Property Line FAQ's

Q. What is a survey stake?
A. When land is surveyed, metal stakes, also known as “irons” or “monuments”, are placed in the corners of the lot.  There are four types of legal monuments: 1” thick iron pipe that is 30” long; 3/4” thick rebar that is 18-30” long; 1 1/4” thick rebar that is 30” long (used for plat and block corners); and 2” thick iron pipe that is 30” long (used for plat corners in older plats).  Newer stakes may have plastic caps on top or have the tip painted with a bright color.  All other types of markers (such as R/R spikes, nails, metal pieces & fence posts) are not legal monuments and their accuracy should be questioned.

Q. Where are survey stakes located?
A. When survey stakes are originally set, they are placed level to the ground at the corners of the original lot boundaries.  After many years, the stakes may become buried due to landscaping and grade changes.  Most are buried a few inches deep; some may be as deep as a foot or  more.

Q. What if I cannot find my survey stake?
A. It may have been removed or relocated by previous owners.  The stake may also be buried beneath the lawn surface, retaining walls, paved driveways, hedges, etc.  Renting a metal detector can be helpful in locating the iron stakes.

Q. Does finding my survey stake guarantee the location of my property line?
No. Only a licensed land surveyor can determine your actual property line.  Sometimes, survey stakes have been moved or removed.  It is also possible that the original lot has been subdivided and new survey stakes have been inserted in addition to the older, original stakes.

Q. When would I need a survey?
A. Since land and its improvements are a major financial investment, all land ownership boundaries should be located, monumented, and mapped by a property survey and filed with the Brown County Planning and Land Services Department. Home improvement contractors typically expect the homeowner to assume the responsibility for locating lot lines. You may also need a survey to provide legal evidence if you are involved in a lot line dispute.  A survey is the only document that can accurately show your property boundaries.  
A survey may also be necessary when property;

  • Is divided into parcels for sale or development
  • Is to be sold, purchased or mortgaged.
  • Improvements are planned or to be developed.
  • Boundary or corner locations are uncertain.
  • Trespass or encroachment is evidenced or suspected

Q. How do I get my lot surveyed?
A. A typical residential lot survey costs varies. It can be more if your land is irregular in shape or has other unusual features.  Surveying is a competitive business and you should obtain estimates from several sources.  Surveyors are licensed by the State of Wisconsin.  Look in the Yellow Pages under “Surveyors-Land.” While it may seem expensive to hire a surveyor, it may be cheaper than relocating improvements or legal costs incurred by encroaching on someone else’s property.  That is a decision for you to make.  For more information on surveys, visit the Wisconsin Society of Land Surveyors website at

Q. What can I do to settle a land boundary dispute?
A. There are three major reasons for property disputes.  They are survey error, a historical pattern of occupation that does not correspond to the property line, and encroachment of a building or structure.  Most disputes are private matters that are to be resolved by you and your neighboring landowner(s).  If the matters still cannot be resolved, the next legal step is to contact an attorney.  Most disputes are settled before trial, if not before the complaint is filled.