Wells, Fences, Electrical & More: Get a Land Survey Before You Build

property fence

In addition to defining a plot’s boundaries, a land survey includes topography: natural and man-made physical features that impact how the land can be used. This information is of crucial importance to people who are considering buying a piece of land. It is also necessary for architects and contractors, who must avoid (A) building on neighboring pieces of land, and (B) attempting to build wherever building is not possible.

New construction always calls for a land survey. Without it, the entire house may be destroyed. Take the recent example of an expensive home in Farmington Hills, MI, which was built on top of a privately owned sewer line. Its owners were threatened with demolition, and only narrowly avoided losing their home by agreeing to reroute a portion of the sewer system through their backyard. A land survey would have prevented such a massive headache!

Land surveys aren’t just prerequisite for larger construction, however. Even smaller projects can go terribly wrong without them.

Septic Systems

If you are currently on good terms with your neighbor, that is bound to change if you install a septic tank on their property. In addition to costly disputes, a land survey can prevent fines. Many jurisdictions require landowners to obtain a permit before installing a subsurface sewage treatment system. Otter Tail County, where Compass Consultants is headquartered, is one of them. You may have to get a site evaluation, which includes a topography assessment, before you are awarded a septic permit. That is a job for a land surveyor.


Locating groundwater is not a job for a land surveyor, but their work is still necessary before well drilling can commence. Among other things, a land surveyor will ascertain that a proposed wellhole would not overlap with existing underground utilities. Even a relatively shallow hole can deal enormous damage to utility lines. Case in point: the elderly Georgian woman who cut off internet access to the entire nation of Armenia while digging for scrap copper with a shovel.


Good fences make good neighbors – but only when those fences don’t create property disputes. If you build a fence that intersects the boundary line between your and your neighbor’s property, you are technically trespassing. Your neighbor would have a great incentive to contest the placement of your fence: not just because they don’t like being trespassed, but because your fence could also constitute an act of adverse possession. In other words, they may actually lose their land if your fence remains there long enough! That’s why if you want to build a fence, only a land survey can save your relationship with your neighbor and prevent a costly legal dispute.

Electrical Conduit

If you’re burying electrical conduit, your first step should be to request a land survey. It won’t just locate existing underground utilities so you can avoid them. It also will determine whether conditions are sufficient for the placement of new underground infrastructure. You don’t want to discover that you can’t install conduit after you have already trenched!

If you’re building a new house or simply adding a well, fence, septic system, or any other feature to your property, then we welcome you to contact Compass Consultants today. We serve Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, and we provide all types of land surveys including ALTA, boundary, location, subdivision, site-planning and construction.