There are many tools that can help speed up a process and make your life so much more easier thus increasing productivity and inevitably increasing profits. This brings us to the next tools that we are going to discuss in our series on tools for landscapers.
Laser levels are used for numerous types of home improvement activities to make sure things are level or following a level line. Though for landscapers looking for the right laser level to be able to get their excavation right, you should be looking for a laser level that provides a 360 degree laser in order to measure all the points in the area that you will be excavating.
This is where a rotary laser level comes in handy.
What is a Rotary Laser Level?
A rotary laser level is a laser level that rotates 360 degrees providing you with a level laser either horizontally or vertically. This makes it the perfect laser level for landscapers who are trying to get their elevation or grade correct when excavating or preparing the base of their project.
Why You Need a Rotary Laser Level
Say you are going to install a backyard patio. You can see that the backyard definitely slopes away from the house. However, you do not know how much the slope is. If you install a patio, it needs to follow the slope of the yard. Though if the slope is too steep, then the patio is unusable.
You need to measure what the slope is to know if you need to build a raised patio or if the slope is not too steep that you can install a patio on the existing grade. This is where you need a rotary laser level.
Using the rotary laser level, you can place it in the middle of the area that will become the patio and you can measure the level at the foundation and to the end of the patio that is furthest from the foundation. Remember, as we stated in our hardscape installation guide that a patio should have an ideal slope of 1/8″ every one foot in length.
How to Use a Rotary Laser Level
Using a rotary laser level is easy once you know the basics. There are four pieces to the rotary laser level that you need to know how to use.
- Rotary Laser Level
- Grade Rod
- The Rotary Laser Level is evidently the laser level that shoots a 360 degree laser. It is simple to set up. First you need to set up the tripod as level as possible. If the ground is not too level, you need to extend one or two of the legs longer or reduce the length in order to get the tripod close to level. From here, the laser level does the rest of the work.
These laser levels below are self-leveling which means you just set them up on the tripod, turn them on, and they will level themselves. They will need a minute or two to be able to calibrate themselves, but in time it will be level.
- You will now attach the receiver, which is what beeps whenever it detects the laser, to the grade rod, which is the stick with some measurements on it. These are the two tools that you will use to measure the grade or slope of the existing area that you will need to excavate.
- Start at the foundation of the house in one of the corners of the patio. Place the bottom of the grade rod on the ground and move the receiver up the rod until it beeps, indicating that it has detected the laser. You now have the measurement on the grade rod where the laser level is at. You can repeat this at the other corner of the patio at the foundation. Make sure you write down these numbers on a sketch in the right corners of your measurement.
You can immediately see if there is a slope in the existing yard from one side of the patio to the other at the foundation of the house. If the number on the grade rod where the receiver beeped has changed, then there is a calculation to be done as to whether the slope will work for your patio. Though most likely the larger slope will come when you measure the slope from the foundation to the far end of the patio away from the foundation.
- You will take your grade rod and receiver and place it at the corner of the patio furthest from the foundation. If the yard is sloping away from the foundation of the house, then you will be raising the receiver up the grade rod until it beeps indicating that you have found the laser. You can then write this number down on your sketch.
- To know your slope, you need to measure the distance from the foundation to the end of your patio and then subtract the number measured by your laser level at the foundation from the number at the further end of the patio. If it is negative then the yard slopes into the foundation. If it is positive then it slopes away.
If your patio is 8 feet long from foundation to the end, then an ideal slope is 1 inch down over those 8 feet. That comes from a slope of 1/8″ for every foot. 8 feet x 1/8″ = 8/8″ or 1 full inch. Obviously this is a very simplified version, so you will need to customize this based on the patio that you are measuring.
Applying this knowledge to measuring the grade of your patio is easy whenever you are using your rotary laser level, and is extremely crucial in making sure that you are measuring your patio properly.
Best Rotary Laser Levels
Listening to one person’s recommendation on what brand is their favorite or what tools they use is a good starting point, but not the best way to choose what will work for you. Everyone is different and has different experiences with the tools they use. Some have better luck while others want something that they can use and abuse. The best way to find out which tool is for you is to ask as many people as you can and make a decision from what seems to be the top recommended.
Luckily for choosing the best laser levels, we did just that! Though we have our own recommendations in this list, we have also worked to ask as many contractors as we could to see what they are using and have come up with this list of the best laser levels for landscaping.
Topcon is one of the highest rated and recommended rotary laser level that our network recommended us to. They are self-leveling with the push of a button and if disturbed will relevel by itself. This particular model, the RL-H5A, will shoot a range of 800 meters or 2600 feet in diameter and get 100 hours on a charge.
Not only that, but these laser levels are built tough, withstand dust, and even a rainfall just in case you find yourself in a situation where it begins to pour suddenly. It never hurts to be prepared with a tool that is not going to get destroyed on your job sites.
Another highly recommended and rated rotary laser level is the Trimble Spectra. This is a horizontal and vertical level that will also self level itself. It provides an impressive range of 500 meters or 1650 feet and is built to last in rain, snow, or extreme heat. It is built to last even when dropped, it is dust proof, and full weather proof as well.
Alternatives to Rotary Laser Levels
Though the two rotary laser levels listed above are excellent choices for measuring your slope, they are not the only options. We have have also listed two alternatives below to using a rotary laser level that will help you when choosing which tool is best for your business.
String Line and Level
This is by far the least expensive option to measure the slope. It is however the most time consuming and open to error if you do not know how to do it.
Continuing from our diagram above of a patio with four points, you would drive a stake into each of the four points and wrap a string line around each of the four points so that you have a square or rectangle based on your patio. You will need to place a string level on your lines while you do this from each point to make sure that the line is level.
For example, wrap a string line around Point A and then take it to Point C and wrap it tight. Place your string level in between these two points and adjust to make sure it is level.
With this line, you can then measure the minimum slope and if it will work for your existing grade. The line represents the top of your patio. With the string line level, you will move to Point C and measure DOWN the stake the amount that is the minimum slope (1/8″ for every foot). With this measurement down the stake, you will move that string line on Point C down the stake while leaving the string line level at Point A where it is.
This is the level of the patio with the minimum slope. You can repeat this with Point B to Point D. The problem with this method is that grass or other things that can be in the way of your string line. In this case, the string line will likely be raised higher than where the real height of the patio will be.
It is a simple method, but it is perfect for businesses that are just beginning and do not have the cash flow to spend on an expensive rotary laser level.
This is, in our opinion, the best option in this article to measure your slope. It is the easiest to use, has less chance for error, and the most efficient.
Basically you use the rod to measure the height of something. It is so precise that it will measure the thickness of a piece of paper! To apply this to measuring the slope of your patio, you simply need to turn it on, place the rod at one of the points at your foundation which will act as “0”, and then you will measure all of the other points from that point.
If you measure Point A at 0 and then take it to Point C and find it is -1″ then your slope is 1″ over the length of the patio from Point A to Point C. It is as simple as that. This is why this is by far our favorite measurement tool when finding your grade.
It is always important to invest money into your business to not only make your life easier, but to improve the efficiency of your business. Having a rotary laser level is something that will really help you when measuring slopes and grading for your hardscape projects.
Using the string line method is still a great alternative to having a rotary laser level that will help until you have the cash flow to invest into this tool. However, if we had to choose the tool to measure our grades we would invest in a Zip Level.
Ultimately, you should invest into the method that suites you best and that will help you grow your business. Either way, we hope that this article provided you with beneficial information.
We would love to hear from you about this guide, your comments, your suggestions, and how it helped you. Please leave a comment below.
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