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.