Frequently Asked Questions

*Surveying Questions*

(scroll down for septic questions)

Why should I go with Heritage Land Consultants?

Well, there are a few good reasons why we believe that the services we offer are worthy of your business.

  • First, we offer a competitive price on all of the services we offer.
  • Second, we provide a reliable and highly accurate service that you will be able to hang your hat on.
  • Third, we will always be honest and up front with you at all times. We believe that a client who trusts us will come back to us for future services and that’s one of the reasons why we have been in business for over 30-years.
  • Lastly, whether you’re a homeowner who wants to develop a single parcel, or a big name developer, our office can handle your surveying, land planning, septic system design and overall engineering for you property. Our multi-service company will save you time and money by eliminating the need for you to hire an individual surveyor, engineer and septic designer.

Why do I need a survey?

Lending institutions will almost always require a borrower to have a survey performed on the property. A home is probably the largest investment you will ever make – shouldn’t you be as informed as you can be in that decision? Are there any encroachments on the property? Are you really going to own the acreage you’re paying for? Is that fence really on the property line? These are some of the questions that must be answered before deciding on such a life changing investment. A survey will uncover and disclose any of these potential problems so that you can make an informed and wise decision. The cost of a survey is relatively inexpensive as compared to the correcting of encroachment issues in lengthy lawsuits.

What does the Surveyor need from me?

The more information you can furnish the Surveyor, the more you may expedite the Surveyor’s work.

Such information includes:

  • The purpose of the survey.
  • A copy of your legal description from a reliable source.
  • Location of any known property corners.
  • Information about adjoining land owners.
  • Information about disagreements over corners and lines.
  • Agreement as to who pays and when.

What are a few of the most common types of surveys?

LOT SURVEY:  Is a survey of a lot in a recorded plat with a marker set at each corner.

BOUNDARY SURVEY:  Is a survey of a parcel of land described in metes and bounds. Such a survey typically involves researching deed records, defining section lines and corners, and placing durable metal or concrete markers.

TOPOGRAPHIC SURVEY:  Is a graphic representation of topographic features, both natural and man-made, such as lakes, streams, structures and fences. In combination with a boundary survey and other additional information, a topographic survey is commonly called a “site plan” and is incorporated by architects, engineers and planners in their plans for proposed construction or development. Except for the boundary survey portion, this type of survey can also be prepared by other professionals.

SUBDIVISION SURVEY:  Is a survey for the division of a tract of land into smaller tracts or lots, with monumentation and subdivision plans conforming to the governing ordinances, and with boundary descriptions for the smaller units as required.

ALTA SURVEY:  ALTA stands for American Land Title Association. An ALTA survey is one that is prepared according to the standards as set forth by the American Land Title Association which are the strictest survey standards in the nation. Typically an ALTA survey may be requested for commercial property acquisitions or simply requested by out of state clients who are unfamiliar with Illinois standards. A client requesting an ALTA survey must also provide a completed checklist outlining the items desired on the survey. This checklist can be obtained along with the standards by visiting the American Land Title Association website, by request from our office, or by download using this link. ALTA TABLE A (Note: this file is in PDF format – to download Adobe Acrobat reader click on the next link – Adobe)

How do you figure the cost of a survey?

The cost of a survey depends on many things, including the type of survey required, the character and accessibility of the terrain, the plats to be furnished, the surveyor’s familiarity and knowledge of the area, the condition of government section corners and even the amount of liability incurred. In addition, searching court records for evidence to re-establish the original boundaries and government section corners will influence the cost.

The surveyor’s fee is typically based on such findings as (1) obtaining data from records, (2) conducting field survey work, (3) performing necessary computations, (4) preparing a plan based on the findings, and (5) placing permanent markers at the property corners.

Because of the varying conditions and requirements, it is often difficult to determine the exact fee in advance. However, based on general experience, the surveyor can usually furnish an approximate cost for your review.

How accurate is a survey?

A survey is highly accurate generally to within a fraction of an inch depending upon the scope of survey work being performed. All surveyors must, by law, provide quality work. Illinois Statutes – The “Minimum Technical Standards” (or MTS) for Surveyors and Mappers protects the public by outlining certain procedures, tolerances and regulational objectives governing surveying practices.

Can I find my own property lines?

Legally, you must be licensed to establish a property line. In all States, the requirement of licensure to practice Surveying protects the public. If you determine your own property lines, for your own use, you take the risk of being wrong in your determination. If you then built something from your determinations, or findings, and were in error, your opinion would not even be admissible in court, due to the fact that you are not licensed to practice Surveying. If your neighbor had a Surveyor employed to determine the line(s) and you did it yourself, you are beginning by being wrong, having taken that risk. Is it worth it? You can decide that. Land usually costs a great deal of money. It does make sense to know where the property lines are.

What is a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA)?

A LOMA is an amendment to the currently effective FEMA map which establishes that a property is not located in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA). You can submit property and elevation materials supporting a request for a Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) to remove your property from the SFHA. The process requires the property owner to hire a licensed Surveyor to determine the elevations on there property and submit a completed Elevation Certificate to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

What is an Elevation Certificate?

An Elevation Certificate is a form issued by The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and completed by a licensed Surveyor and Mapper. It outlines aspects such as the flood hazard area in which a property lies, potential flooding values, as well as the actual finished floor elevation of a structure and elevation data for other aspects of the improvements. Insurance agents use the information on this form to quote flood insurance rates to property owners.

What are the qualifications of a Surveyor?

A Surveyor must be fairly well rounded. A good Land Surveyor must also be part Attorney, part Paralegal, part Archeologist, part Geologist, part Historian, and part Mathematician. Surveying is both an art and a science with the Surveyor’s capabilities involving a great ability to ascertain the intentions of prior land owners and prior surveyors long gone.

Illinois Surveyor requirements:

1. 4-year college degree.

2. To have worked for a professional licensed land surveyor who was in direct supervision and control of his or her activities, indicating at least 4-years of responsible charge experience in land surveying.

3. Licensed by the state after passing the required 1-day long examination. Surveyors are also required to maintain 20 continuing education credits each year.

(For more information on Surveying Standards visit


*Septic Questions*

What is a Conventional Septic System?

A conventional septic system consists of two main parts: the septic tank and the soil drainfield (also referred to as a leachfield, absorption bed or absorption field). At the head of the drainfield a distribution box or a manifold distributes wastewater to several absorption trenches. Some locations require that newly installed drain-fields include a designated replacement area—should the existing septic system need an addition, repair or replacement, the replacement area can then be used.

What is a Mound Septic System?

Mound Septic Systems are a wastewater absorption trench system which has been constructed using “suitable soil-fill material” which has been placed on top of the natural soil on a building lot. Mound systems are often confused with “raised septic bed systems” but have different design requirements, they are generally smaller in total size, and depend on the fill material for successful wastewater treatment. Raised bed septic systems are constructed in fill over soil which can accept septic effluent below the fill. Mound septic systems are constructed in fill over soil which does not acceptably treat septic effluent below the fill – all of the treatment occurs in the mound.

Can I plant trees, shrubs and ground cover over Mound Septic Systems?

Grasses, weeds and flowers are OK: Many people ask what can be planted over a septic field. The best answer is grass or native grasses and weeds. Flowers are ok so long as they are not varities which send down deep roots. Basically, any shallow-rooting planting will be ok over the surface of a septic mound or over most other septic drainfields.

Stay away from: trees or shrubs which are likely to put down deep roots. The roots will quickly invade and clog the buried effluent lines and may also cause them to move, break, or become disconnected. Some experts also point out that if you’re planting on the edges and lower toe of a septic mound, those plants need to be able to tolerate the higher moisture levels found in those parts of the mound system.

Ivy, Pachysandra, Similar Ground Covers are not OK: because these plants will reduce effluent evaporation from the mound soils and because their roots often invade and clog effluent distribution piping.

What is a Percolation test (also refered to as a “deep hole test”)?

In specifying the size and type of absorption field (leach field, seepage pits, galleys, other) a septic engineer or health department official will require that a soil percolation test or “soil perc test” be performed. You may hear it described as a “deep hole test.”

In brief, one or more holes are dug in the soil of the property where (or near where) a septic leach field is to be installed. Water is placed in the hole, and the engineer observes the amount of time it takes for the soil to absorb the water, or for the water to “percolate” through the soil. The engineer will also examine the exposed soil layers to obtain additional site design information.

What is a Septic Tank?

A septic tank is a large, underground, watertight container, typically about 9 feet long, 4-5 feet wide and 5 feet tall that is connected to the home’s sewer line. While typically designed with a 1,000-gallon liquid capacity, the size of the tank is legally determined by the number of bedrooms in the home. Septic tanks may be rectangular or cylindrical and may be made of concrete, fiberglass or polyethylene.

Raw waste water from the bathroom, kitchen and laundry room flows into the tank where the solids separate from the liquid. Light solids, such as soap suds and fat, float to the top and form a scum layer. This layer remains on top and gradually thickens until you have the tank cleaned. The liquid waste goes into the drainfield, while the heavier solids settle to the bottom of the tank where they are gradually decomposed by bacteria. But some non-decomposed solids remain, forming a sludge layer that eventually must be pumped out.

Septic tanks may have one or two compartments. Two-compartment tanks do a better job of settling solids and are required in some areas for new installations. Tees or baffles at the tank’s inlet pipe slow the incoming wastes and reduce disturbance of the settled sludge. A tee or baffle at the outlet keeps the solids or scum in the tank. All tanks should have accessible covers for checking the condition of the baffles and for pumping both compartments.

What is a Drainfield?

Further treatment of wastewater occurs in the soil beneath the drainfield. The drainfield consists of long underground perforated pipes or tiles connected to the septic tank. The network of pipes is laid in gravel-filled trenches (2–3 feet wide), or beds (over 3 feet wide) in the soil. Liquid waste or effluent flows out of the tank and is evenly distributed into the soil through the piping system. The soil below the drain-field provides the final treatment and disposal of the septic tank effluent. After the effluent has passed into the soil, most of it percolates downward and outward, eventually entering the groundwater. A small percentage is taken up by plants through their roots, or evaporates from the soil.

The soil filters the effluent as it passes through the pore spaces. Chemical and biological processes treat the effluent before it reaches groundwater, or a restrictive layer, such as hardpan, bedrock, or clay soils. These processes work best where the soil is somewhat dry and permeable, and contains plenty of oxygen for several feet below the drain field. The size and type of drainfield depends on the estimated daily wastewater flow and soil conditions.

What is a Septic Tank Aerator?

There are two types of bacteria in a septic system which process waste: aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic bacteria require oxygen and are approximately 20 times more aggressive/effective than anaerobic bacteria (which don’t require oxygen). In a conventional septic system, the bacteria in the septic tank are anaerobic.

There are now aerators available as after market products.  In a regular system the treatment process is started in the septic system.  But because the tank is anaerobic (without oxygen) the treatment process is minimal.  From there the effluent enters the drainfield where the uneven shape of the gravel or the open area of a chamber system creates voids that contain oxygen.  In the presence oxygen aerobic bacteria exist and these bacteria are 20 times more aggressive than anaerobic bacteria.

A septic tank aerator works by pumping oxygen into the tank changing it from an anaerobic atmosphere to an aerobic atmosphere and this allows the more effective aerobic bacteria to exist in the tank.  Under these conditions the treatment in the tank is increased and effluent leaving the tank can be cleaner which in turn takes the load off the soil treatment area.

What is Water Overload?

Water overload occurs when the drainfield is flooded with more water than it can effectively absorb, reducing the ability of the system to drain wastes and filter sewage before it reaches groundwater. It also increases the risk that effluent will pool on the ground surface and run off into surface water or down nearby water well casings. Typical indoor water use is about 50 gallons per day for each person in the family. Water-saving devices such as low-flow shower heads, faucet aerators, toilet dams or low-flow toilets can greatly reduce water flow into the system. Strategies such as taking short showers, spreading out laundry loads over the week and never allowing rain water from downspouts to enter the septic system will also help.

How will I know when to pump the tank?

The frequency with which you will need to pump depends on three variables: the size of your tank, the number of people in the household contributing to the volume of your wastewater, and the volume of solids in your wastewater. If you are unsure about when to have the tank pumped, observe the yearly rate of solids accumulation in the septic tank. The solids should be pumped out of the septic tank by a licensed septic contractor. Most county health departments recommend that the accumulated solids in the bottom of the septic tank be pumped out every two to five years (although the greater number of people in the household will cause the tank to fill faster and may require more frequent pumping than the two to five year recommendation).

For an average home the following schedule is recommended for pumping septic tanks:

1 Person: Every 5 years
2 People: Every 4 years
3 People: Every 3 years
4 People: Every 2-3 years
5 People: Every 1-2 years
6+ People: Every year

Could an additive harm my system?

The biological additives are unlikely to be harmful. The chemical additives could definitely harm your system. These products have the potential to sterilize your system temporarily. The resulting passage of raw sewage into the drainfield will hasten its failure. The acid and alkali products can corrode the plumbing and the tank. The organic solvents pass through the system unchanged. They can then infiltrate into the groundwater, creating a chemical plume that endangers nearby wells.

Tips for using your septic system.

  • Do not flush non-biodegradable materials such as plastics, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins and applicators—they rapidly fill up the tank and will clog the system.
  • Restrict the use of your kitchen garbage disposal—it increases the amount of solids in the tank, making them slower to decompose.
  • Do not pour grease or cooking oils down the sink drain because they solidify and clog the soil absorption field.
  • Don’t allow paints, motor oil, pesticides, fertilizers or disinfectants to get into your septic system. They can pass directly through the septic system and contaminate groundwater. These chemicals can also kill the microorganisms which decompose wastes and can damage the soil in the drainfield.
  • Do not use caustic drain openers for a clogged drain. Instead use boiling water or a drain snake to free up clogs. Clean your toilet, sinks, shower and tubs with a mild detergent or baking soda rather than the stronger and potentially system-damaging commercial bathroom cleansers.
  • If a water softener is used in the home, the salt recharge solution should not be allowed to enter the system if the predominant soils in the drainfield are very fine textured and drainage is very slow. In these situations, sodium in the softener recharge solution may damage soil structure in the drain-field and plug the system. If you have a water softener, the size of the absorption field must be increased to accommodate the additional flow.

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