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What do surveyors do during the winter?

It’s fall and the weather is getting colder every day. If you work inside, this probably doesn’t impact your job that much. But if you work outside, like surveyors, weather always impacts your work.

How does cold weather impact surveying?

Winter surveying isn’t vastly different than surveying in the summer, John Copelin, PLS, said. John is the Survey Department Manager in our Kansas City office. He said they try to do as many projects as they can.

Summer is generally the construction season, which means surveyors do a lot of construction staking in the summer. When the weather changes, surveying work typically shifts more to topographic design surveys and land title surveys.

One factor that inhibits surveying year-round is precipitation, and snow is no exception. Many survey instruments function in cold weather and most weather conditions. They are water resistant, but not waterproof, so John doesn’t like to risk using them when it’s raining or snowing. Survey instruments run from $40,000 to $60,000 and because surveyors rely on that equipment to do their jobs, John doesn’t want to take chances.

Snow on the ground does not threaten surveying projects, but when it is actively snowing, the snow can also impact visual capabilities and make it difficult for surveyors to make measurements. It doesn’t hinder surveying, but it can slow it down.

John said the winter is the best time to survey in heavily forested areas. There is a farther line of sight since there are no leaves or underbrush in and around the trees. A surveyor’s line of sight can extend from five feet to 200 feet simply due to the lack of leaves in the trees.

Construction staking can be harder in the winter because the ground and construction materials like asphalt are colder and harder to stake.

“Frozen ground does pose challenges, for sure,” John said.

But they keep working. Surveyors found one solution to place stakes in asphalt in the winter: a cotton gin spindle. It is made of hardened steel that can break through asphalt for staking. However, sometimes even the cotton gin spindles break due to the frozen asphalt. John said it then depends on each surveyor how they choose to resolve that.

Although there’s not typically construction staking work for surveyors in the winter, the Kansas City office is an exception to that this year. The surveying department has a few construction staking jobs coming up this winter. Regardless of the season, surveyors will always have projects to complete.

“All times of the year are good to survey,” John said.