What Is a Carpenter's Level Used for?

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Whether you are hanging an old photograph, decorating your home with a new object, or installing your new counter, it is crucial that you make sure these are fully level before mounting them. After all, nothing says inattention to detail like a crooked frame or a slanted counter.
As one of the most popular and essential tools in woodworking and other building projects, carpenter’s levels require little experience to operate but can have impactful results. Discover how using a carpenter’s level can provide you with a simple and easy method to check whether surfaces and objects are level and plumb.

What is a carpenter’s level?

Commonly referred to as spirit or bubble levels, carpenter’s levels are made of simple, lightweight rectangular frames (typically made of metal, plastic, or wood). They contain one or more liquid-filled vials (or a little tube) which consist of two notches, indicating the center, and a small bubble, which helps you determine when the tool is level. Carpenter’s levels come in many different lengths and sizes (often ranging from 2ft to 8ft in length) in order to easily measure various lengths and heights. 

What is a carpenter’s level used for?

Carpenter’s levels are used to verify the alignment of surfaces during any construction or renovation process, no matter how big or small. They can be used to determine both the horizontal alignment (level) and vertical alignment (plumb) of a given surface or object and require very little training to use. In fact, here’s a crash course: When the bubble in the vial is centered between the two visible notches, the surface you are observing is perfectly level. Now you’re an expert! You can use carpenter’s levels for common home improvements, such as:
  • Building furniture and other household additions (including decks)
  • Calculating angles on sloped surfaces (if electronic)
  • Checking the status of floor or chair molding
  • Hanging photographs or artwork
  • Painting
  • Putting up shelves or other wall decorations
If you are interested in purchasing a carpenter’s level, you’re in luck. They’re available at most stores and online retailers. Check online, at a nearby department store (such as Home Depot, Lowes, Wal-Mart), or at your local hardware store to find a carpenter’s level that satisfies your needs.

How to read a bubble level

Like we said, deciphering a carpenter’s level is easy once you get the hang of it. When reading a carpenter’s level, you must first align the tool to the bottom edge of whatever surface you are checking and then assess it at eye level. If the bubble in the vial is perfectly centered between the two notches (or lines/rings), the surface is perfectly level. If the bubble is not perfectly centered, you must adjust the surface appropriately and keep remeasuring it until it is level.

What if I don’t have a carpenter’s level?

If you don’t have a carpenter’s level handy, there are many types of levels you can use to make sure you’re achieving an exact level plane. Laser levels are also extremely reliable. They cast a red line on the wall so you don’t have to prop the level up as you trace the line on your wall.
A water level is the least advanced of the available options but they’re still extremely accurate (and you can build one on your own if you’re really in a bind!).
Regardless of what level you use, it is extremely important to make sure flat surfaces are indeed level. For example, if your countertop is not on a horizontal plane, you will have cans, eggs, and anything round rolling onto the floor!
Sometimes the smallest mistakes have the biggest consequences. A few millimeters could mean the difference between your eggs staying on the counter or ending up on the floor. Always remember to measure more than once to make sure your results are as accurate as possible.

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