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What are Grade Stakes?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Grade stakes are stakes which are used on a construction site as elevation references. This building tool is useful for professional builders and people working on do it yourself projects alike. Many hardware and construction stores carry these stakes, and they are also available in bulk from companies which manufacture them, with some companies offering a number of options when it comes to grade stakes. They can also be improvised in a pinch.

A typical grade stake is made from untreated wood. Users can mark up the wood with elevation information and other references, and some people dip their stakes in paint to provide an easy marking surface or a color-coded reference. For those who are willing to pay extra, stakes may come predipped for convenience. Variations made from plastic and metal are also available.

When people first start working on a construction site, whether they are building an office building or a deck, they need to survey it to learn about elevations on the site. The site will not be flat, and grade stakes are used to mark out the area proposed for construction, and to generate data about what will need to be done to bring the site up, or down, to “grade,” the point where it will all be level. During the grading process, sites can be excavated, and materials can also be brought in to raise the grade, with the goal of creating an even, level space for building.

Grade stakes are used with other tools to map out the elevations on the plot. People can leave various notations on the stakes for reference. Some construction companies use stakes which are tagged with their contact information, so that if there is an incident at the site, it's easy to track down the company in charge. It's important to be aware that if the stake is accidentally dislodged or uprooted, someone should be told about it; just putting the stake back is not recommended because it might not end up in the right location.

People may also refer to grade stakes as surveyor's stakes. While setting the stakes, people use survey equipment like builder's levels and survey lines to ensure that the stakes are properly placed and the measurements are precise. Being off in a small way can translate into a large problem along the line, making it important to take time to set the stakes right.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Mammmood — On Jul 27, 2011

@David09 - I work downtown where there is a lot of construction going on. I’ve gotten accustomed to the sight of survey stakes along construction sites, and workers with their laser surveying tools to get accurate measurements of the site locations.

All of the tools and equipment are quite unsightly when the construction is going on, but when the buildings finally go up they look quite nice.

By David09 — On Jul 26, 2011

My neighbor recently built a privacy fence in his backyard. Neither of us had a complete fence. I had only one fence on my left side but nothing on the right or the back.

We back up against a greenbelt so the view was kind of nice. However, we both have dogs, and have had to cable them when letting them out so that they wouldn’t run away.

I guess my neighbor thought that it was time to put up a fence.

Anyway, the first thing the workers did was put up wood stakes, spaced at about eight feet apart. I think they dug about a foot or so into the ground to put the stakes in.

Then when they were ready to build, they poured concrete and put the final wooden fence poles into the ground. The finished fence looks quite good. I guess it’s my turn now, so that I can let my dog run free as well.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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