Box Beam Levels What Are They, How To Use Them

Box Beam Levels: What Are They, How To Use Them

Although most levels perform a similar job, they are not all the same. Some are more appropriate for certain jobs – just like an I-beam level is more suitable for lightweight work and rotary laser levels are good for long-distance readings. 

We will take a look at the popular box beam level, what it is and how to use it. 

What Are Box Beam Levels?

A box beam level is a type of spirit level used to measure surfaces to check whether they are level or plumb. A horizontal surface is checked for level and a vertical surface is checked for plumb. They are usually made from extruded aluminum. 

Its name is derived from the shape of the frame and how it is constructed. The profile is a rectangular box which is typically hollow, although some box beam levels have internal acrylic cores.

It also features end caps for extra stability. The shape gives the level strength and protects the frame from twisting thanks to the solid construction. 

The heart of a box beam level is the vial containing the bubble, this is what you use to determine whether a surface is level or plumb.

The surrounding frame serves to both support and protect this essential element of a box beam level. 

Many vials are block mounted meaning they are permanently fixed into the frame during construction, others are glued into place. This provides high durability, which is handy for use on a construction site.

Box beam spirit levels come in a variety of lengths and with different features such as magnetic sides for framing, some have hand grips and others are extendable. 

How To Use A Box Beam Level

How To Use A Box Beam Level

Now that you know what a box beam level is you may be wondering how to use it. There are many occupations and trades that will use a box beam level and each of these will have their own needs and requirements. 

For example, measuring a door frame to make sure it is level and plumb will not be the same as laying a deck which needs a consistent sloping surface for water run-off or a floor screeder who needs to level over a bigger area. 

While all these jobs vary slightly they do have a common need to be level and/or plumb, you just need to choose the most appropriate box beam level to take those measurements. 

Checks Before Use

Before using your level you need to check a couple of things. First, you need to ensure that the level is clean.

Dry pieces of mortar or steel shavings on the measuring surface will throw your reading off, so clean the level before use. Most are easy to wipe clean because of the powder coated finishes. 

Then you need to check the accuracy of the level, particularly if it's been dropped recently. To do this place it on a horizontal flat surface and note the position of the bubble, it doesn’t have to be in the center at this point as you are checking the level not the surface. 

Now flip the level 180 degrees horizontally and take the measurement again in the exact same place. If the bubble is in the same place the level is accurate, if it isn’t, the level is inaccurate and will need to be replaced or recalibrated, whichever is the most appropriate. 

Horizontal Measurements

A horizontal measurement is checking how level a surface is and this means that it is running perfectly parallel to the earth. 

To take a horizontal measurement, place the box beam level on the surface and keep the level still. The bubble in the vial will move and then come to rest when it is stable. If the bubble rests between the two markers on the vial then the surface is level. 

If the bubble is to the left of center then the surface rises to the left or slopes down left to right and if it is to the right then the slope is right to left or the surface is higher on the right. Either is applicable and depends on your perspective. 

For a surface to be perfectly level then the bubble must be exactly between the two markers on the bubble vial. 

Vertical Measurements

A vertical measurement is called checking that it is plumb, this means that it is perfectly perpendicular to the earth. 

To take a vertical measurement, place the box beam level against the vertical surface and hold it still. Some levels are magnetic and can be used on steel frames without the need to hold them in place. 

Wait until the bubble has settled and make a note of its position. If it is in the center of the vial then the surface is plumb.

If the bubble is either side of the markers then the surface is out of alignment and needs to be corrected in the direction indicated by the level. 

For a vertical surface to be perfectly plumb the bubble needs to be exactly in the center of the vial and equally between the two markers. 

Who Uses Box Beam Levels?

Who Uses Box Beam Levels

A lot of trades will use a box beam level but particularly framers and carpenters. Framers are more likely to use magnetic box levels to check surfaces are level and plumb. Carpenters use box beam levels to make sure structures are level, plumb and true. 

Bricklayers and masons also use these levels and there are some specific levels for use while bricklaying. 

These box beam levels have two sections on their upper surface which have a protective layer to allow the bricklayer to tap the level to make the bricklayer level. These are called strike zones. 

This ensures that the level is capable of doing its job without being damaged by the bricklayer’s trowel handle. 

Box levels come in varying lengths for different jobs. For example, a plumber normally only needs a small level to check that a bath or basin is level and for this a shorter tool is more practical such as a 24-inch level. 

Different trades have different needs and this is why it is important to choose the right box beam level for the job. 

Choosing The Right Box Beam Level

The box beam level gets its name from the shape of its profile. If you were to dissect this level the structure would resemble a rectangular box. This shape gives the level its strength and robustness. 

Because of the way it is constructed a box beam level is less likely to twist and bend if it is dropped.

This is why it is a very popular level on building sites as it can withstand quite a lot of punishment, particularly those brands which are the top end of the industry. 

So choosing a box level will depend on your trade and the job that you intend to do. A roofer, framer or floor screeder will probably choose a longer length level.

Not only are they more practical for those trades but the longer the level the more accurate the measurement. 

Some box levels are extendable which makes them ideal for checking tall doors, windows or frames. Others have digital displays in addition to the bubble vial and backlights for checking measurements in low light. 

Final Thoughts

Box beam levels are a very important part of many trade’s toolkits and serve an important function. We hope this guide to box beam levels has been helpful.


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