The Ultimate Guide to Types of Levels

For any type of job, it is essential to have the right tools. Levels are important for making sure something is perfectly straight. In some cases, they may just be helpful. In others, they may be critical. For example, a level is helpful for hanging pictures straight. However, it can be essential for safety reasons if you’re building a deck. There are different types of levels. This guide will introduce you to them and help you find the right ones for your needs.

What Are the Different Types of Levels, and How Do They Work?

Most levels have vials of mineral spirits with air bubbles. However, some do not. There are also digital, laser, and other levels. How do the different types of levels work and compare? How about a box-beam vs. I-beam level? These are the main types of levels and their uses.

Carpenter Level

Carpenter levels are useful for determining if surfaces are truly vertical or horizontal. These are usually wooden bubble levels with one or more tubes. They come in several length options, and they are usually a few inches in height. You may find lengths of 2, 4, or more feet. For most household projects, a 2-foot or 4-foot level will suffice. They are great for creating borders, installing towel racks, and other general household tasks.

Torpedo Level

What is a torpedo level? As the name suggests, this level’s tapered ends make it look like a torpedo. It has two or three tubes. At about 9 inches in length, it is small enough to fit in your pocket. If you need to work in tight spaces, this is a great level to have on hand. Its size and shape allow it to fit in places that many other levels don’t. Torpedo levels are good for installing things like chair rails and cabinets.

Digital Level

A digital level may just spoil you enough that you won’t want to go back to a bubble level. This level uses noises and a digital display to indicate when you hit level. If you’re working alone or in conditions where it’s hard to see, this is a great level.

Box Level

If you want a durable level that resists bending or twisting, a box level is a good choice. Some also have convenient mirrors that eliminate the need to press your head against a wall. You can find box levels in different materials and sizes. They’re good for most types of projects and may be digital or have bubble tubes.

I-Beam Level

An I-beam level is not as sturdy as a box level. In contrast to the solid shape of a box level, an I-beam level is thinner in the middle. There are ridges on the top and bottom, which give the level its name. While it functions similarly to a box level, it’s lighter. If you need to minimize the weight of tools you carry, this may be an option. It may also cost less.

Water Level

In contrast to spirit levels that use bubbles and water, this one uses Pascal’s Law. The law states that water always seeks its own level. This type of level often has two cylinders. You can use it to determine if two surfaces are level with one another.

Post Level

If you want to install deck posts or fence posts, this is a useful tool. Many come with a 90-degree angle design. They have straps to connect to posts and let you quickly check for plumb.

Line Level

Line levels sound more complicated than they are. They hang on a cord that’s extended between two points. There are hooks that attach around the middle, and a centered bubble indicates a true line. These levels are useful for checking gutter or driveway pitch, lining up posts, or squaring off old ceilings. They are also useful for masonry, carpentry, and landscaping.

Landscaping Level

A landscaping level has two beams, each of which contains a vial. There’s a notched arm that can latch onto a surface to show a level length. This type of level is good for creating a retaining wall, a raised garden bed, or something similar.

Laser Level

Laser levels automatically adjust until they hit level and maintain it. There are several styles and variations of laser levels, and they can be useful for most types of projects. For example, if you want to install a ceiling fixture, you can measure from the floor. The laser level allows you to transfer those points to the ceiling.

How Do I Choose the Right Level for My Project?

What is the best construction level? How about the best laser level for home use? Consider the information from the previous section that relates to your project. Spend time reading reviews of different products to find a level tool that works for you. These are three important factors to consider:

  • Accuracy
  • Durability
  • Size

With some levels, you can test the accuracy. For instance, you can put a bubble level against a door frame. Flip it vertically to put it against the frame again. If the bubble is not in the same spot, the level is inaccurate. Be sure to read reviews for the accuracy of the different products you are considering. By now, you know that I-beam levels are often less durable than box levels. Be sure to check the product’s material and thickness. Again, read reviews. The size of the level should be suitable for the project you’re planning. Most DIY guides can give you a good idea of what size to buy for a specific project.

How Do I Maintain and Take Care of My Level?

Since there are different types, the ideal solution is to carefully read the product’s instructions. Follow all the suggested care tips. Improper storage can lead to inaccuracy or premature failure. These are some basic tips that apply to all construction level products:

  • To prevent damage, don’t store levels in hot rooms or direct sunlight.
  • To prevent sagging, don’t store levels leaning against a wall.
  • Do not put levels under other objects that may bend or damage them.
  • Quickly clean off mud or dirt with a wet towel.
  • Check levels frequently for accuracy.

Top 4 Levels You Can Get From True Value

You can find several different types of levels at True Value. Here are a few top examples:

  • This aluminum box level is a durable device that’s versatile enough to suit many projects.
  • This magnetic torpedo level has a convenient glow view for improved visibility in low-light places.
  • This laser level has a torpedo design and reads cross-check, plumb, and level.
  • This aluminum I-beam level is heavy-duty and has multiple vials to make difficult tasks easier.

Frequently Asked Questions

These are some common questions about levels.

What is a laser level? What are the best uses for them indoors and outdoors?

Their uses are too many to list and may depend on the style you choose. Laser levels are great for ensuring plumb lines, creating an even grade, or checking for a level point.

What is an I-beam level? How does it compare to other types in woodworking projects?

An I-beam level is thinner and lighter, which can be beneficial if minimizing tool weight is an issue. I-beam levels tend to bend easier than box levels.

What is a torpedo level, and how does it work?

A torpedo level is small and has tapered ends, which makes it useful in tight spaces. It usually has three vials and measures angles, horizontal lines, and vertical lines.

What is a box beam level, and how does it work?

Also called a box level, this device is a solid, box-like shape. It tends to be sturdier but also heavier. While many box levels use bubble vials, some are digital.

How does a digital level work, and what are its benefits and drawbacks?

Digital levels usually automatically measure and show a digital display for reference. They may beep or make a noise when you hit level. They are easy to use and easy to read in situations where standard levels are harder to read. Some may be more expensive than standard levels.

What are the best uses for a digital level?

It is useful for determining height, maintaining structure level, measuring slope, and much more. A digital level is great when you need automatic and fast calculations.

What is a spirit level, and how does it work?

A spirit level uses bubble tubes with mineral spirits and an air bubble to measure. It may have multiple tube vials. Level is reached when the bubble is centered.


Ready to pick out your next level? Head to your local True Value store to find levels and other supplies for your home improvement projects.