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Laser reccomendation

alexwang32's picture

Hi there, I've been doing a lot of research and shopping online for a laser, I intend to use it  for building a 2 storey house with basement.

So far I found a couple of good models by Bosh and Dewalt, I'm a bit worried about the cheaper brand's accuracy. I'm very interested in a 360 3 Beam line laser paired with a receiver, this would be the most versatile though at a slightly high price, but I'm thinking if it saves time and labour it may well be worth the investment. It'll be used after the foundation is done, so rotary lasers won't be necessary.

But since I don't have much expereience with using lasers on the site, except for a laser distance measure, I want to know, just how much time can be saved by using a laser, or how much can a laser do to facilitate the building process in a way regular beam & string levels can't? I understand a laser is nice for tiling and trims, but I'm more on focused on the framing part, getting the shell of the house done that is. After some digging I can't seem to find a very detailed guide or explaination on the subject.

Also, would it be practical to use a laser distance measure for checking building dimensions? After all tape measures develops errors when measuring long distances.

I've thought of some uses myself that could speed up the process and ensure accuracy using lasers:

  • Layout walls using 2 vertical beams at 90 degree, thereby eliminating the need to do 3,4,5 or diagnol checks
  • Plumb walls using 1 vertical beam, aligning the bottom plate with the laser line and checking the top ( a plumb bob spot laser would work in this case too)
  • Checking level for mudsill, window sill

I'd really appreciate it if someone can share their own experience with using a laser, paticularly at the framing stage, and how it effectively improved speed and accuracy.

Thank you

Use a water level instead. (post #216475, reply #1 of 7)

Use a water level instead. More accurate than lasers, cheap, easy to operate, can't break it, no batteries, no tripod.

Florida Licensed Building Contractor, 50 years experience in commercial remodeling, new homes, home remodeling and repairs and all types building maintenance.

Okay... something to take in (post #216475, reply #4 of 7)

Okay... something to take in there. I've tried to use a clear plastic tube with water in it to measure land elevation once, but perhaps the tube was too small in diameter, bubbles inside wouldn't come out, rendering the readings useless. I suppose if I were into it I'd have to buy a professional kit like this.

Alex (post #216475, reply #2 of 7)

I have a transit, line and dot lasers, as well as the ageless water level.  While I might use all on a house build, a good foundation is the real necessity for a quality finish.  Get that right and the plates squared up and you should be able to frame with string, a framing square, and a 6' level.

Remodels or commercial room framing in a large space, lasers are a good addition.  Line lasers for kitchens and built ins.

Only later did I get a construction app for my iPad.  Once familiar with it you'll find it invaluable.  Until then, embrace the framing square!

A Great Place for Information, Comraderie, and a Sucker Punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.


Ditto on the water level I (post #216475, reply #5 of 7)

Ditto on the water level I see. Good points, doing research online I've been getting the sense that lasers are more useful for interior/finish work. But as you said, the foundation is the most crucial section, I was thinking getting a laser would facilitate the process of getting it level, of course if foundation contractor got it good within 1/8" then that would be optimal.

Alex (post #216475, reply #7 of 7)

if you used a decent laser  dot level when you plate the foundation you could both square up the plates and figure the high/low spots.

when we built in the 80's, I used a transit to layout the batter boards for the dig.  These were set so I could also use them for the footer and block.  Though I checked them at each step, no one bashed or ran over them.  This was hillside half in the ground so highly unusual for here in the flatlands of nw Ohio.  

At any rate the transit let me shoot down hill to a reference point.  Move down and plumb the transit to that ref pt and then shoot back up hill...set zero, turn it 90 degrees and shoot to the location of the next corner.  Reference that point and repeat.

The foundation was stepped down the hill so now after plating the next challenge was leveling the top of the 1st fl walls.  A laser level could have come in handy, but the transit (or builders level at this point) finished it off.  Braced 2x4's at corners plumb and run long then went around and marked off a consistent stud height.  Stringlined (tight and taut) at that mark, laid out the plates and measured to the line for stud length.  

The first floor walls I fastened the bottom plate to the sill, toe nailed enough studs to that plate to put on the top plate, then filled in the rest.  Used the same string line to straighten and double plate.  I sheeted the first fl walls after frame was up.

so, making the long story longer......there’s usually more than one way to skin that cat.

Best of luck.



A Great Place for Information, Comraderie, and a Sucker Punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.


Hi there,      In my (post #216475, reply #3 of 7)

Hi there,

     In my opinion the most versatile laser to have is a good 5 beam self-leveling laser.  I have had a PLS 5 for many years.  It is a dot laser that gives you 3 horizontal points, square to each other and 2 vertical dots.  It is super accurate and a great tool for everything from foundation to finishes.  For squaring up plates on top of your foundation you can sit it on one corner, shoot it down the line to a target on the opposite corner, then mark the 3rd corner for square and you're done.  So easy, no math, no measuring.  Then to get your mudsills dead level find the high corner of the foundation with the laser and plop it down there. Then shoot down the length of 2 walls at the same time and mark at each anchor bolt how much shim is needed.  When you are bolting the 2 sills down sandwich the correct size shim between them.  This is how we do every floor and they have all been perfect.  I can put a 6 foot level on every surface of my own house and it is still dead level or plumb.  For layout of partition walls and squaring, no need for a laser at this point.  If you have already squared the outside walls then all of your partitions are parallel to another wall already built or laid out.  If you grab the laser everytime your need to do layout you introduce cummulative error.  Parallel trumps square after the initial squaring of the outside walls. 

     I have a Bosch laser line as well for little things like tile and cabinet installs, but the dot laser works well for these too.  I am more likely to grab the dot laser than the line laser for things like panelling or wainscoting in a large room, or even siding.  I shoot the dot into each corner of the room and snap a line between the dots, then put the laser away.  Ads for lasers usually depict people having the beam on while they work to guide them, I've never really found that practice very useful, except maybe for tile...   

      To summarize, I love my PLS 5 and my Bosch green line laser.  I had a CTS Berger too that was similar, which I liked a lot.  I also had a Robotoolz( now Bosch I believe).  They were both stolen, but were good tools.  Also, I believe you are correct in questioning the accuracy of the cheaper models.  I would spend good money for one good do it all laser instead of getting 2 cheaper lasers for specific tasks.  Good luck

Thanks for the detailed (post #216475, reply #6 of 7)

Thanks for the detailed reply, you've given me a lot of information there. I had assumed that the dot laser is used for plumbing work mainly, but after reading your most and this, I realize that it's really handy and sufficient for many tasks. I was thinking that a 360 line laser would be best for quickly leveling the mudsill, but your method of placing it at a high spot and using the anchor bolts as a reflective surface sounds like a great method too.

Just a few questions to ask:

  • I live and Canada and couldn't find any deals on the PL lasers ( I know their lasers are nice), currently the Dewalt DW085K 5 Beam Laser is on sale, as well as the DW0811LR 12V 2x360 Red Laser, I'm having a hard time deciding on which to purchase. A problem with line lasers I think is that you may risk looking into the laser more than with a point laser, I was wondering if you and your crew members have ever experienced this.
  • What types of shim do you use to get the mudsill level, Cedar or composite? Because I read some people do it the hard way by pouring another thin layer of watery non shrinking grout, I reckon that kind of practiced is used on really really off foundations ( more than 1/2").
  • Besides plumb and level, maintaining accurate building dimension is also paramount. I don't know anyone who uses a laser distance measure for such tasks, but then, how do they frame 5000sqft houses, using a really long tape measure? Tape measures are problematic too... temperature and binding induces error. Of course for my house I hardly have to worry about this, a 50ft tape measure will cover everything.

Again I really appreciate the tips, look forward to trying out your methods on the site.