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Before You Buy a Carpenter's Level


A carpenter's level is a must-have tool for determining whether or not your home improvement projects are plumb and level. It is almost impossible to hang shelves from the wall accurately without a level. You need it to make sure the standards are plumb, and you also need it to get the brackets properly leveled.

Choose the Right Size

There are many types of levels, from small line levels to 9-inch torpedo levels to specialized post levels. If you are in the market for your first level, though, I suggest you buy a 2- or 4-foot carpenter's level. I have, and use regularly, both sizes.

Choose the Best Quality

As with most products, levels span the gamut from very cheap to very expensive. When it comes to tools, I tend to buy somewhere in between. Cheap tools often don't last long and can't be counted on for performing well. Expensive tools are often intended for regular, heavy use by professionals, and are therefore more than what most DIYers need.

Check the Accuracy

The most important parts of any level are the vials, which display the results you are looking for in the form of a single bubble. Before you buy a level (and from time to time after buying one), take a few minutes to check the accuracy of the vials.

  1. Set the level on a flat, level surface.
  2. Note where the bubble in the middle vial is resting.
  3. Flip the level over end for end, setting it in exactly the same location as before.
  4. Check the bubble. If it comes to rest in the same spot as it did on the other side, it is accurate.

Handle with Care

A primary reason for a level losing its accuracy is that it has been dropped or banged around excessively. A bad level usually needs to be replaced, but as long as you aren't too rough on your level, it should last for many years.

Check Long Spans with a Short Level

If you need to check a span that is longer than your level, just find a straight board that is long enough, then set the level on the board.
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