How to Find Someone to Survey Your Property Boundary Correctly

There are different reasons why somebody would need boundary surveying in their property. Often, this type of surveying is done if the owner of the property wants to legally place an item on the property such as a structure or a fence.

A Licensed Land Surveyor

When hiring a land surveyor, you have to make sure that he is duly licensed by your state. A “licensed” land surveyor means he was able to complete his studies, passed all exams and is certified to perform specific types of land surveys.

Hiring a licensed land surveyor is especially important if there is a dispute over a certain area of a property as the court would be asking for the current boundary survey result as well as testimony from a licensed land surveyor. With this being said, you also have to make sure that the surveyor you’re going to hire can also stand as an expert witness in court.

Looking for a Licensed Land Surveyor

boundary survey - property surveyIf your property has been surveyed before, it would be easier for you to contact that land surveyor again. This is the best option for several reasons; he already has all information about your property, making it easier for him to perform a new type of survey.

You can typically find your land surveyor’s information on the survey result given to you (if you’ve bought the property from somebody, for instance) or the result given to you by the surveyor himself.

If incase you don’t have the result on you, you can also check the markers put in place by the surveyor during the last survey done on your property. These markers, which looks like pegs, has he surveyor’s license number/ name on it. You can use these information to find the surveyor online.

If you can’t find the surveyor who worked on your property before, or if the property has never been surveyed, you should easily find a land surveyor in your area (for a land surveyor in the Knoxville area, Davison County and surrounding areas, click here).

Important Points to Remember when Hiring a Boundary Surveyor

  • As mentioned, make sure that he or she is a licensed land surveyor.
  • He or she should have experience in performing boundary survey. If you’re going to pay somebody, you’d rather have someone who had done it before, right?
  • Look for someone easy to talk to. Communication is very important when hiring a land surveyor. You see, surveying is more of an art than a science – this is why land surveying results vary. It’s important that your surveyor understand why you’re having the survey, what you’re going to use the results for and how soon you’ll be needing the results.

For boundary surveying services in the Knoxville, TN and Knox County area of Tennessee, call us at (615) 645-1404 or fill out our contact form here.

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 Knoxville 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 Knoxville Land Surveying at (865) 249-0447.