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Friday Garden Goods: Why do I need my plat of survey?

One of the first things a landscape designer or landscape contractor will ask for when consulting on a new project is a plat of survey. If you have downloaded our e-book, "8 Steps to a Successful Landscape Project", you know that locating your plat of survey is a critical component of the first step.

Most homeowners have their plat of survey somewhere in their records, but they may not realize how important it is and how much information is contained in it.

"What is a plat of survey and why do I need it?"

Depending on when your home was built and when you bought it, you may or may not even realize what a plat of survey is. Below is an image of a typical plat of survey.


The definition of a plat of survey is a legal document that divides land into parcels. However, for a landscape contractor, the plat of survey contains a large amount of critical information. It is important to have a good grasp and understanding of your legal plat of survey, along with your municipal requirements, including permitting and set backs, before starting any landscape installation.

7 Things We Learn from Your Plat of Survey

  • Property Lines: You would be surprised how often our clients legal property lines differ from their believed property lines. Make sure you and you adjoining neighbors have a mututal understanding of the property lines before starting a project. This is especially important when planning new privacy berms. Remember to keep the mature size of your plantings in mind when planning privacy berms that may encrouch into someone else's property.
  • Flood Zones & Drainage Swales: When it rains, it can flood. Very few plants can grow in the swampier areas of our area. More modern plats typically show the flood zones and drainage swales. If they do not, an experienced landscape designer can help identify potential "wet areas". If your yard does contain swampier areas, all is not lost. We can help you choose the right plants for every area.
  • Building Setbacks: This is a critical piece of information. If you do not know the setbacks in your town or village, call the Village Planner or Administrator for assistance. We work frequently in our surrounding area including Barrington, Inverness, Hawthorn Woods, Crystal Lake and other NW suburban towns and are very familiar with the regulations and permitting requirements. Building Setbacks can often include walls, such as retaining walls, seat walls, outdoor kitchens and fireplaces. A recent customer Inverness had planned a seat wall around the patio. Fortunately we know the setback in Inverness includes walls, and we were able to come up with a solution to keep the homeowner happy and meet all the reuquirements of the Village.
  • Conservancy & Retention Requirements: New Environmental and Governmental requirements are popping up more and more often. Make sure retention requirements are factored into your landscape. Again, this is something your local government can provide guidance on if this information is not noted on your plat of survey.
  • Easements & Utilities:  Property easements should be clear on your plat of survey. For lanscape contractors, this is where to look for utility information. Avoiding utility lines above and below the ground will be important when choosing the right trees and shrubs for your property.
  • Structures & Sidewalks: Is there a shed or barn on your property? Does your neighborhood have sidewalks? We need to know! 
  • Right of Way & Property Access: Depending on the size of your project, your landscape designer may need to bring in large trucks and equipment. The plat of survey allows us to plan for access and make sure landscape designs don't interfere with either right of way or access issues.

Questions? Feel free to call us at 847-658-3883. We are happy to help. Remember, knowing the basic information about your property helps tremendously when planning any home improvement project and saves money from costly mistakes. Hiring an experienced, certifed and insured landscape design professional can help make all the difference.

Want to learn more about planning your landscape design project? Click below!




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