Glossary of Civil Engineering & Land Surveying Terms:

Easement – the privilege of using something that is not your own (as using another’s land as a right of way to your own.) Usually an easement has a special purpose and gives the owner of the easement right to “trespass” on the landowners property in order to maintain the easement or utility covered in the easement.

Encroachment – to intrude unrightfully on someone else’s rights or territory. This is when a building or some portion of it, or a wall or fence, extends beyond the boundary of the owner and illegally intrudes on the land of an adjoining owner.

Floodplain – floodplain or flood plain is the land area adjacent to a river, stream, lake, or other body of water that is subject to flooding. (See “flood” for more information.)

Metes and Bounds Legal – a land description method that details all of the boundary lines (bounds) of the land, together with the line dimensions & directions (metes). The most common method today is to use bearings and distances.

Drawing – an illustration that is drawn to scale that represents planned or actual features of an area. The survey drawing shows each property line with its distance and bearing, what marks the property corners, the improvements on the property, encroachments, easements, etc. The amount of information shown is dependent of the type of survey or the purpose.

Bearings – defines direction based on the four cardinal directions (north, south, east & west.) A bearing is comprised of three elements 1) the north or south element, 2) the bearing angle, and 3) the east or west element. For example N 24°15’ E is a line that runs in a direction of 24°15’ toward the east from the due north direction, or in a direction that is 24°15’ clockwise from the due north direction. (See figure.)

Monument – a fixed natural or artificial object that is found or set at a property corner to establish the boundaries of the property.

Parcel – a parcel of land is some defined amount of land defined by certain boundaries.  Another word for parcel of land could be “piece” of land.

Setback Lines – the distance from the property line or other established line within which no buildings may be constructed.  Also known as a building line.

Onsite Septic System – An onsite septic system is used in rural areas to dispose of household sewage.  The system normally contains a septic tank which allows the sewage to be “broken down” and field lines to dispose of the effluent.  It may occasionally contain an additional treatment system which “treats” the effluent to a higher level than the septic tank. To find your septic tank and field lines, look for the greenest grass.