Buying a spirit level

So where do you start when buying a spirit level? Firstly, you really do need to spend enough money to ensure that the level is a quality product. If there’s one thing more annoying than putting up a shelf, which when you stand back to admire your work, you find it’s clearly not level, it’s when you then put your spirit level back on the shelf and that bubble is bang in the middle. It’s normally at this point, as you stand there staring in disbelief, cocking your head to the side wondering if the world has slipped off its axis, that someone wanders by and decides to ‘help’ by re-asserting ‘Oooh, that doesn’t look level’. However, before considering inserting the spirit level somewhere about your helpful bystander, perhaps it’s worth thinking back as to whether at the time of purchasing your spririt level, that maybe the price was a little too good to be true!

Therefore, quality and accuracy will normally be reflected in price with spirit levels, and before I give you my recommendations, here are a few other points to consider when buying a spirit level.

Spirit level sizes

Torpedo level

A torpedo level is an essential part of your household toolkit.

Spirit levels do come in a number of different sizes, from tiny little torpedo levels which are around 25cm (10 inches) to their much longer relations of around 2m (6ft 6in), and many other different sizes in between.

There’s a good reason for so many sizes as spirit levels tend to be one of those tools where you quite often find yourself saying ‘wish it was a couple of inches longer’ or ‘it’s too long to fit in that alcove’. However, for most DIY requirements, you really can get away with having one medium sized level of around 90cm-1.2m (3ft ish), and one torpedo level to deal with those occasions where only a small level will fit.

Spirit level vials

The vial on a spirit level is basically the bit with the bubble. Normally the set up for these vials is pretty standard with one in the middle of the level to deal with the horizontal leveling requirement, and one near one end of the level to deal with the vertical requirement, but after that you may find some variations in design.

Some levels will have another vial for vertical requirements at the other end of the level, whilst others may have an adjustable vial for creating different angles. The adjustable vial can be useful, but is by no means essential, and so if you find a good deal with one included – great – but don’t worry too much about having an adjustable vial as the fixed ones for finding the horizontal and vertical, are by far the most important.

Laser levels

I can’t really talk about spirit levels without giving the laser level a mention. Laser levels can certainly be useful in all manner of jobs, from fitting a kitchen, to marking up a tile layout on a wall, but in all cases, a spirit level will still do any job that a laser level can do, and at a much cheaper price.

Laser levels are certainly becoming more popular in the ‘pro’ market, and they can be big timesavers, but for most DIY they’re by no means essential kit. It is fun for a little while playing with the red laser dot, but that novelty does wear off and you start wondering why you spent the extra money, for not that much use. So, if you love gadgets, you may well be tempted, but otherwise, I’d opt for a standard spirit level.

My choices

Stanley spirit level

A 1.2m (3ft 3in) Stanley Fatmax – the perfect all-purpose level.

In my view there are two brands that you should look out for when buying a spirit level – Stabila and Stanley. I’m not saying that everything else is rubbish, but these two companies are well tried and tested in this area and I’ve never had a problem with any of their levels.

A word of warning here though, in the most part Stabila and Stanley spirit levels are easily recognised by their bright yellow appearance – this does not mean that every bright yellow level is manufactured by them. So when you see a bargain price on a bright yellow spirit level it’s probably because it’s not a Stanley or Stabila – so look for the trademark.

As discussed above, you really don’t need every size of level, and so find a set that suits your needs. There are great selections on Amazon and at Screwfix.


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