Things You'll Need
Access to land records
100-foot surveyor's tape measure
Small sledge hammer
Roll of pink plastic tape
If all else fails, hire a professional land surveyor to do the measuring for you. You'll pay several hundred dollars, but if your property has complicated angles or extensions, it will be worth the investment. This is especially true is the property is very old and has not been surveyed in several decades.
Because of the inexact way property is legally described in the United States, a professional surveyor's report is considered an expert opinion rather than fact. It is a "best guess" of your property's boundaries. While it can be challenged in court, it is the only opinion that mortgage lenders will accept and insurance companies will insure.
Most people have a general idea of their property's boundaries. However, if you are selling the property or want to place something near your property line, a general idea won't be sufficient; you need to know exactly where your property lines are before you begin. Real estate boundary disputes are quite common in the U.S. and if they go to court, are often quite costly to resolve. Luckily, with the right tools, it's simple to find and measure your property lines.
Walk the property to see if its boundary lines are clearly visible. Some properties have boundary poles set at the corners or some other type of visual marker.
Search for the property's boundary pins. If the property does not have visual boundary indicators, it is likely that a past surveyor will have driven thick metal pins into the ground on the four corners of the property. The pins will be set several inches beneath the ground's surface so you will need to use a metal detector to find them.
Dig into the ground to expose the pin heads but do not remove them from the ground. Mark the site of each metal pin with a wooden stake. Tie a short length of pink plastic tape to the top of the stake and replace the dirt you removed.
Measure the distance from stake to stake with your surveyor's tape measure. Make sure to record the distances you measure.
If you can't locate the pins, consult your deed or do a search for property records at your local land office. Some records will include earlier surveys, drawings or legal descriptions.
Read the descriptions of where the house sits on the property in relation to the property's boundaries. For instance, it may read, "The northwest corner of the structure sits exactly 10 yards from the northwest corner of the property." Many offices will make copies of these records for a small fee.
Measure the property's boundaries based on the descriptions. Using a tape measure, start from the structure and measure outward to the boundary described. Mark the boundaries with wooden stakes. Once you've determined all boundaries, measure the distance between each stake.
Micah Rubenstein has been writing professionally since 1985. He was the editor of the online publication GrailWorld Magazine, the host and producer of the weekly "Message In Music" radio series and a former professor at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. He teaches at Columbus State Community College and Granite State College in New Hampshire. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in music from Brown University.