Preparing A Landscape Base Map

First, you must obtain a map that shows the exact size and shape of your property. This may be the survey plat, a deed map, the architect's or builder's plans, or a topographical plan with contour lines showing the site's elevation or gradations. The landscape base map should include the fixed structures and hardscape -- the house, driveway, sidewalks, fences, walls -- and their measurements.

Survey plats are useful for locating easements on a property, but not every state plats lots. Depending on where you live, a plat may have been included in the papers you acquired when purchasing your home. If not, you may be able to obtain it from the city or county assessor's office. There may be a fee for this service. While you are asking for a plat of your property it will also be helpful to obtain a copy of all local ordinances regarding easements, H.O.A. restrictions, and any other regulations that may have an effect on your landscaping project.

Make sure the measurements on your base map are accurate; mark any changes on a copy of the plat map. Measure the outside dimensions of the lot, house, garage, and any other major structures or hardscape areas. Record the measurements.


• To accurately locate the house on the map, measure the property lines, then measure from each corner of the house perpendicular to the nearest property lines.

• Similarly, locate other structures by recording the distances between them and other objects. For example, to plot the location of a tree, choose two fixed points, such as two corners of the house, and run the tape measure from each of these two points to the tree.

• If you're working alone and need to measure a straight line, use a large nail that can fit through the clip at the tape's end. This will secure the tape while you pull it taut and take a measurement.

• To measure a curved bed, you need a straight line to measure from. If the bed has no wall or fence backing it, create a line with string and stakes, a hose, or another measuring tape. Starting at one end of the bed, measure from the line to the outside edge of the bed. Repeat this process every 3 feet until you have measured the entire area. This will result in a series of dots on your base map that reflects the curving edge of the bed. Connect the dots to determine the general shape of the bed.

• Measure a slope or simple grade change in increments. To do this, extend a board out from the top of the slope. Make sure it is level, then measure the distance between the board and the ground (right). Mark the location of the slope and note its grade on the base map.

NOTE: If you can't find your survey plat and do not wish to measure the property yourself we can help. Just call your project coordinator and we will set up a site visit with one of our qualified designers to measure your property.