If you are serious about your construction business, or you are an avid do-it-yourselfer, then a laser level is a must for your tool kit.
Though your decision on which laser level to buy depends on what you intend to use it for, my suggestion is, if you have the means for it, buy at least a line laser. These are much more flexible because you can use them for more applications than dot lasers.
Below is the comparison table for best line laser levels on the market to help you make choices. If you are looking for a rotary laser level, read through my rotary laser level reviews to find the right rotary laser level that best suits your need.
Top 5 Laser Levels On The Market
|PLS 180||Dewalt |
1/8-in @ 30ft
1/8-in @ 30ft
1/8-in @ 30ft
1/8-in @ 30ft
1/4-in @ 100ft
+/- 4 degrees
+/- 5 degrees
+/- 6 degrees
+/- 4 degrees
+/- 4 degrees
Just like its predecessor, the Dewalt DW089K is compact, functional and reliable. Its main difference is that it now has a third beam which aid in 90-degree layouts. With its third plumb line, you can now perform layout applications without needing a second laser! But that isn’t the only thing that changed.
Here why I placed DEWALT DW089K Self-Leveling 3-Beam Line Laser the first position in my laser level reviews list:
- The DW089K has 3 beam line laser to aid in 90-degree
- Every beam comes with its own button so you can turn them on and off individually
- It has a micro-knob to adjust the beams so you don’t need to move the entire level to hit specific marks
- It now uses a brighter laser diode so it is highly visible even in well-lit work areas
- It has a track clearance of 1-3/4 inches so now you don’t need to raise it over a drywall track
- The device has an IP54 rating which means it is strongly dust and water-resistant
- The storage kit is much sturdier.
Built on a principle of simplicity and functionality, the features of Dewalt DW087K is at the core of every Dewalt laser level. It is sturdy and reliable – everything you need from a mid-range laser level.
Some of the most important features of the DEWALT DW087K Horizontal and Vertical Self-Leveling Line Laser are:
- Rated accuracy of +/- 1/8” at 30 feet
- Self leveling up to 5 degrees
- Has two laser beams (vertical and horizontal) which can be used for checking straightness and squareness
- Uses Class 2 laser diodes which are visible up to 50 feet
- Equipped with out-of-level sensor
- One-button operation, with an easy to use control panel
- Compact, weighs only 3.5 lbs. and measures 9.3″x9″x5″.
- Uses 3 AA batteries
- Has an over-moulded housing for greater durability
- Equipped with a variety of mounting options
- Comes with a sturdy kit with various compartments
Weighing only 2.4 pounds, the PLS180 is a tool of its own class. It is a plumb, level, and square laser line tool, much like the Dewalt laser level, which comes with its own laser detector so it can be easily used in brightly-lit job sites or even outdoors.
This laser level utilizes the patented PLS pendulum design allowing the lasers to settle down instantly when they are moved to a new location. This means you can continue working without needing to shut down the laser level, and still be assured of accurate results. Moreover, no more jumping laser points in job sites with huge vibrating machines!
Other important features of the PLS Laser PLS-60521 PLS180 Laser Level Tool include:
- Self leveling range of up to 6 degrees
- Accuracy of + 1/8 in. at 30 feet
- Operates on 3 AA batteries for over 30 hours (much better than the PLS 4 laser)
- Visibility range up to 100 feet (longest in all of my laser level reviews)
- Comes with a magnetic wall bracket, pouch and carrying case.
The DW088K is another great tool from Dewalt. Unlike the DW087K and DW089K, the DW088K projects bright crossing horizontal and vertical lines, just are perfect for when you need right angles.
It comes equipped with all great features as its predecessors: accuracy rating of + 1/8 in. at 30 feet, self leveling at 4 degrees and visibility of up to 50 feet. If installed with a laser detector, it can be used outdoors up to 165 feet. It comes with various mounting options and its own storage kit. The two beams come with their individual switches so you can use either the vertical or horizontal plumb lines, depending on your needs.
The DW088K is compact and lightweight, while at the same time durable and reliable for various job site conditions. This DEWALT DW088K Self-Leveling Cross Line Laser laser level is best for:
- Layout and installation of electrical and plumbing systems.
- Accurate installation of cabinets and other wall fixtures.
- Fitting of tiles on floors and walls.
- Easier installation of drop ceilings and partition walls.
The Bosch GLL3-80 is a cross between a cross line laser and a rotary laser in that it projects two cross lines, but these cross lines are located 90 degrees away from each other. In this way, the GLL3-80 can provide the construction professional with a 360 degree lines, just like a rotary laser, minus the rotating motors.
This three-plane laser level can be used in a number of applications – from wall and floor covering, cabinetry, finish carpentry, to interior decorating. Despite its wide functionality, the Bosch GLL3-80 is easy to use. Its keypad is highly readable and has various indicators so the user can immediately see its current setting and status.
Perhaps the best thing about the GLL3-80 is that it comes with a positioning device equipped with its own micro-adjustment for height (so you don’t have to keep moving it for the lines to hit specific points) and laser detector (for outdoor use).
See also: Best rotary laser level reviews 2016
Why Laser Level?
Have you ever tried to create a home gallery on your own? You simply have to decide on a layout, hammer in those nails, hang your frames pictures. How difficult can it be, right?
Unfortunately, many who did try to make a gallery by themselves discovered otherwise. Picture this: You’re standing on a ladder with a level on one hand and a hammer and nail on the other. You want to hang a series of photographs and you want to hang them in a straight line. Problem is, it is physically impossible for you to hold a level and hammer in a bunch of nails.
So you borrow an electric hammer from the neighbors to help you with your task, but you soon realize that you still need both hands to hold it up. What do you do now? You can either hammer a nylon thread on both sides of the wall (which means adding unnecessary holes on the wall) to guide your alignment, or you can ask another person to help you.
If only your level could attach itself on the wall without needing a nail to hold it up, then hanging up those photos would’ve been so simple.
Well guess what? If you have even a cheap laser level in your toolbox, then you can do this task and more!
Laser levels are pretty much a standard in the construction and civil engineering industries these days. You can use them to make cabinets, check for alignment of windows, doors, skylights and dormers, as well as for concrete and asphalt work. If experts are now using these tools, why shouldn’t you?
If you are new to laser levels, then worry not. My laser level reviews will cover the basics: it will teach you about the different kinds of laser levels, and how you can find the best laser level for your needs! I will also teach you how you can maximize its use, as well as how you can maintain it.
Different Types of Laser Levels
Before I go technical with laser levels, I want to tell you a bit of history.
Light beam leveling is a pretty modern technology. It was used first in 1996 for cardiac monitoring. Soon, it was discovered by other professionals and was developed into technologies in other fields such as, in this case, construction. Over the years, scientists and engineers have fine tuned the technology and this has resulted to top rated laser levels which are compact, affordable and can be used in many practical applications.
Ever seen a war movie where the victim discovers where the sniper is through the red laser dot on his clothes? Well, laser levels are like this. They shoot out light beams which can be used as your guide for any layout or alignment jobs.
Today, there are at least three kinds you will encounter when you buy laser level. These are categorized based on the way they emit light. Each of these laser levels have own their advantage and disadvantages.
Dot Lasers/ Plumb Lasers
As its name implies, this laser level projects a single or multiple reference dots on the work surface. It works the same way as a water level and a plumb bob, only much more accurate for longer distances. The problem with dot lasers is that they have shorter ranges than the other types of laser levels, and so can be difficult to use for any other purpose than as a reference point. Price ranges vary from $20 to $500. Cheaper models are used exclusively indoors, while the more expensive ones can be used outdoors.
Line lasers project a straight line from one point to the other, over a distance of 64 to 100 feet. Depending on the model of the laser line level, it can project multiple lines, thereby enabling you to check for “straightness”, as well as “squareness”. Line lasers are typically compact and can be mounted on ladders or even a regular camera tripod.
Most line lasers are built for indoor use and can be difficult to see in bright light, but newer models are equipped with better led diodes than can be seen outdoors. Also, some models have a pulsing light technology and can be used with laser detectors for outdoor use. Depending on its features, the best laser level can cost anywhere between $100 and $600.
Rotary Laser Levels
Rotary laser levels project a level line, much like the line laser, and this line rotates around the room in 360 degrees. Aside from the single line generator, there is also the plumb up and plumb down capabilities. Most models are remote-controlled for convenience. The rotary laser level is highly accurate and is ideal for outdoor work such as laying foundations and pipes, or grading roads.
Though the rotary laser is more powerful than a line laser, it is also bulkier and more costly. One unit can cost somewhere between $250 and $2,000. You will need to use a studier base if you want to mount it because it is much bigger than the line laser. Those designed for foundation work can be very large and must be mounted on a platform or a tractor.
What Can You Do With A Laser Level?
Over the years, laser levels have become smaller, easier to use, more accurate and more affordable. Today, it is used not only in large construction projects, but also by do-it-yourselfers who need to perform two- or three-man jobs on their own.
In general, laser levels are used for layout jobs that require high accuracy. Some common applications include the installation of ceiling tiles, sewer pipes, or even as simple as the installation of chair railings.
Here are some indoor applications of laser levels:
- Level floors with a single line laser beam.
- Ensure that your walls are perpendicular and straight using a three-beam line laser.
- Attach it to a ceiling mount to help you install ceiling drops.
- Use two line lasers to check for door or window heights
- Install chair rails and wainscoting in your home
- Use a tripod to install cabinets and trims, even picture frames on your wall.
- Match points on both the floor and ceiling
With a laser detector, or a rotary line laser, you can also use your laser levels outdoors. Here are some of the most popular outdoor applications:
- Ground surveying
- Checking and aligning of posts and beams on decks, porches and fences
- Alignment of masonry
- Setting layout for a new construction site
- Check for site elevation for improve drainage installation
- Can be used for contour farming for better irrigation.
Why Choose Laser Levels instead of Spirit Levels/Bubble Levels?
There is nothing wrong with using spirit or bubble levels, but the truth is that there are construction jobs where they are impossible to use. Take for example the scenario in the introduction. Spirit/bubble levels will help you create the guide line, but you’ll need experience to do it. Also, do you really want to add unnecessary holes in your wall?
Aside from aesthetics, another reason why I don’t recommend spirit and bubble levels for construction is that they are only accurate for the length of the level (around 1 to 4 feet), which means you’ll have to keep checking for leveling up to the other end of your work space. What if your work space was 30 feet in length? For sure, that would take a long time to measure.
Spirit/Bubble levels have vials that are incompletely filled with liquid, in most cases, a colored alcohol. Because the vial is not filled completely, there is a bubble in the tube. If the spirit/bubble level is placed on a truly horizontal or a truly vertical surface, then the bubble stays in the middle of the gauge.
Unfortunately the middle of a gauge for one may be a few millimeters off for another. Also, if you want to work with an incline, it is almost impossible to keep the level at the same inclination, especially if you have to keep moving in the process.
It is precisely in these situations where laser levels are best used. Some of the advantages of laser levels over spirit/bubbles are:
- Laser levels are easy to use. With just a press of a button, you can create a guideline, check for alignment, and even squareness with no hassle. You don’t even need a chalk line if you have a laser level. Talk about convenience!
- Laser levels are highly accurate up to a fraction of a millimeter.
- Laser levels make it easy to work with inclines. First, you can mount them so they can maintain the same position while you complete your work. Second, the settings do not change even when you move it to a different location – unless, of course, you want it to.
7 Things to consider when choosing the best laser level
1. Accuracy and Visibility Range
When you say a laser level is accurate, it means that it is able to determine the leveling of a work surface by a fraction of an inch. A tool that has an accuracy rating of +5/16in. is less accurate than those with + 1/8in. The more accurate the laser level is, the better.
Meanwhile, the visibility range refers to the distance that the laser can be seen with the naked eye. The longer visibility range, the larger work surfaces one can work with. Most Class 2 laser diodes can be seen up to 50 feet indoors. If you are working for small to mid-scale construction sites, then 50 feet should be enough. However, for large scale construction, you will higher visibility tools.
2. Manual Leveling VS Self-Leveling/Automatic Leveling Lasers
Some cheap laser level are manual leveling, which means that the user have to look at a bubble vial to check if the unit is leveled or not. To manually level the unit, he would need to adjust some thumb screws, which are, needless to say, cumbersome for first time users.
Self leveling lasers have an internal pendulum that does the leveling for you. As its name implies, it automatically levels itself up to 5 degrees – even if the surface is not fully horizontal/vertical, as long as the inclination is within 5 degrees, then you can use it as a reference point. If the unit is jarred and it gets out of level by 6 degrees, then an out-of-level indicator typically blinks.
There are advantage and disadvantages to both types. Both types are useful, except that self leveling lasers will save you time and can ensure more accurate results. Meanwhile, most manual leveling lasers are virtually maintenance-free, whereas it can be difficult to discover if a self-leveling laser is not calibrated.
3. Horizontal VS Dual-Beam Lasers
Horizontal lasers emit only laser beam, and are useful for checking floor leveling. It has the capacity to highlight irregularities in the work surface, its applications are limited, but can also be cheaper compared to dual beam lasers.
Meanwhile dual beam lasers emit two beams – one horizontal, and one vertical. Most dual beam laser levels have individual buttons for the two beams so they can be used separately, hence allowing greater flexibility. This type of laser can be used simultaneously as plumb and level reference lines. It is best used for throwing lines onto floors and walls at 90 degrees, hence ensuring the squareness of a surface.
Some dual beam lasers project a cross line instead of individual horizontal and vertical lines. These types of dual beam lasers are perfect for installation of much bigger wall fixtures as well as partitions and drop ceilings.
Rotary lasers are also dual beam lasers in that one beam is a plumb up dot on the ceiling and the other is a horizontal line around the room. This kind of laser level works best if you want to check the leveling of the walls and if you have to install a wainscoting or cabinetry that spans the entire room.
4. Laser Detectors (Laser Receivers)
Laser detectors or laser receivers have two primary purposes: to extend the working range of a laser level, and to enable laser levels to be used outdoor or in bright light conditions. Most detectors emit sounds to help you get on level – a fast tone to move the detector down, a slow tone to move up, a steady tone when you are at level.
The decision to purchase a laser detector depends on the kinds of application you want to use your laser level for. If you don’t intend to your laser level outdoors, then a laser detector may not be a good investment. It is important to note that not all laser levels accept laser detectors, so if you have intention of buying detectors in the future check your laser level’s specifications first.
5. IP Rating
IP stands for “Ingress Protection” and refers to the quality of sealing of a product and its effectiveness at preventing the intrusion of foreign bodies (such as dirt and water) to the product core. The first digit of the IP rating refers to the size of objects that can intrude the product, while the second digit refers to the capacity of product to repel or protect against moisture.
Among the products mentioned above, only the PLS180 Laser Level does not mention about IP rating, all the other 4 had an IP 54 rating. This means that the Dewalt laser level and Bosch laser level are sealed against dust and water spray from all directions.
6. Mounting Threads
Mounting options are important because there are certain applications when we want the laser level to be stable. For example, if we want to keep the beams to a certain height, or a specific position, mounting threads will come in handy.
Most laser levels can be mounted on a standard tripod, while others require a special mounting device. Needless to say, the more standard the mounting threads of a laser level is, the easier it is to mount since you can use a camera tripod for the purpose.
7. The Most Important: What Do You Want To Do With a Laser Level?
As I have pointed out earlier, the most important consideration for choosing the best laser level all depends on what you want to do with it. In this way, the three Dewalt line laser in the laser line level reviews above do not compete with each other. Each one can be used for certain applications, with each newer model capable of more applications as the older ones.
- Single beam lasers: best for checking leveling of walls or floors before tiles or heating vents are installed
- Dual beam lasers (simple horizontal and vertical lasers): can be used to transfer points on the floor to the ceiling, easy installation of lighting, plus the benefits of the single beam lasers
- Dual beam lasers (cross line lasers): best used for layout and installation of electrical and plumbing systems, walls and doors, as well as the fitting of tiles onto walls. It is also useful for when you need to install a long row of wall fittings and cabinetry.
- 3 beam lasers or layout lasers: has all the benefits of horizontal and vertical lasers, plus the third plumb line checks for squareness of walls and floors. It is best for cabinetry and jobs that involve lots of 90 degrees and 45 degrees measurements.
- Rotary lasers/line lasers with laser detectors: these lasers work best for job sites located in well lit areas, as well as those spanning more than 50 feet.
Accessories Come With A Laser Level
Most laser levels can be used out of the box, with just a press of a button. The best laser levels usually have mounting hardware included in the kit. To improve the performance of your laser level, you may to purchase the following:
- Tripods: to keep the tool stable in place.
- Laser detectors: for outdoor use, and to increase range
- Leveling rods and staff: to make device leveling easier
How To Use A Laser Level
Setting Up The Laser Level
- One of the first things you need to do before you use your laser level is to set it up in a flat surface. It is best to use a tripod for this.
- For a manual level, make sure that the bubbles are in the middle (at the “level”). If not, turn the screws near the vial until you get level. Turn on the level and use.
- For a self-leveling laser, you will need a few seconds for it to level itself. Some units emit a blinking light if it is out of level. In this case, you’ll need to adjust the unit itself. Turn on the level and use.
- If there is no wall where the laser beam can reflect on, you can use a laser detector to find the beam. Check the manual to determine how the laser detector will signal “leveling”.
Hanging Pictures With Laser Level
- Determine your desired height for the picture frame.
- Put a small mark on the wall to serve as your reference point for the top most part of the frame.
- Turn on the laser level and align it horizontally with the mark on the wall. Make sure it is level.
- Now, get the picture frame and measure length from the top of the frame to the hanging mechanism.
- Use the distance you get from #4 and measure from laser downwards.
- Make a mark on the wall, depending on how many frames you want to hang from the same location.
- Punch a nail at the mark you have made.
- Place the picture frames and check for alignment at the top using the laser. Set up the laser level on a tripod on stable ground.
Using Laser Level To Install Wall Tiles
In many homes, floor-to-ceiling heights are not always constant inside a room, so using the floor as base for wall tiles may not always be a good idea. You can get your first row of tiles in perfect position by doing the following steps:
- Identify a point on your wall, just a few inches off your wall. Make sure that the distance from the floor to this point is less than the height of a tile.
- Turn on your laser level and align the horizontal line to the point identified in #1.
- Line up the end of a 2-inch-wide straight board with the laser line and screw the board on the wall.
- Rest the first row of your tiles on top of the board. This will make a perfectly level first row.
- Continue putting the tiles up to your desired height on the wall.
- Once all the tiles are securely installed, remove the base board.
- Custom-cut tiles for the bottom row so you can keep consistent grout lines.
Learn more: Best laser square levels for tile installation
Using Laser Levels To Install Ceiling Fixtures.
Floors and ceilings typically have the same measurements, so if you are installing ceiling fixtures it is best to lay them out on the floor first and save yourself from stiff neck.
- Mark the position of your ceiling fixtures on the floor.
- Put the laser on a tripod, and then turn it on.
- Line up the downward pointing beam to the center of the fixture marked on the floor.
- Use the upward pointing beam to mark the location on the floor.
- On the floor, measure the length from the beam to the points where the fixture will be attached.
- Mark the measurements found in #5 on the ceiling.
- Hold up the ceiling fixture and install.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Do Laser Levels Damage The Eyes?
- These levels use Class 2 diodes which can be seen by the naked eye, but its beams are of low power and do not cause eye damage, unless one stares straight into the source of the beam.
- What Is The Difference Between A Green And Red Laser?
- The human eye can see green light better than red, so that green lasers can be seen at longer distances. When used outdoors, particularly in bright light, both green and red laser are difficult to be spotted and would require a laser detector.
- How Often Should My Laser Level Be Calibrated?
- Most self leveling laser levels do not need to be calibrated however, if you want to be sure, you can bring it to an accredited store every six months for check up. This way, you can also catch issues early on, hence preventing device failure.
- Can I Check Calibration Myself?
- Ideally, yes, but only if you understand how levels work. The most basic way of doing this is by projecting the beam or dot on one wall, approximately 5 to 10 meters away. Then, turn the level by 180 degrees, and check if it lines up with the other line. If not, then the laser level is not calibrated and must be returned or brought to the service center.
Laser levels save time, effort and money. They are perfect for jobs that require accuracy and precision. If you are a serious construction professional, laser levels are a perfect investment for the long term because you will use them many times, for many different kinds of projects.
Even if you don’t construct for a living, laser levels have a lot of use. Now you can check the alignment of tables in chairs with just a press of a button, or you can create your very own side table for the weekend!
Truly, laser levels are a must-have for any tool kit. Finally, I hope my laser level reviews will help you in choosing the best laser level.