ALS - Locating Property Corners : Deatsville, Eclectic, Lake Martin, Tallassee, Pike Road Land Surveyor

Locating Property Corners:The Lost Art
Glen Tanner, PLS
Copyright © All Rights Reserved 2011.

The art of Locating Property Corners is being lost. The following picture shows what inspired the following. The two rebars, a #4 rebar and a #5 rebar, shown in photo below are 1.9 feet apart and set in 1994 and after according to the client.
There is a lot of iron ore in the rocks around these two rebar, which will mess with magnetic locators if your not patient.


They’re not always located near or on a fence and not always marked as shown in picture below.

glentannerlandsurveyingoldpropertycorner2.jpgAny time I go into an old subdivision, pre-1980-85, before Alabama Land Surveyor started using rebar and see capped rebars at corners where galvanized iron pins, solid bars or old irons should be, I always ask myself how hard did the Land Surveyor look before setting the corner.
In old neighborhoods, especially those that go up and down steep inclines, very seldom do the iron pins at property corners, on the ground, match the recorded plat or deed, in angle or in distance, and if you try to use a pre-set data collector and a total station, 9 out of 10 times you will not locate all the property corners - not because they're missing, but because you're probably in the wrong place or were not looking hard enough. We should always remember that in old subdivisions and old boundary surveys, Alabama Land Surveyors used plumb bobs, chain, theodolite, and no one knows what the closure of the Old Survey may have been, if it even had one.
Almost all survey crews have a magnetic pin finder and the following items to find corners. I have heard of some only using a machete though.
glentannerlandsurveyingtools.jpgAs a Professional Alabama Land Surveyor, I use the following items:
glentannerlandsurveyingtools2.jpgWithout these tools a land survey crew can not properly locate property corners if they can't even dig them up? The magnetic locator in this picture is about 17 years old. It is held together with JB weld and duck tape. The reason I don’t buy a new one is because new isn’t always better, when it groans I understand why, when it screams I know why, most of all I have had very good luck with it, locating property corners. I have always used an aqua locator, the black box in picture, near fences or when I doubt what the magnetic locator is doing, an aqua locator works as deep as 2 feet. I go thru a sharp shooter a year, the pick is for hard ground, the post hole diggers are for when the sharp shooter doesn’t work getting out the dirt.
The next question is how low will a land surveyor go to locating property corners, in other words how deep will he or she dig before you give up and set a property corner?
The following pictures were taken 3-16-11 but the work was done about a week before. (That is why you will see a post in the picture.) I redug the hole to get the photo of this rare find. The first item I found was the bottom of a coke bottle. glentannerlandsurveyingbottlebottom.jpg

How many of you or land survey crews would quit here thinking it’s garbage or keep digging?

One open-top iron pipe found. How deep does your crew dig to locate a property corner?
I personally go until I’m absolutely sure. glentannerlandsurveyingteam.jpgglentannerlandsurveyingsharpshooter.jpg

The deepest I have ever had to dig to locate an iron is 3 feet. I have found old irons that a tree has grown over or around as much as a foot in the tree. This lot was a 100 by 200 according to the plat, but on the ground along the road it measured 98 feet, along the rear of lot, 96 feet and 198 feet in depth. Boy, this one sure matched the plat. This lot originally was an Autauga county gully that has been filled. The plat was recorded in 1969 and all lots shown on the plat along the south line were shown to be 160 feet plus or minus. Do you believe the rest of the subdivision is going to match the plat?

Due to technology, lack of skill and training, or proper time and effort by Alabama Land Surveyors and land survey crews to find or lack of ability in locating property corners in old subdivisions, more and more corners are being set instead of being found. I have always believed it is better to find an original corner than to set a new corner.
Ask anyone that knows me, they will tell you, before Glen Tanner quits looking and sets an iron, the ground will look like it has been attacked by armadillos and groundhogs. The art and skill of locating property corners is disappearing. We, as an Alabama Land Surveyor, need to teach and emphasize the need to look for and locating property corners. I find about 90% of property corners in old subdivisions. It isn’t always easy and some of the time it is very time consuming. I have been known to go back on a different day, after having had time to look at my field data, and start fresh with an better idea on where to look before setting an iron pin. It does work but it takes time, it is something we don’t allow ourselves or allow our survey crews - time to look.
Isn’t our duty as an Alabama Land Surveyor to follow in the foot steps of the original Alabama Land Surveyor as close as possible, not to re-interpret or move to where it calculates. Many of you are going to say that your clients aren’t going to pay for it or I didn’t allow that much time in the job to be going back. Isn’t it our job? Isn't it required by the Standards of Practice? Isn’t it our ethical duty to protect the public and to do these things regardless of what the client is willing to pay or how much time we have allowed in the job?

The art to locating property corners and old irons is to listen to property owners, who know the area, or how it was surveyed, but most of all taking the time to look and dig. That's right - dig - a lot. My magnetic locator doesn't have a brain, it didn’t go to school, it doesn’t speak English, Spanish or French - But, it will lie to you. Learn to understand your equipment, something that may take months, even a year or two. Understanding the squeaks and squalls of the magnetic locator signal being sent to the user is important. Remember be patient, learn what to look for and most of all - dig, dig, dig. THIS is the art of locating old property corners.

Copyright © By Glen Tanner. All Rights Reserved.

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