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Plumb, Square, and Level Hand Held Levels

In achieving Plumb, Level and Square, Spirit Levels are a must have item for your home tool collection. They allow you to establish Plumb and Level quickly. Beam Levels come in a number of sizes from a few inches to many feet. The most useful for the remodeler are the 12”, 24”, and 48”. If you are hiring out your work, and your contractor or subcontractors do not have these in their tool kits, Run Away! You cannot set doors, windows or cabinets without them.

Metal, Wood, Plastic, and fiberglass, are the predominant offerings. I am a metal guy. You can pay a little or a lot for them. You get what you pay for here as they are a ”precision” tool. This is a hands on tool. I personally recommend that you buy these locally. There is a note at the bottom of this post on testing and buying.

Note about my recommendations. Everything I talk about from procedures to projects, I have done. Tools that I recommend I own. Bought and paid for. I don’t accept products for testing, although some tools in the thousands of dollars range may weaken my resolve. Not likely to happen soon, though:)

Plumb and Level

Here is a photo of a 12” beam level. This is a metal level, with a groove for round things like pipes and a magnetic strip on the bottom for using it with steel. For most folks this is probably the best bang for the buck as you can use it for cabinets to picture frames.
It has a plumb vial, two level vials, and a 45 degree vial. Around 15 bucks.
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The Level Vials Side View

This level has two vials. The one on the left is a standard level vial. When you place it on a horizontal surface and the bubble is in the middle between the two lines, you have level.
The vial on the right has a graduated scale for establishing slope.
It also acts as an additional check for level. This is an ‘eye level’ view, which will be useful depending upon your personal flexibility.
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The Level Vials Top View

Here is the level view from the top. Here you can see the groove for using on round materials and the cutouts provided by the manufacturer to read the vials from above.

The graduations on the slope bubble on the right are in fractional inch measurements.
These lines are in relationship to the level. In this case moving the vial to the first line, (1/8) establishes an 1/8″ per foot slope.

Slope is important where you need to provide gravity fed drainage. Patios, gutters, etc.
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The Plumb vial works for your vertical applications. The 45 degree vial can be used for establishing Square over a small area, but there are better tools for this.
Like any other measuring  tool, do not bang it around, and keep it clean.

Note on Purchase: Before you buy a level, perform this simple test.

Level :Put the level against a wall, establish level, and draw a line. Turn the level end for end, move it to your line, and check that the level reads the same. If it does, you are good to go. If not, try another.

Plumb: Put the level against the wall, establish plumb, draw a line. Flip the level, move it to your line and check it. If it reads the same, you are good to go. If not, try again.

Don’t be embarrassed or forget this. It’s your money, and you are already doing things that are making folks with less grit laugh.

You now have enough information to make your part of the universe Plumb and Level.