Stop! Make Sure You Really Need a Surveyor or Architect for That Site Plan


If you’re planning or managing a home improvement project, it’s likely your jurisdiction requires a site plan before you can get the necessary permit. But don’t rush to hire a surveyor or architect just yet!

What Is a Site Plan?

Let’s start by explaining what a site plan is and how it is used for home improvement projects.

A site plan shows what structures exist on the property, as well as the proposed improvements. Many counties have specific development code requirements for particular projects, such as:

  • Driveways
  • Sidewalks
  • Sheds
  • Gazebos
  • Retaining walls
  • Fences
  • Ponds
  • Etc.

The local building department will look at your site plan to determine whether your development project meets the necessary development code requirements. If it does, you’ll get the okay to move ahead. If not, you will need a new site plan..

I Need a Site Plan – Where Can I Get One?

Before you jump into creating a site plan from scratch, one thing that can be helpful to do is to check to see if one already exists.

Where exactly would you check for this?

  1. Check your own files and see if you can find a site plan that reflects the current status of your property.
  2. Reach out to your title company to see if they have a copy.
  3. Your local development office that is asking you for a site plan may have one on file.

If you can’t find an existing site plan, you may consider hiring someone to create a plan for you- Architects, Engineers, and Surveyors can be used. They will be professional, thorough, and detail-oriented, but also charge you upwards of $1,000.

Are There Alternatives to Hiring  a Professional?

Contact your local development office and ask if you are required to submit a site plan that has been stamped by a certified architect, engineer, or surveyor.

If it is not required, then you have a viable alternative in using  online site plan providers. They use  satellite imagery, GIS information, county parcel maps, and other sources to produce site plans.

These site plans are as accurate and detailed as those produced by certified professionals. Moreover, they can do it quickly (some offer a 24-hour turnaround), and at a mere fraction of the cost – around $100 to $200, depending on the level of detail required.

How Do I Know If I Have to Get My Site Plan Stamped?

There are a number of different types of projects that do not require a certified professional  to stamp them. These include:

  • Conditional Use Permits
  • Construction Permits
  • Demolition Permits
  • Exterior Home Renovation Permits (many of them)
  • HOA Permitting
  • Residential and Commercial Site Plans
  • Sign Permits
  • Swimming Pool Removal Permits
  • Tree Removal Permits

If you need a permit to make one of these improvements, there’s a good chance you will not have to pay for a certified professional to create your site plan. That being said, though, there’s only one way to know for sure: ask your local development office.

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