The best aser levels are a tool which brings about a curious overlap between builders, DIYers and photographers not just because they help with composition, but because the universal solution to holding them in position is a tripod thread (which might also link to a magnet bracket, but we’ll get into that later). They are used on every construction site - but can be just as useful hanging up a photo or a shelf on a wall.
Once lasers were the tools of governments and space invaders, but they have quickly permeated every realm of life, including DIY, where they have not only supplanted the tape measure (see our list), but taken on the spirit level.
Patiently eying a bubble in a glass tube never felt especially accurate – and often called for drawing on surfaces – whereas a laser level can be set up and projected onto a surface, giving you an perfectly level line as long as you work and covering many meters from the point it originates. It can either be “manual” (you direct the line at any angle to suit your needs) or “auto-leveling” (a mechanism inside ensures that the projected lines are perfectly horizontal or vertical, if you get the device within a few degrees). This also eliminates the need for finding somewhere to hang a gravity-dependent plumb line.
A laser level is one of those tools which has the potential to vastly accelerate tasks; the more ambitious you are, the more features you should look for. A brighter laser will be visible further (laser glasses and sensors can also assist). A turret design offers beams 360˚ coverage so you can work round a whole room.
The best laser levels in 2021
For most DIY tasks, like hanging pictures, mirrors, curtain rails and other décor, you need just a single laser beam, which is what this handy little tool offers. It does it in a pleasingly familiar form, too, looking a little like an overweight traditional tape measure, though it sits upon a rotating attachment so you can let go of it and direct it to your chosen angle (at the expense of a tac-hole).
Compared to others the range is relatively low, but this device is better suited to hobbyists and those conducting tasks not too far beyond arms reach, so will be quite powerful enough. Indeed it may do well for unusual tasks like organizing elements of a montage without pencil lines and rulers – perhaps you already need two laser levels?
The quirky cube-like design of this cross-line laser level from Bosch, and the handy adjustable clamp it is usually sold with, make it an excellent tool for DIYer’s not wanting anything excessively complicated but who might still have a use for the dual axis beams.
The mount can grip a post from a centimetre to 5 thick, meaning you don’t need to worry about whether it’s a ferrous metal (very useful if you want to use your step-ladder as a support). The slide-down cover for the optics also locks the pendulum, meaning this tool is well protected against a clumsy owner too.
One extra feature which might appeal to some – albeit one you need to choose at purchase by choosing the Bosch Quigo Plus – is the option of interval marking on the lasers to help space things out evenly.
The Box-1G is ready to tackle all the same scenarios that other cross-beam lasers are, with the added advantaged that come with 510nm “Green” laser. As well as the self-leveling pendulum, which like most woks within 4˚, there is a lock for manual mode so you can take on stair laying or other tasks involving angles.
You can expect the four batteries to keep the laser lit for four hours, better than some competitors and at least you can cycle through the beams with the power button to extend that time, or swap the batteries with no charging if needed.
Despite the low asking price, a magnetic bracket – which screws into the standard tripod mount – is also included, meaning that, for many tasks, it’s hard to suggest spending more (though you will need to budget for batteries as they last under 5 hours).
Though it’s quite small for a 3-plane laser, the CM-701 is a powerful device with built in battery which is one of the cheapest available in the rugged professional category but goes out of its way to be useful on site. The turret design means there are 360˚ lasers in all three axis, but to reduce drain on the battery each can be individually switched off via their own button on the case – no multiple presses to cycle through the lasers (though the 4 brightness levels are all accessed via the power button).
The included remote control can also be used to switch off the lasers so they’re only drawing power as you work, and without the risk of moving the device if it’s staying in place using the magnet bracket. Also included is a precision adjustment tripod and a reflector, so you really get everything the pros get plus a future-proof USB-C charging socket.
While it might not have the snappiest of names, the DW089K is certainly built to last with almost over-moulded design that can certainly stand a drop or two without risking the laser. It is effectively one big roll-cage. Use is also straightforward on site, with one-button-per-laser operation and an easily gripped big knob of precise adjustment of the intersecting lines (or easy re-direction to the next wall).
A low battery indicator on the side is a useful addition, not that you’ll see it for 25 hours, and the diagrammatic buttons are very clear – confusion seems very unlikely. DeWalt are also to be praised for their typically rugged kit box and the notably brighter laser than predecessors in the same line, though the IP20 build implies the DW089K is not waterproofed.
In keeping with Leica’s tradition of high-quality optics, the ML180 (even though it’s a somewhat unfashionable red laser) has the longest range and the best precision. Any kind of job is within scope, even in a large outdoor space, is achievable thanks to the ‘Smart Targeting’ function.
As well as traditional layouts with lines at 90˚ to each other, the XCR Catch device can be placed on a distant wall and, with the help of the ML180, will be guided to the point exactly opposite, to help one operator work from existing structures like inward-corners. It also projects a dot directly downward to help positioning.
With such a reliable electronic helper, you’ll also be glad to know that if the 12h battery expires, Leica have your back; you can charge and keep using, or swap for type D batteries. The pack is pricey, but it includes a good range of accessories (including that remote). You’ll need a 5/8” compatible tripod.
If you can lay your hands on the understandably sought-after Milwaukee laser level, you’ll definitely impress the other folk on a jobsite (and it’s robust enough that even if they drop it in a fit of jealousy it’ll likely survive).
Of course it is a green laser – the accepted brighter shade – but it’s bolstered by the power of Milwaukee’s 12V rechargeable batteries which means it can keep projecting those lines the whole working day (and not just union hours, up to 15 according to Milwaukee). If you use any of the firm’s 100 battery-powered tools, this will no doubt have further appeal; If not, one of these REDLITHIUM batteries & charger are supplied.
Other site-worthy aspects are the included rare earth magnets which more than comfortably support the device on steel studwork, despite its not inconsiderable heft. The device also manages a very impressive 38m visibility on site with the human eye – not a theoretical claim with a measuring device.
Best laser measure