Types of Levels

If you want to check whether a surface state is level or not, you can use a spirit level; the same tool is also capable to check for plumb. But spirit level is not the only tool to check levelness. There are digital levels and laser levels as well.

Confusingly, either of these models has its own variants. And they are not a few. For certain applications, a certain feature is added. The focus of this article is to make it clear how many they are and what actually they are, types of leveling tools. In general, we divide them into: spirit level, digital level, laser level, and optical level.

Types of Spirit Levels

Since ancient times, the job of spirit level is to help us decide whether a surface is horizontal, vertical or rectilinear. Over the centuries, there has been much development in the types of spirit levels, notably being the digital development and the laser development. The many types of spirit levels are described briefly in the following:

1. Pocket Spirit Level

As the name suggests, the pocket spirit level is one that can fit inside your pocket as their length is usually from 3” to 4”, mostly a single bubble tube that may or may not turn (to verify angle of installation). Although the measurements these yields are not as accurate as the longer spirit levels, their size allows them to be called the ideal spirit level for quick measurements. For quick installations, tiny areas and, in general, wherever a longer, more accurate, spirit level would be unnecessary or unwieldy, a pocket spirit level is employed.

2. Magnetic Level

The magnetic levels can stick to metallic surfaces, due to magnets attached to their bottom. Their utility becomes obvious when one is working with steel surfaces or when one’s both hands are unavailable, such as in the installation of steel and metal beams or while building structures of steel in a scaffolding. The levels that have magnets made out of rare earth elements prove to be especially strong in their attraction to the surface and thus do not slip, perhaps even during vibrations.

3. Machinist Spirit Level

Machinist levels are more precise than standard construction levels. When the reference plane’s variability is within the level’s sensitivity range, these levels must be employed. Otherwise, measurements will be “chased” indefinitely, making the usage of these accuracy levels more difficult. To prevent thermal expansion and contraction, as well as excessive bubbles, the vials are filled with high-grade mineral oil. Multiple bubbles will be mitigated during handling, and you’ll be safe if a level is damaged. It’s precision ground base has a notch that allows the level to be put on a minimum arc or diameter.

4. Torpedo Level

Most torpedo levels are tapered or torpedo-shaped, which should come as no surprise. What’s surprising is how many applications individuals come up with for them.

In terms of size, a torpedo level’s length is usually about 6 to 12 inches so it’s not really small like the pocket level model or not too large. Besides having a medium size, it usually has three bubbles in which the vials indicate plumb, level, and 45° slope.

Due to the size and tapered size, the torpedo levels are suitable for working in tight locations. Some include magnetic edges which act as a “third hand” for the plumbers and others working with metal parts.

For applications, torpedo levels are handy for leveling photos, calculating the slope of pipes, and leveling over short distances. They fit conveniently in a tool belt and junk drawer. It has LED lights on sometimes, allowing it to be utilized in dimly lit areas.

5. Magnetic Torpedo Level

These serve the same function as the torpedo levels but with the added advantage of a magnetic base, enabling them to stick to ferrous surfaces and making them ideal for steel and metalwork.

6. Plumbing Level

For plumbing purposes, the plumbing level has a V-groove and a magnetic base. The magnetic and v-groove base allows it to effortlessly sit on the pipe. It can also be used to create a revolving vial. It can be fastened to the pipe’s end.

7. Carpenter Level

A carpenter’s level is a two-foot, four-foot, six-foot, or eight-foot plank of wood, usually fashioned of attractive and stable woods like ebony, rosewood, or mahogany. Carpenter level tools are now available in aluminum and composite materials. One or more bubble vials make up this sort of spirit level (depending on the size). Two rings or notches show the location of the bubbles for true level and plumb. A 45-degree indication inclination is usually incorporated as well.

8. Masonry Level

A masonry level is a two-foot, four-foot, six-foot, or eight-foot plank of wood, usually fashioned of attractive and stable woods like ebony, rosewood, or mahogany. One or more bubble vials make up this sort of spirit level (depending on the size). Two rings or notches show the location of the bubbles for true level and plumb. A 45-degree indication inclination is usually incorporated as well. This could be a level of wood. Masons use it to flatten mason bricks, and it’s tough enough to hammer. It’s also used to level grout or other materials in between bricks.

9. Electrician Level

Electrician level is a kind of a torpedo level and it may or may not come with a magnet. A V-groove on one side is very helpful in keeping it properly on non-rectilinear surfaces such as a conduit. These may also have measurements on either side or as much as three bubble vials. Designed to be operated by an electrician, these are designed to be shock-resistant.

10. Post Level

Simply put, a post level is a spirit level that finds both level and plumb in a post or other 2×4 structure. It boasts a straightforward, user-friendly design, with two-sided molded plastic making a 90° angle, a height of 5.5 inches and a width of 3.5 inches on each side, and three spirit level vials. The material is prevented from pulling the post level away or out of whack by the inside edge of the 90°. This level is useful for swiftly erecting straight deck posts or aligning ceiling joists for rafters. This level is fashioned like an L and has a bubble vial on each wing and spine.

11. String Level/Line Level

A line level is a level that hangs from the string line of a builder. Small hooks are incorporated into the level’s body to allow it to attach to and hang from the string line. The body is light to avoid weighing down the string line, and it is small in size because the string line effectively becomes the body when the level is hung in the center of the string; each ‘leg’ of the string line increases the level’s plane when the level is suspended in the center of the string. Line levels are great for rough carpentry, stringing ceiling tiles, and building patios. However, its utility is limited when precision is required.

12. Bubble Level (Bull’s Eye Level)

A bull’s eye level is a form of spirit level that allows planes to be leveled in two dimensions — in nautical terminology, the ‘pitch’ and ‘roll.’ Standard tubular levels only take one dimension into account. Bull’s eye levels are generally utilized by carpenters in the building industry, although they can also be found as elements of compasses or other devices that need to avoid tipping in particular directions (whether it be for functionality or precision of measurements).

13. I-Beam Level

The I-Beam is one of the most frequent forms of levels used in buildings. I-Beam levels have an I-shaped framework that provides more rigidity than a straight metal frame. These are some of the lightest “conventional” worksite levels in the 24″ to 96″ range since they require less material than box levels.

14. Box Beam Level

Box levels are rectangular box levels with a rectangular box frame that serve the same purpose as I-beam levels. They have a higher level of strength than I-beam versions due to their 4-point configuration. This makes them popular on construction sites where tough equipment is required. These, however, are usually a little more expensive. When you go to the premium level of boxing, you’ll notice more reinforcement.

Read: I Beam Vs. Box Beam Spirit Level – Which One to Use?

15. Level for Hanging Pictures

Cross-check levels are capital for hanging pictures. These are also known as right-angle levels or 2D levels and are pocket-sized instruments with perpendicular bubble vials, enabling the user to judge the perpendicularity of a surface well, which is what we need when we hang pictures. Due to their small size, this level is ideal for a home environment.

Types of Digital Level

1. Digital Spirit Level

The use of digital level instruments is a growing trend in the box level market. Not only does it incorporate liquid-colored conventional spirit level but also equips digital reading and other digital features. The digital reading lets you read the degree of levelness in a number. So, a slight slope can be read.

In terms of the spirit levels, it commonly has 3 vials that can confirm level, plumb, and 45° slope.

This sort of construction level shows you which end of the structure has to be leveled. Some even include an audible alert to notify you when you arrive. While some digital levels require calibration, some of the most recent models do so automatically.  

2. Digital Level for Surveying

We utilize levels in digital level surveying that use an electron beam to evaluate a level staff (another person that works with this instrument) at a distance. With digital surveying levels, you may measure height differences between two sites or determine the height of objects or constructions. These sorts of digital levels reduce the risk of human error when interpreting gradation indications on the staff level. On the digital level screen display, you will get correct measurements.

3. Machinist Digital Level

Machinist digital levels are a digital upgrade to machinist spirit levels, making them much more precise and error-free, which are commonly used to level machinery, but they can also be used to level huge workpieces on planers. The level is used to ensure that a machine’s axis of travel is level by using gravity as a reference and checking it at many spots.

Types of Laser Levels  

1. Dot Laser Level

Dot laser levels emit two, three, or five laser beams. This allows the user to construct a floor-to-ceiling reference point, a level reference point, and a 90-degree reference point. These light specks are bright enough to be seen from both inside and outside. Dot laser levels are excellent for shifting a point from the floor to the ceiling when working indoors. This laser level model is also suitable for any level application or drawing out 90° angles for both indoor and outdoor applications.

2. Laser Square

A laser square is a type of line laser in which it projects the laser on a surface at a certain angle projection. In the case of laser square, this tool has two line lasers that are perpendicular to each other. As a result, they project a square/perpendicular line onto the desired surface.

This device can be your solution to substitute the use of square tools. In tile layout, laying out perpendicular corners for decks or sheds, laser squares come in handy. In general, all applications that require a precise 90-degree angle can benefit from a laser square.

3. Cross Line Laser Level

Cross line laser level projects a crossing laser beam onto a wide and distanced surface such as wall, tile, etc. The crossing laser beam then generates such a crossing line on the wall, making you don’t need to scribe anything to establish the vertical and horizontal plane anymore.

Because it projects the laser beam, its projection is only a certain view angle. It is highly comparable to the rotary laser level that spins the laser beam and surely has a 360° view angle.

The application of cross line laser level spreads from wall framing to hanging portraits, anything that requires level and plumb at the same time. To get the best result, use the cross line laser level that comes with the self-leveling feature.

4. Rotary Laser Level

As the name says, the rotary laser level is the laser that generates the 360° horizontal or vertical plane by rotating its laser beam. The speed of rotation manipulates our eyes, as a result, we see a line in which it’s actually a repeatable rotating laser beam. Unlike the cross line laser level, if applied to indoor use, the lines generated by rotary laser level will spread around all the sides of the room (floor, wall, and ceiling).

This laser requires more than one person to operate. One person operates the laser beam, while the second one handles the laser receiver at a distance. Its applications can be either outdoor or indoor use such as excavation. However, a rotary laser level is generally applied for outdoor use.

5. Self-Levelling Laser Level

For construction and land surveying specialists, self-leveling laser level, often known as automated lasers, provides an unrivaled level of precision. These devices will discover and maintain a level within your preferred range on their own. You can also disable the automatic leveling mechanism for various manual operations as a construction professional. These machines can accurately level a wall or a variety of other surfaces on a job site.

Any laser level that comes with the self-leveling feature will benefit you in speed and accuracy. It can easily direct the laser to generate a straight and level line, or even a plumb line.

6. Green Laser Level

Green laser levels are generally decided against red laser levels when higher detail or visibility is desired. These are easier to use, more costly, and die earlier.

The green color has the advantage of being in the middle of the spectrum of visible light, thus making it easy to see. For indoors, these lasers have a visibility range of about 50 to 60 feet, however, they can work even beyond 60 feet while outdoors. Some of the parts that make up a green laser’s strength are an 808 diode, a frequency doubling crystal, etc. Making them harder to manufacture as well as more expensive. But, as said before, for maximum visibility, green lasers are used.

The Right Laser Levels Depending On Its Applications

1. Laser Levels for Builders

Self-leveling cross-line lasers are very helpful for builders. Normally, you’d draw a chalk line on the floor, and then transfer the marks to the ceiling with a plumb bob or a laser level and a long straightedge. You can skip all of these steps if you use a laser that projects a vertical beam. Simply point the laser at the location where you want the wall to be, and lines will appear on the ceiling and floor. You may either leave the laser in place or build around it, or you can utilize the lines to outline the top and bottom wall plates. In any case, using a laser is faster and easier.

2. Laser Level for Outdoor Work

For uneven surfaces and vast distances, rotary and line lasers with a pulse/detector feature perform well. In addition to those, special goggles that usually come with the laser kit allow the user to see the laser beams more clearly and easily.

Besides, the laser level for outdoor work should employ the green laser as it’s better in terms of visibility.

3. Laser Level for Foundations

When it comes to laying the foundations of a building, our priorities are accuracy over a long distance where the surface may even be rough to make sure that the depth to which the foundations are dug is precise and that the right amount of concrete has been used up to the right height. And for that, the most suitable kind of laser level is the rotary laser level. As some rotary laser levels have an accuracy of 5mm over a distance of 200m.

4. Laser Level for Home Use

Multiple types of laser levels can be employed for home-use (such as lining up cabinets, putting up a picture on the war, etc.) depending on the specific tasks but if only one had to be chosen, it would be a self-leveling line laser level. Most home applications that require lasers include lining up some stuff against a wall, which is the strong suit of cross-beam line laser levels.

5. Laser Level for Flooring

For the leveling of floors, the most used kind of laser level is the rotary laser lever, which is one of the more advanced and heavy-duty lasers. Widely used in construction because of its ability to project the plane you’re working in; this laser is perfect to get a perfect floor.

6. Laser Level for Grading

For construction surveying, the best laser level is the grade laser level which has been designed for this very job. It can be used to produce near-perfect and symmetrical grades and slopes. This laser level may be used to measure declining slopes, prepare excavation sites, build ramps and other inclined buildings, and determine elevation changes.

7. Laser Level for Tiling

Laser level squares are almost universally used when it comes to tiling. They project two perpendicular lines which spread in the surfaces and give an idea of the layout, in which tiles can be placed. Since the lasers won’t get obstructed by mastic, they are perfect for laying down tiles.