Among the various ways to ensure true horizontal and vertical surfaces, laser line levels are no doubt the most accurate — provided you maintain it properly. Laser levels that have any kind of quality are generally pricey, which usually makes them a tool only those who use them often purchase. For example, a DIYer probably wouldn’t spend over 1000 dollars for something he or she may or may not use once a year.
However, this does not mean that they aren’t totally and completely awesome for DIYers if they are able to afford one, or if they can get their hands on one for cheap or second hand. Laser line levels are used to illuminate a true horizontal or vertical line across a given surface from which floors, ceilings, cabinetry, door and window frames etc, can be based.
Without a laser level, you would be forced to use a spirit level and plumb bob — both of which can be tedious and time-consuming to utilize. Spirit levels only accurately display the levelness across the length of its body, while plumb bobs can be difficult to use outdoors due to wind. While both can be used to fairly high levels of accuracy given optimal field conditions, adequate time, and skill, laser levels certainly take the cake in terms of speed and ease of use.
Being that this is a tool predominantly used by professionals, DIYers often don’t know how to effectively utilize and maximize its potential. Sure, a resourceful guy with some smarts can probably figure out how to use it, and might even end up using it in the same way the pros do. But I think it might help some folks out there to outline some tips and pointers on how to use this awesome tool right!
Things to know Before Turning on your Laser Level
- Never pick up or move the laser level while it is on! (You can gently spin it on its pivot 360 degrees, but do NOT pick it up and change its location etc.)
- Kicking over, dropping, moving it while it is on, or otherwise man-handling your laser level may render it inaccurate or even break it completely.
- The laser line may be difficult to see if used outdoors in bright daylight. There should be a pair of dark glasses included with the laser level which illuminate the line when other light sources interfere.
- Auto-level lasers will self-level after the tool is manually leveled to a reasonable degree. Before turning the machine on, adjust the legs on the laser’s tripod to bring the laser to relative levelness (there should be a small on-board bull’s eye spirit level). Now turn it on, and you should see the laser line bounce around before settling to the more or less perfect level line we’ve all been waiting for.
So now we know the important tips to know before turning it on, but how can we best use it in a practical sense so we haven’t just wasted that 1500 dollars…
In the DIY world, the most common use would be floors. Floors often cover wide areas and must be level to a reasonable degree. Once your floor is level, you can use it to base your ceiling off of, thus eliminating the need to repeat the process. In this example I’ll be using a simple method often used for reforming. Note that there are many ways of actually building your floor, but I’m simply covering the how-tos of using the laser level — not floor-construction methods.
Begin by determining the height of the finished floor surface, from which you can use subtraction to calculate the height of the beams or floor framework. Being that many concrete beds over which floors are built aren’t level, determine the highest point on the outer perimeter of the concrete bed and use that as your point of reference. This is because floor height is often decided as the minimum height above plumbing etc that may run underneath.
Once you’ve calculated the upper surface-height of your floor joists, make a small horizontal pencil line at the reference point mentioned earlier. Now place your laser line level in a central position relative to the floor you’re building, so you can spin it 360 degrees and illuminate the entire perimeter. I’ll cover why in a bit, but once you begin using it, you don’t want to have to move your laser level!
After adjusting for reasonable levelness, turn it on and let it work its magic! Next, you’ll need a stick of wood — probably about 20 or 30 centimeters will suffice. Both ends should be square as you’ll be using it as a yardstick for your entire floor. With the laser on, line the bottom end of your yardstick with the small pencil line you made earlier. It’s as if your yardstick is sitting on the would-be floor joists, except they’re just not there yet.
Assuming your yardstick is long enough for the laser line to illuminate it, make a horizontal pencil line at the exact point the laser line illuminates. Take an “L” ruler or square and complete the line across the width of the yardstick. You’re probably getting the idea right about now as to what I’m getting at. You can now use this little yardstick on any point of your floor — in the joist-plane — and get a perfect level!
By simply standing the yardstick up on any point of the joists, if the red line of the laser doesn’t match up with the pencil line you drew earlier, you know you have to either raise it or lower accordingly. Using this method, you can ensure a pretty level floor with minimal effort and time spent. As you can see from the photos, once the two lines match up, you simply secure the joist to the leg, which is already secured to the concrete bed.