How to Use a Level Including the Different Types of Levels and When They Should be use

Getting things degree ( or vertical ) is a critical part of any construction project and for a set of home improvement ones excessively. The flat is one of the most utilitarian and authoritative tools in any toolbox. The drive of this project is to explain which type of level you should use for different types of jobs and how to use a flush efficaciously .

What is a Level?

A range of different types of floor made by Stabila According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica a Level is a :

device for establishing a horizontal plane.

This is a net definition as any ; succinct and correct. Most levels can besides be used to find a erect plane besides, by and large in precisely the lapp manner as finding the horizontal plan. There are many different types of levels that are used in unlike circumstances, of which the emotional state degree is one. We will cover the main types now .

The Different Types of Level Used in Construction and DIY

broadly speaking there are 4 types or groups of level that are normally used in construction projects, although we are only going to focus on the spirit flush in this project it is worth quickly mentioning the other types before we start :

Spirit (or Bubble) Levels

We will explain the unlike types and besides how to use a level in greater detail below.

The house of cards in a spirit level shows when it is horizontal surface – Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Laser Levels

As the mention suggests this is a level that uses a laser to project the level on to the surface that you need to establish the horizontal plane. The more expensive and sophisticate devices will show the upright plane besides, which can be identical helpful. We will not cover these here, as we have an excellent project all about using laser levels that you should read.

Using a Laser level

Optical Levels

These are tools that are by and large used by surveyors and builders on larger construction sites where a grade flat needs to be established over a long distance, such as across the whole construct web site.

Using an Optical Level on a construction site

When using an optical level, the grade plane is actually derived using a bubble in a phial and then using the lens it is transferred to the web site .

Water Levels

This is one of the more simpleton and elegant solutions to transferring levels from one rate to another, however they will not establish a level plane. We explain how to do this and even make your own in our project about urine levels.

How a water level works to find a level

How does a Spirit or Bubble Level Work?

There is a small glass tube or phial containing alcohol with a small bubble sealed inside. The crown of the phial or tube is ever so slightly bowed then that when the flat come on under the phial or level is absolutely horizontal the bubble will come to rest in precisely the middle of the tube or phial. This is normally marked with template lines to make it easier to see.

Bubble levels use a bubble in an alcohol solution to show a level

Circular bubble levels work on the same principles as linear bubble levels

The accuracy of the level is determined by how arch the lead of the phial or methamphetamine tube. The “ flat ” it is the more sensitive it is and therefore more accurate it will be ( in the correct hands ).

A tube phial will be able to show the level in one airplane but will tends to be easier to use and more accurate for hand use. The different planes will all need to be checked individually ; widthways then lengthways and ideally across the aslant excessively to get a completely horizontal open. ( A thwart discipline grade is much used for this – see types of level below ).

Using a Level in 2 planes to get a horizontal surface – the more checks the better!

With a round bubble phial you can get the level in all planes in one go although they can be more fiddly to use without a firm basis and a mechanism for finely adjustments, which is why they are most normally used to level devices that have a tripod stand or exchangeable stand .

How to use a Spirit Level

This is a quick step by mistreat process for how to use a spirit level :

  1. Place the level against the surface where you want to find the level. Ideally this should be smooth and flat so the level can be held securely to it without moving or wobbling
  2. Move the level until the bubble in the vial or tube is exactly in the middle of the guide lines. Depending on the level you are trying to achieve this might mean moving the level itself, say against the wall if you are ensuring that pictures or sockets are at the same level, or moving the object the level in on to get it horizontal, such as a paver for a patio or perhaps a shelf guarantee the burp is centred between the guide lines
  3. Check the bubble again, before marking the level if required Using a Spirit Level to mark a horizontal plane to hang pictures level

Measuring a Perpendicular or Plumb with a Spirit Level

In the lapp way a heart level can be used to measure true vertical surfaces, or what is called plumb in the trade.

Using a spirit level to find a verical level

The same procedure is used however the level needs to have a erect phial which will show the level of the perpendicular.

Measuring a plum with a spirit level

Measuring a Slope with a Spirit Level

On many occasions you want the surface to look level, but to actually be on a little slope. This might be when laying a patio to ensure water runs off, or to have a rebuff slope in your screed. If this is the case quite than ensuring that the burp is in the accurate center of the phial, between the steer lines, the bubble should be slenderly off center. here it helps if you have a phial with multiple guidelines indeed that you can ensure that the bubble is in the lapp place at all paced along your ( slenderly off ) horizontal come on.

once you have established the angle that you need the slope to be used can be transferred using the liveliness level to ensure that you systematically keep to that slope.

The guide rings on a Spirit Level vial to show the angle off the horizontal

TIP: An erstwhile builders trick to getting the right level is to place the base of the intent horizontal surface in with the mighty level, then you can draw on to the top of the phial with a feel write where the house of cards comes to rest. now as you work across the surface you can ensure that the level comes to the same point, so the bubble comes to rest at your felt write tag. Remember to wipe the marks off when you are finished. Some liveliness levels come with a 45o phial or even an adjustable phial. These can be used in the same way to establish the slant whether it is 45o or another angle set in the adjustable phial ; you need to move the spirit level until the burp is in the center of the phial. At this point the grade is at the needed angle.

An adjustable vial in a box level

How to Check the Accuracy of a Spirit Level

When you are looking to create a level, be it horizontally or vertically you need to be confident that the emotional state level that you are using is accurate. The process for checking a level ’ sulfur accuracy is very bare ; effectively you are checking the degree in two directions to see if there is a difference – the size of the remainder is a measuring stick of the inaccuracy, as ideally it should read the lapp in both directions. This process works for all types of spirit levels, but you will need to check each phial or pipe individually. here are the steps for checking the accuracy of your spirit level :

  1. Place the spirit level on a flat surface that is as near to level as you can conveniently find
  2. Mark on the surface the end of the level and the side of the level Mark against the end of the level and at the side
  3. Check the position of the bubble – and remember exactly where it is
  4. Turn the spirit level around by 180o and place it against the marks you made so it is in exactly the same position but just reversed Turn the horizontal surface around
  5. Check the position of the bubble (of the same vial if your level has more than one) – it should be in exactly the same position as when you first checked it relative to the level. Any difference is the degree of inaccuracy with that vial on the spirit level Reposition the intent flush against the marks and check the put of the bubble

You can use this lapp summons for the vials used for measuring vertical surfaces in precisely the same way, only by placing the level against a vertical surface. It is deserving double checking your measurements doubly so that you are sure of the accuracy. As this is a very easy test, we recommend regular checks, surely do it before you make a buy, or if you have dropped or think you might have damaged it. We check our flat before we start a job, particularly if we know it is one where we need to be highly accurate .

Important Features of Spirit Levels

Before we get into the unlike types of levels, there are some authoritative features to look out for and are common to all, as basically the bubble is the part that all these types of level use to do their job. If you are buying a charge these are the features you should look out for :


All levels should have an accuracy allowance which will be published for you to check before buy. It is normally stated as “ + or – 0.Xmm per meter ” so you can ensure you get the accuracy that you require

Bubble Size

The bigger the better when it comes to the bubble as it is easier to see. The return is that the bubble size is determined by properties of the liquid, which will expand and shrink as it get hot and cold which affects the size of the bubble. The house of cards should always remain inside the read lines. The sales spiel will be about the liquids expansion confident and the guarantee bring temperatures. The better these are the more accurate but more expensive the charge will be .

Liquid Colour

Most levels nowadays have the fluid coloured so that it is easier to see the burp. The color will fade from the fluid over clock time and in the sunlight, but how long this takes is a mark of the quality, but of run you have no way to tell this in overture, except by a guarantee – and may be the price !

Reading Lines

These are lines inserted into the pipe or phial or in some cases they are painted. These want to be clear and easy to see without impacting the movement of the bubble .


The phial or metro is actually quite delicate and as such needs to be protected, however the flush will be dropped and have a touch life particularly if on a build site. The ends should be firm rubber or similar to reduce shock and the construction uncompromising, but light weight. Look for shock proof vials and conclusion cap when buying a liveliness level .


Depending on where you will be using your emotional state flush, you need the most full-bodied body that you can get but will not damage the materials you are working with. Builders will use robust aluminum levels, however if working with more delicate materials such as a sour crown you might consider a softer body made of something like fictile. For accuracy, some aluminum levels will have one or more mill come on, which is a preciseness machined surface to ensure that the surface is absolutely flat and horizontal .

Use and Grip

You need to be able to hold the liveliness level in position to get an accurate reading so hand holds are helpful, peculiarly on the longer levels.


This is a feature that some levels will have and it is a groove in the surface of the level which is designed to fit against pipes of conduit so that you can ensure that they are fitted horizontally or perpendicular .


Some levels have magnets within their bodies so that they can be “ stick ” to metal pipes, scaffold poles or other metallic surfaces. This means that they can be used “ hands release ” .

The Common Types of Spirit Level

There are a fortune of different types of spirit levels. To make things even more confusing they besides have unlike names often depending on who or what they are being used for or sometimes how they are constructed. here are the most common types of spirit levels that you are likely to come across :

Carpenters, Builders or Long Levels

  1. i-beam levels: the frame of the level is an “i” shape when looking at its end. They are also called Girder Levels (because they look like a girder in cross section). They have similar uses to a box level but tend to be a slightly less sturdy, cost effective alternative. See our range of Girder levels here. An Girder or I-Beam Level – Browse hera now .
  2. Box beam levels; also known as Box Level or Box Section because the frame is a rectangle, box shape. The best ones are not hollow but encase acrylic (or similar) to make them more robust. They are stronger than I-beam levels, but typically heavier. See more Box Levels here. A Box Section Level – shop here now !

Toolbox Levels

  1. Torpedo levels: These are spirit levels that are ideal for keeping in a toolbox. They are slightly bigger than pocket-sized being 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm) and typically with 3-vials. They are the generally purpose, all-rounder of the level world designed for use in tighter spaces This is a typical torpedo level – See more here .
  2. Scaffold Level: A specialist variation on the torpedo level is the Scaffold Level. As the name implies it is ideal for use when erecting scaffolding, but also used by plumbers and others working with pipes or metal surfaces. They have magnets to “stick” to the pipes. Sometimes called a Boat Level. A scaffold level made by Faithfull Available in our on-line store
  3. Pocket levels; these are small spirit levels as the name suggests, designed for quick use and often come with a belt clip mount and can be put in your pocket. Ideally they should have magnets and a v-groove for use with pipes and metallic surfaces. See our Pocket Levels here.

    The Stanley Magnetic Horizontal / Vertical Pocket Level

Specialist Spirit Levels

  1. Line levels; also called a String Level, these are a single vial with a hook so it can be hung on a string. They are for levelling across long distances, and this was a method that was used before laser levels were invented. Using a taught string tied between two points (so that there is no sag in the line), when the ends of the line are moved so that the bubble is in the middle of the guide lines, then the two ends (and all the line) are at the same level. The Line Level can be hung at either end of the line, whichever is more convenient, so long as the line is tight. They are ideal for getting a level for laying paving stones or for levelling ground A String Level hooked on a Line – Get one here .
  2. Cross check levels; Also known as 2D Levels or Right Angle Levels these are pocket sized levels with two vials at right angles to each other so that you can check the level in two planes at once A 2D or Cross Check Level – Buy one here .
  3. Circular levels; These are sometimes known as surface levels as they are useful for ensuring that a surface is level. They are most commonly found on devices that need to be levelled, such as a tripod for an instrument or camera circular level with 2, 4 and 6 degree markings
  4. Post levels; This is a specialist level that is designed specifically for making sure that posts are plumb in all directions. The wrap around two sides of a post to measure the level in both horizontal planes. Most will have a third vial so that they can be used to ensure that horizontal rails, joists or other timbers, etc will be level. Using a Post Level – buy one here
  5. Angle levels; these are levels that are designed to be used as on angles from the horizontal. They have an adjustable vial so that you can set the desired angle An Angle device or Angle Level – Available from our on-line shop class

Home Made Levels

If you haven ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate got a Spirit Level to hand or fancy making your own it is not actually that difficult. At the simplest you can put a marble or musket ball bearing on a flat surface and it will roll down any gradient ; when it does not roll away the airfoil is level. We describe how to make a Water Level in a distinguish project, and this is a very useful way to transfer levels. ( Don ’ thyroxine concern, you can buy one here if you prefer ). Water constantly finds a level so you know that the surface of standing water will be grade. You can use this fact to find a level using a glass of water. spirit Levels are a vital part of any toolkit but it is important to know how to use them and which type of level you should use. Hopefully this project has given you the confidence to get the right spirit levels for your needs.

All project content written and produced by Mike Edwards, founder of DIY Doctor and industry expert in building technology.

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