parcel of land along with its exact acreage.  It is used to ascertain boundaries for defining an area of ownership and tax liability.  It is also used to identify a piece of property by a written legal description or to provide a review of the accuracy of an existing description. Data from land surveying is of the utmost importance with regard to buying and selling land, and is also used to insure a clean and marketable title.

Other types of Land Surveying

There are many different kinds of surveys that can be performed. Boundary surveying is typically done for undeveloped land. This type of survey measures the actual physical extent of the property in question. Most surveys progress through the basic procedures regardless of the type being done. Any pertinent deeds, contracts, maps or other documents that contain a description of the property’s boundaries are located, studied and interpreted.

A determination is made of what the actual property description is deemed to be, along with the locations of any physical evidence of the boundaries. This can be in the form of both natural and man-made monuments or markers that exist in the field.

The property is then measured to establish the boundaries, not only using the appropriate existing monuments but with the creation and referencing of new markers where necessary. Measurements are accomplished using a total station and other land surveying tools. A total station measures both vertical and horizontal angles, as used in triangulation networks. After these steps are accomplished, the property description and plat are prepared.

Results of land surveying

Interpreting the results of a land survey is not as difficult as it may first seem. For instance, a property plat will usually contain a directional orientation which is typically indicated with an arrow pointing north. It will contain the bearing and distance of each boundary line, the property lines of other properties shown on the plat, and the names of adjacent property owners listed in the areas of their property.

Corner monuments, along with the names of any natural monuments (such as “Smith’s Creek”, for example) or a brief description of any unnamed natural monuments (such as the “30-inch pine tree”) are on the plat. There is also a title block containing the property’s location and name of owner, the surveyor’s name, the date the survey was performed, the scale of the plat and any other relevant data.

If you need the services of a surveyor for your land surveying needs, ALWAYS be sure that you’re hiring an experienced, certified, and highly competent professional surveyor. You can find out if the surveyor is licensed by visiting the Board of Licensure’s website.

What Is A Land Surveyor?

Land Surveyor

A Land Surveyor is essential whenever you plan on building a house, buying or selling a property, or dividing your property amongst your children. Many land surveyor made it down to history.

In fact, three of the four faces carved in Rushmore are land surveyors (Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln were all three surveyors, Teddy Roosevelt was not.).

Others popular names were Daniel Boone, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark (Lewis & Clark), Sir George Everest, Charles Mason & Jeremiah Dixon (of the Mason-Dixon Line fame) and author Henry David Thoreau practiced for a time in Concord, Massachusetts.

What is a Land Surveyor?

Aland surveyoris a person with the academic qualifications and technical expertise to measure and plot the lengths and directions of boundary lines and the dimensions of any portion of the earth’s surface (including natural and other structures). That definition is quite a mouthful, but in actuality the field of surveying (geomatics) includes many other facets.

If you plan to purchase a lot, build your dream house, divide your property to your children, or simply want to know the details of a land property, a land surveyor is the best person to help you out. A land surveyor locates theboundaryof your property and the location of your home within that boundary to determine if there are any encroachments by your neighbors onto you or vice versa. Common encroachments are fences, driveways, etc.

These days a land surveyor in the United States is regulated and licensed by the various state governments. In Alabama, theAlabama State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyorswas established in 1935 to protect the public.  A land surveyor’s duty is “to safeguard life, health, and property, and to promote the public welfare by providing for the licensing and regulation of persons in the practices of engineering and land surveying. This purpose is achieved through the establishment of minimum qualifications for entry into the professions of engineering and land surveying, through the adoption of rules defining and delineating unlawful or unethical conduct, and through swift and effective discipline for those individuals or entities who violate the applicable laws or rules.”

How to become a land surveyor?

As of 2007, a newly licensed land surveyor is required to finish a four year degree in surveying or a closely related field, a four to eight years of on-the-job training under a licensed practicing surveyor. In addition to that, licensed land surveyors are mandated to attend 15 hours of continuing education annually to ensure that they are kept updated with the new know-hows that would help them on their professional growth.

What does a land surveyor do?

As part of a standard lot or mortgage survey of a property, expect your land surveyor to review tax maps, aerial maps, deeds, subdivision plats, zoning ordinances, subdivision regulations and possibly even flood maps. For a typical lot survey, the subdivision plat is the most important of these because it tells the exact dimensions of your lot and the relative location of your property corners. The surveyor uses this to locate and/or re-establish your property corners.

In the field, a land surveyor will search for your property corners along with some of your neighbors’ corners. If yours can’t be found, they’ll measure the distances and angles between all of the points, locate the improvements on your property, including your house, pool, out-buildings, retaining walls, fences, driveways, sidewalks, and other home improvements. Other improvements like sanitary sewer mains, storm drainage ways, overhead power lines and the like are located because these might indicate an easement across the property. The plat should show these, but may not in all cases.>

Once all of the field information is gathered, the crew chief takes the field notes and prepares a preliminary sketch of the work. This is passed along to a draftsperson who prepares the final outline for your use. The draftsperson will check all of the maps mentioned earlier to make sure that all building setback lines and easements are shown on the draft. The surveyed distances and directions are compared to the plat distances and directions as well. Any discrepancies or encroachments are shown on the drawing. Your lawyer may use the draft to determine if any other legal work is needed during the closing. The mortgage company or the bank may also use the survey for their records.

So now, what do you have for your money. You have a drawing which shows your house on your lot. You should have stakes and/or flagging by all of your property corners. Make sure you know where they are located. The actual corner is marked by an iron pin or pipe of some sort. (The type of monument should be shown in your survey drawing.) You might also want to take a look at them at least once a year to make sure they’re still there. (Even animals mark their territory more often than that.)

How To Find Your Home On FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps

What are FEMA flood maps?

flood mapsFEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) or just Flood Maps are provided after a flood risk assessment has been completed or updated for a community.  This study is known as a Flood Insurance Study.  The FIRM gives you the Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) and insurance risk zones in addition to floodplain boundaries.  The FIRM may also show a delineation of the regulatory floodway.

Once the “insurance risk zone”  (commonly referred to as the flood zone) is determined, actuarial rates, based on these risk zones, are then applied for newly constructed, substantially approved, and substantially damaged buildings.  FEMA uses these rates to determine the insurance rate you will pay for flood insurance

FEMA’s Digital Flood Maps

FEMA discontinued the production and distribution of paper flood maps in 2009 as part of its Digital Vision Initiative. This affected all the Flood Maps, boundary information, and study reports. However, clients can still view the products for free through their website or buy them in digital format.

To view these flood maps online, go to FEMA’s Map Service Center and key in your address (hi-lited area shown here) search for your home.  This will prompt you to then select the map that covers your area.  The Flood Maps are somewhat cumbersome to use online. It is best to go through the tutorial on the bottom right of the address search page for an easier and more effective use of the GIS map.

Flooding From Excessive Rain Downstream From Earth Dams

The Daily Republic in South Dakota published an article that talks about an earthen dam that recently failed because of a nine-inch rainfall last 29th of July 2010. The heavy rainfall overwhelmed the dam’s capacity causing it to fail.

No injury was reported on the said event. The said damn was built in 1935, as were a number of them during the Work Programs after the Great Depression. In 2007, it was inspected by a Department of Game, Fish and Parks Engineer and he noted that they “were satisfied with the condition of the dam” during that time. It was then again inspected in 2008 and it was said that the dam breach “was caused by an extraordinary natural event and not by any structural weakness in the dam.” (Photograph by Laura Wehde/The Daily Republic).

Earth dams are almost too numerous to count around the country. In fact, you might just be living near one without you knowing it. A great percentage of these dams were built over 70 years ago and, in many cases, the owners today were not the same ones when they were initially built. For this reason, maintenance and inspection of these dams became less popular.

FEMA estimates “there are over 80,000 dams in the United States”, and that approximately “one third of these pose a ‘high’ or ‘significant’ hazard to life and property if failure occurs.”

The South Fork dam, the country’s worst dam failure disaster in May of 1889, took over 2200 lives and almost half of which were under 20 years old. This incident happened in the town of Johnstown, PA, thus it was known as the “Johnstown Flood”. A 37-foot high wall of water hit Johnstown, located 9 miles downstream from the dam. It almost destroyed the entire city as 1600 homes and 280 businesses was flushed away.

In March 1928, the St. Francis Dam in California also failed. This caused a legislation to be enacted in and around the said state. This, and other later legislation led to life-saving advance warning when the Baldwin Hills dam near Los Angeles, California failed on December 14, 1963. Because of the advance warning which enabled the evacuation of approximately 16,500, the casualties from dam failures has significantly decreased to 5 individuals

Even though there have been far less loss of lives in the United States from dam failures since the 1970’s, reports that…

there were 132 dam failures and 434 “incidents” between January 2005 and January 2009.

Of course, It should be noted that the failure of the earthen levees near New Orleans, LA during and after Hurricane Katrina are purported to be responsible for killing more than 1000 people.

Failure in The KaLoko Dam on the Island of Kauai, Hawaii in March 2006 has resulted to the death of 7 people. Two years after the said incident, developer James Pfluegar was indicated for manslaughter and reckless endangerment in relation to the dam failure. The incident had caused the country of Kauai and the State of Hawaii to pay out over $9 Million in of lawsuits after the failure.

Cause of Dam Failures

Heavy rains cause overtopping, which is by far the most common cause of dam failures. Dam spillways and structures are typically not designed for more than a 1-percent chance (aka 100-year) storm event. When a rain event exceeds this, the water starts to travel outside of the control spillway. This causes erosion of the soil on the dam from the excessive amount of water traveling over it. It is also possible for overtopping to occur from smaller rain events because of debris blockage of the outlet structure or spillways or because of settlement of the dam crest.

Foundation defects, including settlement and slope instability, cause about 30% of all dam failures.

Seepage or Piping causes the remaining 20% of the U.S. dam failures. Piping is the internal erosion caused by seepage under and through the dam. This usually happens around structures such as pipes through the dam and spillways. Seepage can also be caused by animals, like beavers, muskrats, groundhogs, and other rodents, burrowing in the dam, by roots of trees growing on the dam, and through cracks in the dam.  All earth dams have seepage resulting from water permeating slowly through the dam and its foundation. But this seepage must be controlled or it will progressively erode soil from the embankment or its foundation, resulting in rapid failure of the dam.>

What Should You Do To Protect Home?

Since the failure of a dam causes flood, your best option is to avoid building in a flood zone, unless you elevate and reinforce your home. Have your area surveyed and investigated for dam failure and flood determination so you’ll know if your dream house is safe to be constructed in that certain area.

Do you live downstream from a dam? Is the dam a high-hazard or significant-hazard potential dam? To find out, contact your state or county emergency management agency and/or visit the National Inventory of Dams. There are around 2,228 dams on the National Inventory in Alabama. And among those, 636 are listed as high or significant hazard potential dams.

If you live downstream from one of these dams, find out who owns and regulates the dam. This information should also be available from the National Inventory of Dams.>

Next, find out if there is an Emergency Action Plan in place. Again, consult your state or county emergency management agency. (Alabama Emergency Management Agency)

Strangely enough, Alabama is the only state in the United States that has not passed dam safety legislation.

Things to Know When Building Your House

land surveying

Land Surveying in Building your house

It is a very good idea to build your home because you will be able to get exactly what you want instead of when you buy. Of course, you may need to add some things or you may not know what you are getting yourself into.

It is a huge decision choosing the right builder since it is one of the largest personal investments that you will make. Be sure to give an interview to all of the possible contractors and then pick the one that will help make your dream home come true. While you are talking to the possible contractors be sure you ask all of the pertinent questions that will help you choose the best; their how long they have been in the business, experience,  what are the kind of buildings that they have experience building and it would be great if you can see some of their work. It is also crucial to pick house plans which may lead to a good home now and in the future. This is something that your contractor should be able to help you with and they may call on the services of an architect.

Budget in building your house

Before to planning your house design consider these factors; your budget, the size of the home to be built, location of the home, wall finishes, design features that you would like, ceiling height, number of stories, fixture types, exterior finishings, also your time frame.

If you happen to be uncertain about any of these items, your contractor or architect should be able to guide you through this very important process. They will help you choose the details that are right for you down to the very smallest detail. They may refer you to other consultants for things like finishes, colors, and the like so be prepared to sit and discuss with them for a few hours to talk about all these choices that you may have.This is the reason that your choice of a builder is important.

If your builder isn’t able to advise you on home location they should refer you to a real estate agent. A real estate agent is familiar with important details like neighborhood home values, school districts, traffic issues, funding options, etc.

Land Surveying: avoids future problems

Another stop you should make is to see a land surveyor. Land surveyors are trained and experienced in identifying features of the land that might have an impact on your new home – called land surveying. Some of these features are flood zones, property line encroachments from neighbors, lot dimensions, and building setbacks. Land surveyors are measurement experts. And, since your home is your most valuable asset, land surveying should be one of your first steps in any new construction.

Avail Land Surveying service from your local surveyor:

What You Need to Know About Land Surveying

What is Land Surveying?

 

Land surveying is the art and science of accurately measuring parcels of land. Measurements such as dimensions, lengths, boundary lines, including structures within the area are all precisely determined through a land survey.

These measurements are used to establish land maps, boundaries for ownership or for governmental purposes. It is a detailed study of every physical and cultural property of the land, whether above or beneath it, to illustrate it in usable form.

Data is gathered through observations, research, field measurements, and data analysis for establishing property boundaries. Records from previous surveys and government records will strengthen the reports made after the survey.

What covers land surveying?

A land survey is classified according to the purpose or why the survey is being performed. Some of the common types of land survey are boundary surveys, topographic surveys, partition or subdivision surveys, flood elevation survey, property line adjustment survey, and extended title insurance coverage survey.

Other services such as mapping, construction layout surveys, judicial surveys, registered land surveys are all part of land surveying. It is an essential element in every development of the environment especially in the fields of construction, transport, communication, mapping, and most especially in the definition of legal boundaries for ownership.

The key component in the field of land surveying is the land surveyor. A land surveyor is a person that takes charge of every activity that transpires during a land survey.

It is the surveyor who makes the research and data gathering and even interpretation and analysis of all data wherein translation of all data gathered is crucial and should be checked, attested, and sworn in the law to be true and correct.

It is important then for you to choose a land surveyor with the highest degree of expertise and who can assume responsibility for the complex tasks at hand. It should be emphasized that only a surveyor who has knowledge of the elements of geometry, trigonometry, engineering, mathematics, physics, and the law are expected to have the best land survey outcomes.

Land surveying – dated back in history

Land surveying is a profession as old as the Egyptian times yet its importance to the human race still lives on. It is the best method to settle disputes over land ownership, it gives a clear picture of what buildings are suited to be constructed in a given land area, and it’s a convenient way to determine the exact dimensions of real estate to be purchased or sold.

Optimum potential of the land you own can only be defined once you have a land survey. Whether you are planning to put it on the market, or should you want to use it for commercial purposes, a land survey must back you up if ever questions regarding everything about the land arise.

Land surveying will provide a sense of security and peace of mind to every land owner and even to the future buyers.

Land surveying will always be an integral part in protecting real estate and upholding of laws governing the utilization and distribution of your land assets.