Building level

The building level is a tool that detects the slope of surfaces. Suitable for indoor and outdoor use.

How they work

The algorithm of operation of any of them is reduced to the choice of the installation point and the place for measuring the level. The remaining options depend on the particular type of tool and can be combined.

The building level helps:

  1. Determine the verticality or horizontality of a given surface – in order to establish a further scope of work and its necessity.
  2. To find out in which direction the tilt occurred, in some models its exact size is also available.
  3. Set clear guidelines when marking surfaces – before installing frames or furniture.
  4. Calculate the volume of materials – for this, the arithmetic mean of the levels of different points on the same surface is used.
  5. Determine a single level in different rooms – often required when installing ceilings or windows.

In low-rise construction or apartment renovation, manual tool variations are more often used. These are devices without complex electronics that do not require special skills. Professionals use several types at the same time.

Types and functions of building levels

hydraulic levels

The functioning of this type of instrument is based on the law of physics about communicating vessels. Structurally, hydraulic levels are two flasks connected by a transparent tube.


  • This is an accurate view of the levels, but it is important to keep the hose free of kinks and have good eyesight.
  • Suitable for checking slopes simultaneously in different rooms.
  • As a rule, they require pair work.

To bring the device into working condition, it is enough to fill it with water so that the upper meniscus of the liquid reaches the middle of both flasks, and no air bubbles remain in the tube.

Bubble building levels

Regardless of the size and design features, the principle of the device is the same. At least two flasks are built into the body of the level, where small air bubbles “float” in the liquid. Focusing on them, they check if there is a slope of the planes.


  • The liquid in most cases will be industrial alcohol. Allows you to measure with an accuracy of 1 mm / m – this is the industry standard.
  • “Air” bubbles of solid acrylic suggest greater precision. Accuracy 0.5 mm/m.

Some models of bubble levels are equipped with flasks on a rotating base. This allows you to work with inclined planes. Profile shapes are in the form of a box, a trapezoid and with one measuring plane cast Shark (shark). Part of the tool is equipped with end elements that prevent breakage during falls.

Laser building levels

The convenience of this equipment lies in the non-contact use and in a large area of ​​marking coverage.


  • The pendulum of devices is leveled after unlocking. It is desirable to set the base plane horizontally.
  • Manufacturers offer an additional mounting tripod, but its dimensions are not enough for marking at a height. In this case, a bar is used, which is fixed between the floor and another horizontal surface. The platform on which the tool is installed moves along it.
  • In bright light, the laser beam is not visible to the naked eye. To resolve the issue, glasses with glasses in the red color range are used.

Part of the laser levels produces static vertical and horizontal lines in a limited sector. An alternative option using a dot running in a circle allows marking from all sides simultaneously.

Magnetic building levels

Magnetic levels are visually indistinguishable from bubble levels. The difference is noticeable only on the lower ends. This option is equipped with magnets for easy work with metal surfaces.


  • Bar magnets are more commonly used in polymer levels, in combination with a V-groove for ease of use on pipelines.
  • Ceramic magnets or ferrites have been the industry standard in levels up until recent years.
  • Rare earth – most aluminum models now come with this type of magnet. They are up to 10 times stronger than ceramic.

This type of level is more often used for work related to the installation of frames for drywall, as it is conveniently attached to ceiling and rack profiles, leaving hands free.

Optical building levels

An optical level or level is used in industrial facilities or in the construction of houses. The kit includes a special tripod, without which the use of the instrument is unproductive. Installation comes down to mounting, focusing and centering.


  • Centering is needed for point-to-point measurements. It is carried out using a construction plumb line attached to the bottom of the tripod.
  • Focusing – the telescope is aimed at the rail, with the help of an adjusting screw, clarity is adjusted. The eyepiece ring defines the reticle.

After adjustment, the height marks are taken. The collected data are summarized, their arithmetic mean is calculated. It will be the mark of the base from the horizon of the instrument.


Each type has its own set of advantages:

  • hydraulic levels. They support measurements in different rooms, when the initial level is hidden by partitions or heavy structures. This functionality is not available in other models.
  • Bubble. Easy to install and use, light weight and dimensions. Possibility of use for measuring the level and at the same time checking the plane of the wall or floor.
  • Magnetic. Do not require additional fixation when working with metal. They have a full set of advantages of bubble models.
  • Laser. Supports simultaneous vertical and horizontal measurements. The coverage range is higher than any of the manual models. Automation of routine processes.
  • Optical. Applicability in open spaces, in the construction of roads and large facilities. Functionality, saving time and labor costs. When measuring at a distance, the accuracy does not decrease.


Disadvantages and inconveniences also depend on the type of tool:

  • Hydro. Mobscure and difficult to use. The routine processes of filling, draining, unwinding and forcing out bubbles are time consuming. Not suitable for vertical planes.
  • Bubble. Often goes astray, adjustment is often not available. Not suitable for work over long distances and areas. In adjacent rooms, the correct level cannot be determined.
  • Magnetic. The same disadvantages as the bubble. Magnets often protrude from the plane of the rib – when measuring, fresh paint or putty can be damaged. Some models are less stable than bubble ones. Frequent failure of magnets is also a disadvantage.
  • laser. Requires a flat surface. The pendulum during transportation often fails. With distance, the diameter of the beam increases, which affects the accuracy. Plane measurements can only be made using optional accessories.
  • Optic. Adjustment is time consuming and requires skill. For domestic purposes, the functionality is redundant – neither the time costs nor the costs are justified.

How to choose a building level

For most types of levels, accuracy will be the defining indicator, so checking its correctness is important.

bubble and magnetic

The same design also implies uniform methods for assessing the correctness of indications.

To check a horizontal flask, you need:

  1. Place the tool on a flat surface.
  2. Make two marks: at the end of the level and along – near the horizontal ampoule.
  3. Note the position of the air bubble.
  4. Turn the spirit level 180° and set in the same place according to the previously made marks.
  5. Check the position of the air bubble. Any difference in its position before and after the level flip indicates that the instrument is inaccurate.
  6. Repeat the test even if the readings match.

To check a vertical flask, set the level on a door frame or a flat wall, further steps are similar to horizontal measurements.


In this type of measuring instruments there are no structural details responsible for the accuracy of measurements, but there are nuances that should be considered when choosing:

  • Hose length – you should not choose it in reserve, because the expulsion of air bubbles and straightening of the tubes can turn this advantage into a problem.
  • Pay attention to the tightness of the protective caps. Water should not pour out – this will interfere with work.
  • It is worth checking the integrity of the tube and the connections with the flasks.

An additional parameter is the flexibility of the hose, but it is difficult to evaluate it without having experience with this type of level.


The choice of a laser level involves reconciliation of a number of indicators:

  • Measurement error – should not exceed 3 mm per 10 meters.
  • Self Alignment – Test multiple models. The preferred option is the pendulum of which levels out faster than in analogues.
  • Range – marked as a radius or diameter. To avoid confusion, specify what type of distance is indicated. The laser is responsible for the same parameter. The 532nM green beam is suitable for most measurements.

In addition, the integrity of the instrument and the absence of mechanical damage are checked.


You need to choose a level taking into account the tasks ahead and the features of future use. They are divided into three classes: high-precision, basic and technical.


  • An air damper is suitable for outdoor applications, while vibration mode requires the use of a magnetic version.
  • To perform tasks in a limited space, the defining parameter should be the smallest sighting distance. For large objects, models with the maximum magnification range of the telescope are preferred.
  • Class I or II leveling at construction sites is usually not required, but it should be borne in mind that only high-precision instruments are capable of performing it.
  • It is easier to prepare a tool with a compensator for work due to the self-alignment of the sighting axis.

Which is better

The answers to these questions will help you choose the best type of tool for your current tasks.

What basic functions should the level perform?

  • The functionality of the bubble level will cover all the problems of household tiling, but it is impossible for them to correctly measure the level of ceilings in different rooms.
  • Laser – will save hours of work on marking walls for frames and wallpaper, but is not suitable for determining the correct level of the planes.
  • Optical – will support accurate calculations for laying tracks, leveling surfaces, but it will not work to hang shelves inside a kitchen cabinet.
  • Hydro – will help to perform a single marking of ceilings, but it is useless for mounting wall frames.

Where will it be used? Indoors, outdoors, or both?

  • Most of the electronic models are not designed to work outdoors or in aggressive environments (rain, snow).
  • Please note that in addition to the laser level, you will need an outdoor detector, as the beams will not be visible in daylight.

What is the required measurement accuracy?

Industrial lasers and levels have mechanical or digital counters, there is support for recording the angle of inclination in 0.01% increments. For less accurate measurements, basic models of hand tools are selected.

Are additional features needed?

A professional-grade tool, accessories necessary for comfortable work. But the functionality of household and industrial models may not have significant differences.

How to use the building level

Features of use depend on the type of tool. There are no single operating methods.

How to use the hydraulic level

  1. Carefully unroll the tubes and fill the instrument with clean, running water through one of the flasks while holding the other one above. Try to fill without stopping so that there are no extra air gaps.
  2. Check the correct filling – the tubes should be evenly convex. Drive the rest of the air bubbles with light clicks to the flasks until completely out. If done correctly, the risks will rise to the same height when measured. This can be checked by placing the flasks close to each other.
  3. Lock the lids.
  4. The next step is to work together. One person holds the flask, and the second goes with a hose to a place or room, the level of which needs to be compared with the current one.
  5. When both are in place, the caps are removed from the flasks. It is important to do everything at the same time and at approximately the same height – otherwise there will be overflows.
  6. One person holds the flask against a pre-made mark, making sure that the center of the meniscus of the water corresponds to it.
  7. The partner carefully raises or lowers the flask, thereby adjusting the level of filling with water.
  8. When everything is leveled, a level mark is made by the second participant.

Precautions: avoid kinks and mechanical damage to the hose.

How to use the bubble and magnetic level

  • Place the instrument on the surface of the object whose horizontality is to be checked.
  • If the air bubble is to the right of the line, the object is tilted down to the left.
  • If the bubble is to the left of the line, the object is tilted down to the right.

The vertical level is found by analogy.

Maintenance and care consist in the timely cleaning of the instrument, especially after measurements on wet plaster surfaces.

Precautions are limited to protecting the instrument from bumps and falls.

How to use the laser level

  • Place the instrument on a tripod or a flat surface.
  • If the model is manual, make sure the bubbles indicate the level. Otherwise, find the screws on the side and adjust them to the required correctness. Self-Leveling – Allow the instrument to self-level after installation, typically 30 seconds.
  • Turn on the device. The device will emit a beam that reflects on surfaces. Depending on the type of laser level, it can be a dot, a line, or several horizontal or vertical intersections.

If the device has not been used for a long time or has been dropped, calibration will be required. Mounting on a rail or tripod is carried out using a clamp or clamps from the kit.

Precautionary measures:

  • do not look at the beam itself, do not direct it at children or animals;
  • do not use the tool in the rain;
  • do not carry with an unlocked pendulum – many models warn about this with a beep or laser blinking.

How to use the optical level

Before use, check the stability of the tripod. Tighten the mount with the tool. Make sure the foot screws are not too tight on the footing.


  • Hold the adjusting screws between your thumb and forefinger and turn them simultaneously in opposite directions. Observe the movement in the graduated flask.
  • The air bubble should be centered on the circular level window.
  • Centering on a point is carried out by a plumb line mounted on a tripod screw. Then the level is shifted along the head.
  • Centering is complete when the plumb bob is above the target point.


  • Aim the telescope at a sheet of paper or other light object.
  • Tighten the eyepiece until the desired sharpness appears – the sight should be clear.
  • With the tube pointed at the supplied rail, adjust the focus with the knob.
  • When properly adjusted, the scale of the leveling staff and the crosshair of the sight do not move one after the other.
  • After focusing, hold the level on a specific target.

Use the focus knob to add sharpness.

Precautions are the same as for laser models, but additional care must be taken when handling the lens.


Standard warranty obligations exclude cases of mechanical damage.

Bubble, magnetic and hydro – related to hand tools. They rarely have warranties longer than 12 months. Most manufacturers do not provide detailed conditions for these types of tools.

Laser – depending on the manufacturer and the category of the tool (household or professional), a guarantee is provided from 1 to 3 years.

Optical – standard warranty period of one year. But the narrowness of the niche forces manufacturers to go to tricks. Some give a guarantee on the tool up to 25 years.

The warranty period can be counted from the date of purchase or shipment. In the second case, it is appropriate to clarify how much time the tool spent in the warehouse.

Faults and repairs

Different parts turn out to be weak links – their set depends on the type of tool.

Bubble and magnetic

The main problem is related to the loss of measurement accuracy.

  1. Broken flask with bubble – the readings will no longer be accurate, the error can reach several cm per meter. In budget models, bulb adjustment is not provided – the tool is unsuitable for work with this malfunction. In other cases, tightening the screw fasteners or fixing clips will return the level to the correctness of the readings. During setup, calibration is performed in the same way as when selecting a tool.
  2. Bent profile – this happens with bumps and falls. The tool cannot be repaired, it will no longer give accurate readings.
  3. Crack in the protective glass of the flask – in models of a collapsible type, the part changes to an analogue. Solid cast levels in this case cannot be repaired.

Minor problems: breakage of protective pads and handles, falling off of magnets are corrected by replacing the obsolete part with a new one.

hydraulic levels

Malfunctions of hydraulic levels are reduced to three types:

  1. Broken or cracked hose. Occurs as a result of mechanical damage or freezing of an instrument filled with water. As a temporary measure, you can seal it with a layer of nail polish and wrap it with electrical tape. Complete repair and replacement of the hose is often unprofitable – the costs are comparable to the acquisition of a new hydraulic level.
  2. Cracks in flasks – temporary measures are similar to those presented in the previous paragraph, but instead of electrical tape there should be a transparent material in order to see the rizki. Replacement may not be required in mild cases. In serious cases, it is necessary to change, as the defect will affect the accuracy of the instrument.
  3. Breakage or loss of protective caps is the simplest case. They can be replaced with plastic soda caps.


Correction is often impossible to perform independently due to the need for a special tool.

  1. pendulum shift – the tool does not work correctly, with deviations in horizontal and vertical measurements. This happens after the device falls or is carried with an unlocked pendulum. Restoration will require an offset adjustment. Such damage is not covered by the warranty.
  2. Beam does not burn – the malfunction is caused by a broken wiring or incorrect operation of the batteries. In the first case, you will need to remove the cover of the device and replace the flexible wiring going to the pendulum. In the second case, unclenching and stripping contacts or changing batteries is more often enough. Both options are self-repairable.
  3. Instability of readings – as a rule, it will be necessary to change the suspension bearing. The case is rare, but guaranteed in the absence of mechanical damage.
  4. Buttons don’t work – there are several options for breakdown, of which only clogging of contacts can be repaired by yourself. The keyboard may not work as a result of frequent use in dusty environments. Clogged contacts will need to be cleaned mechanically. The procedure can be performed at home.

In difficult cases, the keyboard will need to be replaced. When the coating is membrane, it will not be possible to repair the device without special skills.


Problems of optical levels are solved systematically or by replacing parts. Repair with improvised tools is often not applicable.

  • Sticking compensator — To solve the problem, the standard calibration procedure is performed several times. In case of gross errors, service maintenance of the tool will be required.
  • Cracked lens or mirror. Purchase of a similar part is required. The optical lens can be replaced by yourself.
  • Adjustment is broken – you need to calibrate the device. The screw fastener is loosened, the plate with the grid is aligned. To do this, the horizontal thread is placed perpendicular to the axis of rotation of the tool, and the vertical thread is set along the plumb line.

Problems in the operation of electronics, serious mechanical damage, site repair or torsion bars will require the intervention of specialists.


Manufacturers are presented in different price categories. The correlation between prices and quality is often insignificant.

AD is a manufacturer of diagnostic and measuring equipment. The company is multinational. Digital and shockproof level types, professional tool. Warranties are not specified. Website:

Bosch is a German manufacturer of equipment. Rotary, linear and point laser levels, digital levels. The tool is available in professional (blue) and home (green) formats. Standard warranty. Valid for 12 months from the date of purchase. In addition, there is a long-term promotion under which warranty cases with mechanical confirmation of the tool are recognized. Website:

FIT — budgetary manufacturer of power tools. Torpedo and laser levels are available in the minimum configuration. The tool is certified, a network of service centers. Warranty terms not announced. Website:

Kapro is an international manufacturer from Israel specializing in measuring instruments. Digital, magnetic, aluminum levels with an ergonomic design, comply with Russian standards, are certified. The warranty period is 12 months. Website:

KRAFTOOL is a manufacturer of professional hand tools. Magnetic, digital, foldout and box models available. Warranty and certification not announced. Website:

Stabila is a manufacturer from Germany. The company specializes in measuring instrument. The range includes 120 construction, including telescopic and special models. No warranty provided. Website:

Stanley – hand and power tools, including measuring ones. Average price category. Certification provided. Plain and magnetic models are available. Warranty not stated. Website:

Zubr – a budget manufacturer of household and professional tools, but measuring instruments are presented in the middle price category. Basic and enhanced models. Warranty not stated. Website:

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