Topographical Surveys: What are they, and how much do they cost?




A topographical survey accurately represents the natural and artificial features of a particular piece of land. Typically, the survey will show the contours of the land and any trees, buildings, or other structures that are present. The survey can also measure the height of specific features, such as hills or mountains. Topographical surveys are often used in the planning stages of construction projects, as they can help planners identify potential problems or obstacles.


Why get a topographical survey?


There are many reasons why you might need a topographical survey. For example, you may need one if you’re planning to:


  • Undertake construction work on a site
  • Carry out a land assessment
  • Submit plans for construction
  • Create a legal document, such as a title deed for the Land Registry


A topographical survey can be an essential tool in the planning process and can help to avoid potential problems further down the line. It’s always best to get a professional surveyor to carry out the work, as they will have the necessary skills, equipment, and experience to produce an accurate and comprehensive report.


What’s involved in creating a topographical survey?


Essentially, there are three broad stages involved in creating a topographical survey.

The first step is to identify the area to be surveyed. The surveyor can do this by analysing a map or aerial photograph of the site. From that, they will define the land boundary and use it as a reference point for all subsequent measurements.


The second step is to collect data about the features of the land, such as the elevation, slope, and vegetation. This data can be gathered using a GPS unit, a Total Station (or Theodolite) or a laser scanner.


The third step is to use CAD software to create a map of the area based on the collected data. This map can show the contour lines of the land and any other essential features.


As such, the survey costs are split between the surveyor’s time spent on-site and back in the office.


Factors affecting the survey costs


No two surveys are the same, and many factors can influence the costs involved:



If the survey is being carried out in a remote location, the surveyor may need to spend extra time travelling to and from the site.


Size of the area

The larger the area being surveyed, the more time it will take and, as such, the higher the costs.



If the land is difficult to access, or in poor condition – if it’s overgrown, for example, this will add to the survey time.


Features of the land

If there are a lot of features on the land, such as trees, buildings, or bodies of water, it will take longer to survey, which will increase the costs.


How to save cost with a topographical survey


As we established previously, the costs of the survey revolve around the time a surveyor has to spend on-site and in the office. So, maximising the value of the surveyor’s time is key to producing a cost-effective survey. Here are some factors to consider:


Identify the aims of the survey

Ensuring that the surveyor knows precisely what you need from the survey will help make sure they collect all the relevant data. Importantly, it will also mean they don’t waste time collecting unnecessary information. This, in turn, will minimise the time spent on-site and back in the office.


Provide accurate information about the site

The more information you can give the surveyor upfront, such as a detailed site plan, the better. This will save time in the planning stage and allow the surveyor to hit the ground running when they arrive on-site.


Define the area

If you have a large site to survey, think about how much detail you need to collect. For example, is it the entire site? Or do you only need a small section surveying in detail?


Consider the features

As we mentioned earlier, the more features there are on the land, the longer it will take to survey. So, if you can, remove any unnecessary features before the surveyor arrives. For example, if there’s a lot of vegetation on the site, you could clear some of them away. You’ll need to do it at some point in the process, so you might as well do it first.


Access to the site

If you have good access to the site, it will make the surveyor’s job much easier. If there are obstacles, such as gates or fences, make sure they’re unlocked or that there’s someone on-site who can let the surveyor in.


Survey the site at the right time of year

Try to avoid times when the site is waterlogged or covered in snow, as this will make it more difficult (and time-consuming) for the surveyor to access. Surveyors are human, after all!




Surveying is a complex task, and you must select a surveying company with the right amount of experience and knowledge for your project. An experienced surveyor will save you time and money by ensuring the survey is carried out efficiently and effectively.


Doing some due diligence on the surveying firm before appointing a surveyor is time well spent. A reputable and experienced firm may cost a little more than a one-person business, but it’s worth the peace of mind knowing you’ve got a comprehensive and accurate survey.


Trumetric offer a comprehensive range of surveying services to a broad portfolio of Clients, from Architects, Designers, & Engineers, to Developers and building owners.