How Do I Know Which Fences Are Mine?

Whether you’ve recently moved into a new property or have been a homeowner for years, understanding the boundaries of your land and identifying which fences belong to you can be a crucial aspect of property ownership.

Fences not only mark the borders of your property but also provide privacy and security. However, it’s not always clear which fences belong to you and which are owned by your neighbors. This can lead to misunderstandings and even legal disputes.

Begin with property deeds for insights into boundary indications. Land surveys offer precise measurements to confirm property lines and fence placement. Physical markers, like stakes or monuments, serve as tangible references. When uncertain, consulting professionals ensure accurate understanding.

In this article, we’ll provide you with insights into determining fence ownership and property lines.

Reviewing Legal Documents and Resources

To determine the ownership of fences, begin by reviewing legal documents such as property deeds, surveys, and title reports. These documents often include precise measurements and property line information.

Property deeds, in particular, outline property boundaries and may even mention fence ownership rights. Consulting these resources can provide valuable insights into which fences are yours.

Can I rely solely on my property deed to determine fence ownership?

Relying solely on your property deed might not provide a complete and accurate picture when it comes to determining fence ownership. Property deeds are valuable documents that outline the legal transfer of property from one owner to another.

They contain important information such as property descriptions, boundaries, and ownership details.

However, there are several reasons why it’s advisable to cross-reference your property deed with other sources, particularly surveys and official documents, before making conclusions about fence ownership.

Specificity of Property Deeds

Property deeds can provide a general description of the property and its boundaries, but they might lack the precision needed to definitively establish fence ownership.

They often use landmarks, or measurements that may have changed over time, leading to potential discrepancies.

Historical Changes

Landscapes can change over the years due to various factors such as land development, erosion, or natural events. These changes can affect the accuracy of property descriptions in older deeds.

Surveying technology has advanced, allowing for more precise measurements that can account for these changes.

Lack of Visual Representation:

Property deeds are typically text-based documents, and while they may include boundary descriptions, these descriptions might not be easy to visualize accurately.

Surveys, on the other hand, often provide visual maps and diagrams that clearly depict property lines and fence placements.

Surveyor Expertise

Licensed surveyors are trained professionals who specialize in accurately measuring and mapping property boundaries. They use advanced tools and techniques to ensure the highest level of accuracy.

Their expertise adds a layer of credibility and reliability to the determination of fence ownership.

Legal Recognition

Property surveys are often recognized as legal documents that can hold up in court if disputes arise.

Relying solely on a property deed might not carry the same weight in legal proceedings as an official survey when it comes to establishing property boundaries and fence ownership.

Potential Discrepancies

While property deeds can offer a starting point for understanding property boundaries, they might not be updated to reflect changes that have occurred over time.

Encroachments, disputes, or adjustments made by previous owners might not be reflected in the deed.

Zoning and Easements

Other factors like zoning regulations or easements, might impact fence placement and ownership. These considerations might not be explicitly mentioned in a property deed but can be addressed through surveys and other official records.

Why Knowing Your Property Boundaries Matters

Understanding the exact boundaries of your property is essential for several reasons. It helps you avoid trespassing on your neighbor’s land and vice versa.

Property lines impact zoning regulations, construction projects, and potential property value. Identifying your property boundaries allows you to maintain a peaceful relationship with your neighbors and make informed decisions about your land.

Utilizing Common Methods and Tools

Utilizing common methods and tools to establish fence ownership and property boundaries is essential for homeowners seeking clarity and accuracy.

These methods encompass a range of techniques and tools that are accessible and effective in providing a clearer understanding of property lines. Let’s explore two key aspects in more detail: locating boundary markers and the use of a plumb bob to create vertical reference points.

Locating Boundary Markers

Boundary markers play a pivotal role in identifying property lines. These markers, often physical objects placed at specific points along the boundary, help homeowners and surveyors precisely determine where the property ends.

Here are some common types of boundary markers:

  1. Metal Stakes: Metal stakes, driven into the ground at designated points, are frequently used as boundary markers. They are durable and visible, making them a reliable option for indicating property lines.
  1. Concrete Monuments: Concrete monuments are permanent markers that are often buried below the ground’s surface, leaving only a portion visible above the soil. They provide long-term reference points for property boundaries.
  1. Iron Pins: Iron pins are metal rods driven into the ground and marked with surveyor’s tape or paint. These pins are commonly used to mark property corners and key boundary points.
  1. Natural Features: Sometimes, natural features like large rocks, trees, or distinct landscape characteristics can serve as boundary markers. These features, while not as precise as man-made markers, can still offer valuable clues about property lines.
  1. Fence Lines: In some cases, existing fences may align with property boundaries. However, this isn’t always a foolproof method, as fences can be erected incorrectly or shift over time.

Using a Plumb Bob for Vertical Reference

A plumb bob is a simple yet effective tool used in surveying to create a vertical reference point. It consists of a weight attached to a string. When suspended, the weight aligns with the force of gravity, indicating a straight vertical line.

This tool is particularly useful for verifying the perpendicularity of lines and ensuring accurate measurements.

To utilize a plumb bob for property boundary determination:

Select a Point: Choose a specific point along the boundary line where you want to establish a vertical reference.

Suspend the Plumb Bob: Hang the plumb bob’s string at the chosen point. The weight will naturally align with the gravitational force and create a straight vertical line.

Mark the Ground: As the plumb bob settles, mark the point where the string touches the ground. This mark serves as a vertical reference point.

Repeat as Needed: Repeat the process at multiple points along the boundary line to ensure consistency and accuracy.

By using a plumb bob, you can create a visual reference for measuring distances, and angles and determining the alignment of structures and fences with precision.

How do land surveyors determine property boundaries?

Land surveyors play a crucial role in accurately defining property boundaries, and their methodology involves a blend of historical records, meticulous measurements, and advanced technology.

This comprehensive approach ensures the precise establishment of property lines, helping to avoid disputes and provide clear boundaries for property owners.

Historical Records:

Land surveyors often begin by delving into historical records, such as deeds, land grants, and previous survey documents. These records can provide valuable insights into past property divisions and boundary descriptions.

By understanding the historical context of the land, surveyors can build a foundation for their measurements.


Accurate measurements are at the core of land surveying. Surveyors utilize various tools and techniques to measure distances, angles, and elevations.

Traditional tools like theodolites and total stations enable precise angle and distance measurements, while modern technologies like GPS (Global Positioning System) offer high-precision global positioning for geospatial data collection.


Technology has revolutionized the field of land surveying. GPS technology, for instance, allows surveyors to establish points with remarkable accuracy, significantly reducing human error.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software enables surveyors to create digital maps and overlay various data layers for a comprehensive view of the property.

Laser scanning technology can capture detailed 3D information about the land’s features, aiding in complex surveying scenarios.

Total Stations:

Total stations are integrated instruments that combine electronic theodolites with distance measurement capabilities. These devices enable surveyors to measure both angles and distances simultaneously, enhancing accuracy and efficiency.

Total stations are particularly useful for various survey tasks, from basic boundary determinations to topographic mapping.

Drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles – UAVs):

Drones have become increasingly valuable tools for land surveyors. Equipped with high-resolution cameras and GPS, drones can capture aerial imagery and create detailed topographic maps.

This technology expedites the surveying process, especially in large or inaccessible areas, and provides a wealth of visual data for analysis.

GIS Software:

Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software plays a pivotal role in modern land surveying. Surveyors can input field data into GIS systems to create accurate digital maps, analyze spatial relationships, and integrate various data layers.


Determining fence ownership is a multifaceted process crucial for property management and neighborly relations. Fences not only demarcate property borders but also ensure privacy and security.

Relying solely on property deeds might lack precision; cross-reference with surveys and consult experts for accuracy. Markers, like stakes and monuments, aid in visualizing property lines.

Using a plumb bob creates vertical reference points, enhancing measurement precision. Professional surveyors employ historical research, measurements, and advanced technology to define property boundaries. GPS, total stations, drones, and GIS software modernize surveying.

These tools ensure accuracy and minimize disputes. Establishing fence ownership through collaborative efforts and utilizing diverse methods promotes a clear understanding of property lines, fostering responsible ownership and positive relationships within the community.

Manny Moore

Getting my hands dirty and building a place that me and my small family love is a driving factor for what I do and how I do it. I want to share what I have learned and practiced so that it is just that much easier for everyone to have another tool in their tool belt. Your home should be a place that you love and feel comfortable in and your backyard should be no different.

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