Metes and Bounds

Do you remember those old Pirate movies and cartoons, where they locate buried treasure by measuring off paces. They were basically using the metes and bounds system.

Metes is an Old English word for distance and bounds refers to direction. This surveying system identified the property's boundaries by walking the reader along its path.

Just as in the old Pirate cartoons and movies, the metes and bounds system makes use of monuments, both natural or artificial, such as trees, boulders, stakes and concrete markers. In fact, the metes and bounds system usually begins and ends with a monument.

The metes and bounds approach includes three elements:

Point of Beginning. The POB is where the survey description begins, and is usually established relative to a clearly defined monument. It is usually one corner of the property's boundaries. For example, the POB may begin 100' from the street corner.

  1. In the U.S., the distance is usually described in feet.
  2. At the corners of each parcel of property, the survey indicates which way the boundary line turns with compass bearings (adjusted to true north, NOT magnetic north). Compass bearings are measured in degrees (360 degrees in a full circle), minutes (60 minutes in each degree) and seconds (60 seconds in each minute). Note that the turn's compass bearing is not angle-measured from boundary, but from true north.

Here's an example of a metes and bounds survey:

"Starting at a monument located at the southwest corner of Sheffield Avenue and Waveland Avenue, proceed 12 feet directly south along Sheffield Avenue to the POB, then continue south another 600 feet, then West for 610 feet, then N 30° 15' W (north 30 degrees 15 minutes west) for 750 feet, then directly East 720 feet to POB.

The main disadvantages to the metes and bounds approach are that they can be very lengthy and complex, and they are subject to shifting monuments.

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