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How to Use a Laser Level

Posted by Katy | Toolstop on 12th Apr 2021

This Toolstop guide explains all the steps necessary in setting up your laser to ensure you get the most accurate and reliable readings.

This Toolstop guide explains all the steps necessary in setting up your laser to ensure you get the most accurate and reliable readings.

How to use a Laser Level

Introduction to Laser Levels

Laser levels are a mainstream tool typically used in the construction and surveying industry for levelling and aligning applications. They project a constant red or green line onto a surface on a horizontal or vertical plane and can be used for anything from hanging a picture to professional building work.

This Toolstop guide explains all the steps necessary in setting up your laser to ensure you get the most accurate and reliable readings. There are a few different types of laser which we will touch on - rotary, cross line, and self levelling. Make sure you have read our blog post on the difference between red and green lasers first.

How a Laser Level Works

A laser level uses a laser - "a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation" - to project one or more fixed lines or dots along a horizontal and/or vertical axis. This allows you to align your work to these lines or dots for completely straight and accurate work. Some laser levels combine lines and dots.

What is a Laser Level Used For?

Laser levels are typically used in applications where a straight and level reference point is needed over a larger surface. They are almost like a visual chalk line. Use them for fitting dado rails, hanging picture frames and all other professional levelling applications where your point transfer need to be exact.

Laser levels can be used for a variety of indoor and outdoor applications. Many come supplied with a tripod, or are compatible with one. A laser tripod will provide the laser with greater stability and support in professional applications so you can rest assured you will achieve the most accurate results every time.

We recommend you consider purchasing a 'self levelling' laser level. These models are the easiest to use and offer the greatest level of accuracy. They're ideal for all kinds of levelling and plumbing tasks.

Self-levelling lasers automatically find and maintain a level within a specified range. Manual levelling lasers require the operator to manually level the unit by turning the units thumbs screws and getting the unit leveled by looking at the bubble vials.

red laser level
Bosch Red Laser
Bosch Laser Detector

You can also incorporate a laser detector (sometimes called a laser receiver). If you plan to use your laser level outdoors, you will need to use a laser detector. They help you find a laser beam in environments where it isn't visible to the naked eye, such as broad daylight.

Types of laser:

A cross line laser uses a prism to deflect the laser in roughly 180 degrees vertically, horizontally, or both. A rotary laser spins the beam of light fast enough to give the effect of a complete 360 degree horizontal or vertical plane.

How To Use a Laser Level

Now that we know a bit more about lasers themselves, lets get to work on setting one up. Lasers are typically fast and easy to operate which means you can get to work straight away. Please note that there are a variety of types of lasers on the market, which may operate in slightly different ways. But for the most part, to operate your laser:


  1. Attach the laser level to the tripod (if using). Most tripods have adjustable legs and a built-in levelling bubble. Use these to make sure your laser is level on the tripod and that it's not anywhere likely to be knocked over
  2. Turn the laser on and calibrate it by making sure that the bubble is aligned inside its vial (unless it is self levelling, it will do this for you - give it time to do so)
  3. It will produce a level beam onto the surface you’re working on
  4. Identify a point on the ground at your desired height and project the laser onto the surface you need to level. The beam can be a dot, a line, or a combination of dots and lines depending on the laser you're using
  5. If you are using a laser detector, fix it to a levelling rod with a clamp. Slide it up and down the rod until it beeps. When you hear a beeping sound coming from the detector, it means that it has found the beam
  6. Fasten the detector in place and make the necessary measurements

What is a laser detector?

A limitation of using a laser level is the difficulty of seeing the lines/dots in bright lighting conditions e.g. outdoors. A laser detector (sometimes known as a laser receiver) helps overcome this problem, allowing you to see and use your laser in outdoor applications.

Laser detectors simply detect the laser line that is invisible to the naked eye, although they are not as generic as you may think. The laser detector directs the user to position the laser higher or lower on an aluminum grade rod to ensure a level reading. It sounds an audible alert that increases in frequency near the level point.

Some lasers will come in packages with a detector included as standard, but for those that don't, take note of the following before choosing one to go with your laser:

  • Line lasers need to have 'pulse mode' in order for a laser detector to pick them up
  • Rotary lasers will not work with line laser receivers
  • Some detectors will only work with red lasers and some green lasers due to their different frequencies. Make sure you refer to the product specification of the model to find out if this is the case

Points to note:

If you are using your laser indoors, you won't be required to use a laser detector. This is because there is no direct sunlight affecting the visibility of the beam. For outdoor working, many people tend to opt for a green laser level as they are slightly more visible in daylight conditions.

Manual laser levels are typically less expensive, though require more effort from the user to set up. They work in a more traditional manner and don't require as much battery power. Self-levelling lasers are more expensive, though much more accurate.

If you're looking for a quality laser level, you can shop our range at Toolstop. Cross line, rotary and self-levelling are all available, plus we have a variety of accessories like laser detectors, tripods and more.

bosch green laser

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