The Best Types of Leveling Tools

Reader Contribution by Kayla Matthews
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Photo by Unsplash/Jim Quenzer

Doing home improvement jobs on the homestead means you’ll need the right equipment for the job. A well-stocked toolbox makes you feel accomplished and ready for anything — the best attitude to have for being self-sufficient. One of the most helpful devices you can have is a leveling tool. 

Levels tell you whether a vertical or horizontal surface is straight by using a vial. The vial contains alcohol and a small bubble.

When the level is aligned with the horizontal surface and the bubble is in the middle of the vial, it means the surface is straight. Though bubble levels — also known as spirit — are the most common type, you have plenty of other options. Here are a few of them, including the best brands for your DIY needs.

1.  Automatic Levels

Also known as tilting levels, these devices help you judge a difference in height over long distances. It sits on a tripod-mounted telescope and uses crosshairs to determine a height difference between two objects. People most commonly use this leveling tool for surveying, foundation work and landscaping. 

The Sokkia B40 24x Automatic Level is an excellent option, providing stability against shock, vibration and numerous weather conditions. Its magnetic damping system ensures an accurate reading even if the surrounding environment is unstable. You can purchase it online at Engineer Supply, Amazon or Top Precision.

2. Digital Levels

These are the best leveling tools for you if you like a bit of technology in your workspace. Though most electronic levels still contain a bubble, they’re a step above the kinds that only use vials. They have the added accuracy of digital readings, which can give you correct measurements down to the decimal point.

Pro Tool Reviews recommends  with seven auto-calibrated measuring modes. Jump right into work instead of spending time calibrating your device. Use the hold function to lock your measurements and receive horizontal and vertical readings simultaneously.

3. Laser Levels

Next to digital, laser levels are incredibly accurate. They project red lines across the room to judge how horizontal or vertical an object is. Because these use light instead of a bubble or spirit, it may be hard to see the lines in the daytime.

Break one out during the evening or night, and you’ll get its full use. The Lino L2P5 gives you every function you’d possibly need from a laser level, including self-leveling abilities and an exact 90-degree angle.

Within this category, you could also choose a spot laser or cross line laser. Both lend themselves well to household work, ideal for the homesteader wanting to do projects without huge professional tools. A cross-line device projects a figure of a cross onto the wall to ensure both the vertical and horizontal aspects are level. The spot laser only projects horizontal lines and has more limited abilities.

4. Torpedo Levels

Torpedo levels are tapered at the ends and smaller than the ones you’d find on a construction site. These are ideal for at-home use and DIY projects — they’re small enough to fit comfortably in your toolbox or pocket. Some come with magnets on the back for hands-free use when you’re in a tight spot.

Wirecutter recommends a variety of torpedo levels from Sola as the best leveling tools for DIY use. The Sola PH 22 Flooring Level and Sola PT 25 are currently unavailable, but the MM 5 25 is still up for purchase. It comes with a higher price, but it’s suitable for homesteaders who frequently do DIY projects. It’s sturdy, magnetized and has easy-to-read vials — and you can use it in dim lighting.

5. Post Levels

If you need to measure a deck or post, this is the tool for you. These levels have somewhat of an “L” shape and typically have three bubble vials, two for each wing and one on the spine. Its form enables you to level two planes at once. Most types use a set of magnets to let you attach it to the object you’re working on. They also tend to have a band on the side so you can strap it onto your work station.

The company Johnson Level sells an Orange Post and Pipe level with reflective backing on the vials for clear visibility. You can buy this device online from Home Depot or Walmart.

6. Angle Levels

Measure any angle between zero and 90 degrees with this device. It’s excellent for measuring the slant of drainage pipes, which is convenient if you need to do plumbing work around the house. Most types feature a digital display informing you of how many degrees the object you’re measuring is. They usually have two bubble vials to assist with measuring. 

Try the Pittsburgh 16 Inch Digital Angle Level from Harbor Freight for an accurate display. It has a backlit LCD screen for easy viewing in the later hours, and it can go up to 225 degrees in 0.1 increments. It has a much broader range than the typical 90-degree limit, making it a superior choice for home and construction work.

7. Bull’s Eye Levels

Use one of these with a tripod to gauge horizontal surfaces like counters or tables. You can also use this tool for finding the horizontal plane of a tripod. Bull’s eyes work two-dimensionally, which is fitting for carpenters who often need to measure tabletops and flat objects.

Kevin Kelly from the website Cool Tools recommends the Bullseye Bubble Level from Starrett. This one fits for various applications — like your workbench or washing machine — and it’s wonderfully cheap. Most bull’s eye varieties have simple designs like this one, but they work as efficiently as any other kind. 

Pick the Best Leveling Tools for Your Homestead

Selecting the best leveling tool will have you ready to take on any job without stress or difficulty.

Say goodbye to your days of guesstimating whether an object is straight and get the perfect measurements every time. This tool can take your homesteading to the next level and help you complete projects without a hitch.

Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living, sustainable consumption, eco-friendly practices and green energy. In the past, her work has also been featured on GRIT, Mother Earth Living, Blue And Green Tomorrow, Dwell and Houzz. To read more from Kayla, follow her productivity and lifestyle blog, Productivity Theory, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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