Surveying land contours- Need help-advice
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    Surveying land contours- Need help-advice

    I need to use a box blade/scraper on my property to change how the rain water flows over some sections of my property. Here is my problem: When I look at my land it would appear to be pretty flat & level, which it is. However when it rains I have areas that will bring down a steady heavy flow of rainwater across some areas of my property & I would lile to box blade these areas to redirect the water flow. But because the land surface appears to be flat to the naked eye, I really need to map out the various elevations so I can redirect water flow. Problem is I don't know what to use to do this surveying work, or how to use any type of laser survey equipment to measure these small differences in the ground contour.

    Can anyone advise me on what I need in the way of survey tools & how difficult this could be. Im not looking to invest in expensive survey equipment. Im thinking maybe something I can pick up from the Harbor Freight or Northern Tool store would do the job. And then there is the learning how to use the tools. Again, the contours & the height variation on my property is almost impossible to see, but when it rains, it really gives you a map of the land contours/pitches that I need to change to fix runoff water problems. Please share your experience & advice with me if you can. Thanks-Maddog


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    couple of ideas

    After a rain, drive stakes in the ground where water has run/collected to mark low spots.

    Use a laser level, set about a foot above ground level at various locations. Walk the length of the beam, measuring from ground to laser, drive stakes in low spots.
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    Surveying is a skill that I have always wanted to learn, not just land contours, but also determining my property lines.

    If you're just trying to determine the contour of your land, I suppose a simple level transit placed at some starting location, siting to a "tall ruler" at several areas of your property will give you relative elevation. You can just map out the elevations, distances and angles from your starting point. If you can get enough points, you can draw out the contour lines of your property and predict the water flow.

    That being said, I have never done this myself, and I'm just thinking out loud on what I would do.

    We live on a moderately sloped lot and have drainage/run-off issues too. We're constantly "out in the rain" looking at our water flow to see how we can redirect it to prevent erosion. After living there 27 years, we're still looking for solutions. We have found that water flow can be unpredictable on our property, but it will always flow downhill., we're just not certain of the exact route it takes.

    Good Luck, just my 2 cents.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 130Oxbow View Post
    After a rain, drive stakes in the ground where water has run/collected to mark low spots.

    Use a laser level, set about a foot above ground level at various locations. Walk the length of the beam, measuring from ground to laser, drive stakes in low spots.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tomfive View Post
    Surveying is a skill that I have always wanted to learn, not just land contours, but also determining my property lines.

    If you're just trying to determine the contour of your land, I suppose a simple level transit placed at some starting location, siting to a "tall ruler" at several areas of your property will give you relative elevation. You can just map out the elevations, distances and angles from your starting point. If you can get enough points, you can draw out the contour lines of your property and predict the water flow.

    That being said, I have never done this myself, and I'm just thinking out loud on what I would do.

    We live on a moderately sloped lot and have drainage/run-off issues too. We're constantly "out in the rain" looking at our water flow to see how we can redirect it to prevent erosion. After living there 27 years, we're still looking for solutions. We have found that water flow can be unpredictable on our property, but it will always flow downhill., we're just not certain of the exact route it takes.

    Good Luck, just my 2 cents.
    Two good ideas here. I've tried to follow the water flow during & immediately after a rain event. Its difficult to do with accuracy because one of the observations I've made is that the grass & weeds themselves can alter the direction of the flow. While everything does flow from a high point to the low point, the path is difficult to define. Im not at all familiar with laser level tools. But it sounds like I can get a laser level that I can elevate somewhat off the ground, then shoot the beam at a ruler or other a stick maked out in inches. Doing this will give me a better indication of the ground slope & contour. At least that is what I believe your suggestions are leading me to. If so, then the next thing I need to do is find some laser level gear. I guess I would need something like you would use if you were building a foundation wall and need to find the exact height from wall to wall. Well I have to look into this a little more but now I have a better idea on how to go about it. Thanks-Maddog
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    If you are going to be out playing in the rain you might want to try dying the puddle at the highest piping and then see where the dye turns up.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Maddog View Post
    But it sounds like I can get a laser level that I can elevate somewhat off the ground, then shoot the beam at a ruler or other a stick maked out in inches. Doing this will give me a better indication of the ground slope & contour. At least that is what I believe your suggestions are leading me to. If so, then the next thing I need to do is find some laser level gear. I guess I would need something like you would use if you were building a foundation wall and need to find the exact height from wall to wall. Well I have to look into this a little more but now I have a better idea on how to go about it. Thanks-Maddog
    You can buy them fairly cheap where you buy carpenter's tools.

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    There's are number of ways of doing this. A water level would work for this, as would a builders level, transit ,or a laser level.

    The easiest may be to get a long strait 2x4 or 2x6 and duck tape a level to it to make a long level, say 16 -20'.

    A laser is what the pros would use, but the ones that work well out side ant cheap.
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    As a surveyor and a former surveying teacher all you need are a level and transit to accomplish what you need. Utilize stakes if you want the position of each elevation location and you can grade from there. Remember that the transit does not go up and down, so your best setup is in the middle of your elevation change.

    Feel free to ask any questions, I will help as much as one can over the internet.

    Write everything down as you go, find what you want to do in terms of how fast you want the grade to be and then lay it out. The cut/fill will be at each stake location depending on your slope of grade of the design you wish to achieve, so you can get a good idea of where to move the dirt. I recommend using tomato stakes(wood ones) to write the cut of grade or fill of grade at each layout location. Yes you do have to get off the tractor to measure the difference, but once you start you can see how it will layout easier from the seat.

    Again, ask any question that you have even property line questions. It is easy once you start out with the proper technique. Just take your time...remember it's only dirt it can be moved again.

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    When I graded the property at my cabin, I used the stick method, and used a transit to mark reference points on each stick using strips of white rags. Then measured from white rags to existing grade. I then mapped the existing contour, and recorded all measurements on a sheet of paper, and used it to figure what high dirt needed to go to what low spots.

    In lieu of a transit, (as previously mentioned) a water level is a great tool and relatively inexpensive. With a little creativity, a simple garden hose can be used as a water level as well.

    The number of sticks you should put out will be dictated by how large an area you are working with, how finely you want your property graded, and how keen an eye you have.

    Good luck! Would like to see the before and after pics!

    Mike
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    I suppose it depends on just how accurate you want to be. When I graded my yard (just under an acre) I used a bunch of 4' tall 1"x1" wood stakes. I just laid them out in a grid every 20'. Then I used a roll of string and a standard $2 mason's string level. By starting at the highest point I could mark out "level" on each stake. After that, it was a matter of bringing in fill and getting the slope the way I wanted it to channel water away from the foundation of the house. I'm sure it wasn't all perfect but it's worked pretty well. A transit would be more accurate if you are willing to spend the $$.
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