Builder's Level Vs Transit Level What's The Difference

Builder’s Level Vs Transit Level: What’s The Difference?

A builder’s level and a transit level look very alike, and you may be confused as to their purpose. Do they do the same job or do they have separate functions?

So, if you have ever wondered what the difference between a builder’s level and a transit level is then we are going to explain this to you in this guide. 

Builder's Level Vs Transit Level: What's The Difference?

What Is A Builder’s Level?

A builder’s level is a fairly simple instrument, it is basically a small telescope which sits on a leveling block which itself is mounted on a sturdy tripod. 

The level can be adjusted to be level through 360 degrees.

In essence this means that you can turn the builder’s level in a full circle, and it will remain level at all times. 

The builder’s level is set by using the four level adjusters while moving the telescope around to make sure it is level at all 360 degrees, which help to measure vertical angles and horizontal angles. 

This is not an optical instrument that can be used by one person, however. You will need someone to hold a measuring rod at a location some distance away.

This will allow you to pinpoint a measurement at that location which is compared to others at different locations. 

Parts Of A Builder’s Level

Let’s take a look at the different parts of a builder’s level, so we can better understand how it works. 

First of all there is the telescope on the top of the builder’s level. As you can imagine, this instrument is used to magnify objects at a distance. 

It can do this while moving in a horizontal, graduated circle, one degree at a time around the whole 360 degrees. 

Next there is the level vial or spirit level. The graduated level is used to ensure that the instrument is level when it is being set up on its base.

This works in just the same way as a traditional spirit level. 

Finally there is the base plate. This is where the builder’s level attaches to the tripod that supports it. 

How To Use A Builder’s Level

Now that we are familiar with the parts of the builder’s level we can look at how to use it. 

Before use, you will need to make sure that the device is level and this is done by adjusting the four leveling screws.

This involves tightening and loosening the screws until the vial shows that it is completely level. 

This is done by adjusting two opposite screws until the bubble is in the center of the level’s vial. Then do the same thing with the other two opposite screws. 

You may need to go back and repeat a few times between the two pairs of opposite screws before the bubble rests exactly in the middle of the vial. 

Now you are ready to use the builder’s level. Using the telescope eyepiece bring the crosshairs into focus by turning the knob.

The horizontal graduated circle is used for measuring horizontal levels. 

What Is A Transit Level?

A transit level is a tool used in surveying and construction to measure levels and elevations.

Like the builder’s level, the transit level consists of the actual transit level mounted on a tripod and employs a telescopic sight with a spirit level incorporated into it. 

This is a very precise instrument and can establish a reference line, determine the relative position of objects and provide exact measurements of angles. 

It is adjusted via the leveling screws at the base to make sure that it is completely level at all 360 degrees of a horizontal circle. 

There are many components to a transit level and this allows multiple functions and precise measurements.

Unlike the builder’s level, the transit level can move in a vertical direction with the vertical tangent knob, which is locked into place with the vertical lock knob.

Parts Of A Transit Level

Builder's Level Vs Transit Level: What's The Difference?

There are many parts to a transit level, starting with the telescope. This has locking levers to maintain positions. 

Like the builder’s level the transit level has a graduated horizontal circle which is marked in degrees and used for setting and measuring horizontal elevations. 

There is a clamp screw to hold the level in the horizontal position. The horizontal tangent screw allows the level to move left or right horizontally. 

Unlike the builder’s level, the transit level has vertical movement and for this it has a graduated vertical circle, also marked in degrees. 

It also has horizontal and vertical vernier scales which allow movement around the main scale to determine angular readings. 

How To Use A Transit Level

Before using the transit level it will need to be leveled and for this it must be on firm and level ground. Only then should the leveling process begin. 

Position the telescope over a pair of the leveling screws. Using these two screws center the level’s bubble in the spirit vial by turning the screws in opposite directions.

Once the bubble is centered, move the telescope 90 degrees and repeat the process until the bubble is once again in the center of the vial. 

You may need to move the telescope back to the original position and check that it is still level.

Then move it through the different degrees of the graduated horizontal circle to check it is level at each point. 

The transit level is now ready to use. 

Looking through the eyepiece, focus the crosshairs on a distant object. With a partner holding a measuring rod vertically you can make a reference line.

The transit level and the measuring rod are used to measure elevations on site surveys and during construction. 

Difference Between Builder’s Level And Transit Level

Builder’s levels and transit levels are very similar and at first glance may look like the same device. However, there is an important difference between the two. 

A builder’s level is only capable of taking measurements on the horizontal plane. A transit level can take measurements from both the horizontal and vertical planes. 

When the telescope of a transit level is locked in place it can be used in exactly the same way as a builder’s level.

However, when it is not locked in place it can tilt only vertically while a builder’s level can move in a complete circle. 

Which Is Better, A Builder’s Level Or A Transit Level?

There are differences between a builder’s level and a transit level, but is one better than the other?

That’s relative to the purpose that you are employing one or the other of these devices for. 

If you only need to measure elevations then a builder’s level is sufficient, and it will cost less than a transit level. 

However, if you need to measure elevations and angles then a transit level would be better suited.

You will need to spend more money for a transit level, however you will have more capabilities with this device. 

In Conclusion

Although the builder’s level and transit level are very similar they have slightly different capabilities. The one you choose will depend on the needs of your work and your budget. 

If you need to measure angles then you will need a transit level but if you are only measuring elevations then the builder’s level is perfect. 

Remember to operate both of these levels you will need two people.


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