The Ultimate Rotary Laser Level User Guide

Rotary laser levels have become a must-have tool when it comes to transferring a constant level line over medium to long ranges.

Unlike water levels or transits, the laser level is not prone to human error or inaccuracies and can be operated by a single person.

They also reduce workload and save time by removing the need to repeatedly shift and extend measuring tools that you use to try and find a level line.

What is a rotary laser level

The rotary laser level is an advanced measuring tool, designed to help create a constant line across all types of working surfaces over larger distances. This is helpful when transferring a level from one place to another. For example, using it to mark out a level line on a slope.

This device helps achieve that quickly and accurately over a distance without the need of any other tool.

How do rotary laser levels work?

While self-leveling itself, the rotary laser levels work by emitting a constant 360-degree laser beam horizontally and vertically.

These come with a detector device that is used to locate the beam. The detector will normally beep once it is at the desired level.

What is the max range of a rotary laser level

The range on a rotary laser level will vary from level to level and the bigger the level, the longer the range. The average distance for a rotary laser level is around 1000-1200 feet and the best laser levels will be able to reach a distance of around 2000 feet.

The rotary laser level also uses certain methods of leveling and this will have an impact on the price as well, let’s have a look at these methods

Different types of leveling

There are three methods used to level a rotary laser level namely, manual leveling, self-leveling and automatic Self-Leveling.

  • Manual leveling: Manual-leveling is one of the toughest methods to level with and it is where the user makes the laser level by adjusting the laser to the bubble inside the vial. Accuracy will greatly depend on the quality of the vial and your eye.
  • Self-leveling: The self-leveling method is a little more accurate than the manual leveling method and it is when the laser starts to level itself with the use of pendulums and magnets. Self-leveling is usually accurate to 1/8 of an inch at 100 feet, while the manual leveling is only 1/8 of an inch at 30 feet
  • Electronic Self-Leveling: This is the most accurate and it and it makes use of a series of small servo-motors to level itself. This leveling method is usually accurate at 1/16 of an inch at 100 feet. These are also known as automatic self-leveling.

Most of today’s rotary laser levels are automatic self-leveling, as this method is by far the most accurate and quickest.

— What they are used typically for

  • Landscaping: The rotary laser level will be mostly found in the kit of landscapers to help them determine the specific grade of the area and where it needs to be altered to create a specific style of land. Landscapers will need to have this information to create a smooth and better-looking surface
  • Construction: Construction workers have many uses for the rotary laser level and it can really come in handy while laying tiles and even ensuring that buildings are level. The main use for the rotary laser level is usually to ensure that the foundation of any given area that needs to be built on is solid and level as this will influence the building and the quality of the foundation. Grading is used to determine this.
  • DIY or home improvements jobs: Yes, you can use the rotary laser level at home as well to help you hang paintings and even when improving areas around the house. When you need to add windows to the wall and even put up wallpaper, the rotary laser level will be your best friend in helping you work more accurately.

How to set up your rotary laser level

The setup of the rotary laser level is crucial and needs to be done correctly for you to get the best results. The laser level should also be calibrated to ensure better accuracy, but we will show you how to do that later on.

  1. First, you will need to place the laser level on an elevated, but stable surface. Laser levels generally have tripods included to ensure that they can be adjusted in terms of height. It is important to make sure that level is stable and cannot be bumped or easily fall down and damage the laser.
  2. Next, you can turn on the laser level when you are happy that the surface is even and solid.
  3. If you happen to have a self-leveling laser, you should allow the laser to have a moment to find its level mark. Manual laser levels must be adjusted to be level in this step.
  4. Now you can aim the laser level at the desired direction and the laser receiver will start making a beeping noise. The laser level is important as the laser might not be visible during the day.
  5. Finally, you will be ready to start making a mark and drawing lines to ensure that you are working accurately. The laser receiver can be used to double check these marks and if they are not level, the receiver will let you know.

When a laser level has been set up correctly and you have followed these steps, you will be more likely to have a plumb reading. The elevation is important and the level needs to be directed at the height required to level.


Calibrating your rotary laser level is one of the most important things that you need to do as part of maintaining the rotary laser level. It is recommended that the laser level is calibrated at least once every 6 months to ensure accuracy, but many of the warranties do allow you to take the level in for free calibrating until the warranty expires.

If you have an automatic self-leveling rotary laser, we highly recommend you get it calibrated and serviced by the manufacturer or a recognized professional.

The self-leveling rotary laser is a little easier to calibrate and we will show you how.

How to check the calibration of a rotary laser level

This method will work with a laser or any other sort of optical level.

If you are using an auto (dumpy) level you will need an assistant to hold the rod.  You won’t need one if you have a laser level as you set it up and take the readings yourself, but the principle is the same.

  1. Find a clear stretch of open ground and mark on it two fixed points that are a minimum of 300 ft / 100 meters apart.  If I am on the street I put chalk marks on the concrete curb, otherwise, I put down a couple of bricks to rest the rod on.  You must be able to find the same exact spot for the rod at least twice.
  2. Set up the level so that you will be able to do the readings without swinging the level too much, as in the top example.
  3. Take the two readings at “A” and “B”.  Then subtract the height at “B” from the height at “A”.  Let’s say in this case the difference is 132mm.
  4. Move and set up the level again between points “A” and “B”.  Take the two readings again, this time you will have to swing the instrument 180 degrees.
  5. Measure the difference between the two readings again.  It should be the same as before, in our example it is 132mm.

If the difference varies, say by ½” then your level is out ¼” in 300 ft.  Don’t get too critical and worry about a couple of millimeters,  you can very rarely achieve that kind of accuracy in construction work anyway. You just need to satisfy yourself that the level is not a mile out.

This way gives a worst case measurement. From almost no movement of the level to a full 180 turn of the level to get the readings.

Whenever you do an important set out check the level first. Even if it is a Laser level that you have just purchased/hired.


Grading is the essential procedure done before the construction to ensure that the ground or base is level enough to start the foundation and ultimately begin the construction process.

The rotary laser level is essential for grading and when you have ensured that there is no further digging or filling needed, the construction can begin.

How to use the rotary laser level for grading:

    1. Setup – It is fundamental that when you set up the laser level for grading, that you place it on a solid and even place on the ground. The tripod legs should be spread out evenly to ensure that the laser does not damage or fall over while grading.
    2. Find the initial height of the grade – The initial height of the grade will be used as the basis and this is really important for you to start with.
    3. Determine the current grade – For this step, you will need another person and you will have to move to areas around the construction area with the rod already at the desired height. The other person should now adjust the laser to shoot directly at you and you will adjust the laser receiver until you find the height. The laser receiver will start beeping as you get close and then have an uninterrupted beep when you have found the height.
    4. Do this throughout the construction area – You will need to move throughout the construction area in order to find the different readings. It is important that you take the reading regardless of whether the ground is above or below the desired point.
    5. Place stakes to mark the spot – Since the bottom of the grade stick, represents the bottom of the grade itself, you will need to place sticks or stakes to mark the spot. You can either mark each of the stakes on the desired height or force them into the ground to the desired height.

Now you can simply jot down the readings and start the work with the correct grade readings. Many construction projects and landscapers rely on this method to do their grading, but DIYers can also use a cheaper method without the laser receiver at twilight and while the laser is constantly spinning around, you will be able to move from stake to stake and mark the grade.


The rotary laser level is definitely an advancement in the world of construction, landscaping and especially terracing and having one for yourself could save you a lot of time and especially money if you need to redo anything.

We highly recommend the laser level in all areas of construction as well as DIY use to help you gain more accuracy in your work. We would like to thank you for reading this article and we would like you to comment and let us know what your thoughts are on laser levels and their leveling capabilities.

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