Awarded as the best online publication by CIDC

Ramasesh Iyer

Give Introduction of Contouring

Contouring is the science of representing the vertical dimension of the terrain on a two dimensional map. We can understand contouring by considering a simple example.

Let us assume that a right circular cone of base 5m diameter and vertical height 5m is standing upright on its base. Let the base be resting on a horizontal plane at zero level as shown in Figure 1.
Read More

Explain Terms Used in Contouring

Define Contour Line
A Contour line is an imaginary outline of the terrain obtained by joining its points of equal elevation. In our example of the cone, each circle is a contour line joining points of same level.

Define Contour Interval (CI)
Contour interval is the difference between the levels of consecutive contour lines on a map. The contour interval is a constant in a given map. In our example, the contour interval is 1m.
Read More

What is the Difference Between Contour Interval and Horizontal Equivalent

There are three main differences between contour interval and horizontal equivalent as follows:

S.No Contour Interval Horizontal Equivalent
1 It is based on vertical levels Represents horizontal distance
2 No measurement or scaling is required since the contour levels are indicated on the contour lines The distance must be measured on the map and converted to actual distance by multiplying with the scale of the map
3 In a given map the contour interval is a constant The horizontal equivalent varies with slope. Closer distance indicates steep slope and wider distance gentle slope

We at are thankful to Mr Ramasesh Iyer for submitting this useful information to us.

What are the factors governing Selection of Contour Intervals?

The survey leader has to decide an appropriate contour interval for his project before start of survey work. The following factors govern the selection of contour interval for a project:

S.No Factor Select High CI like 1m, 2m, 5m or more Select Low CI like 0.5m, 0.25m, 0.1m or less
1 Nature of ground If the ground has large variation in levels, for instance, hills and ponds If the terrain is fairly level
2 Scale of the map For small scale maps covering a wide area of varying terrain For large scale maps

showing details of a small area

3 Extent of survey For rough topographical map

meant for initial assessment only

For preparation of detailed map for execution of work
4 Time and resources


If less time and resources are


If more time and resources are available


We at are thankful to Mr Ramasesh Iyer for submitting this useful information to us.

What are the Characteristics of Contours?

Contours show distinct characteristic features of the terrain as follows:

i) All points on a contour line are of the same elevation.

ii) No two contour lines can meet or cross each other except in the rare case of an overhanging vertical cliff or wall
iii) Closely spaced contour lines indicate steep slope
Read More

What are the Uses of Contours?

Contour maps are very useful since they provide valuable information about the terrain. Some of the uses are as follows:

i) The nature of the ground and its slope can be estimated

ii) Earth work can be estimated for civil engineering projects like road works, railway, canals, dams etc.
Read More

What are the methods of Contouring?

Two methods of Contouring are:-
Read More

Explain Cross Section Method of Contouring?

Cross section method is most suitable for preparing contour maps for road works, rail works, canals etc.
Typically, this type of land has a very long strip but narrow width.

The steps involved are as follows:
i) The centre line of the strip of land is first marked

ii) Lines perpendicular to the longitudinal strip are marked dividing the strip into equal sections
Read More

Explain Squares or Grid Method of Contouring?

Squares or grid method is suitable for contouring of plains or gently sloping grounds.

The steps adopted are as follows:
i) Mark square grids on the land to be surveyed. The grid size would depend on the extent of survey.
Generally a 1m x 1m grid is selected for small works and a larger grid size for large works
Read More

Explain Tacheometric Method of Contouring?

Tacheometric method is adopted for contouring of very steep hills.

The steps are as follows:
i) Set up the tacheometer at the top of the steep hill. Tacheometer is a theodolite fitted with stadia diaphragm. The stadia diaphragm has three horizontal parallel hairs instead of one as found in a conventional cross hair diaphragm.

ii) With the help of a tacheometer it is possible to determine the horizontal distance of the point from the telescope as well its vertical level.
Read More

Ask a question