A Quick Guide to Plats of Survey – Part II

In Part I of this article we looked at the general information on a plat of survey.  Now lets look a the drawing itself.  We find that the lines representing property lines are drawn with bearings and distances indicated with each line drawn.  These are usually drawn and then each line is annotated with bearing and distance.  An example of bearing and distance might be N 66° 0′ 0″ E  1245.01′.  This can be read more descriptively as North 66 degrees 0 minutes and 0 seconds for a distance of 1245.01 feet.   The distance is easy to understand but the direction might use some more explanation.

You can probably remember your high school teacher expounding on angles in terms of degrees.   You may recall them articulating that a circle is composed of 360 degrees.  You may have had a boy scout compass on which direction was expressed in an azimuth of anywhere from 0 to 360 degrees.  While most of us are familiar with degrees, many are not familiar with bearings.  Look at the figure below.  You will see three directions displayed as degrees in the familiar 360 degree format.

Directions in degrees

The directions shown are for 66 degrees, 165 degrees, and 330 degrees, all using a 360 degree circle for direction.

Plats of survey rarely use degrees.  The usually use a system of bearings based on deviation from north or deviation from south.  A direction that is expressed as a standard bearing is also based on a 360 degree circle but uses different points of reference.  A bearing of  N 60 degrees east means the direction is 60 degrees to the east of north.   Likewise a bearing of S 15 degrees east means the direction is 15 degrees to the east of due south.  The same three directions as stated in the previous example of 66 degrees, 165 degrees and 330 degrees can be expressed in their bearing equivalents of North  66 degrees East, S 15 degrees east, and North 30 degrees west, as shown in the diagram below.

Directions in Bearings

As you can see from the diagram, the same angles we expressed in degrees are now expressed in bearings.  You may be wondering why anyone would use a system of bearings instead of degrees.  This is somewhat anachronistic.  Surveyors of old used this system because it was easier to compute areas and closure ( more on this subject later ) using the bearings rather than degrees.  While almost all calculations done today are done with computer programs, we are left with the customs of old.

In looking at plats you rarely find the bearings expressed only in degrees.  Usually you will find the bearing expressed as degrees, minutes, and seconds.  Minutes and seconds are divisions of a degree with one degree equalling 60 minutes and one minute equalling 60 seconds.  This derives from early nautical derivations and again is somewhat anachronistic.  Bearings will always begin with either S or N, followed by the degrees minutes and seconds, followed by E or W.

Now lets put it together.  Below is a representation of a property with 5 points, each seperated by a distance and a direction given in bearings.

Five point plat

Think of each crosshair as a relative direction guide with North being towards the top of each crosshair.  Like most plats the “calls” are clockwise.  “Calls” are the stated direction and distances on the plat.  That is to say that the direction of travel and distance from one point to the other and back to the beginning is in a clockwise direction.  The text is also oriented in the direction of travel.  Plats do not have to follow this convention, but most do.  It is easy to see if this is correct by looking at the drawing.  The direction of travel from point 1 to point 2 is Northwest and this coincides with the call since the first and last letters of the direction are N and W respectively.

As a note of interest, if you encounter a call that is in the wrong direction, the direction of travel can be easily reversed by simply exchanging both directions on the call.  For example on the plat above the direction from point 1 to point 2 is N58°42’45″W.  If you wanted the direction from point 2 to point 1 you just reverse the directions, or in this case to S58°42’45″E.  Remember to change both directions.

This concludes Part II of our quick guide to plats of survey.  Stay tuned for the final part of this blog which will explain errors of closure, calculation of acreage, curves, and special considerations.


About Tice Brashear

Tice Brashear is the President of Brashear Realty Corporation. He is a licensed real estate broker and has over 37 years experience in selling land, farms, acreage, commercial and investment properties. He is a past President of the Georgia Association of Realtors and a past President of the Augusta Board of Realtors.
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47 Responses to A Quick Guide to Plats of Survey – Part II

  1. Pingback: Georgia Land for Sale: Plats of Survey | Georgia Country Blog

  2. Bryan Borman says:

    “one minute equalling 60 degrees”
    needs corrections: one minute equaling 60 seconds

  3. SUSAN TYLER says:


  4. You can usually find a copy of your plat in the office of the clerk of superior court of your county if it has been recorded.

  5. Claudette says:

    Thank you so much for this helpful article! Should be required reading for real property courses in law school.

  6. Steve says:

    Thanks for this clear explanation. Maybe I will finally locate the rear corners of my woodlot.

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  8. chris says:

    I’ve been looking for some markers from 1961 for 2 days, this is the best explanation of Plat Bearings I have found. Thanks

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  11. Allen McGill says:

    I inherited some land located in south Georgia.
    I am planning to sell it in the near future.
    Two other heirs sold parcels some time ago.
    Will I need to have a survey done or can I
    use one that should be in the public record?

  12. Mary says:

    I know the state of GA says a final plat has to be registered with the Clerk. My question is this, if there is a plat dated 9/17/1977 and a replat dated 5/12/78 in which boundary lines were moved, can either plat be used to sell the land or does replat have to be used?

  13. Mary says:

    Final plats must be registered in the Clerk’s office. My question is this, if there was a plat done 9/17/1977 and a final replat done 5/12/1978 where boundary lines were moved, as owner of the land, can either plat be used or does the 1978 replat have to be replatted again to convey the original land plat?

  14. Indira says:

    Is it possible to convert the corners/points into longlat so that I can use the google maps API to create polygons of property lines?

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  17. Orville Erps says:

    harika bir paylasim


    what is the meaning odd site mesure east to west (90+82)/2 feets north to south (36+53)/2 feets

  19. Mike says:

    How do I find the coordinates using this system? If I know the coordinates of one point, can I calculate the others?

  20. John M says:

    Thanks to the guy who posted this info and it keeping it online. It’s all the info I needed to analyze my property plat and re-stake the position of the house I’m building – without having to pay another $500 to a surveyor just to re-position the stakes.

    I’m a former electrical engineer turned airline pilot who is also proficient in celestial navigation, so I’ve got the background in chart reading, bearings, True/Mag N, etc. In addition, I’m also using an app for my iPad called “Theodolite” that actually works and is accurate enough for what I’m doing. Basically, taking bearings (azimuths) off a reference stake on the plat and using a 300ft tape measure to position the stakes.
    Perfect info – thanks again!

  21. Vinny says:

    Thanks for this post. Still relevant and gave me the tools needed to begin to understand a complex survey today.

  22. Elliott says:

    On a boundary survey for a residential lot, the surveyor gives a measured bearing then
    he gives a Plat bearing in parentheses, which is correct? Shouldn’t one use the Plat bearing in development of the lot or have the lot replatted or should the property corners
    be re-staked based on the plat?

  23. Dean Cantella says:

    My survey shows the direction and the number of feet between each point. There is a elevation change of 75 feet between the 2 points at a marked distance of 410 feet. Is that 410 feet measured parallel along the ground or horizontally? I can do the simple math to figure out the hypotenuse if it’s horizontally.
    Thank you.

  24. David Sauer says:

    Thanks Tice, H was having a time trying to figure out my plat map. Now it all makes sense!


  25. Nik says:

    I appreciate these information from.the author and would like to.know where I can get partnerS part 3. I am trying to find them.I.umentsonmy property from play map that was done in 1968!

  26. Nik says:

    I meant part I of this,article.


  27. Nik says:

    Plat MAP was done in.1968 and I checked with county court house.No Survey has been. done

  28. pretty cool post! very informative
    would recommend to always hire a professional land surveyor in cases when there are questions…

  29. Great beat ! I wish to apprentice at the same time as
    you amend your web site, how could i subscribe for a weblog web site?

  30. I appreciate these information from.the author and would like to.know where I can get partnerS part 3. I am trying to find them.I.umentsonmy property from play map that was done in 1968!

  31. Tim Yinger says:

    thank you for this article! are there any online tools to help convert from these types of plat bearings to compass bearings?

  32. QC1034 says:

    Where is the link for part III?

  33. Dale says:

    yes, me too! I would love to read the last installment of this post.

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  39. Keep sharing such informative blogs. It’s really helpfull!!

  40. Ron says:

    Thanks so much! It has been hard finding a simple straightforward explanation for this. While I still don’t understand the minutes and seconds, at least I understand the concept of bearings now.

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  42. Al Bundy says:

    To Ron: “While I still don’t understand the minutes and seconds, at least I understand the concept of bearings now.” ——————- Minutes and seconds can be broken down into decimal bearings…ie N57° 30’ 45”E you divide 30 minutes into an hour you get .5. Then 45 seconds into an hour (3600 sec in an hour) is .0125. So your bearings would be NE 57.5125°.

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