What is Land Surveying ?


Surveying is the science or art of making measurements to determine or establish the relative position of points above, on, or beneath the surface of the earth. Surveys are generally divided into classes according to the type of data obtained, the methods and instruments used, and the purposes to be served. Some examples of surveys are: boundary surveys, geodetic surveys, topographic surveys, aerial or photogrammetric surveys, soil and wetland surveys, geologic surveys, engineering surveys, and land surveys.

A Land Surveyor in the state of North Carolina is a design professional licensed and regulated by the State of North Carolina, who, through a combination of education and experience, understands and is able to delineate the physical characteristics of land, and is also qualified to perform and depict a physical retracement of the legal history of that land. A North Carolina Licensed Land Surveyor uses applied mathematics and other technical and research skills to measure and plot: the dimensions of any portion of the Earth's surface, natural and Man-made structures, the lengths and directions of boundary lines, and the contour of the Earth's surface. Land Surveyors are also knowledgeable regarding zoning regulations, planning regulations, building codes, health codes, wetland regulations and general land use requirements. Land Surveyors may offer a variety of services including:

  • Boundary Surveys
  • Proposed Plot Plans
  • Building Location and Foundation Location Surveys
  • Topographic Surveys
  • Subdivision Design and Platting
  • Global Positioning System Surveys
  • Geodetic Control Surveys
  • Environmental Impact Statements
  • Wetland Delineation and Location
  • Mining Plans
  • Mitigation Plans
  • Land Development Plans
  • Percolation Tests and Soil Descriptions
  • Construction and Transportation Staking
  • Monitoring of Structural Settling of Buildings and Other Structures
  • Utility and Pipeline Surveys

What is a :


  • Acre - The English acre is a unit of area equal to 43,560 square feet, 10 square chains, or 160 square poles. It originates from a plowing area that is 4 poles wide and a furlong (40 poles) long. A square mile is 640 acres. A Scottish acre is 1.27 English acres. An Irish acre is 1.6 English acres.
  • Chain - Unit of length usually understood to be Gunter’s chain, see also Rathborn chain. The name comes from the heavy metal chain of 100 links that surveyors used to measure property bounds.
  • Engineer's Chain - A 100 foot chain containing 100 links of one foot a piece.
  • Furlong - Unit of length equal to 40 poles (220 yards). The name originates from "furrow long", the length of a furrow that oxen can plow before they are rested and turned. See Gunter's chain.
  • Ground - A unit of area equal to 2400 sq. ft., or 220 sq. meters. This unit of measurement is often used in India.
  • Gunter's Chain - Unit of length equal to 66 feet, or 4 poles. Developed by English polymath Edmund Gunter in the early 1600's, the standard measuring chain revolutionized surveying. Gunter's chain was 22 yards long, one tenth of a furlong. This was a common unit of length used in the old days. An area one chain wide by ten chains long was exactly an acre. In 1595 Queen Elizabeth I redefined the mile from the old Roman value of 5000 feet to 5280 feet in order for it to be an even number of furlongs. A mile is 80 chains.
  • Hectare - Metric unit of area equal to 10,000 square meters, or 2.471 acres, or 107,639 square feet.
  • Hide - A very old English unit of area, a hide was of variable size depending on the quality of the land. It was the amount of land to support a family, and ranged from 60 to 180 acres. After the Norman conquest in 1066 it became standardized at around 120 acres.
  • Hundred - An adminstrative area larger than a village and smaller than a county. In England it was 100 hides in size, and the term was used for early settlements in Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware.
  • League (legua) - Unit of area used in the southwest U.S., equal to 25 labors, or 4428 acres (Texas), or 4439 acres (California). League’s can be used as a unit of length as well, one league is equal to approximately three miles.
  • Link - Unit of length equal to 1/100 chain (7.92 inches).
  • Morgen - Unit of area equal to about 0.6309 acres. It was used in Germany, Holland and South Africa, and was derived from the German word Morgen ("morning"). It represented the amount of land that could be plowed in a morning.
  • Out - an 'out' is a single extension of a chain in the field. Therefore, if you measured a course 20 chains long with a 2 pole chain there would be 40 'outs'. Ten chain lengths is a tally. The surveyor usually carried 'tally pins', tallies, to count the number of chain lengths in a given line. Tally pins looked like a 14 inch bar-b-que skewer and sometimes with a lead weight near the pointed end and a bit of red cloth tied to the ring at the top end.
  • Point - A point of the compass. There are four cardinal points (North, South, East, West), and 28 others yielding 32 points of 11.25 degrees each. A survey line's direction could be described as a compass point, as in "NNE" (north northeast). To improve precision, the points would be further subdivided into halves or quarters as necessary, for example, "NE by North, one quarter point North". In some areas, "and by" meant one half point, as in "NE and by North".
  • Pole - Unit of length and area. Also known as a perch or rod. As a unit of length, one pole is equal to 16.5 feet. A mile is 320 poles. As a unit of area, one pole is equal to a square with sides one pole long. An acre is 160 square poles. It was common to see an area referred to as "87 acres, 112 poles", meaning 87 and 112/160 acres.
  • Rathbone's Chain - A measuring chain two poles, or 33 feet, in length.
  • Rod - See pole.
  • Rood - Unit of area usually equal to 1/4 acre.