A Buyers Guide to Levels

10 Jun.,2024


A Buyers Guide to Levels

Guide to Levels

In this guide you will find the following information:

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  1. Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Level
  2. Types of Levels
  3. Level Brands
  4. What level accessories will you need?
  5. What is a level? 
  6. Levels: To Buy or Hire? 

We hope our guide to levels helps you make the right decision!

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1. Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Level

There are many different levels available so there is a lot to consider when trying to choose the right one for you. Here are some things to consider:

  • Accuracy

    : Levels are more accurate than other tools but some more so than others. If you require ultimate accuracy, you should consider a Precise Level.

  • Manual vs Auto:

    Some levels will &#;auto-level&#;, meaning it will do all the hard work for you! Others require you to do it manually. If you would prefer an automatic level you should consider a Dumpy Level.

  • Price

    : Levels can be expensive but there are plenty of options for those on a budget. If you do require something more affordable check out the Leica NA320 Automatic Level! The NA320 is perfect for every day levelling tasks combining accuracy and simplicity.

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2. Types of Levels

There are a variety of levels available, all with different qualities suited to specific needs and applications.

Types of levels include:

Dumpy Levels

Dumpy levels, also known as automatic levels are an optical instrument used to set horizontal levels and are a tried and trusted member of any construction team.

The operator must look through the optical eyepiece to measure against a staff or tape measure placed at the point being measured. This site levelling technique is particularly useful to surveyors during site surveys as well as a whole host of other uses within the construction industry.

When operating a dumpy level, you must ensure that the level is securely placed, preferably on a tripod, and that the bubble is level. This can be adjusted using the levelling screws. Next you must sight the instrument by looking through the eyepiece and focusing on the staff or tape measure at your chosen point of measurement.

A decent dumpy level should auto-level to a certain degree although it is worth checking the instrument to see that this is working as expected.

Our recommended dumpy levels are the Leica NA700 Range which offers high performance at an affordable price. This range is extremely hard wearing in all site conditions. Different magnification levels are available throughout the range to cater for your exact needs.

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Best Dumpy Level

Winner: Leica NA700 Range

A fantastic range that offers great features at an affordable price. The Leica NA730 Plus, in particular, is considered the most reliable and durable level on the market with 30x telescopic magnification. 

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Precise Level

A precise level makes use of a parallel plate micrometer which is placed in front of the lens allowing small alterations to the image of the bar-coded staff. This allows for extremely high levels of accuracy.

Precise levels can perform a huge number of surveying jobs including: -

  • Levelling of all types
  • Heighting for construction of roads, railways, pipelines, tunnels, etc.
  • Setting out work
  • Area levelling to high accuracy
  • Deformation measurement and monitoring of bridges

We recommend the Leica NA2 Precise Level. This universal level meets all requirements of precision levelling! We also have all of the optional extras you may require including the Leica GPM3 Parallel Plate Micrometer, the Leica FOK73 Eyepiece, the Leica GPLE2N Nedo Invar Staff and much more.

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Best Precise Level

Winner: Leica NA2 Precise Level

Leica NA2 is a universal automatic level which meets all the requirements of precision levelling even in extreme conditions.

It is perfect for all surveying task thanks to its high levels of precision and efficiency when doing routine levelling task on building sites and for its accurate geodetic control and engineering projects. 

The heavy-duty Leica GST20 Wooden Tripod can be used with the Leica NA2. 

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Digital Levels

A digital level is an instrument that can be used to perform advanced levelling work, automatic height calculations and basic construction work.

It uses gravity as its reference point and reads bar-code scales from a bar-coded staff to capture extremely accurate readings.

Measurements from the bar-coded staff are automatically displayed and/or stored for your convenience and for future reference.

We recommend the Leica Sprinter 150M Digital Level -  the perfect tool for advanced construction levelling tasks. Store up to 1&#;000 measurements, download and transfer them for further calculations to Excel® to a PC via USB and much more!

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Best Digital Level

Winner: Leica Sprinter 150M Digital Level

Measurements have never been so easy to perform with the Leica Sprinter 150 - allowing you to perform your job quickly & efficiently, perfect for advanced construction levelling tasks! Optional extras include the Leica GEV267 Data Transfer Cable and much more.

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3. Level Brands

Leica Levels

Leica Geosystems are market leaders in the production of high standard survey equipment. 

With almost 200 years of experience in the art of capturing, analysing and displaying spatial information, Leica Geosystems have produced the most complete range of products; whatever your needs.

Leica Digital Levels and Precise Levels are designed with more precision and accuracy in mind. These products were built for more advanced surveying tasks that require accuracy over large distances.

Some top selling Leica levels to consider include:

  • Leica LS10 Digital Level: The new Leica LS digital levels range replace the popular Leica DNA03 and DNA10 digital levels. Although pricey it is more than worth it with the range of high quality features it offers, such as: Highest accuracy level, digital camera aiming, auto focus efficiency and much more! The Leica LS10 eliminates common levelling errors such as misreadings and transcription errors ensuring the user peace of mind and minimising mistakes and unforseen costs. 
  • Leica NA720 Automatic Level:

    This level is built for builders, engineers & surveyors! Nothing stops this level; a short drop to the ground, a fall into water, vibration from machinery &#; the NA720 keeps going! That along with excellent features & an affordable price makes this tool a must have!
  • Leica NA2 Precise Level:This level offers brilliant & efficient features such as a push button compensator check, top class optics & much more!


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Topcon Levels

Another well-known market provider is Topcon. They supply and provide mature, easy to use, feature rich and versatile tools.

Their lasers are highly refined and designed to assure you are getting the best and most accurate results every time.

Topcon offers the AT-B4 Site Level. Thanks to the finely tuned auto-collimation system, the Topcon ATB4 autolevel is an ideal device for determining height differentials on busy and noisy job sites! We have this available for hire or purchase as well as our convenient calibration and repair service to help guarantee optimum long-term performance.


4. What Level Accessories Will I Need?

  • Tripod

    &#; These are useful tools to have in the levelling world. It can help to provide a stable and level flooring, making results more accurate. The Leica CTP104 Aluminium Tripod is a high quality and affordable tripod to consider.

  • Levelling Staff

    &#; Ranging from E-type, bar coded, standard invar & industrial invar, there are many levelling staffs to choose from to assist you with levelling. Our NEDO Fibreglass Levelling Staff is especially sturdy and durable and is ideal for levelling close to power lines and railways.

  • Levelling Plates:

    These plates can enhance the accuracy of a level &#; we can provide the Leica GPM3 Parallel Plate Micrometer which can be used with the Leica NA2 & NAK2 Precise Levels.

  • Eye Piece:

    Level eye pieces can improve magnification on levels without having to pay more for a newer tool! If you own a NA2 or NAK2 Precise level, we offer the Leica FOK73 Eyepiece which is designed to work specifically with those levels!

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5. What is a Level?

Levels are used in the building & surveying industries to set up level points & check elevations.

Generally, a level consists of a telescope, a level & usually a tripod for mounting.

There are a wide range of different levels that can be used for a variety of different applications, such as:

  • Levelling & Settlement Determinations on Buildings

  • Heighting for construction of roads, railways, pipelines and more.

  • Area Levelling

Visit our levels page to find out more!

Visit our levels page to find out more!

View Our Levels »

6. Levels: To Buy or Hire?

Deciding you want or need a level is the first step, next you will need to decide whether buying or hiring is best for you. It all depends on what you&#;ll be using the level for, how often you will use it and how many you may need.

Buying a level outright can be ideal for those customers who know they will be using it regularly, especially as some levels can be relatively inexpensive.

If you only need it for limited use, it would be wise to consider hiring!

Read more about the pros & cons of both buying & hiring in our guide!

Buying vs Hiring »

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What is Self Leveling Underlayment and How Does it Work?

Today&#;s Homeowner exists to help you maintain or improve your home safely and effectively. We uphold strict editorial standards and carefully vet the advice and resources referenced in our articles. Click below to learn more about our review process and how we earn money.

Self leveling underlayment, also known as self leveling compound or floor leveler, is used to level out shallow dips and humps in a subfloor, prior to installing a finished floor covering. Because self leveling underlayment is very thin, it can be troweled out to make these small adjustments without adding an additional layer of subflooring.

Today we will discuss what self-leveling underlayment is, how it helps flatten a subfloor, and offer a couple of tips from the pros.

What is Self-Leveling Underlayment Made Of?

There are a few different mixtures of self-leveling underlayments available, but generally they all share the same basic idea. Consisting of very thin cement, polymers, and other ingredients, self leveling underlayment is designed to spread out and find its own level, just as any liquid. Special chemical binders also help the material bond to wood, concrete, and many other subfloor materials. Self-leveling underlayment has a very fine texture, and when mixed as directed forms a slurry that can be poured directly onto the subfloor.

Is Self-Leveling Underlayment Hard to Work With?

In most situations, a typical homeowner can successfully work with this material. For those DIYers with experience mixing mortar or concrete, the project will seem familiar. Self leveling underlayment mixes very similarly to portland cement and uses the same tools to apply it. The material can also be used in layers, so if the floor has undulations greater than &#;&#;, more self leveling underlayment can be added. 

Today&#;s Homeowner Tips

Be careful when applying self leveling underlayment in many layers, as self leveling underlayment is quite heavy. Adding too much weight to a wood framed floor system can cause floor support problems.

How Do I Use Self-Leveling Underlayment?

In most instances, the self-leveling underlayment will be used in preparation for tile, hardwood, or other finished floor covering. The professionals will often place a long level or straightedge on the subfloor to determine its flatness. If there are humps in the subfloor greater than &#;&#;, many times the best option is to use an appropriate sander to remove them. Next, the level or straightedge is again placed on the subfloor, but this time the target is light appearing under the tool.

Image credit: Canva

Light shining under the straightedge indicates a low spot. The pros will then mark this area with a pencil and apply the underlayment, spreading it out until it can be screeded. Screeding is the process of pulling a straightedge across the surface to remove any underlayment higher than &#;&#; and spread it to any low areas. The main goal is to fill in the dips without adding any more underlayment than necessary. Once it has been screeded, the underlayment can be troweled as needed and allowed to cure.

What Kind of Finished Flooring Can I Use Over Self-Leveling Underlayment?

Generally, any finished flooring material can be applied over self-leveling underlayment. Because the material is applied in a very thin consistency, it can be used under carpet, sheet flooring, vinyl, tile, laminates and most other finished floors. Self leveling underlayment can also be applied under vapor barriers, carpet padding, and laminate foam underlayments as well.

Today&#;s Homeowner Tips

If available, use a corded, ½&#; drill and mixing paddle to mix in the water. Many cordless drills lack the chuck diameter or torque needed to turn a large paddle and may result in damage to the drill.

How Does Self Leveling Underlayment Work?

The material comes in bags similar to portland cement, mortar, and concrete. When mixed with water, self-leveling underlayment reacts chemically, just as cement would and begins to harden. If mixed to the correct consistency, self leveling underlayment will spread out when poured onto a surface and seek its own level, lessening the labor required for a very thin coat. If the material is mixed too densely, it will not flow easily and will usually require additional troweling. 

However, self-leveling underlayment is not just watered down cement. Self leveling underlayment contains additional additives like polymers that allow it to flex slightly without breaking. Additional ingredients are added to improve its bonding to surfaces, and still others to keep the material thin so it will flow. Self leveling underlayment can also improve the bonding characteristics of adhesives, like carpet glue and engineered flooring adhesive.

How Do I Use Self Leveling Underlayment?

Different manufacturers will have slightly different directions, but most will work in a similar way. Before the material can be mixed, the floor should be closely inspected for defects. Although it may seem insignificant, even a small irregularity on a floor surface can be troublesome after the finished floor is installed. The first step should be to scrape the floor to identify any fasteners or adhesives that protrude beyond the surface of the subfloor. After these are found and removed, a straightedge can be laid across the floor in sections to identify any humps or dips.

At this point, using the straight edge mentioned earlier, the next step is to identify the high areas and low areas. After the high spots have been corrected via sanding, the self leveling underlayment is mixed according to the manufacturer&#;s directions. With most brands, this slurry is often poured directly onto the subfloor and lightly screeded to help the material flow. After the material begins to solidify, a long trowel is often used in broad, arching movements to ensure the material fills in the low areas. After the material has cured, it can itself be sanded if needed to ensure the surface is flat.

Self Leveling Underlayment Saves Time and Money

How can using self leveling underlayment save money? Self leveling underlayment is not inexpensive, but compared to installing an additional layer of subflooring like 5/32&#; plywood sheets, it can save both money and time. Self leveling underlayment does not require the fasteners, materials, nor tools that an additional subfloor does, nor the effort to install them. In many situations, this makes self leveling underlayment the most cost effective solution for uneven floors. 

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