How to Use a Laser Level

July 10, 2013 at 7:25 pm
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There are various techniques that you can use to mark levels in scenarios where there are no other usable reference points, due to uneven ground or the distances involved in the job that you’re taking on. We’ve written a project guide on how to replace a gate post which makes excellent use of a laser level, but you may find it more commonly used to set out things like electrical sockets in a room.

A laser level is also useful at the planning stage of a project, as it gives you the means to calculate depths that need to be excavated (e.g. to site a retaining wall in your garden, or levelling ground in order to lay a patio or accommodate decking) so that before you start, you know much work you’re taking on as well as the volume of waste that you’ll generate and therefore need to get rid of, which can have significant implications both in terms of time and costs for your project.

Although it’s a more advanced piece of kit, a laser level can be very simple to use and especially over long distances, give a level of accuracy that even a long traditional manual spirit level cannot achieve.

Tools

Laser Level
A reasonably flat surface
Pencil (or appropriate item to mark levels, such as chalk on brickwork)

Instructions

  1. The precise operation of each laser level will vary slightly, but the basic principles are common. Begin by setting your level up on a reasonably level surface where it is unlikely to be disturbed. If you have a tripod available then this is ideal. Most levels have a tolerance of around 4 degrees, which they’ll be able to correct for as they self level. However, even the best levels will find it tricky to account for a moving surface. We frequently use the bed of the van, provided it’s not going to be moved by people working in or around it. 
    TIPS: 
    • Be aware that you are using a laser product, which can damage eyesight, so try to set your level up at a height which will not shine the beam inadvertently into somebody’s eyes.
  2. Turn the level on and allow it to self level. Many levels will emit a sound to confirm that they are ready for use, but it is worth spending a moment reading the instructions for your model, as you do not want to confuse an ‘error’ beep for a ‘ready’ beep.
    TIPS: 
    • A self levelling unit is the best in terms of speed and accuracy, but you may wish to calibrate your unit with a manual level at the outset of a job, in order to make sure that is displaying a true level line. This will be necessary once a year, or if the level is dropped or damaged.
  3. Depending on your scenario, you can now use the level to mark the ‘level line’ around your workspace. For example, if you’re working in a room, you may wish to mark an arbitrary line around the room that you can measure up or down from to put sockets, fixtures or fittings at a consistent height.
  4. Alternatively, you may wish to determine the level of a specific object. In our gate post replacement example, the level is used to determine the height of the existing gatepost using the level and a receiver which signals when it is correctly aligned. The height is determined and the receiver moved to the location of the new gate post. The receiver is then moved up or down until it is aligned at the correct height (a graduated beep is emitted until a constant sound is heard), which is then marked on the new gate post. This is to account for scenarios where there is no wall or other surface on which to mark the ‘level line’.

Product Recommendation

We’d happily recommend the Leica Rugby 50 Self-Levelling Laser Level, as it is incredibly accurate and easy to use. However, at a fraction under £600, it really is designed for professional use. A more affordable option if you require this type of level would be the Stanley FatMax AL24 Auto-Level Kit, which is on the market for around £250. With accuracy levels of around 0.035mm/m, this is more than adequate for even the most serious DIYer.

Yet more affordable still, and therefore perfect as an occasional tool is the Forge Steel Rotary Laser Level. At under £70 it’s great value as it comes with a protective case and tripod. You’ll hardly be setting out a construction site with an entry level piece of equipment like this, but it’s accurate enough for most DIYers and the tradesman using occasionally.