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A laser level is pretty easy to use really, although there are some techniques to help you do more than you might think with this tool.
It is important to note that not all lasers are the same, and It can get confusing with so many different types available. It’s important to note that not all do the same job, and because of that, I will list commonly used types and their different usage and purpose for building jobs.
Different Laser Levels Types
First, make sure you have the correct laser level for the type of work you want to be doing. Below are different types of construction lasers, and each type is efficient for doing different types of work and is used in different ways.
5 Point Construction Laser Level
A 5 Point construction laser level has a full level and plumb lines, and 5 dots shooting at a different right angle’s.
A 5 pointer can be used for all internal building set out work. And outside set out work in low light conditions.
3 Point Construction Laser Level
3 pointers are the original first affordable laser levels to come out, although they don’t level very well at all. They are mainly useful only for plumbing corners and installing and plumbing door frames. Laser levels are cheaper now, and it doesn’t make much sense to get a 3 pointer if you are a serious DIY’er or Builder. Remember a 3 point laser can’t transfer heights efficiently. And they can’t set out framing or a building’s layout plan view. They also cannot plumb wall linings because they don’t have a full vertical line.
360 Laser Level (Ground And Ceiling Work)
There are two types of rotary laser levels, rotary laser levels are used for leveling only and not plumbing. They Benefit from being able to shoot a full 180-degree level line, whereas the cross line, and 5 point lasers only shoot a line in a front-facing direction.
However, there are two types of rotary laser levels, one for indoor use and one for outdoor use.
- Small Rotary Laser level – Useful for doing ceiling set outs because they project a full visible 180-degree level line.
- Big Rotary Laser Level – These laser lines can’t be seen instead, they come with an electric sensor unit that you can attach and use on what’s known as a height stick. A big rotary laser level like this is used for outside earth-works and leveling ground, commonly used by digger drivers. Most Builders might have one of these but generally, only 1 per building site as not every builder needs one. Rotary lasers are not an everyday tool and they are very expensive to buy. The benefit for builders is that they let builders level work with only one person, as the alternative equipment a dumpy requires 2 builders to operate.
Cross-Line Laser (Artist and Home Owner)
This type of laser can be a cheaper option for people who don’t need the functionality that a 5 point laser level has that is needed for construction set out work. For example, a homeowner or someone running an art gallery wants to hang art and pictures quickly and perfectly, a cross-line laser can be a cheap and great solution. As a cross-line gives s clear and perfect full level and plumb line inside a room, just position the laser were-ever you want.
When Not To Use A Laser Level
Laser levels are excellent #1 tool to be used 90% of the time, however, if you doing critical building placement and setting out at distance at leveling distances of over 10 meters you cannot use a laser level, instead you need to use a tool like a dumpy level.
A dumpy is not a laser but builders prefer using this over a rotary laser level as it is more accurate and cheaper to get. The disadvantage is that it requires 2 people to operate, and is a tool that is a lot slower to use, for this reason, it’s not always cheaper.
For ground-work, a rotary laser level is better, for transferring exact heights over long distances more than 10 meters for a building’s height a dumpy should be used not a 5 point laser or rotary laser level.
Again not every builder needs a dumpy level, only 1 is needed per site and it should be supplied by the main contractor that takes responsibility for making sure it gets re-calibrated regularly and is shooting perfectly.
Position A Laser Level Correctly
No matter what type of leveling equipment you have it is very important to position it very well. For self-leveling 5 point lasers, 3 point, cross line, rotary, and dumpy levels they all need to be positioned reasonably close to level to perfectly self-level.
Rotary Laser Levels fit on a standard construction tripod, some 5 point laser levels like the Leica lino are also compatible with a construction tripod. These tripods make it pretty easy to set any laser up and to a good working height.
Camera Tripod Compatibility
Most Cross line and 3 and 5 point lasers are compatible with a camera tripod, smaller and lighter weight than a construction tripod makes them better suited for internal work, were as a construction tripod is better for outside work in the mud.
At first, it is scary to let a magnet stop your brand new laser from hitting the floor, but laser levels come with a super-strong magnet. A magnetic base is the best way to mount your 5 point laser level.
The reason a magnetic base is so good is it lets you position your laser exactly at the right height rather than working from an of-set.
As long as there is a steel post near you, a magnetic base lets you move the laser up and down to find the exact perfect height for your laser level line to be shooting quicker than other mounting options.
A magnetic base is only helpful 1/3rd the time because you don’t always have a metal surface in the area to utilize.
Hole In Mounting Base For Hanging
Most lasers provide a hole in the base to simply hang the laser on a nail. First, you mark your height on a bit of timber framing, tack a nail and bend it upwards, and let the laser hang in position. Although it takes a bit to get the tool in the exact position you want. You could instead work from what’s known as an of-set from whatever height the laser level ends up at.
For example, you set the laser level up and you measure from the level line down or up to your level line you want to transfer. This”x” measurement is the of-set measurement, Measure at any point of the laser line with this measurement to transfer the same height from one side if a room to the other side.
Sitting A Laser On The Floor
Mostly you can just set your laser up on the floor. You can get a few blocks of wood if you want to make it a bit higher.
A laser level with a high base that lets you get your pencil in underneath and lets you easily see the plumb dot is a better laser level.
Turing On A Laser Level (Settings)
- Find the on Button – yes you have to turn the laser on
- Release the pendulum – there will be a lever on the side somewhere to release the internal self-leveling mechanism and for the laser to self-level. You need to lock this again before moving the laser this is to protect the inside elements.
- Battery Saving mode – This button Makes the laser flash, to quickly for you to notice but will make the laser a bit dimmer
- Laser Selection – This button lets you scroll through different laser modes to select only the laser points or lines that you need this is to save battery.
- Off button – Generally, you need to hold down the “on” button for 3 seconds for the laser to turn of making sure you have also locked the pendulum in place first.
Types Of Laser Leveling Jobs
Different Types of lasers are good for different types of jobs as discussed above. But let’s narrow down how to do each specific task.
An “off-set” means a reference line that does not necessarily indicate any exact position for a wall or anything, this of-set can then be worked from as a parallel line to exact wall positions.
How To Plumb A Corner
You want to draw an 8-inch “of-set” line on the floor for both walls meeting in a corner. This will give you a perfect point in a wall framing corner to set the laser up your laser plumb dot.
Position the laser with the up and down dot only turned on.
This intersection of both lines is your 8-inch “of-set” it is your reference to what is perfectly plumb.
You then simply measure 8 inch’s with your ruler at the top of the wall frame, you can move the wall back and forth until the “of-set” is exactly 8 inches to match the of-set on the floor. This exact match of-set indicates the correct position of a wall to make a wall corner perfectly plumb and in the correct position.
This can be done with a 5 point and 3 point laser level.
How To Square And Set Out A Building Plan View
The beauty of a 5 point laser level is its ability to be used as a giant square plan view. And set up building grid line’s to work from to position wall frames.
- You can work on an existing wall, or create a new straight line for a new building set out.
- Create an “of-set” line at either end of a building.
- Use a chalk line to ping a mark on this line. A blue chalk line is for a temporary mark. A red chalk line leaves a more permanent mark on concrete or timber.
- You can then set the laser up at any point on this line, by aligning the plumb dot to your chosen position along the red chalk line. You then want to align a laser point at either end of the chalk line the further back you go the more accuracy you have.
- Align the laser dots up with either end of the chalk line as the of-set line. You want to put your square at either end of this line to position the laser.
- After you have it close to being in the right spot you want to fine-tune by using a small level instead of your square.
- Now that you have aligned your laser with this line, the vertical line will be shooting and displaying a perfectly straight line in the opposite direction to your chalk-line.
- Now you have what you can call a grid line. You can use these 2 important reference lines. To position all the walls in a building.
This is the most effective way to “set-out” walls by using a 5 point laser level.
How To Straighten A Wall
A cross-line or a 5 point laser can quickly identify bulges and inverted areas of a wall.
Set up an 8-inch “of-set” at either end of a wall, You want to align the plumb dot up with an “of-set” at one end, and align the vertical line to intersect the 8″ “of-set” at the other end of the wall.
Now you can put your ruler on any point of the wall and read its “off-set” and compare it back to 8 inches reference. You can then pack as needed, and use an electric planer to buzz of any wood until the wall is straight.
How To Transfer Heights
Using the cross line option, available with a cross line laser or most 5 pointers, you can very quickly transfer level heights around a room, quickly and easily.
Position the laser correctly it is up to you if you want to shoot the vertical line exactly on point, or if you want to use an “of-set”.
Sometimes you have to use an “of-set” for example, you want to check an existing floor for level, you pick a point of the floor and set your laser to an 8-inch “of-set”. You then measure at spots you want to check anything more or less than 8″ is the difference in level.
How To Level Wall Linings
- Mark all your lining sheet joins on the floor next to your bottom plate, make sure this lines up with the center of your studs obviously. You want to add on a bit each time for a small allowance for a gap between sheets. This gap is minimal but can add up after 3-4 sheets.
- Use a square to square a decent line at all these points on the floor extending back at least 600 mm.
- Go through with a 5 point cross line laser with the vertical laser mode turned on. You want to align the bottom square line up with the dot and the vertical line. To keep the laser square to the wall. You then want to go through and transfer all these marks on the ground on to your top plates or ceiling framing if you can as it won’t be hidden by a sheet and you can visually see and align your sheets.
- Set the laser up with the vertical line turned on doing all this marking at once makes the job quicker, and putting up wall linings quicker and easier. time is wasted trying to slowly creep your wall lining sheets plumb again, this set out stops this problem from occurring.
Thinking the full vertical line can be used instead of a plumb dot. The plumb dot is always perfectly plumb, the plumb line is only perfect to one axis. Unless you have positioned you laser absolutely perfectly square to a wall or the wall the laser is shooting on is perfectly plumb itself.
Using the wall lining set out as an example: If you were to not square your line on the floor, and you randomly placed the laser on the floor and turned it to get the laser on the wall where you want it common mistake it is relied on that the wall itself is perfectly plumb to give an accurate measurement. This example is a minimal issue if you built the wall yourself I hope.
I see builders make this mistake often. You need to square the laser itself adjacent to the line you are shooting because the vertical line only plumbs in one direction. The plumb dots are good in both directions!
If you have never used a laser level before and thinking of getting one a laser level is a very accurate and a tool for leveling building work and is even useful for a homeowner or artist. Some art galleys make use of laser level’s for displaying artwork on their walls perfectly.
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