What is a Laser Level and What’s it Used for?
A laser level is used to project a constant and common level line of light onto a surface on a horizontal or vertical plane. This is most useful in transferring a level from one place to another as is required, for example, when fitting picture rails or dado rails to the wall of a room.
There are many different types of leveling devices but a laser level will consist of a device which incorporates mainly a spirit level or pendulum level with the use of a laser to find a constant level line over distance.
Fixed or Spot Laser Levels
This type of laser level is a fixed laser level that is fixed in a set position to project a level line of light. It is just for projecting a straight line of light on a single plain from which markings can be made for positioning or using for calculations.
This type of laser level simply points a laser spot at the wall which you transfer by moving the head of the laser. They are very simple to set up and use (Have a look at the video below).
As they are less sophisticated than other types of laser level, they tend to be cheaper and simpler to use. They are less versatile and are ideal for periodic use at home rather than continuous use on site where a more fully featured device might be preferred and warrant the extra cost.
Spot levels are used to transfer a level round the room for 1 item, perhaps getting a new socket to line up with the existing sockets. Spot levels are ideal in the garden; laying a patio to the correct fall for example.
Line or Cross Line Laser Levels
This is a slightly more advanced levels than the spot or line level as it will project a cross on to the wall. This is very useful of you need to make sure that you have a vertical line as well as a horizontal level line.
It is a static laser which you move by hand to transfer a point or continuous line from one side/end of a room to another while another line at 90° to the horizontal line is shown on wall. This is slightly more complex than a simple spot or point laser level, so it does take marginally more setting up, but most models are very simple to use these days. They do tend to be a little more expensive but they allow you to get the job done a little more easily and quickly.
Like the fix or spot laser level the cross line level is ideal for putting up shelves, pictures and hook; anything that you need to attach to the wall and that must be level. A line level is good for seeing at a glance how level the wall you are building is and how it corresponds to the wall you need to build on the other side of the garden or the top of the fence.
Line levels would be used for getting a constant line to put lots of sockets in, or a dado rail, or floor screed, floor slab. When you are working on projects where a level critical all the time and need the line to be constant then a line laser level is what you should use.
Automatic Rotation or Rotary Laser Levels
A rotary laser line of light is projected with use of a laser and the use of mirrors. A rotating projection unit which spins at speed while projecting a constant line around an enclosed space (colours of laser lights most commonly used are red / green).
This means that you have a line that it ″drawn″ on the wall with the laser that is all at a uniform level – this can be seriously helpful if you need to get a precise level across the whole room. This is great to skirting, dado rails, levelling windows, doors and other openings – there is no shortage of uses!
To set up a laser level on a tripod you must firstly erect the tripod. Most modern tripods come with a levelling bubble built in and individually adjustable legs. This process will be repeated on the laser levelling device once it is position on the tripod. More expensive models of the laser level will come with a fully automated levelling system. These levels are used when an accurate measurement for setting out, measuring and calculating a required distance are needed. If this much accuracy is required it is advisable to buy or use a device with a built in self levelling action.
The most common use of a Rotary Laser Level is to find a set constant height around a room for a vertical measurement (up or down) to be taken from the illuminated laser line for the use of setting or constructing i.e. level floor surface, also ceilings / suspended ceilings. Marks can be made on wall surfaces or other fixed points while the laser is projecting.
Automatic Rotation or Rotary Laser Levels can be expensive, and they are a little more complex to set up, but they can save a huge amount of time and ensure that you can get an accurate level from the outset which will be a huge benefit as your project continues.
An Optical Level surveying tool which you look through (once levelled) to mark a level on a batten or ″staff″ as it’s called. The staff is then moved to another part of the site and when the level is trained on the staff in its new position. You can then see, by marking the staff again, how much lower or higher point B is from point A.
These are tools that are less likely to be used by the DIY enthusiast, but will be very useful for the self-builder. On the whole if you need to get any surveying done you will employ a professional surveyor as this is a skilled job and requires a great deal of accuracy.
Buying a Laser Level
Laser levels are relatively inexpensive and can eliminate a great deal of possible error when transferring levels.
You will need to consider the amount that you will use it and how accurate that you need to be. If you are only going to be hanging the odd picture and it is not the end of the world if they are not absolutely level, as spot level will definitely exceed your expectations and allow you to achieve a excellent job.
Where you will be using a level more often and you need to ensure that you can get a very accurate level across a whole room a rotary level is well worth the extra expense. No one wants wonky floors or ceilings and without one of these you could spend ages trying to get them level and still not succeed.
Most of the cost will derive from the accuracy of the device. Accuracy is vital on site and +/- 2mm over 50m is needed. However at home you don’t need this level of accuracy on the whole, and accuracy of +/- 5mm over 30m is about the norm for a mid range laser level which will be suitable for the vast majority of home improvement projects.
How to Use a Laser Level
Each laser level will have it’s own specific instructions which you should follow closely to ensure that you are getting an accurate level. Most will follow this process:
- Set up the level; generally they will need to be set up on a stand or fastened to a rail or the wall. Once it is secure and in a position that it will not be knocked or moved, you should then level the device. There are either bubbles or a pendulum for this – a bubble level is more common.
- Turn on and position the laser; Once the device is secure and level you will then be able to project the laser on to the surface you need the level. There might be a little fiddling around to ensure that the laser is pointing exactly where you need it, but most devices have suitable controls for this kind of fine adjustment.
- Check that the device is still level
- Mark off the level; When you are sure that the device is absolutely level and the laser is projected exactly where you need it, then you should mark off the level on the surface you are working on. This mean is the laser level is knocked or disturbed you still have you level and can continue working.
A laser level can save you an enormous amount of time and effort, we highly recommend them, so if you have any spare funds, pick yourself up one, you won’t regret it!