top of page
RS Banner.png
  • Emma Chetwynd Jarvis

Desktop vs Underground Utility Surveys: Which one do you need?

In short, both are required, with a desktop survey always coming first. It is then advised to follow this up with an underground utility survey to gain further information into any complications with the investigated site. Many surveyors will not conduct a utility survey without having up to date utility records which are obtained via a desktop survey, so it is highly recommended to have both. It is always advised to then carry out an underground utility survey as the records are not always accurate and only give a basic view of what services may be in any given area.

Desktop Survey

For any construction project that will involve ground excavation, the best starting point is to conduct a desktop survey. This will help give an overall understanding of which utilities and services may be affected when carrying out the planned project. The survey will provide the project manager with information relating to who owns and operates specific facilities at the site they are going to carry out work on.

Performing a desktop survey allows the client to make informed investment decisions early on in the project. This can save significant time, as well as financial savings. Accessing the data that is already available on the site allows the project team to gain an idea of how many services could be present in their site area

A map of the site is produced, using information that has already been recorded, highlighting any issues that may arise when starting the intended project. This document is important for the project manager to refer back to when creating initial plans, as well as surveyors who will conduct the underground utility survey.

Underground Utility Surveys

Underground utility surveys are one of the most important tasks that need to be carried out before breaking ground on site. They are an inspection of an area where work has been proposed. The purpose of these surveys is to ensure an exact location of all buried utilities in any area. It gives a clear picture of depth and location types of ‘live’ services. The underground utility survey can also confirm what was found in the desktop survey, to indicate what work will need to be completed.

Surveyors use technologies such as electromagnetic location, and ground penetrating radar to pick up information and confirm the location of any hazards. Conducting an underground survey gives you the visibility to plan your site work safely and avoid complications once work has commenced. The results of a survey can be delivered in a manner of different ways to suit client needs and budget. These include site mark up and full CAD drawings.

Which one do I need?

If you are in the very early stages of a construction project, an initial desktop survey should be conducted to give an understanding on the types of utilities present at the site, if any. This can then allow you to make more informed decisions about the project going forward.

Once a desktop survey is obtained, an underground utility survey should be your next step to shed light on what was discovered during the desktop survey. Conducting an underground utility survey is the fraction of the cost and time when compared to a potential cable strike that could occur if an underground utility survey is not performed.

We advise that both of these two steps are completed before making any further plans for the site, as without identifying any potential utilities or underground issues, the project may become extremely costly if things are found out further down the line. Recent figures have also shown that cable strikes are on the increase as a result of a lack of utility surveys being carried out before undertaking work, and these are not only incredibly dangerous, but also very costly and can put your project on hold for a lengthy period.

How can Rock Surveying help?

Rock Surveying is experienced in providing accurate desktop and underground utility surveys for high risk, urban and rural locations. Our team of Surveyors guarantee accurate results through a variety of different methods, including ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electromagnetic location (EML).

To learn more about the importance of utility surveying or to speak to one of our professional surveyors, contact us today at or call 01905 456 384.


bottom of page