10 Kinds of Levels and How to Use Them

carpenter's level on a rain barrel

Levels Safety Tips

  1. Never drop a level. It is a precision instrument and the impact could jeopardize the integrity of the tool.
  2. Always keep a level in its protective case if it has one.

1. Carpenter's Level

  1. Tool that employs bubble vials positioned in the center and both ends to check vertical and horizontal surfaces for level or plumb.
  2. Made of either hardwood with brass binding, metal (aluminum, magnesium) or high-impact plastic.
  3. Typically 24" to 48" long, but some models (generally mason’s levels) are longer and can be up to 72” in length.
  4. Some models include split level or graduated vials that have two sets of lines, with the outside line representing a two percent grade that conforms to the slope required for gutters and waste lines to drain properly.
  5. Some models include electronic features to calculate angles on sloped surfaces (roof pitches, stair slopes and drainage angles) and display reading in degrees, percent slope or inches per feet (rise/run).

2. Torpedo Level

torpedo level

  1. Usually 9" long and 1” wide, it is used for obtaining readings in close quarters where a typical carpenter’s level won’t fit.
  2. Because of its compact size, mechanics, plumbers, electricians, hobbyists, and homeowners often choose torpedo levels.
  3. Enhancement features include magnetized models and models incorporating a battery-operated light for working in dark areas

3. Plumb Bob

  1. A small, tapered, pointed weight suspended from string or cord used to measure true vertical plumb or depth.
  2. Commonly used in construction and framing.
  3. Many chalk line reels can also be used as plumb bobs, hanging the tool from its string.

    4. Line Level

    1. Used for checking level over distances, such as when installing a patio, floor or a suspended ceiling, and when there is no flat surface available.
    2. Generally attached to a string stretched between two points, allowing the user to make an accurate height comparison between the two points.

    5. Circular Level

    1. Circular in shape, this tool is used for leveling flat surfaces over a 360 degree plane, such as table tops and appliances.
    2. Also called Bull’s Eye or Surface Level.
    3. When a bubble appears in the center of circular vial, piece is level.

    6. Angle Level

    1. Locates angles and pitches (slopes) from 0 to 90 degrees.
    2. Commonly used when installing drain lines to check for proper fall of pipe.
    3. Generally reads slope or pitch with inches per foot rise scale.

    7. Laser Level

    laser level

    1. Also called laser chalk lines, they are used to level and provide reference lines for hanging pictures, tile work, etc.
    2. New features for electronic levels include having preset angles commonly used in construction, a self-leveling feature, and offering a graphical display that tells the user the direction and extent to rotate toward level or plumb.
    3. Accessories include a variety of mounting devices such as clamps and magnetic mounts that make setup and use easier and more convenient.

    8. Post Level

    1. Used to set and plumb posts and columns
    2. Attaches to post and displays level in two directions.
    3. Also available in magnetic models for positioning waste lines in plumbing applications

    9. Rotary Laser Level

    1. Most units come with either a self leveling or manual leveling base as well as floor and wall mounts.
    2. Generally accurate to 1/4 ” at 100’ for manual leveling units and 1/8” at 100’ for self-leveling units

    10. Laser Plumb Line

    1. A self-leveling device that projects a vertical laser line onto any surface
    2. 2. The laser line is always visible because it is not covered up with a pencil mark and it is not affected by wind like a plumb bob

      Courtesy of NRHA.org