Investing in the right level for your home repairs

December 23, 2014

These pointers about how levels work will help you choose one to help your home repairs stay on the straight and narrow.

Investing in the right level for your home repairs

Whether you’re building a bookcase, creating a back deck, installing a washer-dryer or even just hanging photos, knowing how to keep things straight and level is the bare minimum for a home repair job done well. While a level may seem like the simplest piece of technology available, there are a few things to consider when shopping for one. Here are a few tips on how to choose a level that will help you keep your home renovations on the straight and narrow.

Getting history straight

Archeologists believe that levels of some kind have been used since ancient times to ensure that buildings follow straight lines, but for the more modern “bubble” or spirit level, most point to amateur scientist Melchisedech Thevenot, who is believed to have invented the device in 1661. While devices have become more precise and easier to transport, the basic theory of how the instrument works has not changed since then.

Modern times

The levels we see today use an air bubble in a liquid vial to check whether surfaces are level (horizontal) and/or plumb (vertical). Most quality levels you can buy today are machine-calibrated with the cylindrical vials epoxy locked in place to ensure the most accurate, stable readings possible.

On the level

All level used to be made of wood, but over time these devices reportedly began to wear unevenly or warp under the wear of a typical construction site. At that point, most manufacturers shifted to metal constructions, with most levels now made from aluminum with a wear-resistant coating. There are two main types of level:

Box section profile: These levels are encased in a box and are the least likely to warp or twist with heavy use. These tend to be more expensive.

I-beam profile: These levels are lighter and have enough tensile strength for most home repairs.

Cost considerations

With levels, you get what you pay for. While you may not need to buy the most expensive level in the hardware store, you should be planning to buy a recognized brand name and aim for a mid-level price tag for most home repairs. Look for a level with end caps to prevent damage when the level is dropped, and get one that's at least 18 inches in length to take care of most jobs around the home.

Straight home

Levels have come a long way from a stone on a string eyeballed against the horizon. Since the spirit level came into existence, construction workers, masons, roofers and home repair handymen  have come to rely on their accurate readings. By knowing how to choose a level for your own needs, you’ll be more likely to install shelves and fixtures that are plumb and level, and be more satisfied with a job well-done.

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