How To Use A Laser Level For Grading

Posted: Mar 5 2019, 3:49am CST | by , in Technology News

 

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How to Use a Laser Level for Grading

Grading for outdoor projects is such a simple yet fundamental step. It doesn't take as long as the project itself, but it's such an essential task. How else would a structure, such as a house or a fence, would achieve stability without proper grading? Nobody wants a lopsided product.

Which is why the user of lasers for leveling and grading is such a boon for outdoor projects. All you have to do is fire up the laser and have the laser detector meet the beam to determine the grade. If you invest your money in the best laser level, you'll be measuring land grades effortlessly.

But just like any other tool, make sure you know how to use your laser level properly. Even the best, most expensive level is useless if you don't know how to operate it, or if you're misusing it. Along with your device's user manual, here are the steps on how to use a laser level for grading.

What is land grading?

Before you even think of spending hundreds of dollars for your next laser level set, you need to understand what land grading is. Land grading refers to the manipulation of land to determine its proper downwards slope. Finding out the slope is essential when trying to draw water away from your structure; otherwise, the water will hit your structure directly and will cause problems.

However, make sure you don't confuse land grading with land leveling. Land leveling is the opposite of land grading: ensuring all surfaces are even according to a base surface. This may involve more landfilling on a spot or some land removal.

Regardless of which one you need to do for your project, the best laser level will help you accomplish your goals in no time.

Step 1: Level the tripod

One of the beauties of using a laser level outside is that it pretty much works on its own without supervision. This device turns what used to be a two-person job into a solo activity. The measurements are also consistent because you no longer have to rely on the other person's estimation.

The secret for this is the laser level's tripod. Much like a camera tripod, a laser level tripod securely holds the device in place via a screw below the mounting plate. The mounting plate and screw ensure that the laser level doesn't fall to the ground.

Depending on the kind of laser level you have, your tripod may or may not have a bubble level to help ensure the tripod's stability. If your laser level is self-leveling, then all you have to worry about is setting the tripod's legs far enough from each other to prevent it from falling.

Step 2: Set the benchmark

Once your laser level is secure on its tripod, and the tripod itself won't fall over, it's time to grab your grade rod and laser detector. To do this step correctly, it's crucial that your laser level is on your ideal height. This height is what you'll compare the measurements against, so determine the base height first before proceeding.

Meanwhile, the grade rod is a tall rod with numbers on one side. These numbers show measurements in feet and inches. It has a specialized surface that enables an adjustable clip to move up and down and clamp on it as needed.

Attaching to the grade rod via a clip is your laser detector. It works in tandem with your laser level by receiving the beam on its receptor and notifying you of your status. The detector slowly beeps if you're far from the laser beam, and it starts to beep quicker as you get closer. Once the beep becomes stable and consistent, that means your detector is on the same height. You can also turn off the beeping sound and rely on the detector's screen, which shows you arrows if you need to go up or down, and a straight line if you're level.

Once you have your rod and detector ready, it's time to set your benchmark. Stand a few feet away from your laser level and find the height that your laser is projecting. Once you find that measurement, remember it. It is your structure's base height, and any deviations from that will dictate what you need to do for your project.

Step 3: Start measuring on different spots

Measuring is a breeze once your laser level is set and your detector is ready. To determine whether a corner is higher or lower than the base where the laser level is, all you have to do is to let your detector catch the laser beam. If your detector is too low, move it up until it meets the laser. Take note of the new measurement - that means your current spot will have to be filled to match the base level. The amount of landfill depends on the difference between the benchmark and the current measurement.

On the other hand, if you're grading land, then your current measurement will tell you whether the slope is angled correctly or not. Either way, make sure to record the measurements on different spots, especially on uneven land. It's better to have too much data than not enough, especially when futureproofing your project against things like water and erosion.

Optional: Use a water level

If you want to make doubly sure on your measurements, you can use the age-old method of utilizing water levels to determine alignment. This process involves a second person to keep an eye on the level and must relay that information to the other person.

To use this process, you'll need some colored liquid like dyed water, and a long, clear plastic tube. Run the water throughout the straw and stop it after a while. You should end up with a long tube filled partway with water. Manipulating one end will change the water level on the other, which is why you need a second person to keep an eye on it.

This method works if you already have markers placed on your land and need to confirm that your laser level measurements are correct. You don't have to do this, of course, as this is more cumbersome than doing a second round of measurements with your laser level.

Taking care of your laser level

Once your work outside is done, make sure you properly power off your device. Carefully detach it from the tripod, and then remove the device's batteries. Doing so not only enables you to recharge the battery before your next use, but it also prevents accidental usage. Lasers must be handled with care to avoid eye injuries.

If you find that your laser level's calibration is off, check with the user manual for steps on recalibrating it. Make sure the battery is fully charged, and you have the settings in their right adjustments. If nothing works, call the manufacturer for further assistance.

Final thoughts

Laser levels are an expensive investment, with professional-grade devices costing more than $800. These units have a self-leveling functionality, and their laser beams can project far away while maintaining accuracy. They also have a rotary laser, which rotates the laser 360 degrees to cover every single possible angle you need.

And even though laser levels sound like they have too many bells and whistles, that's because they pretty much take the place of a second person. With the kind of precision the laser offers, it's no surprise that the device costs that much. If you do a lot of outdoor projects for your home, or if you're an independent contractor, a laser level should be a staple in your toolbox.

This story may contain affiliate links.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
Manfred "Luigi" Lugmayr () is the founding Chief Editor of I4U News and brings over 25 years experience in the technology field to the ever evolving and exciting world of gadgets, tech and online shopping. He started I4U News back in 2000 and evolved it into vibrant technology news and tech and toy shopping hub.
Luigi can be contacted directly at ml[@]i4u.com.

 

 

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