Open up the average toolbox of any homeowner, and you’ll likely find an array of wrenches, screwdrivers, nails and tape measures. However, what you won’t likely find is a laser level. Not owning a laser level is one of the biggest mistakes that any homeowner can make, as it’s one of the most important tools you can own. Whether you’re a novice builder or a master architect, a laser level is a necessity. Like all tools, buying a laser level isn’t as easy as just picking the first one you see.
Not knowing the differences between the various types of laser levels is a surefire way to either get a tool you can’t use or pay for features you don’t need. In this guide, we’ll show you what a laser level is, who can use them, some tips on getting the most bang for your buck and the top nine laser levels for 2017.
What Is a Laser Level?
A laser level is a tool that helps you determine a level horizontal or vertical surface. A laser level will display a small colored line that will allow you to keep items perfectly level provided you match them up with the line. Typically, the laser is colored red, but you can also find them in different colors such as green and blue.
You’ll mostly find a laser level used in home improvement projects. For example, when hanging up a new set of cupboards in your kitchen, you may want them to be even with your existing shelves. While it’s possible to determine if an item is straight just by viewing it, a laser level is accurate within an inch up to 30 feet. In fact, a laser level is the most accurate measuring tool on the market today, far exceeding the accuracy of tools like a bubble indicator.
Who Uses Laser Levels?
The best part about your average laser level is that anyone can use it. Your standard laser level doesn’t require any special crafting knowledge; if you can handle technological items like a smartphone or television, you can manage a laser level. Many laser levels are simple one button technological objects, only requiring the user to mount the laser level in the area where they plan on using it. For example, if you’re hanging up a picture, you’d just attach the laser level to a wall and turn it on.
A laser level is used by nearly every construction related job. It’s the go-to tool for architects and home builders, including both professional installers and hobbyists. Major construction projects, such as installing a city-wide sewer system or building a new municipal building, will frequently use laser levels in their projects. Simply put, if you own a toolbox, you’re the type of person who needs a laser level.
What You Can Do With a Laser Level
As mentioned previously in this guide, there are a wide array of applications for a laser level; however, most of them have to do with making sure surfaces are level. Many DIY enthusiasts will love a laser level due to the many indoor applications that it has. The most common use of a laser level around the home or office is making sure a picture or poster is level on your wall. A laser level will also allow you to align shelves, cabinets, bookcases and trim easily. If you’re expanding your house, a laser level will enable you to check the heights of doors and windows, install drop ceilings, make sure your floor is level and install chair rails.
Many professionals in the construction industry use some form of laser level in nearly any outdoor project. From the initial survey of the land to the finishing touches, a laser level is an essential device. When beginning a project, a laser level is used to determine the elevation of the land, establish the degree of a slope and check the alignment of masonry. You can also use a laser level for drainage and irrigation projects. At the end of the project, you can use a laser level to put the finishing touches on a property, such as ensuring the fence posts are level.
Different Types Of Laser Levels
There are three different types of laser levels on the market today: dot lasers, line level lasers and rotary lasers.
Each of these lasers is for a specific audience, and knowing the differences between the three types will allow you to purchase the best one for the job.
Dot Laser Level
The dot laser type of laser level is self-explanatory: This laser level produces a small dot on the floor, wall or ceiling. This laser level works best when you’re looking for a quick size estimate or when you’re doing a survey of the land.
Line Level Laser
The line level laser, also known as the line laser level, is the most common form of laser level available on the market. These small devices are used by both DIY enthusiasts and professionals alike for indoor construction jobs. The line level laser emits a beam of continuous light from the side of it, allowing you to line up items with the beam.
Rotary Laser Level
The primary use of a rotary laser level is by professionals for outdoor projects; however, this style of laser level is occasionally used for indoor projects as well. This style of laser level emits light in a 360-degree radius. The rotary laser level is the most expensive of the three types of laser levels and is also the bulkiest as well.
Best Laser Levels On The Market For 2020
Now that you know the basics of the laser level, you’re ready to start checking out some of the products available on the market today. These nine laser levels are some of the best on the market for 2017. Whatever project you have in mind, one of these devices is a perfect fit.
As the name implies, the Firecore Self-Leveling Horizontal/Vertical Cross-Line Laser Level provides both horizontal and vertical lasers at the same time. The magnetic bracket allows you to attach this laser level to any metal surface while the automatic leveling feature ensures that your lines are always straight. The Pendulum Lock feature will make sure that the internal mechanisms of this device do not get damaged during transport. Thanks to its lightweight and compact design, the Firecore Self-Leveling Horizontal/Vertical Cross-Line Laser Level is a perfect choice for indoor home improvement projects, such as replacing a door or hanging a picture.
The main appeal of the Qooltek Multipurpose Laser Level is that it’s three devices in one. In addition to a laser level, the Qooltek Multipurpose Laser Level is also a leveling bubble and a tape measure. This laser level has three different modes of operation for its laser, including displaying both horizontal and vertical lines. Whatever indoor job you need to complete, the Qooltek Multipurpose Laser Level is up to the task.
The Black & Decker BDL170 BullsEye Auto-Leveling Laser provides simultaneous horizontal and vertical lasers, which is perfect for installing doors or windows. The included wall mount lets you attach this laser level to any surface, including wood. The backlight on the Black & Decker BDL170 BullsEye Auto-Leveling Laser allows you to view this device in even pitch-black conditions. The rubber molding on the instrument ensures that even if you accidentally drop it, both the internal and external parts of the Black & Decker BDL170 BullsEye Auto-Leveling Laser will still look good as new and function perfectly.
The DEWALT DW088K Self-Leveling Cross Line Laser offers two laser level modes: a continuous beam and a dot. The over-molded housing helps shield this laser level from both water and debris, which makes it the perfect laser level for outdoor use. The DEWALT DW088K Self-Leveling Cross Line Laser is accurate within 1/8 of an inch with a range of up to 165 feet. In addition to the laser level itself, you’ll also get a box that you can use for storage and transport.
The Black & Decker BDL220S Laser Level is one of the smallest laser levels on this list; however, what it lacks in size, it makes up for in features. In addition to the laser itself, the Black & Decker BDL220S Laser Level also includes two backlit bubble vials to ensure that your projects are completely level. This laser level can also rotate 360 degrees and attach to nearly any surface. Unlike other laser levels that use specialized batteries, the Black & Decker BDL220S Laser Level uses two common AA batteries.
The Bosch GLL 30 Self-Leveling Cross Line Laser includes both automatic and manual leveling modes so that users can select the mode that works best for them. This device also displays both horizontal and vertical lines at the same time. The Bosch GLL 30 Self-Leveling Cross Line Laser prides itself on offering a very bright laser that users can see in even the darkest conditions.
The Black & Decker BDL190S BullsEye Auto-Leveling Interior Line Laser is both a laser level and a stud sensor in one device. In addition to detecting studs, this device can also detect live wires. The auto-leveling technology combined with the crystal-clear LCD makes the Black & Decker BDL190S BullsEye Auto-Leveling Interior Line Laser a perfect laser level for novices.
The Johnson-Level-Tool-99-006K-Self-Leveling Rotary Laser System is the perfect rotary laser level for your outdoor projects. The laser on the Johnson-Level-Tool-99-006K-Self-Leveling Rotary Laser System rotates at three different speeds: 200, 400 and 600 RPM. It features an auto-leveling mechanism on the horizontal plane and a manual leveling mechanism for the vertical plane. The Johnson-Level-Tool-99-006K-Self-Leveling Rotary Laser System also has both visual and audio alarms when you are beyond the leveling range.
The Johnson Level & Tool 40-0922 Rotary Laser proves that you don’t need to pay a large price to get a high-quality rotary laser. This Johnson Level & Tool 40-0922 Rotary Laser features multiple speeds up to 600 RPM along with illuminated vials that make the device easy to read in all lighting conditions. The Johnson Level & Tool 40-0922 Rotary Laser is so small that it can fit in the palm of your hand, making this rotary laser an excellent choice for indoor use.
What You Need to Look for When Buying a Laser Level
When it comes to choosing a laser level, there is an array of factors that you should consider. While the style of laser level is the most important, you’ll want to pay close attention to other features such as accuracy, the battery life, the durability and the IP rating. A poor laser level will put your entire project at risk, and when that project is building your dream home, you’ll want to get it right the first time. Before buying any laser level, look over the following 11 features to ensure you’re buying the right one for your needs.
Accuracy is probably the most important thing to look for in a laser level. After all, if your laser level isn’t accurate, it defeats the purpose of using one in the first place. Look for a laser level that is accurate within one inch or less if you want the best possible results.
Second to accuracy is visibility; a laser level you can’t see won’t help you keep things level. There are two primary laser colors used by laser levels: red and green. Red is the most common color and good for smaller projects, such as hanging up a cabinet or door. For larger projects, a green light gives the beam greater visibility over long distances.
How much battery life you need for your laser level comes down to how you’re using the laser level itself. If you’re just using a laser level for small indoor projects, a laser level that uses a non-removable rechargeable battery pack is ideal. Since you won’t use the laser level for extended periods of time, it’s easy to charge it when it’s not in use. For a project that will involve using the laser level for extended amounts of time, look for a laser level that you can plug into an AC adapter.
If you’re working in a location that doesn’t have easy access to electricity, opt for a model with rechargeable battery packs. The rechargeable battery pack allows you to switch the battery on the fly and charge additional batteries while one is in use.
The Range of the Beam
Like the battery life, how long of a laser light beam you need comes down to how you’ll be using your laser level. For simple indoor projects, a laser beam length of up to a few feet is ideal. For larger projects that take place outdoors, you’ll want to get a laser level that covers as much ground as possible, such as 100 feet or more.
The Rotation Speed
The rotation speed is a statistic you’ll only find on a rotary laser level. When it comes to rotation speeds, the more your laser level has, the better it will function. Having an array of rotation speeds will ensure that you’ll always have the necessary speed for any job. Even if you’re unsure you’ll ever use the additional speeds on a rotary laser level, it’s a good idea to purchase a laser level with multiple speeds just in case a future project may call for them.
The IP Rating
The IP, or Ingress Protection, rating is a numerical value that shows you the strength of the laser on your laser level. The higher the number, the more powerful the beam. A high IP rating ensures that your laser can cut through dust, debris and water with no issues. A low IP rating will mean that your beam will be difficult to see in areas that have a high concentration of dust, such as a worksite. Always purchase a laser level with as high of an IP rating as possible.
The Leveling Speed
You can classify most laser levels into two different types of categories: manual and automatic. A manual laser level requires you to manually adjust the laser level throughout the course of your project. An automatic laser level will self-level itself throughout the duration of the project. If you’re on a tight deadline, an automatic laser level will shave off a significant amount of time on your project. If you want the best of both worlds, opt for a laser level that has a manual/automatic toggle.
While it’s always important to purchase tools that can last for many years, it’s even more important when choosing a laser level due to how crucial the tool is for a project. This durability is of particular importance if you’re working outdoors. Look for a laser level that can withstand both internal and external damage from dust, debris, accidental drops and general wear and tear.
Ease of Installation and Use
While most laser levels are easy for even a novice builder to use, some rotary laser levels and other high-end models include an instruction manual the size of a phone book. If you’re a laser level novice, purchase a device that offers ease of use over a variety of features, at least for your first device. As you become accustomed to the basics of using a laser level, then you can start looking at devices which pack in a ton of features.
The one thing that most consumers worry about when it comes to high-end laser levels is the safety of the laser itself. You can rest assured that these lasers are safe for general use as each laser level undergoes rigorous safety tests to ensure the laser will not harm people. However, manufacturers still recommend that you do not stand in the path of any high-end laser level.
Cost / Affordability
The first thing you’ll notice when looking at laser levels is the range of prices. A laser level can start at $20 and cost as much as $300. While many consumers think a more expensive product means a better one, this isn’t the case with laser levels. The price directly correlates to the number of features a particular laser level offers. If you’re just looking for a simple tool to help you hang pictures, then you won’t need a high-end model designed for professionals. Many DIY enthusiasts only need a simple, inexpensive laser level that just offers the basic features.
Reason Why People Buy the Wrong Laser Levels
The primary reason why consumers buy the wrong laser level is due to buying features they do not need. Many consumers believe that a higher price equals better quality, which will cause them to purchase the most expensive laser level they can find. This line of thinking can also lead to consumers buying the wrong type of laser level. If you just need a simple line level laser to install a door, it doesn’t make much sense to buy a rotary laser.
Many consumers also do not think about their specific needs before purchasing a laser level. For example, many consumers overestimate how easy it is to use a laser level and opt for a manual version over an automatic one, which can lead to wasted time as they struggle to adjust the laser. Consumers will also not consider the strength and color of the laser beam, which will end in them buying a laser level with lasers they can’t see on the job site.
As long as you carefully consider your needs and how each feature in a laser level directly impacts the task at hand, you’ll end up buying the right laser level for you. Whether you choose one of the nine laser levels presented in this guide or opt for a different model entirely, the information in this guide will help you make an informed decision.