Updated: June 8, 2015
Laser Level Reviews:Levels are a fundamental tool that are very useful whether you are building a house, installing a fence, or just hanging a picture frame in your house. A level determines if a plane is perfectly horizontal or vertical. Owning a basic level is fine if you only need it a few times a year, but what if your job was installing decks or flooring on a daily basis where measuring and using a level was essential to the jobs success. Fortunately, technology has made the laser level a "must have" tool amongst tradesman and enthusiastic home DIY's. A laser level uses a beam of light to let you know when something is exactly vertical or horizontal. The old vial levels had the glass vial filled with small air bubbles that floated left, right, up, or down as you adjusted the level to get things straight. The new sensor levels, or laser levels, use light indicators or sound to let you know when a surface is level. Some more expensive laser levels are capable of projecting lines at particular angles relative to the level plane which makes them the ideal tool for short-distance surveying. There are both self leveling and rotating laser levels.
Buying Guide - The basic laser levels project a narrow horizontal beam and some are able to do vertical beams. Hanging pins let you stick the level to the wall for hands-free convenience and self leveling models are the easiest to use (work best when mounted to a tripod). Rotating laser levels are great for lining up electrical outlets throughout a room or installing dropped ceilings. A rotary laser level is able to rotate 360 degrees and can mark level on all surrounding walls. Laser levels with a magnetic base are great when you need to attach the level to metal surfaces. An Out-of-Level Sensor feature will guarantee that the lines stay level while you are working. The cheaper laser levels are $35 to $50 while the ones with additional features range from $100 to $300. The more expensive models definitely have brighter and much sharper beams of light while the low end models had complaints for practically "invisible" beams in rooms that receive lots of light. Also, the lower priced laser levels showed problems when they came across small bumps on walls. For the most accurate laser levels, experts say go with the self-leveling types. Consumer Reports magazine says that most people should stick with the basic levels unless you are constantly doing in home projects like "hanging new wallpaper, installing cabinets, or putting up paneling". Most laser levels are accurate up to 1/4 of an inch at 100 feet. We found several online articles on laser levels in which the testers rated the levels on beam visibility (both inside and outside), vibration dampening, accuracy, adjustments, and controls. The Toolsofthetrade.com laser level test was a bit outdated although it was very thoroughly done with 9 different makes and models. Popular Mechanics ran an article on Black & Decker laser levels but it didn't compare them to the competition. An article on Ebuild.com gave reviews on the Trimble Spectra, the Stanley FatMax 5-Beam, Johnson Level & Tool, and on the Pro Shot L5. The forums on Gardenweb and Landscapingcomplete.com offered expert insight into laser levels by actual contractors and professionals. We also read recent reviews posted on Amazon.com and Epinions. Our list below outlines the best laser levels in various categories. You can browse the up-to-date list of best-selling line lasers and rotary lasers here.