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10 Types of Levels

Leica NA700 Series Automatic Levels are rugged and precise.

Trying to make do with the wrong kind of level for the job can drive you plumb crazy! Take the time to familiarize yourself with these 10 types of levels.

1. Carpenter’s Level: This is the one most people are familiar with – three bubble vials framed in wood, aluminum, or plastic. These vary from 24 inches to 72 inches long. Some bubble vials are marked with a 2% drainage grade for gutter-running convenience. Use a carpenter’s level to check that vertical surfaces are plumb and horizontal surfaces are level.

2. Torpedo Level: A torpedo level is essentially a mini carpenter’s level less than 1 foot long. It’s handy for getting into tight spots or for small household tasks. Some have magnets so you can free both hands for the job.

3. Bull's-Eye Level: You may have seen a little round level on a camera tripod. That’s a bull's-eye level. Use it to level horizontal surfaces like tabletops or countertops, or to find the horizontal plane on any kind of tripod.

4. Line Level: This is a small bubble vial in a plastic or aluminum carrier with two holes. You run a string through these holes so that the line level can slide freely, then stretch the string tight between two points – for example, the length of an area where you want to install patio pavers or suspended ceiling tiles. Adjust the end of the string to find level, then tie it off.

5. Plumb Bob: A plumb bob looks like an oversized metal pencil stub or a cylindrical arrowhead. You use it to measure true vertical by tying it to a string and letting it hang until it stops moving. It’s handy for measuring vertical depths like holes for concrete deck footings.

6. Laser Level: A laser level fires horizontal laser lines in one or two directions when you hold it perfectly level. You can then mark the lines (or not) and hang a picture or install crown molding. Also popular with homeowners and do-it-yourselfers, laser levels often include some kind of mag-mount or other fastener for hands-free, assistant-free leveling.

7. Laser Plumb Line: This is similar to a laser level, except that it fires a vertical laser line. It’s useful for vertical alignments of all kinds and can replace a plumb bob on windy days.

8. Post Level: Don’t build decks without it – or porches, sanitary pipes, or any other vertical post application. This level looks like an L-shaped bracket with a horizontal bubble vial on each wing and one along the spine. It often comes with magnets and/or a rubber band so you can fix it to a post or a pipe.

9. Angle Level: An angle level is used for angles and slopes between 0 and 90 degrees. Plumbers use it to make sure that a run of drainage pipe is sloped correctly.

10. Rotary Laser Level: A rotary laser level fires a laser beam that rotates around a horizontal plane, much as a lighthouse beam sweeps around a coastline. By raising or lowering the rotary laser level, you can mark one or many points. It’s especially useful for horizontal applications like batter boards or machine-controlled grading. Some models work in both horizontal and vertical (dual) axis.

By choosing the right level for the job, you’ll get more accurate results and finish sooner. Keep an assortment of levels on hand so that you’ll be prepared for any job, big or small. Compare the specs on various laser-equipped models to find the right one for your needs. Cheaper models may save you a few bucks, but you’ll want to invest in a tool that can withstand the occasional drop or shop-dust attack.

If you're not sure which type of level to choose, just ask us. We carry a wide range of level types and will be happy to help you select the level that best meets your needs.