best laser levels 101Top Self-Leveling Rotary Laser Levels

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If you work in construction or take on building projects frequently, and you are still using that old bubble level, it is time to upgrade to a laser level. However, while many line levels are great for indoor use, many models are not the greatest when it comes to outdoor projects. On the other hand, rotary laser levels are great outside, but you can totally take them indoors for all your projects as well.

Note: We’ve separated this article into “rotary laser levels” and ‘traditional”.  We just felt it would be easier to make a decision if you have all the info upfront and there are some differences.

The major selling point of a rotary laser level is that they have better visibility and dramatically longer range compared to your stands line laser level. It is those aspects and the fact that you can rotate the beam, often through a remote control without having to move it, that are a major boon for outdoor work. However, while you could spend endless hours reading reviews and trying to find the best rotary laser level for your needs, we have gathered up our top picks.

Rotary Laser Levels Comparison

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Topcon RL-H4C

A rather obscure brand, the Topcon RL-H4C does lack some of the nice added features of other models, but excels in what you need it to do. Compared to other models in terms of accuracy, range, battery life, and even IP rating, it trumps them all. However, the major downside is that unlike other models, it doesn’t come with all the add-ons like a tripod. However, it does have a slope-matching and anti-drift tool that makes it good for use on uneven surfaces.

Without a tripod or any or attachments included, the price is kind of ridiculous. However, what you are paying is for that 100 hours of battery and the 2,600-foot range, both of which utterly lap other competitors. Although it only has one speed of rotation, it does have an IP rating of 66 that means it can take quite a bit of exposure to the elements.

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Dewalt DW079KDT

No matter what project you try to tackle, the Dewalt DW079KDT kit can help save you time and stress. This kit not only features a great rotary laser level, but it comes with a number of accessories all packed into a tight storage kit that allow for better ease of use.

With the standard +1/8 in. at 100 feet accuracy, and a higher-than-normal range of 1,500 feet, you get a professional-grade laser level that comes with its own tripod. However, one of the nicest features is that it also comes with multi-volt batteries that you can swap out so if one dies, your day isn’t completely over. You also have the option to rotate at either 60, 250, or 600 RPMs so you can adjust the speed.

However, for as many accessories as the kit does come with, there is no grade rod which can be problematic on certain surfaces. Another issue is that, while the display is easy to use, it doesn’t feature an LED screen. This means that if the sun is shining, you have to cup your hands over the display in order to see it.

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Johnson 99-006K

The Johnson 99-006K rotary laser isn’t for professional construction uses unlike many other of our top rotary laser level picks. It has the standard +1/8 in. accuracy, but that only extends to up to 50 feet. It has self-leveling, but you can only move it three degrees instead of the standard five before you need to reset it. Finally, you only have a relatively minor battery life of 20 hours. However, while it comes in a little short, it does have features that not every rotary laser has.

It excels in its ability to adjust the speed at 200, 400, and 600 RPMs, but the best feature is probably its visual and audible alarms that let you know when you are going beyond its leveling rage. This is something that is a must when you only have a maximum range of 800 feet. While it does come with a number of crucial accessories for outdoor use as well, it could be a little sturdier built.

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Bosch GRL300HVCK

The Bosch GRL300HVCK is another rotary laser kit that is all about the accessories, from the tripod and laser detector all the way to protective eyewear. However, perhaps the best accessory it could come with is a remote control that allows you to adjust the settings and turn the laser on and off from a distance.

While it comes with a lot of nice accessories and it is easy to carry with its two-handled system, it might not be quite as powerful as some may need. It has a pretty standard accuracy of +1/8 in. at 100 feet, but it only has a range of around 1,000 feet. It also falls a little short with a battery life of only 40 hours and no backups to change into. If you do construction for a living, you should aim higher with other options, but this Bosch model is great for more casual use.

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CST/Berger RL25HCK

THE CST/Berger RL25HCK is built for durability, making it the top rotary laser level for those that demand a certain amount of toughness from their tools while not sacrificing functionality. What sets it apart from its competitors is the durable housing that makes it so you don’t need to worry about it being damaged by your heavier equipment in transit while also keeping everything water and dust-proof. It is this toughness that makes the RL25HCK one of the best professional use rotary lasers.

As for the specifics, it features a good +3/32 in. at 100 feet accuracy while having a range of 2,000 feet, something that is only beat by the aforementioned TopCon models. It also comes with nice 85-hour battery life and multiple batteries, to give you even longer use in between charges. However, while it comes up short to TopCon in both battery and range, it does allow you to adjust the rotation speed between 150, 300, and 600 RPMs. It also has the added benefit of coming with a tripod, an 8-foot leveling rod, and a strong storage case.

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Best Laser Levels of 2019

It doesn’t matter whether you work in construction or are just a Do-It-Yourself type of person around the house, a laser level is a must inside your tool kit. Sure, your grandparents made do with your traditional spirit or bubble levels, but don’t you think if they had the option to use a laser level that allowed them to make adjustments hands-free they wouldn’t have picked it?

Of course not!

However, making the choice to get a laser level is an easy one. The hard part is actually picking one that works for your unique needs. As with every tool, you also want to work with the best. When choosing the best laser level, you not only want to make sure it is accurate; it also needs to have a good degree of visibility, battery life, and functionality to not only fit the needs of one specific project, but all your future projects as well.

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Laser Level Reviews

Dewalt DW088K Self-Leveling Cross Line Laser

Dewalt is a name you can trust not only in laser level production, but in all tool production. That makes is no surprise that their DW088K laser level is one of the best laser levels you can buy.

This model projects vibrant, bright crossing horizontal and vertical lines that are perfect for any need, but especially good if you have to do right angles. With an accuracy rating of +1/8 in. at 30 feet, visibility of up to 50 feet, and a decent, not spectacular, battery life of 20 hours it is great for indoor projects. However, the laser can be difficult to see outdoors. In order to extend outdoor visibility, you need to install it with a laser detector.

As very much an indoor laser line tool, the Dewalt DW088K comes with a variety of mounting options and is also light weight so you won’t have to wear yourself out fumbling with it to get it mounted. With individual switches that let you control the beams, you can use it on either horizontal or vertical plumb line.

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Dewalt DW089LG 3 X 360 Degree Green Line Laser

Dewalt’s DW089LG Line Laser is a serious tool and one best suited for those who do a lot of building work. This awesome tool generates three 360 degree green beam lasers that allow you to easily complete any type of level, square, or plumb jobs.

Naturally, the major question weighing on your mind is why use green lasers instead of the standard red? While green lasers would be practically useless if you were to us them in, say, a green field of grass. However, when used outdoors on other non-grass surfaces, it does give you extended visibility. The human eye can see more shades of green than any other color, after all, and it isn’t faded by a brighter light. This extends the visibility of the laser both indoors and outdoors up to 100 feet with an accuracy of + 1/8 in. at 30 feet. Since there are three different lines you can use, this makes it one of the most flexible laser levels around. Furthermore, with magnets on the rear, it can be easy to mount on a metal surface, but it also comes with mounts that you can place on non-magnetic surfaces.

With a great battery life of 30 hours, there is a lot of use you can get out of the DW089LG, but you can also use it in basically any conditions. With an IP rating of 65, the DW089LG is extremely resistant to water, dust, and shock damage. This doesn’t mean you should toss it around in a pool of water in a dust storm, but it can stand up to accidental drop or surprise rain showers without becoming an expensive paperweight.

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Bosch GLL3-80 3 Plane Leveling-Alignment Laser

The Bosch GLL3-80 is distinctive from its competitors because it is a hybrid between a cross line laser and a rotary laser. While it projects two cross lines, they are located 90 degrees away from each other. This allows the GLL3-80 to provide 360-degree lines like a rotary laser, but without the rotating motors.

As a three-plane laser level, this hybrid cross line and rotary laser opens its use up in a number of building applications. Whether you need a reliable laser level for interior decorating or you want to build some cabinets, it is equal to the task with its 1/4 in. at 100 feet accuracy so you can produce even and accurate results every time.

Although its 18 hours of battery life isn’t anything impressive when compare to other models, it does boast a visibility of 65 feet (and even comes with a laser detector for outdoor use). Furthermore, even with its high functionality, the Bosch GLL3-80 is still easy to use. The keypad is easy to read and change the settings is simple while it clearly displays the current settings on the level. Alongside a clear interface, the GLL3-80 also comes with a positioning device that allows for micro-adjustments so you don’t have to keep moving the laser level itself to hit specific points.

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Dewalt DW089K Self-Leveling 3-Beam Line Laser

The Dewalt DW089K is the upgraded version of the DW088K. They took everything people loved about the DW088K and made it a little bit better. This upgraded model is still compact, functional, and reliable, but the major difference is that the DW089K now has a third beam that allows for 90-degree layouts. While you can now do more layout applications without the need of a second line laser tool, while the third line is the biggest change, it is not the only change.

As it now uses multiple beams, they had to change the interface a fair bit, but it changed vastly for the better. Now you can turn each beam on and off individually with their own buttons and now there is also a micro-knob that allows you to adjust the beams so you don’t need to move the level to hit those specific marks.

However, while the battery life has been improved to a great 30 hours, not much of the specifics have changed. The beam seems a little brighter on the DW089K, but it still only has a visibility of 50 feet and an accuracy of 1/8 in. at 30 feet. The only real difference is that while it can actually be used outdoors at a fair range (though fairs better with a laser detector), the brighter beam is easier to see in the direct sun compared to the older model.

Not only does the DW089K have a brighter diode and increased the functionality with its third beam, but it comes with an IP rating of 54. While it is not as sturdy as the DW089LG, this rating does mean that it is strongly resistant to dust and water, but not as shock resistant as you might want, so try not to drop it. However, it also comes with a sturdy storage kit so you don’t need to worry about accidentally breaking it in your tool kit either.

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PLS Laser PLS-60521 PLS180 Laser Level Tool

If you are just a causal builder or want a laser level at home for hanging pictures and other activities, you don’t need a super high-end laser level. However, you sometimes find a laser level that is affordable and super simple looking, but it actually comes with more utility than you’d expect.

At just over two pounds the PLS180 doesn’t feel like a line laser level that can do a lot, but its weight belittles its functionality. What really sets this laser level apart from our other top laser levels is that is comes with its own laser detector, something that you don’t always get. While its lightweight makes it handy for quick indoor jobs, this is also a laser level that you can take outside or use in brightly-lit areas.

While it features that standard accuracy of 1/8 in. at 30 feet, it actually has a really impressive visibility of 100 feet, which sits among the longest of all our best laser levels. However, while it has a battery life of 30 hours, the battery isn’t rechargeable like all the other models. It runs on 3 AA batteries, which is really the only downside of the PLS180.

This laser level comes with a magnetic wall brackets, but it also uses a patented pendulum design that allows the laser to settle instantly when moved to a new location. This means you can move it and continue working right away without needing to turn the laser off to get accurate results. This is probably the best feature a laser level could have considering how most people will probably forget you need to reset the beam with each move.

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The 5 Features of a Good Laser Level

You can afford to play a little fast and loose when it comes to traditional levels. They are cheap enough that you can afford to make a bad pick. However, laser levels are more expensive, but also provide better utility. As such, you need to understand what it is that you are looking at when buying one. So as you are reading through laser level reviews, here are five things that you should be considering before buying.

Accuracy and Visibility

This is the most important feature of any laser level. Accuracy refers to the laser’s ability to determine the level of a work surface within a fraction of an inch. Obviously, accuracy within +1/8 of an inch is better than +5/16 of an inch. The more accurate the laser, the better the product it is. However, it is important to remember you will never find a completely accurate laser, it will always have an accuracy measured in fractions of an inch, but you also never want to go above a fraction of an inch in terms of measurements either.

Again, accuracy doesn’t matter if you can’t actually see the dot or the line created by the laser. Even if you are set on using it in a small space indoors, you still don’t want to buy a laser level with anything less than 50 feet of visibility. Being able to use it outside is gravy if you are looking for an indoor level, but visibility outdoors or in bright lights is a must for an outdoor laser level.

Horizontal Versus Dual Beam Lasers

This can be your most tricky choice. Horizontal beam laser levels emit only one beam. They are useful for hanging pictures straight and can detect irregularities in the work surface, making them good for other tasks like installing flooring. Since it only uses one beam, obviously it is the cheaper choice as well.

However, dual beam, or crossbeam, laser levels emit two beams – one that is horizontal and one that is vertical. These more sophisticated lasers allow you to control each beam individually so they can be used together or separate. Furthermore, it allows you to check the squareness of a product.

Overall, dual beams allow for greater flexibility and are typically our recommendation since you never know what project you could use it for in the future.

IP Rating

The IP rating, or Ingress Protection, of a product, isn’t always included, but you should prefer products where it is. The IP rating refers to how much of a beating it can take, or rather, its effectiveness at preventing foreign bodies from getting to all the sensitive bits. The higher the IP rating, the more it will protect from dust, water, or shock (as in from dropping) damage.

Mounting

If you wanted a level you had to hold, you could just use a traditional one. So don’t expect to have to hold a laser level, and definitely don’t settle for it. The type of mounting is crucial. While many lasers can be mounted with a tripod, some come with their own mount brackets. The nice thing about brackets is that you can make small adjustments as needed, sometimes via the bracket and sometimes via the laser itself. However, the best mounting device for laser levels is a magnetic backing. This makes them easy to put on to their brackets and provides a stable hold. Furthermore, if you are working on a magnetic surface, you don’t even need the mounting brackets.

Manual Versus Self-Leveling

Unless you are searching the absolute bottom of the barrel, you won’t have to worry about this one. All reputable laser levels have self-leveling via an internal pendulum that automatically adjusts itself within five degrees of movement. Of course, if you move it more than that, you need to reset the laser by turning it off and then back on again.

Manual lasers, on the other hand, means you still have to check the bubble vial to see if it is level or not. Typically you will only every find manual levels in extremely cheap models. They’re not recommended for how much of a pain in the ass they are.

What Type of Laser Level is Right for You?

There are three types of laser levels that dominate the market, and they each have their own projects and circumstances that they excel in. When choosing the right laser level for you, you need to know the type of laser level that is right for the jobs you do the most. Otherwise you will be stuck with a product that sits in your toolbox and takes up space. The three types of laser levels you have to choose from include:

Dot / Plumb Laser Levels

The dot laser level works the same way as your traditional water level or plumb bob, only it is much more accurate at long distances. The way a dot laser works is that it projects a single or multiple dots to a set position with no visible line in between. However, while they have a longer range than traditional levels, they still have a much short range than other laser levels models. As they are used for simple projects and almost exclusively for indoor use only, they are often the most affordable options.

Line Laser Levels

If you are looking for a laser level that is perfect for almost any project you need it for, then the line laser is the way to go. Like its name suggest the line laser type of level projects a straight, visible line across the distance. You can get simple line laser levels, but more complex options will project multiple lines which allow you to also check for squareness as well as straightness. While it used to be that line laser levels were only good for indoor use without a laser detector, some models have been enhanced to be suitable for outdoor use through new LED diodes.

Rotary Laser Levels

Rotary laser levels project a line much like a line laser level. However, through the use of rotating motors, it is able of rotating that line around the room in a 360-degree circle. Many models are also remote controlled for convenience and feature brighter diodes for outdoor use. Since these levels are often used by professionals to lay foundations or pipes, you can expect it to be more expensive, more powerful, and bulkier. However, this is your choice if you intend to use it for a lot of outdoor work.

It is pretty obvious that there is a laser level type for beginner, moderate, and professional use. However, our recommendation for if you are not sure what you need is the line laser level. You will know if you need a rotary laser level, and the line level is suited for more jobs that may come up in the future than the dot laser.

All that being said, not all laser levels are created equal. Some might be built inaccurately while others you can’t see a single thing if the sun is shining through the window. When shopping for the best laser level to fit your needs, you need to know what it is that you are looking at.

Why Pick a Laser Level over a Traditional Level?

You’ve seen our top picks for the best laser levels, but maybe you are still on the fence as to why you would need one. Your grandfather used a standard level and things got built just fine. However, laser levels are useful for more than just building projects. For example, everyone has tried to hang a picture at one point, thinking it would take them literally two minutes. Flash forward half an hour later and you are still staring at that picture trying to figure out if it is straight. Now imagine trying to put up a whole home gallery? What might be an all-day affair with just a hammer and some wall tacks becomes the quick five-minute job you thought it would be with a laser level.

Unlike with normal levels, with a laser level, you can mount it on the wall or another surface and have the level and accurate line extend all the way across a surface. It is physically impossible to hold your standard level while also trying to hammer in a nail. So think of laser line levels as a more convenient hands-free option.

Essentially, laser levels take what should be a physically impossible task and makes it doable. They make it easy, even. If you are a serious craftsman, you will want a serious laser level in your toolbox. However, if building projects are just and every now and then affair, even a cheap laser line level is worth having around. The one moment you really need it makes it all worth it.

How to Properly Set Up a Laser Level

Setting up a laser level, rotary or not, is the most difficult and most crucial part of the job.  If you want the most accurate results, then care needs to be given in this step.  Also, after set up you’ll need to calibrate the level so don’t pass up the chance to read our calibrating a laser level article (hyperlinked just up there ↑)

Place the level on elevated and stable ground or surface.  Tripods are the crucial thing here and are adjustable to needed high.  Note:  If it’s not stable then it’s not good.  Make sure it can’t be easily bumped or blow over.  Not only will you have to start ALL OVER but it will damage the laser level.

Turn on the laser level when it’s firmly in place where you want/need it.

Self-Leveling will take a moment to find its level point. Manual levels need to manually configure to find its level mark. (Think dials, vials, and bubbles)

Aim the laser in the desired direction and the wait for a beeping noise (these noises are similar in most makes and models but will differ somewhat).  Now, the laser may not be visible during the day so consider some laser glasses for daylight usage.

Lastly, you’ll need to start marking and drawing lines.  This ensures accuracy.  A laser level receiver will help greatly with this and let you know if you’re off or not.

Let’s Talk About Grading

If you’re grading then you’re most likely doing some construction.  By grading, we mean ensuring that the base or ground that you’re working on is leveled adequately enough to start the foundation and building process.  The old adage si always true:  Bad foundations equal bad buildings. And grading is the point where it all starts.

The rotary laser level is paramount for grading and when you are sure that there is no further digging, combing, pushing, plowing or filling needed, the construction phase is able to begin.

Not only is the rotary laser level a huge upgrade to the construction community, it also allows us “common folk” who just like to do their own work to be as accurate as those contractors and carpenters.  The days of advanced algorithmic knowledge can mostly be a thing of the past thanks to the availability of laser level tech.

Why Laser Levels Important?

They’re a must-have tool.  If you need to measure a straight line, transfer a consistent line of level over long and medium-range, then a rotary laser level is the go-to tool.

Sure, there are water levels and transits, there’s the old guy with a piece of chalked string.  Those are all viable options…50 years ago.  But those all have one thing in common:  A high degree of human error.

Why would you trust your eyes when you can measure and grade at such a precise level with laser technology?  Don’t answer that.  It was rhetorical.

Not to mention that laser levels cut man hours, workload, and you don’t have to keep measuring, moving along a line and measure again…and again.

What is a Rotary Laser Level

  • Advanced measuring tool
  • Creates a constant line across ALL types of surfaces and distances (for instance, finding a constant and level line along a slope.)
  • It is an independent instrument. In other words, it can measure distance and level with accuracy all alone.

How Does a Rotary Laser Level Work?

  • It self-levels itself and emits a constant 360-degree laser beam both horizontally and vertically.
  • A detecting device locates the beam and then said detector will usually beep when it reaches/finds/calibrates into the desired level.

Max Range of Rotary Laser Levels

Depending on the type, brand, power of the rotary laser level you’re using it will vary.  The bigger and better the instrument, the longer the range.

As an example:  The best laser levels that we recommend will reach a distance of up 2k feet!  While a good laser level will stay around the 1k to 1.2k feet range.  ALL WITH PRECISE ACCURACY OVER THOSE DISTANCES.

Now, let’s take a look at how different methods of leveling will affect range, accuracy and price.

Differing Methods of Leveling

There are 3 ways of using these instruments to level:  Manually, Self-Leveling, and Auto Self-Leveling.

Manual:

It’s a tougher process where the user (that’s you!) adjusts the laser to bubble inside the liquid vial.  Depending on your eye and the quality of the mechanism (bubble and vial) the accuracy will differ. Accurate up to a 1/8 of an inch but only up to 30 feet.

Self-Leveling:

More accurate than a manual leveling experience.  The level does the work itself by using magnets, pendulums, and plumb bobs. Most of the time it is accurate to within an 1/8 of an inch at up to 100 feet.

Did you know: A plumb bob, or plummet, is a weight, usually with a pointed tip on the bottom, suspended from a string and used as a vertical reference line, or plumb-line. It is a precursor to the spirit level and used to establish a vertical or horizontal datum.

Self-Leveling Electronically:

The be-all knows all of the accuracy.  Using micro, servo-motors, the laser level does the job completely by itself and is ultra-accurate getting to within 1/16 of an inch, up to 100 feet.  This is what we at TopLaserLevel call “automatic self-leveling”. Most of today’s rotary laser levels are these automatic leveling types.  It’s quick and accurate. Again, cutting work and man-hours by several multiples and drastically reducing the chance of human error.

So, what are these Laser Levels Used For:

Landscaping:  You can check out some of our articles here:

Landscapers use rotary laser levels to determine grades of specific areas of land in order to determine if needs additional grading or styling determined by the work called for.  Wanna’ put in a yard pond?  You don’t do it on high ground.  It helps professionals and DIY home gardeners develop a more polished and cleaner look on the property.

Construction:

Well, yeah.  Construction workers, contractors, carpenters, handy-“men”, etc. have plenty of reason and need to have a laser level in their “tool belt”.  Laying tiles, redoing floors & ceilings, and foundation jobs all call for a great deal of accuracy and professionalism.

Home DIY Improvement

If you need to a home job then you can certainly use a laser level of your own.  We have plenty of articles here to help you through the process and usage of one of these gadgets.  Don’t feel like it’s too tech or too complicated.  If Raf can do it, so can you! 😊 If you’re adding a room or putting in window or walls, then these tools are just what you’re looking for.