Laser levels are the new standard for precision and convenience in construction, but like old-fashion bubble levels, they’re only as accurate as their positioning. If the level isn’t steady, the lines they set will be inexact and the outcome of your project will be disappointing. Read on to learn more about how these modern control tools work and how a laser level tripod is essential to achieving perfect results every time.
What do laser levels do?
Laser levels project a beam of light that serves as a visual point of reference. Instead of measuring and marking to hang perfectly even artwork on your wall, a laser level projects a colored light beam onto your work surface. No more messy chalk lines, pencil marks, or trying to juggle a level, hammer and nails with just two hands.
How do laser levels work?
Laser levels emit a beam of red or green light from light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. LEDs make your remote control work and provide the luminescence in your television and digital alarm clock. Most laser levels are equipped with low-intensity diodes that can be powered by regular household batteries.
All models include similar components — an laser plus a leveling base that sits on a firm surface and helps project the beam at the desired height. To get an accurate beam, it’s critical that the base itself be level.
This is achieved via a bubble vial in the base that is manually adjusted by the user, like a traditional level, or an electronic mechanism with a magnetic pendulum that “self-levels” the unit.
Just set up the laser level on a still, straight surface and the device fine tunes the rest, projecting a dot or beam of light that lets you know just where to cut or install.
Types of Laser Levels
Laser come in two basic types – those that throw dots or lights on a single surface and more complex rotary models that use an integrated prism to project light a full 360 degrees. Most, but not all rotary lasers also have line and dot capability.
These types are further divided by manual or self-leveling. For occasional household use, a simple manual model is a good choice, but for heavy do-it-yourselfers or professional contractors, a sell-leveling rotary laser tackles the big jobs in the least amount of time. Both types of levels can be mounted to a tripod.
What jobs are ideal for a laser level?
Laser levels are perfect for projects that require a guideline over a large surface like installing paneling, shelves and cabinets. Line lasers need to be repositioned and set for each surface you will be working on, while rotary lasers can create a level beam around a whole room.
The trick to getting optimal results with any laser is positioning. Levels can be put on the floor or mounted to the wall, but that can put them at awkward, uncomfortable angles to work with, especially if you need to reposition it frequently or want it to mark very high or very low surfaces. The solution to this is a laser level tripod.
What are the benefits of a laser level tripod?
Like the tripods photographers use, a laser level tripod is a portable three-legged that provides stability along both the horizontal and vertical axis of motion. By keeping your laser level still, a tripod improves the accuracy of laser’s line and the quality of the finished project. Tripods also allow for high and low positioning that would be difficult or impossible otherwise as well as leveling on uneven surfaces.
Types of Tripod
Tripod were once available in fixed and adjustable styles, however, since adjustability is what makes a tripod versatile, most offered today are at least semi-adjustable.
A tripod is made of three legs, each with points called shoes and a head, or platform, on which the laser level is mounted.
Legs can be made of wood, fiberglass, steel or aluminum. Steel is the most durable, but it’s heavy and impractical for hauling to work sites. Aluminum, the most common leg material, and fiberglass are less durable, but are lightweight and make set-up a breeze.
Points, mounted at the end of the legs help provide a stable surface for the level. When working outdoors, the points sink into soft surfaces, giving the tripod solid footing before equipment is mounted. For indoor use, metal points can slide or scratch floors, so models with non-marring attachments are a big plus.
The head—or mounting platform—sits atop the legs and provides a steady holding surface for your level. Heads can be rounded or flat, but flat is easier to use and generally preferred. Each head has a threading system by which the level is attached—1/4 to 5/8 inch threading are the most common. Adapters are available if the tripod you like won’t fit the level you already own.
Tripod height is adjustable in two different ways — via the legs and a telescoping pole, called an elevator, on which the head is mounted. Having both features exponentially improves its versatility, but construction and the strength of materials matters. If the unit is wobbly when fully extended, your laser won’t be still.
When shopping for tripods, the quality of these major components is the most important factor, but performance often hinges on select convenience features and its overall user-friendliness.
Best Laser Level Tripods Reviews
This Bosch is serious equipment. Its height can be adjusted from 47 to 110 inches via heavy-gauge aluminum legs and a center elevator. The swivel head has 5/8 inch threading and a strong tightening system to make sure your level stays steady at any height. At only 16 lbs., it’s lightweight enough to haul comfortably and comes with shoulder strap.
A handy, value-added feature on this model is a hook for attaching a plumb bob. This makes it easier to ensure your tripod is level both vertically and horizontally.
Swivel head allows position changes without having to move the whole unit
Quick-release clamps make adjusting the legs easier
The plate on the mounting head is large and may block the vertical, or plumb laser on smaller models.
Made of lightweight aluminum, this Johnson tripod adjusts as high as five feet and features a user-friendly 5/8-inch connection. Leg extension clamps are chunky and easy to use and the orange color makes them stand out on a work site.
What sets this model apart is the easy-read measuring marks on the elevator. These help you find the height you’re looking for as quickly as possible and markers store the information, making future repositioning easier.
Color stands outs for safety
Optional non-marring feet are included
Measurements are imperial only, no metric
Low maximum height
Crafted from quality, heavy-gauge aluminum, this tripod is sturdy, yet easy to carry at about 8 lbs. It features a flat head design with 5/8-inch threaded studs that fit most levels without an adapter.
The legs adjust with quick-release clamps and the pointed steel feet are stable on any uneven outdoor terrain, but with a maximum height of 60 inches, it may fall short for taller applications.
Reflective yellow color provides contrast for safety
Straps keep legs together for easy transport
Low maximum height
May not fit older Dewalt laser levels
This contractor-friendly tripod is made of heavy duty aluminum with reinforced legs for the ultimate in stability. The orange color contrast is a good safety feature and the leg points are ribbed and easy to sink.
With a height range of 37 to 63 inches, it’s on the low side comparatively, but suitable for most applications. The 5/8th inch head threading is universal and it comes with a webbed carrying strap.
Powder-coated finish stands up to the elements
Comes with a plumb hook
Leg adjustment clamps are weak and may loosen over time
This is another fine entry by Johnson, a premier maker of control tools. This heavy-duty tripod features sturdy aluminum construction and a flat head design with an elevator that can adjust the tripod to 118-1/8 inches. An accordion-style bellow system keeps the elevator column dust-free for smooth performance.
This model comes with an interlocking legs for stability and works with all 5/8-inch thread attachments.
Chain leg locks prevent splaying
Elevator dust-protection prevents dings and scratches that can make the pole difficult to extend
Protective point covers are weak and easily perforated
This lightweight aluminum tripod extends to 69 inches and has 1/4-inch mounting threads that are compatible with all DeWalt laser levels. It has locking legs, non-marring feet, a familiar hand-crank height adjustment, and a 360-degree rotating head, a great feature to find in an economical model.
Folds to an easy-to-store 24 inches.
Comes with a carrying bag
Feet aren’t sturdy enough for damp or very uneven outdoor surfaces
This 2lb Bosch tripod is compact and a cinch to transport. It adjusts from 22 inches to 61 inches for different height applications and features a highly adaptable head that swivels for optimal accuracy.
The 1/4-inch mounting threads are compatible with all of Bosch’s lasers as well as other mountable tools for a wide range of applications, but you’ll need a 5/8 adapter for other brands.
Locking clamp for quick leg adjustments
Tilting mechanism on the head is confusing for first-time users
Not a good choice for outdoor use
This AdirPro Tripod is the real deal. It’s a complete all-in-one accessory kit for your level with everything you need to get started. Its five pole sections can reach more than 12 feet while still having a flexible 31-inch minimum adjustment.
Easy-to-see white graduations mark the pole to help you find the right height and a screw clamp on the side of the head stabilizes the pole, locking it firmly in place.
What makes this tripod truly stand tall, however, is that it can accommodate both 5/8 and ¼ inch threads right out of the box and it comes with a three-section carrying bag that allows you separate the components as they would be installed for lightning-quick set up.
Full accessory package
Reaches exceptional heights
Rubber feet are ridged for stability, but are not pointed for outdoor use
Tripod safety and Use
To use your new laser level and tripod safely, take these important precautions:
- Never look into the laser; it can damage your eyes.
- Make sure the tripod is completely stable before mounting the level.
- Mounting hardware should be carefully tightened to hold the laser in place and keep the tripod well-balanced.
- For indoor use, use non-marring feet or set the tripod on a protective surface.
- Tripods can tip at maximum height. Keep pets and children safely out of the work area.
- Store your tripod in a dry place to protect it from rust. Keep legs secure with a case or leg wrap.
When making a buying decision, consider what you’ll need your laser and tripod to do. Put an emphasis on quality construction and strong manufacturer support, but as you walk through the use process in your mind, consider how convenience features will play out and put your cash down only on a the model that meets your most critical needs.