Do I Need a Survey to Install a Fence?

Before building a fence, it’s wise to conduct a property boundary survey in order to make sure that it fits within the boundaries of your property line. Doing this will guarantee that the new fence fits exactly within its footprint.

Avoiding lawsuits with neighbors and fines from your city or town could save both parties considerable money in litigation expenses and fines.

There are various forms of surveys; let’s take a look at their features.

Boundary Lines

Boundary lines, also referred to as property lines, mark where one piece of land ends and another begins. Understanding where your property boundaries are is crucial when making major landscaping decisions like installing fencing or adding onto your home. One simple way of determining your boundaries is looking at a plot plan map included with your deed – typically found by checking book and page number of your tax bill or visiting your town’s Registry of Deeds.

Professional surveyors can help you pinpoint your property line with their years of experience, crew and specialized equipment. Hiring professionals instead of trying DIY methods or relying on hearsay from neighbors or real estate agents will save both headaches and money in the future.

Many people mistake their fence as being the property line, however this may not always be the case. Fences may have been built a little beyond the property line for convenience or to avoid obstacles like trees, water, and thick brush. Building or replacing fences without first legally establishing their property lines could result in expensive legal battles down the line.

Before beginning construction of your fence, it’s wise to consult a surveyor. Surveyors use information gleaned directly from deed records, plot maps and utility locations so you can be certain your structure will fall within its boundaries.

A surveyor can also inform you of any underground wires and pipes as well as slopes on your property that must be taken into consideration when designing and building your fence. Utilizing their expertise will make the building process less cumbersome and stressful while helping prevent costly disputes with neighbors in the future.


An accurate property survey should be the cornerstone of your preparations to install a fence, to ensure it falls within its property lines and avoid future complications with neighbors or local officials. A professional surveyor can use your deed and legal description to locate monuments marking these boundaries; its cost will far outweigh that of going through litigation or incurring fines due to infringing them.

Many homeowners don’t realize they own property with easements on it due to the fact that this was never mentioned when purchasing their home and realtor or title company failed to disclose this fact. Easements are areas specifically designated for specific uses – for utility lines or access to public roads for instance.

Avoid building anything, such as fences, on these easements without first receiving approval from the dominant estate. Furthermore, any fence constructed on an easement that requires maintenance by an organization could create issues as they may order you to either remove it entirely or at least relocate it so they can complete their tasks without disrupting yours.

Prescriptive easements are another type of easement which may be created if you’ve used someone else’s land for an extended period, often in rural settings where people have used fences built on someone else’s property for years. While this situation can become complex quickly, its legalities depend upon your state.

Conservation easements are another type of easement that cannot be built on, usually established to protect water quality, native vegetation, animal life or other aspects of the land. Building on conservation easements could violate state environmental laws and lead to steep fines; knowing what type of easements exist on your land will help avoid this from happening in the future. A survey can be invaluable when identifying these issues – it helps determine where they may lie on your property map!

Zoning Restrictions

Assuming you don’t own the entire land on which your fence will be installed, local laws and regulations likely must be observed before installing one. These may relate to how close it may come to the property line, its height and whether or not fencing is permitted on it altogether. You should also be mindful of any homeowner’s association restrictions that might hinder your ability to install a fence.

If you are uncertain of your property lines, consulting a surveyor is the ideal way to establish them legally and establish where your legal boundaries are by measuring distances between physical markers on the ground such as property pins or monuments and providing a report with this data. Once this step has been taken it can then be used as the basis for placing fencing. Failure to take this step may result in accidental encroachments on neighboring properties which could create untold difficulties later on.

As it’s very likely that your fence violates zoning laws, this can have severe repercussions for both parties involved. Not only can it cause friction with neighbors who could seek legal recourse against you; but it may also reduce its value when selling, since potential buyers might not want a home with an illegal fence in violation.

Fencing contractors often claim they don’t need a survey in order to install your fence, which can be extremely dangerous and lead to further complications later. A professional surveyor understands that in order to properly determine property lines and boundary markers, conducting a full land survey with pinpoint precision is the only reliable way. Guessing where property lines lie could cause costly errors with fence placement which result in lost property or land or incorrect positioning that costs time and money in the form of lost time and land – not forgetting any difficulties making changes once mistakes have already been made which further emphasizes why having a survey performed is so essential!

Legal Issues

Acquiring professional fencing survey services before starting is of utmost importance, as this step could save you from serious legal complications in the future. Surveyors also can help locate any underground wires or pipes as well as ensure your fence resides on or close to its respective property line.

Many people skip this step in thinking they know where their property lines are; this may not always be the case and failing to hire a surveyor may lead to disastrous consequences, including your fence encroaching onto neighboring property or being constructed incorrectly in other ways. Paying now rather than having to deal with an enormous mess later.

Erected your fence too close to an incorrect property line may create issues when selling your home; potential buyers might not appreciate having your fence on their side of the property and might demand its removal, causing major hassle and expense for both parties involved. Building it two feet back may satisfy most parties involved without creating issues later.

Prescriptive easements can be another potential complication. If your neighbor has been accessing their own property through part of yours for some time, they could claim prescriptive easements over it and could sue you for adverse possession if they find out you plan to put up a fence there. To prevent this costly and time consuming scenario from arising altogether, ensure your fence is at least two feet from its property line before installation.

Finding a reputable fencing company with excellent reviews in your local area is key for selecting an effective company, and the internet can provide this insight – websites like Angi or Better Business Bureau are good places to search.