Building a House?

Below is a list and description of services required from land surveyors during a typical house construction project.

Please note: if building more than one house, a reference plan is also required for severance.

1. We prepare the surveyor’s real property report with topography
2. Based on our plan of topography, architect designs the site plan
3. We prepare a grading plan
4. Client or their agent applies for permits (plan of topography, site and grading plans are only a small part of the application)
5. Permits issued, construction may begin


We ask that clients provide us with the final set of drawings to be used for construction. All of the necessary calculations are made in the office and a sketch to be used in the field is produced.

Construction layout on a typical project consists of four field visits. Additional field visits might be necessary depending on the requirements of the project.

1. Stakeout for excavation and installation of a local benchmark

This visit usually takes place after the demolition of the existing house is finished and before the excavation for the new house is to proceed. It will determine where to dig and how deep.

Marks are provided at offset points from proposed structure corners in order to show where the new structure is to be built. The depth of the excavation is guided by providing a steel pin with a cut to the underside of footing. In addition to the marks on the ground, a sketch is provided to illustrate the work being done. A local benchmark is installed to be used throughout the construction process. A benchmark is a point with a known elevation to which a builder can refer over the course of the project. It is usually a nail in a permanent structure such as a fence or a utility pole.

2. Layout for footing construction

This field visit takes place once the excavation is completed. The outside house perimeter is marked inside the hole using steel spikes or concrete nails. The type of marker used is determined on-site and depends on the hardness of the surface into which points are to be set. Shorter concrete nails are used in hard surfaces such as shale, and longer spikes are used when softer soils are present. Points provided are the outside corners of foundation walls, and carpenters account for the appropriate overlap when building footing forms. In the city, the house setbacks are often designed to the minimum allowable, sometimes to within a few centimetres of property lines, so there is no room for error.
Also during this visit, the depth of the excavation is checked to ensure the underside of footings elevation matches plans.

3. Layout for foundation walls placement

Once the concrete is poured, it is strongly recommended to have the house perimeter marked again on top of footings.
This is to ensure that foundation walls forms are set in the correct location. Steel spikes provided for footing construction might stick up above concrete but it is not recommended to use them for foundation wall placement. When footings are being built, strings are often tied to our points, workers bump into them, there might be mud, soft sand, and concrete finally gets poured over them. There is no guarantee the points remain in the original location as set by the survey crew.
It is best to have the house perimeter staked on top of footings to avoid potential issues with setbacks to property lines (the points marked during this field visit are exactly the same as in Visit 2, but this time on top of concrete footings). The foundation contractor uses our marks to place the foundation walls forms in the correct location, and our site benchmark from Visit 1 is used to guide the pour height.
It is best for this visit to take place before the forms are delivered to the site as they are quite tall and obstruct the view for the survey crew.

4. As-built survey and drafting of the as-built surveyor’s real property report

A crew is sent to the site to measure the new house and to report any other changes (such as new or removed fences and sheds). Based on their measurements and findings, an as-built plan of survey is drafted in our office.
An as-built plan of survey is needed to verify compliance with permit drawings. The building inspector needs to be sure the new structure is at appropriate setbacks from property lines and that the elevations are correct. Depending on the stage of the construction project, the levels reported on the as-built survey can be top of foundation wall, finished first floor, and top of roof. Each municipality has its own height restrictions for the finished floor (first floor) elevation and top of roof. If the foundations are built too high, the rest of the house will be too high. If foundations are poured too low, grading the site might be impossible and the house could be flooded by runoff. There could also be issues with basement height.
An as-built SRPR helps to identify possible issues before it is too late or too costly to correct them.

5. Grading certificate

Once the house is built and the landscaping is complete, a field inspection is required in order to obtain a grading certificate. The municipality asks for a grading certificate to confirm that the grading on the property is done as per the grading plan and that the water runoff will be adequately managed.
All of the landscaping must be completed in order for us to issue a grading certificate.

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