Sunday, March 3, 2024

How to level floors or exterior surfaces with laser levels?

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Leveling floors or exterior surfaces is a task few people can handle expertly; And of course, most of the time it ends up being delegated to an experienced builder. However, in some cases and according to the complexity of the work, with laser levels and knowing how to do it, it is possible to achieve it on your own. Of course, in addition, this measurement tool becomes very useful in a professional’s toolbox.

In this note for example, we will see how to prepare the ground for build a deck for our garden using laser leveling and measurement instruments. It is simple and can be finished in two afternoons, so it is a perfect project for a weekend, so this represents one of the many cases in which the tool.

What are the right laser instruments for this job?

Within the category of measuring tools laser, we will use three of them, and two accessories.

Measuring tools

Laser levels

Green lines laser level

Green lines laser level

It is the main instrument, the indispensable one. With it we will project the horizontal and vertical lines necessary to level the stakes and threads and, of course, to draw the projections of the necessary heights.

This type of projector draws green lines all around it, with which we will have everything necessary to complete the different phases of leveling and construction; however, the various steps can be simplified with the use of other laser measuring instruments, as well as their accessories.

Laser distance meter

Laser distance meter

Laser distance meter

The use of the laser distance meter is optional but speeds up working times; We will use it to divide the total surface to be leveled into different equivalent cells (if the space is square or rectangular).

Dividing the surface to be leveled into cells gives us the advantage of being able to work faster and in a more methodical way.


laser levels

The receiver is also optional, but it helps greatly to distinguish and precisely find laser lines.

The receiver indicates the exact position of the laser beam, so in addition to being a visual aid to detect it (in conditions of high sunlight and between the grass it can be somewhat difficult) it also helps us to easily determine the level of these lines.

Laser leveler

This instrument will allow the placement of the deck beams and boards in a faster way. In turn, combined with a laser distance meter (embedded in the same instrument) we will have the chance to verify the leveling of the ground with the beam, with which the work will be much more efficient.

Other necessary accessories

Tripods and bases

laser levels

Site tripod with telescopic legs and screw height finder.

The construction tripod will allow us to properly set and level the laser levels, something that is essential to be able to correctly complete the different stages.

The base can be useful for fixing the receiver and determining the exact height where the laser beam passes from the level, something that sometimes, in bright sunlight conditions, is difficult with the naked eye.

How to develop the work

For this example we will see how the ground is prepared to build a square deck for a garden, 6 meters on each side (and 36 m²) using different laser meters. You only need to have masonry wire, twelve stakes, a model of laser levels, its receiver, a tripod, a laser distance meter and a level that allows the meter to be embedded; exactly the instruments and accessories we saw above.

First step: establish the perimeter to be leveled, and compartmentalize it

Laser levels

Preparation of the ground and location of the first three stakes.

First you have to determine the limits of the deck that we will build. For this first task it will be good for us to have the laser distance meter. We drive the first stake in the place that seems most convenient and from it we determine, with the distance meter, a radius of six meters (the direction does not matter yet). We temporarily drive another stake there and join the two with a thread that should remain taut.

We already have a radius of 6 m, with which we will draw an arc all around the first stake. What we really need is to mark a circle or a portion of a circle (greater than or equal to 90 °) that indicates where the next two positioning stakes will be. In our case there is a dividing wall nearby, so it is not necessary to draw that circle there.

We place the laser level just above the first stake and prepare it in such a way that it only projects vertical lines at 90 ° from each other; These lines will indicate precisely the points at which we must place the next two positioning stakes. To find these positions, we place the receiver horizontally on a stake and this at a point close to the orthogonal, always on the groove of the circle that we draw. We will realize the precise point when in the receiver we see the laser line centered on the display.

Once the exact position is found, we sink the stake a bit and then we make use of the model chosen from the laser levels so that it is perfectly vertical, and we repeat the same operation for the third stake.

laser levels

To find the exact point of stake 4, we draw two arcs whose radius is exactly six meters, centered at stakes 2 and 3. The points of intersection will be exactly at 1 and 4.

Once we have the three initial stakes nailed and affirmed, we will have to locate the fourth. It is easy to do it: it will be enough to draw two radii of six meters from stakes 2 and 3 (1 is the initial one, which we nailed at the beginning). The arches will be cut in two points: in the exact place where stake 1 is and in the place where we must drive and level stake 4.

Now that we have the four vertices of our square, we must add the other stakes, which will serve to obtain six cells of 3 x 2 meters, much more manageable than the total area.

For this we use the laser distance meter. We place it against stake 1 and move another of them away until the display shows exactly 3 meters. There we proceed to nail it, and repeat the operation from stake 4. If we did everything right, we will now have the surface divided into two halves.

We do the same operation from stakes 1 and 4, but now at 90 ° and looking for the position at 4 meters and then at 2. We should end up having six cells of 3 x 2 meters, as seen in the photo below.

Laser leveling

Scheme of the terrain already divided into the six cells.

To go to the next step, we join the stakes with the separate thread for this purpose, and being careful not to twist the stakes. We can level the threads making use of the level or with the laser line level (placing it in the geometric center of the square and matching the heights of the knots in each stake with the projected lines).

Second step: leveling a cell

Laser levels

Scheme of one of the cells.

Time to move on to the heavy lifting. We have the rope already installed at the floor level of the future deck; it is now necessary to install a second perimeter rope at ground level. This may require digging a small trench to make room for the strings if the current ground level is slightly above the projected grade.

The installation of this second rope is simple. The distance to the ground is measured from the upper thread and a mark is made there on all the stakes. Then the thread is tightened little by little observing the ground. If the threads touch there, a small trench has to be dug.

laser levels

Ground level laser beam projection. This is a very useful feature of line laser levels.

Leveling of the first cell is now possible. To do it, we start from the edges towards the geometric center, removing or adding soil to the soil as necessary. The important thing is to know how to verify leveling. For this we will make use of the capacity of the laser levels to project lines on the surface (see photo above). If we do not have this feature, we can use the bubble level that incorporates the laser distance meter; its beam enables us to achieve the same purpose.

In the places of the land where the earth is higher than the desired level, the laser cuts, indicating that there we must lower the level. On the contrary, if the level is below the desired level, the light beam will not be seen in that place.

To achieve a quick leveling we can use the method of the clean tab: a plank of works moves across the land, dragging in front of it the excess of earth. In the depressions that appear, earth is added, tamped and the operation is repeated until the ground is perfectly level.

Step 3: level the cells together

laser levels

If we did everything right, this step should be trivial. The idea is to eliminate the small grooves of earth that have accumulated, and to fill in the small trenches that we dug at the beginning to lay the threads.

For this step, we will remove the lower guide threads one by one, passing the board from the center to the edges and always checking that the rake effect is as smooth as possible, so as not to affect the already level. It is important that the movement is always outwards, so as not to accumulate dirt in the center, from where it will later be difficult to remove it without affecting the level achieved.

Once this step is complete, all that remains is to install the piles and deck beams. For this we can take advantage of the laser level, which we have already adjusted to the necessary height, to control the alignment of those pylons and beams.

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