Tips for Getting the Best Survey the First Time

When, and how much?
For the majority of projects that involve a structural change, whether "up" or "out", a full survey by a licensed surveyor is a "must-have". In Seattle, the fee to have a property surveyed averages between $2,500 and $3,000 for a typical urban residential lot and up to $5,000 for larger or more complex lots, depending on factors such as the distance to nearest recorded monuments, the presence of environmentally critical areas (steep slope, known landslides, etc.), and the quantity and complexity of the existing improvements.

Since subsequent visits to record additional information are not included in the initial price, a list of information required by your local jurisdiction should be provided to your surveyor, to ensure that all it is acquired in a single visit.

 
Permit-ready site plan, with surveyed information included

Basic requirements
Here are a few of the checklists and standards for the city of Seattle:

Client Assistance Memo 103 - Site Plan Requirements

Client Assistance Memo 103B - Environmentally Critical Area Site Plan Requirements

Be sure to check the City of Seattle Department of Planning and Development for the most current version of these documents prior to use.

Similar information for other jurisdictions can be found by searching for "land use department" or "planning department" and the name of your city and/or county.

Be sure to also ask for...
In addition to this list, I always request the following additional information:

  • recorded locations of all existing underground utilities. The marking of underground utilities is usually done by a separate company, subcontracted by the surveyor prior to their visit to measure your property. This cost is not typically included in the surveyor's estimate, but is sometimes free and usually not more than a few hundred dollars. The underground utility locators can also mark depths of items - sometimes critical for locating new foundation walls and new sewer or stormwater connections, if requested. 
  • elevation of every corner 
  • elevation of finished floor at every door
  • elevation of every ridge
  • top elevation of every overhang
  • horizontal dimension from the outside edge of the overhang (or face of fascia) to the face of the foundation
  • diameter of trunk and species of all trees with trunks greater than 3" in diameter
  • locations of all impervious surfaces
  • adjacent right of way improvements (full width) 
  • neighboring structures within 20' of property line (if you are changing the front of your house, you may need to have the entire front of both adjacent houses surveyed in order to determine your setback by way of "front yard averaging")

Avoid conflict.
Whether or not you anticipate problems, making changes to your home's appearance is something that the neighbors will be concerned about. For strategies to prevent or resolve conflict, see WHEN NEIGHBORS DISAPPROVE - 6 TIPS FOR SUCCESS.