Beginners Guide for Optical Levels

Optical levels are the best tool of choice for leveling a building. Their great accuracy make them an essential tool for establishing grade on buildings and structures up to several hundred feet long.


Choose a location as close as possible to where the grade will be shot.

  • Set the tripod by mashing each leg into the ground as far as possible with your foot while maintaining as close to level a mounting surface as possible.
  • Place the instrument atop the tripod and secure the center attaching screw.
  • Using the adjusting screws, zero the bubble on the level. It helps to align the transit over the adjustment screws before fine tuning.
  • Spin the transit 360ยบ and note the position of the bubble. Make any necessary adjustments.

Once the level is setup, you are ready to establish level points with it. This is known as “shooting grade”. While setting up an optical level is a one person job, to use one it takes two people. One person reading the level and one person establishing the grade. The best way for this to go down starts by aligning the barrel of the level very close to where the grade will be shot. Next the instrument must be focused. Now it’s a simple matter of the shooter directing the assistant to move his point up or down until it is centered in the cross-hairs.

An example for using an optical level is for establishing level marks on the posts of a pole barn. This is rather easy once the level is setup properly. Then the shooter directs the assistant to their speed square up or down on the post until it is center of the cross-hairs. Then the assistant makes a mark along the edge of the square where the grade was shot. Once this done on all of the post, the marks can be used to determine where to saw the top of the posts so that the barn’s roof will be level.

Most other uses are about the same except that instead of using a speed square, the assistant will use a measuring pole or tape measure. The shooter will establish a common measurement and the assistant will make any adjustments necessary.

Always keep an eye on the bubble and make it remains zeroed. A disruption to the tripod can result in inaccuracies. If you notice the bubble not right then it may be hard to readjust it. It will probably wise to simply start over. It is of great importance to take very good care of the optical level. Never leave it setup any longer than necessary and always return it immediately to its case.