CEG Industry Blog

Signs That Your Surveying Equipment Isn't Calibrated

Few things can ruin a productive day faster than broken or malfunctioning equipment.

📅   Tue February 14, 2017 - Edition
By Megan Wild


One of the most common problems occurs when  measuring the boundaries of a property.
One of the most common problems occurs when measuring the boundaries of a property.
One of the most common problems occurs when  measuring the boundaries of a property. Few things can ruin a productive day faster than broken or malfunctioning equipment. Most surveying equipment is meant to be used in harsh weather conditions and around job sites that are dusty and dirty.

Surveying the boundaries and limits of a property is one of the first steps toward beginning any new construction project. While it's a step that's often taken lightly, errors here can cause severe repercussions during the later stages of the project. Not only is it important that you take your time when measuring and surveying, but you should also make sure your equipment is in pristine condition.

Common Problems

One of the most common problems occurs when measuring the boundaries of a property. This is sometimes a result of operator error or miscommunication between project teams, but it can also occur due to equipment malfunction. To minimize these issues, always double-check your results against property records, make sure any firmware is updated and communicate with the property owner or builder throughout the entire process.

The staff graduation error, which is a problem that's often seen when using digital levels, can result in significant errors in cases where precision measurements are needed. Most can be calibrated using a linear laser interferometer, which accommodates the most common types of leveling staffs.

Errors in collimation are also typical. This discrepancy usually manifests because of a misalignment with the collimation axis, which causes it to remain off-center when the level or tripod is perfectly flat. Implementing the two-peg test method is a great way to identify this problem in both optical and digital levels.

Many surveying tools are easily damaged or de-calibrated during transportation and setup.Theodolites, which are used to measure angles, are especially sensitive to these processes and should always be carried by the topmost handle or, when stored inside a case, by the exterior handle. The theodolite should only be accessed once the tripod has been set up, thereby letting you attach the device directly to its stand.

Some equipment malfunctions are easier to diagnose than others, and some tools are easier to replace. Automatic levels, for example, are compact, light and can be rented on an as-needed basis. Not only are these tools readily available, but they can also be easily picked up and transported to accommodate individual jobs and projects.

Other problems are simply inherent to the manufacturing process of the tool in question. Devices such as theodolites have a small margin of error in all calculations. End-users must know how to properly interpret these results while adjusting for known discrepancies in their final measurements. This illustrates why some tasks are best left to the professionals.

Routine Maintenance

Although most surveying equipment is meant to be used in harsh weather conditions and around job sites that are dusty and dirty, they still need to be cleaned and maintained to achieve peak efficiency. Failure to do so could result in inaccurate measurements or hardware that is completely unusable.

The exact maintenance routine varies between tools, and you should always refer to the specific owner's manual for guidance. Generally speaking, most equipment should be stored in an area that is clean, dry and protected from harsh temperatures. Most indoor garages or sheds will accomplish this just fine, but some go so far as to store their gear in temperature-controlled structures that are easily accessed as needed.

Some equipment requires special care and attention. Automatic levels and even pendulum levels should always be handled in a steady and careful manner. Never spin, bounce or drop these objects, as this can damage the internal components, and pay extra attention to the level's internal bubble. Failure to do so could cause the internal compensator to stick, which will have a detrimental effect on the tool's performance.

Physical measuring equipment, including chains and steel tape, have a tendency to rust when exposed to excess moisture. While this doesn't necessarily affect the accuracy, rusted links could break at any time. Worn, damaged or rusted equipment should be replaced as soon as possible to prevent such occurrences from happening in the field.

Ensuring the Longevity and Accessibility of Surveying Equipment

Not only does routine maintenance ensure the longevity of your valuable equipment, but it also guarantees that your tools are available exactly when you need them. Few things can ruin a productive day faster than broken or malfunctioning equipment, and it's never fun to discover this after you've arrived on the jobsite.

Those who properly maintain and calibrate their equipment, however, will seldom experience this firsthand.—CEG Blogger

*Megan writes in the residential and commercial construction industries. She is passionate about sustainable design and the adoption of technology in construction. When she's not writing or reading, you can find her in cafe somewhere, drinking too much coffee.