Tools for Measuring And Leveling

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Whatever project you’re working on, measuring and leveling is likely a part of the process. Tools that can take accurate measurements will save you time, money, and materials. Here's a rundown of the basic gear.

Levels

A level is an important tool in any toolbox. Described as a “device for establishing a horizontal plane,” levels can also find a vertical plane for most projects. There are several different types of levels that can be used during DIY projects.

Spirit or Bubble Level

These are perhaps the most common types of levels, using liquid in the middle pane of the device. The bubble rests in the liquid, and when it is completely center of the grid lines, that indicates that the pane is level.

Laser Levels

More high tech—and also more expensive—than spirit or bubble levels, these sophisticated devices project laser lines on a surface, allowing you to establish a horizontal or vertical pane.

laser level tool projecting a cross onto a plywood wall

Optical Levels

These tools are generally used by builders working on large-scale projects. These work best when a plane needs to be found over a long distance, for instance, across an entire building site.

These typically aren’t used for a home DIY project, but they’re still useful to know about. Optical levels utilize a bubble in a vial, which a lens overlays on the site.

Water Levels

These levels transfer a horizontal or vertical plane from one place to another, although, they can't be used to establish the plane in the first place.

Smartphone Level

Believe it or not, most of us carry levels in our pockets in the form of our smartphones. Most models are equipped with a level app, allowing you to check whether an item is level or not on the fly. This app is handy for small-scale projects like hanging a picture frame.

Measuring Tools

Laser Measuring Tool

Like laser levels, laser measuring tools are highly accurate. They measure the distance between the tool and an object, much like a manual tape measure would, just more high tech. These work quickly and are easy to use. Laser measuring tools work quickly and are easy to use. They're generally reliable up to around 30 meters.

Protractors

Known mostly for their presence in math classes, protractors also have their place in home improvement projects. These simple tools can be used to measure angles.

hand holding a cured protactor measuring device on a white background

Ruler

A run of the mill ruler is a must have for any DIYer. Everyone knows the concept of a ruler, and they’re versatile and simple enough to use for so many home projects. They help measure small items and also ensure straight lines.

Square

Typically used to frame and find angles, square measuring tools are useful in home improvement projects, especially when cutting lumber. They usually either look like a triangle or like two perpendicular rulers in an “L” shape.

Measuring Tape

This highly portable tool is one of the most common measuring tools on the market. For convenience, measuring tapes often come equipped with a lock to keep the tape extended to a certain length while you record it.

Angle Gauge

Angle gauges make it easy to accurately measure angles. They can also help you ensure items are level. These tools are inexpensive, and deliver a good two-in-one value.

Measuring and leveling is certainly not the most exciting part of any DIY project, but doing these things right will make the whole process significantly easier.