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An Introduction to Laser Levels


Laser levels have completely revolutionized the building trades. What used to take two or three people operating multiple tools can now be done faster and with greater precision and consistency with a single person operating a single tool.

Over the past decade, technology has advanced and prices have dropped. This means that you can choose just the right laser for the application you need at a reasonable price. However, with all of the options available, choosing the right laser can be easier said than done.

This section will give you the information you need to find the laser that is right for your work needs.



Do you really need a laser level?

Laser levels have become the layout tool of choice for indoor and outdoor applications, including aligning points, checking level and plumb, and squaring operations.

For outdoor applications, a laser layout tool is a must. Laser levels are less prone to inaccuracy due to human error like traditional tools such as water levels or transits and require only one person to do the job.

For indoor applications, such as interior layout involving distances greater than 180cm (6’), a laser level can dramatically reduce the work steps by eliminating the need to repeatedly shift and extend the measuring tool. For applications such as hanging drop ceilings and framing rooms, the accuracy provided by laser levels has become the professional standard.

Lasers provide a continuous line spanning the entire layout area from any starting point, which significantly increases the overall accuracy. This makes it the perfect tool for lining up electrical outlets around a room, transferring ceiling layouts, and building decks.

The decision of which laser level to invest in also depends on whether you're a professional contractor and will use the laser tool on an on-going basis or if you're doing a one-time job. For home improvement jobs, investing in a simple multi-purpose laser product can be a money saver and make your work more professional. In some situations, such as working in confined spaces and "up close" level and plumb readings, a traditional level may be a better choice. For professional applications, a laser level can be a great savings because it allows one person to do layouts and take measurements that used to take two people, and increase the accuracy of the work overall.


What types of laser levels are on the market?

There are four basic types of laser level:
[+] Click pictures to enlarge

Rotary laser levels

Rotary Lasers shoot a rotating dot to create a 360º line and come with a detector for reading hard to see laser lines outdoors over a long distance. Kapro's rotary lasers also feature single line generators and plumb up, plumb down points.

899 Electronic Rota-Line Rotary Laser Level899 Prolaser® Electronic
Rota-Line

Line laser levels

Line Laser levels or point to point levels project multiple horizontal and vertical laser lines over a distance of up to 65 to 100' (20-30m). These lasers are usually designed for indoor use, although some include outdoor capabilities, and often feature “Plumb up” and “Plumb down” capabilities.

895 Prolaser® 895 Prolaser® All-Lines

Single line lasers

Single Line Lasers project one solid line and typically have a range between 10' - 20' (3m - 6m).

893 T-Laser™ Laser Tool893 T-Laser

Point generators

Point Generators are spirit levels which project a laser dot, and sometimes feature a line generator that can be directed down in front of the beam.

896 Prolaser® 5-Dot 896 Prolaser® 5-Dot

Which features are important to look out for?

The following sections explain the important features you should look for when choosing a laser tool.

Self-leveling

On large outdoor construction sites, with lots of action that could disturb your unit, or indoor jobs, where the laser level is moved regularly from place to place, a self-leveling laser is the best choice to save you time and maintain level accuracy. Self-leveling lasers can level themselves on slopes up to ±3º-5º and alert you if they are out of calibration with a visual and/or audible signal.

 

In most self-leveling lasers, the laser component hangs like a pendulum and a beam is projected through a lens or prism. Gravity does the rest. Kapro's Prolaser® range includes a simple locking mechanism that keeps the pendulum in place for protection when you are not using the laser.

895 Prolaser® 895 Prolaser® All-Lines

895 Prolaser®
895 Prolaser®Electronic Rota-Line
Electronic self-leveling mechanisms are even more reliable and accurate, like the one featured in Kapro's 899 Electronic Rota-Line.

Accuracy

The accuracy of a laser level is dependent on two things:

• The level of the surface where the laser is placed
• The distance between the laser level and the surface onto which the laser beam is projected. The further the level is from this surface, the wider the beam or dot, and the less precise.

Therefore, all accuracies for laser products are stated together with their effective range.

Of course, you want a laser level with the best accuracy for your job. However, higher accuracy usually comes with a higher price tag. So, it is important to consider that when doing simpler DIY jobs on your own home, you probably don't need the laser level with the accuracy that a professional contractor would require.
  

For contractors working on indoor jobs, or close-range outdoor jobs like deck-building, an accuracy of up to 0.5mm/m is more than enough to get the job done right. Over longer outdoor distances, however, you'd be better off with a higher accuracy of at least 0.3mm/m. Kapro's professional indoor laser levels are accurate to between 0.5 to 0.3mm/m. Our rotary lasers are precise to 0.2 - 0.1mm/m, depending on the model.

899 Prolaser®Electronic Rota-Line

Range

For indoor leveling jobs, choose a level with a range of at least 50' (15m), so you can easily frame an entire room without needing to reposition. For indoor commercial properties, a larger range – at least 65' (20m) – is ideal. For short range DIY jobs like hanging cabinets or shelves, 20' (6m) should be plenty.

For outdoor jobs you'll want a longer range, around 250' (75m) from the unit in each direction.

Wavelength and rotating speed

A laser with a wavelength of 635nm will be the most visible, so choose this for indoor work. Also important are variable rotating speeds if you're going to use a rotary laser indoors, so you can choose a speed that is most visible.

Outdoors, you'll probably be using a detector. Higher rotating speeds are best because they increase the detector‘s range. Red laser diodes are also recommended because they maintain their accuracy over a wide range of temperatures, and are more reliable than green diodes.

All Kapro's laser levels come with red diodes, a 635nm wavelength, and our professional rotary lasers have up to 6 speed settings. Kapro also offers Beamfinder™ glasses which are designed to make the laser line even more visible. They are included in our laser kits or sold separately.

Durability

Levels fall, have things dropped on them, get splashed with dust, mud and building materials. Tough "work-site armor" is a must for any construction tool, especially if it's got sensitive internal parts, like a laser diode or self-leveling mechanism. All Kapro's laser levels are rain and dust resistant, with tough durable casings.

888 Prolaser® Vector 888 Prolaser® Vector II

Detector

When working in outdoor, bright light conditions, projected laser lines and dots are sometimes difficult to see. Kapro’s professional Prolaser® outdoor line, including the 899, 888, 883, 895 and others, use a pulse feature which sends a signal to a detector indicating the measuring point is.

If you are working outside, it is important to choose a unit that comes with a detector. Outdoor lasers have various reliable ranges of operation. Since the laser range is typically expressed in terms of the diameter of the projected laser beam, the detector will need a range of at least half that distance.

894 Prolaser® 894 Prolaser® Visi-Cross™

Plumb up and plumb down functions

You will need these functions if you're framing rooms or need to transfer measurements from the floor to the ceiling. A rotary or line laser incorporating plumb up and plumb down functions is a good idea. Kapro’s 896 Prolaser® 5-Dot is a great choice for drywall stud layout and framing applications.

896 Prolaser® 5-Dot 896 Prolaser® 5-Dot

Safety

When first using a laser level, many people want to know if there is any safety issues involved. Some have even wondered if using a laser level could cause blindness.

The short answer, as with any tool which is properly used, is no. In fact, a laser is probably the safest tool in your toolbox.

All Kapro Prolaser levels are Class II lasers, which is a small, low-intensity diode with a rated output of less than 1mW. This is the industry standard in the European Union, and although more powerful diodes are permitted in some markets, Kapro does not manufacture them. These lasers are completely safe when used with a couple of simple precautions:

  • Never look directly into the source of the laser beam
  • Always work with safety glasses

See our manual for complete safety instructions.

 


An Introduction to
Laser Levels
How to Choose a
Laser Level
Kapro Prolaser® Range
Lasers
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