With nicer weather coming on, you no doubt have a long list of outdoor projects you’re hoping to tackle. One tool that can really help with all of those projects — and a wide variety of indoor tasks as well — is a laser level.
Granted, this isn’t really an entry-level tool, and it might not be one of the first things on your shopping list. But prices for professional-quality lasers have come way down in recent years, so having one of these handy helpers at your side might not be as out of reach as you may have thought.
And the time savings and increased level of accuracy that they bring to your projects may have you wondering how you ever got along without one!
I recently had a chance to take a look at two different types of laser levels from two different manufacturers. Both performed great, and since each one brings a little something different to the job site, they’re both definitely worth your consideration. (Prices are approximate retail, and can vary widely.)
Bosch Dual Plane Leveling and Alignment Laser (Model GLL2-80, $269): The Bosch laser is actually two lasers in one. One laser on top projects a continuous horizontal line, and another laser on the front projects a continuous vertical line. The two beams can be used together or independently of each other.
There are also several ways of mounting the laser level, which is handy. There’s a 5/8-inch female thread for attaching it to a standard construction-style tripod, as well as a 1/4-inch female thread for attaching it to a camera-style tripod. An additional attachment bracket is included that allows you to hang the unit on the wall, or attach it magnetically to metal studs or other metal surfaces. This mounting bracket is also designed to attach to Bosch’s optional telescoping pole bracket.
The Bosch laser level is small and lightweight, operating off of four AA batteries. It’s self-leveling in both modes, as long as you’re within 4 degrees (plus or minus) of level. The level is waterproof for outdoor use, and has a range of up to 65 feet.
The level is very easy to use. Simply mount as desired, turn it on, and then set which of the laser lines you want activated (or both). As long as you’re within the 4-degree range, the unit will self-level and you’re ready to go.
The level projects a continuous line, as opposed to many types of construction lasers, which rotate. However, if you want to use an optional remote laser line receiver, that won’t read a continuous line. So there’s also a "pulse" setting, which causes the line to pulsate and allows it to be read by the remote receiver.
The GLL2-80 kit includes the laser, mounting bracket, a laser target card, four AA batteries, and a hard-shell, padded carrying case.
DeWalt Heavy-Duty Self Leveling Interior/Exterior Rotary Laser (Model DW074KD $449): The DeWalt DW074 is a more typical style of rotating-head laser level. It’s also very much in keeping with the type of professional-grade tools that DeWalt offers for contractors and advanced do-it-yourselfers.
It features a heavy-duty, weather-resistant housing, and it’s obviously designed with job-site conditions in mind. The laser head is protected by a roll-cage type of construction that uses several thin struts to protect the head assembly while not creating any blind spots for the laser itself.
The DeWalt level has a standard 5/8-inch female socket for mounting to a construction tripod. It also has a secondary mounting bracket that allows the unit to easily be mounted to a wall, or clipped to an L-bracket for the installation of suspended ceilings. The broad base and rubber feet also make it very stable for use on the floor.
The DeWalt laser operates on two D-cell batteries. It’s self-leveling in the horizontal mode, and will level itself as long as it’s within 5 degrees of being level when it’s first set up. It has a bright and sharp beam that can be seen up to 100 feet indoors. Accuracy is plus or minus 1/4 inch per 100 feet.
Like the Bosch, the DeWalt laser is very easy to set up and operate. Once you have it mounted where you want it, simply turn it on. It will self-level in the horizontal mode in just a few seconds, and you’re ready to go. You then have a choice of three modes for the rotating head.
You can choose fast rotation, which creates the appearance of an almost solid red line; slow rotation, which conserves battery power; or no rotation, which simply projects a red dot that you can manually point wherever you want for specific marking and measuring tasks.
You can also rotate the level into vertical mode. A built-in vial level and a set of simple up and down arrow buttons allow you to very quickly and easily adjust the laser to project a perfectly vertical line as well, for setting posts, trim, siding, cabinets and other projects.
What I found particularly useful was the remote laser beam detector. Operating on a 9-volt battery, the detector reads the laser beam within a 1,000-foot diameter of the laser.
Visual up-and-down arrow readings on the detector allow you to raise or lower the detector until you have an exact level reading, even if you can’t see the laser line! It’s incredibly handy for decks, fences, wall framing, landscaping and a wide variety of other uses.
The complete DW074KD kit comes with the laser level, the secondary mounting bracket, the remote laser beam detector, an auxiliary clamp for the detector, a laser target card, two D batteries, one 9-volt battery, and a soft-sided, padded carrying bag.
All product reviews are based on author’s actual testing of free review samples provided by the manufacturers. Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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