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10 Types of Laser Levels: Getting the Leveling Job Done Right (Updated 2021)

10 Types of Laser Levels: Getting the Leveling Job Done Right (Updated 2021)

Picture this: you’re trying to hang a curtain rod above the window. You have the curtain rod in one hand and a hammer and a nail in the other. Of course, you’d probably want that curtain rod hung in a straight line.

So you then decide to take out your spirit level and realize that you can’t. Your hands are already full—literally.

Maybe you resort to the traditional method of using a pencil, ruler, and spirit level to mark a straight line on the wall. And once you’ve mounted your curtain rod, you can then erase the marking on the wall.

Laser Levels

While that makes sense, there’s a tool that can make the leveling job a lot easier: a laser level. It’s a tool that projects a level beam toward the wall, floor, or other surfaces. Simply put, a laser level allows you to level or plumb hands-free.

Whether you’re a construction professional, framer, or DIY home renovation enthusiast, a laser level is definitely a godsend for tasks that involve leveling. It’s a must-have in your toolbox. But if you’ve ever gone online and searched for the “best laser level,” you may have faced tons of results and various types of laser levels on the market, making choosing one extremely overwhelming.

So we’ve made it easy for you. 

Before you go ahead and buy a laser level online, read on and find out the different types of laser levels.

Types of Laser Levels

It’s worth noting that the first four items on the list encompass the rest of the types of laser levels. To choose the best laser level for the job, it’s helpful to know about manual and self-leveling laser levels as well as red and green laser levels.

northwest instrument laser levels

1. Manual Laser Level

A manual laser level is exactly what it sounds like. You have to manually level this construction laser and line up the bubble inside its built-in vial. To do this, you need to turn its knob or reposition the laser level itself.

Because of their relatively simple construction, manual laser levels offer a cheaper alternative to self-leveling laser levels, making the former a perfect choice for DIY projects. They also require less battery power than a self-leveling unit. And if you know how to set them up properly, they can help you create perfectly straight reference lines.

The problem with this construction laser is that once it gets disturbed or moved, its accuracy and performance may be instantly affected.

Uses of a Manual Laser Level

Economical yet functional enough, manual laser levels are great for DIY framing, cabinetry, and other simple building projects.

Pros of a Manual Laser Level

  • Less expensive than an auto laser level or a self-leveling laser level
  • More energy-saving than a self-leveling laser level
  • Comes with a straightforward technology

Cons of a Manual Laser Level

  • Less accurate than a self-leveling laser level
  • Requires a proper setup to yield accurate results
  • Requires a greater amount of time to set up and level
  • Once it gets accidentally moved, you need to level it again

2. Self-Leveling Laser Level

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If you need to level professionally, there’s no better choice than a self-leveling laser level. This construction laser features a self-leveling mechanism or sensor, often in the form of a pendulum, which maintains the level setup of a construction laser. 

Its self-leveling feature is especially useful when you need to frequently move your laser level around the busy outdoor job site. Even if you were to disturb the unit, you won’t have to worry about resetting and leveling it again—it’ll do the job of leveling itself.

Time-saving, reliable, and accurate, a self-leveling laser level offers convenience and better results. The only drawback is that it tends to be more expensive than a manual laser level.

Uses of a Self-Leveling Laser Level

Self-leveling laser units are known for their accuracy and time-saving capabilities. They work great for professionals who need to level regularly outdoors. Additionally, they’re convenient in meeting the project deadline, reducing the need for rework, and finishing the leveling task quickly.

Pros of a Self-Leveling Laser Level

  • Provides more accurate results than a manual laser level
  • Easy to set up
  • Continues to generate level reference lines even if it gets disturbed
  • Simply turn it on, and it’ll find its level by itself

Cons of a Self-Leveling Laser Level

  • More expensive than a manual laser level
  • More power-hungry than a manual laser level
  • Features may take some getting used to

3. Red Laser Level

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Red laser levels are a common choice for DIY leveling tasks. They produce red beams and are as accurate as green laser levels. They are, however, a cheaper option. Plus, red laser levels require less battery power, and they’re compatible with most laser detectors.

But more and more people are making the switch from red lasers to green laser levels. Because the color green appears brighter to the human eye than red, green laser levels produce beams that are far more visible. Plus, they have longer working ranges than red lasers. 

So if you do opt for a red laser level, keep in mind that it’s better for indoor use and when used outdoors, it requires a compatible laser detector to increase their visibility and range. You can even purchase a red laser level kit with a laser detector at a cheaper price—if not the same price—than a green laser level.

Uses of a Red Laser Level

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Red laser levels can help you do various leveling tasks indoors, some of which are drop ceiling installation, shelving, railing, and cabinet installation. Since they’re compatible with most machine control receivers, red laser levels are great for earthmoving applications. For outdoor leveling tasks, remember to use a laser detector with your red laser level.

Pros of a Red Laser Level

  • Has a longer battery life than a green laser level
  • More economical alternative to green laser levels
  • Compatible with most kinds of laser detectors and machine control receivers

Cons of a Red Laser Level

  • Has a shorter working range
  • Produces less visible beams than a green laser level
  • Underperforms outdoors compared to a green laser level

4. Green Laser Level

As was mentioned before, green laser levels outperform red lasers when it comes to outdoor leveling. When working indoors, red laser levels typically have a working range of 20 to 30 feet, whereas green laser levels can work over a range of 50 to 60 feet.

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If you have the budget, then a green laser level is truly a wise investment. But remember: it doesn’t come cheap. Because a green laser level comes with costly parts such as laser crystals and certain diodes, it typically costs more than a red laser level. It also isn’t compatible with most machine control receivers, so for excavation and other earthmoving tasks, you’re better off with a red laser level.

Of course, you’re getting your money’s worth with a green laser level. While it consumes more battery power than a red laser does, it offers better visibility with its brighter beam, and you can have an easier time finding the reference line outdoors.

Uses of a Green Laser Level

Green laser levels perform well in both indoor and outdoor leveling tasks. Some outdoor tasks that can be far more efficient with green lasers include masonry alignment, fence installation, drainage, grading, and basic surveying.

Pros of a Green Laser Level

  • Has a longer working range
  • Produces more visible beams than a red laser level
  • Outperforms red lasers in indoor and outdoor applications

Cons of a Green Laser Level

  • Drains batteries faster than a red laser
  • More expensive than red lasers
  • Compatible with fewer kinds of laser detectors and machine control receivers

5. Rotary Laser Level 

Rotary Laser Levels

Like an actual plane, the 360-degree spinning laser beam that a rotary laser level produces offers you a highly accurate reference line. It provides highly accurate measurements within 1/16th of an inch at 100 feet or 1/8th of an inch at 100 feet. That makes rotary laser levels a popular choice among professional contractors and home builders alike. 

But how does a rotary laser level work? Also known as a rotating laser level or a spinning laser, it produces a single dot, rather than a line, and spins that dot at over 1,000 rotations per minute. That allows it to project a solid plane-like beam vertically or/and horizontally.

Uses of a Rotary Laser Level

You can use a rotary laser level for virtually all kinds of outdoor or indoor leveling tasks. Because it’s considered to be at the higher end of professional equipment, it’s an efficient tool for leveling in any construction project.

topcon rotary laser levels

More specifically, rotary laser levels work great for establishing grades and reference points, landscaping, leveling floors, and building driveways.

Pros of a Rotary Laser Level

  • Offers the highest level of accuracy
  • Has the longest working range
  • Allows you to work on vertical or horizontal planes of a room

Cons of a Rotary Laser Level

  • Its complex features can be difficult to use at first and are better for professional use than for personal use or DIY projects
  • Can get expensive
  • Its delicate pendulum and diodes require careful handling

6. Dot Laser Level 

dot laser levels

Need to transfer reference points from one surface to another? Then you need to have a dot laser level in hand.

Also known as a point laser level, a dot laser level is the simplest type of laser level. It produces two to five laser beam points in plumb, level, or square modes. 

The most commonly used dot laser levels are the 3-point and 5-point laser levels. 3-point laser levels are great for layouts and generating plumb points. 5-point laser levels can do the same, except that they can also generate 90-degree points for exact square alignment. You can also choose a 3-4-5 dot laser level, which allows you to use three to five laser points at a time.

Uses of a Dot Laser Level

Because dot laser levels help you transfer points between the wall, ceiling, and floor, they are ideal for installing wiring, wall trims, light fixtures and switches, and decks.

Pros of a Dot Laser Level

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  • Produces highly accurate level beams
  • Simple construction makes it space-saving and easy to use for DIY building projects
  • Allows you to plumb and level more than one surface at a time

Cons of a Dot Laser Level

  • Has a delicate pendulum, requiring careful storage and handling
  • Great for only a limited number of leveling tasks

7. Line Laser Level

If there’s one type of laser level that’s often found on job sites, it’s the line laser level. A line laser generates a horizontal or vertical beam at 180 degrees onto a flat surface. 

Some line lasers, also known as cross line laser levels, can produce horizontal and vertical lines simultaneously to create a cross-like beam. Other line laser models can project a line at 360 degrees around the room, similar to what rotary laser levels can do.

cross line laser levels

Uses of a Line Laser Level

Line laser levels are primarily used for indoor projects, such as mounting cabinets, installing chair rails, and other tasks that require leveling and plumbing. Cross line laser levels, meanwhile, allow you to do the same as well as to transfer reference points for floor-to-ceiling alignment.

Pros of a Line Laser Level

  • More efficient than traditional spirit levels
  • Easier to use and more space-saving than other types of laser levels
  • Allows you to lay out reference lines on any surface

Cons of a Line Laser Level

  • Can be more expensive and complex than necessary for basic leveling
  • Also comes with a delicate pendulum that needs careful handling

8. Combination Laser Level

Want the functions of both a dot laser level and a line laser level? Have the best of both worlds with a combination laser level.

This construction laser is much like a cross line laser level, save for the fact that it projects both lines and dots independently or simultaneously in horizontal or/and vertical modes. For professionals who need both kinds of reference beams, a combination laser level is the best choice.

Uses of a Combination Laser Level

Combination laser levels can help plumbers and electricians properly install pipes, light fixtures, outlets, and wires.

Pros of a Combination Laser Level

  • Offers more features and functionality than dot laser levels and line lasers
  • Ideal for various tasks that involve leveling, plumbing, and transferring reference points
  • Lets you work on any surface of a room

Cons of a Combination Laser Level

  • Complex features can take getting used to
  • More expensive than most line and dot laser levels
  • Features a delicate pendulum that requires careful handling

9. Grade Laser Level 

Need perfectly symmetrical and accurate grades or slopes? A grade laser level might just help you get the job done—all without the need for tedious calculations.

Grade Laser Levels

Grade laser levels are available in single slope and dual slope types, and they can collect height and angle measurements and establish grades in a flash.

Uses of a Grade Laser Level

Excavators and other construction professionals can find a grade laser level to be one of the most convenient tools in their kit. This type of laser level can help you measure declining slopes, prepare sites for excavation, build ramps and other inclined structures, and establish differences in elevations.

northwest instrument grade lasers

Pros of a Grade Laser Level

  • Offers specific functions for grading jobs
  • Features long working ranges designed for outdoor tasks
  • Normally comes with an industry-grade enclosure for outdoor use

Cons of a Grade Laser Level

  • Tends to be more expensive than simple laser levels
  • Has complex features that may need professional expertise
  • Also has a pendulum that requires careful handling

10. Pipe Laser Level

Pipe laser levels are just what they sound like—they help professionals do pipe-jacking and microtunneling tasks far more efficiently. Like other types of laser levels, pipe lasers come with leveling and plumbing functions. What makes them different is that they also feature specific grading functions for pipe installation and other similar tasks.

Pipe Laser Levels

Uses of a Pipe Laser Level

Pipe laser levels are the perfect tool for professionals working on tunnels, manholes, mines, sewers, trenches, and pipelines. These laser levels can help with alignment, piping layout, and excavation tasks, among others.

Pros of a Pipe Laser Level

  • Features high leveling and grading accuracy
  • Offers specific functions for jobs that involve pipes and slopes
  • Housed in a waterproof industry-grade enclosure for added protection and durability

Cons of a Pipe Laser Level

  • More expensive than simple types of laser levels
  • Has complex features that require grade and slope know-how
  • Self-leveling models have internal pendulums that need careful handling

Things to Consider

Laser Levels

Once you’ve decided to get one of these laser levels, be sure to complete the ultimate leveling package with essential laser level accessories to make the most of its features. 

Laser detectors or receivers can increase the working ranges of laser levels and detect their beams outdoors. Grade rods or leveling rods can help you determine and measure the excavation depth and level the excavation site. You can also choose a grade rod for laser receivers, which comes with a detector bracket and a sliding tape face for establishing elevations.

For a completely hands-free and accurate operation, get a compatible laser level mount and tripod.

Here on Engineer Warehouse, you can choose from a wide range of laser levels and compatible accessories from the best surveying brands. So explore our laser level collection and buy the best laser level today!

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