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Using a Builder's Level

Project Overview

Using a Builder's Level

Landscapers-who have bigger projects and more of them than average do-it-yourselfers, lay out the shape and grade of their projects with a builder's level. It's a simple tool to master, accurate, quick to use, and available at most rental centers. Unless you lay out work frequently, renting is more economical than buying. A builder’s level is often called a transit, even by those who ought to know better. The scope on a builder's level turns from side to side. A transit has a scope that can be angled up and down as well as turned from side to side-a feature you don't need for patios and walks. A builder's level is also less expensive to rent and less confusing to use.

12 Steps

  1. SET UP THE BUILDER'S LEVEL
  2. DRIVE STAKES AROUND THE EXCAVATION
  3. FIND THE HIGH END
  4. MARK THE FIRST STAKE
  5. MARK THE SECOND STAKE
  1. MARK THE LOW END
  2. SET UP THE BUILDER’S LEVEL
  3. DRIVE STAKES AROUND THE EXCAVATION
  4. FIND THE HIGH END
  5. MARK THE FIRST STAKE
  6. MARK THE SECOND STAKE
  7. MARK THE LOW END
Show all steps »
SET UP THE BUILDER'S LEVEL

Step 1

SET UP THE BUILDER'S LEVEL

Put the level near the middle of the excavation. Level both the tripod and the scope.

DRIVE STAKES AROUND THE EXCAVATION
DRIVE STAKES AROUND THE EXCAVATION

Step 2

DRIVE STAKES AROUND THE EXCAVATION

Drive stakes every 4 feet about 12 inches beyond the edge of the excavation.

FIND THE HIGH END

Step 3

FIND THE HIGH END

Have your helper stand next to a stake at the high end of the excavation while holding the levelling rod. Turn the scope so you can see the rod, and note the measurement in the crosshairs. Repeat at the other stakes at the high end. The stake with the smallest measurement is the highest stake.

MARK THE FIRST STAKE
MARK THE FIRST STAKE

Step 4

MARK THE FIRST STAKE

Have your helper stand next to the high stake with the telescoping leveling rod. Mark the rod with a piece of tape to indicate the reading in the crosshairs. Then make a mark on the high stake to show where it meets the 6-inch line on the leveling rod.

MARK THE SECOND STAKE
MARK THE SECOND STAKE

Step 5

MARK THE SECOND STAKE

Have two helpers stand at another stake along the high side of the excavation and lift the stick off the ground until the tape marker is in the crosshairs. Mark the stake at the 6-inch mark. The marks on the two stakes are now at the same level. Repeat for all the stakes at the high end.

MARK THE LOW END

Step 6

MARK THE LOW END

Without moving the tape marker, repeat the process for the stakes at the lower end. These marks are level with each other and those at the high end. Measure down at the low end by the amount you want the patio to slope (1/8 to1/4 inch per foot). Make a second mark, as shown in the inset. Snap chalk lines between this mark and the mark on the corresponding stake at the upper end, and mark any stakes in between.

SET UP THE BUILDER’S LEVEL

Step 7

SET UP THE BUILDER’S LEVEL

Put the level near the middle of the excavation. Level both the tripod and the scope.

DRIVE STAKES AROUND THE EXCAVATION

Step 8

DRIVE STAKES AROUND THE EXCAVATION

Drive stakes every 4 feet about 12 inches beyond the edge of the excavation.

FIND THE HIGH END

Step 9

FIND THE HIGH END

Have your helper stand next to a stake at the high end of the excavation while holding the levelling rod. Turn the scope so you can see the rod, and note the measurement in the crosshairs. Repeat at the other stakes at the high end. The stakes with the smallest measurement is the highest stake.

MARK THE FIRST STAKE

Step 10

MARK THE FIRST STAKE

Have your helper stand next to the high stake with the telescoping levelling rod. Mark the rod with a piece of tape to indicate the reading in the crosshairs. Then make a mark on the high stake to show where it meets the 6-inch line on the leveling rod.

MARK THE SECOND STAKE

Step 11

MARK THE SECOND STAKE

Have two helpers stand at another stake along the high side of the excavation and lift the stick off the ground until the tape marker is in the crosshairs. Mark the stake at the 6-inch mark. The marks on the two stakes are now at the same level. Repeat for all the stakes at the high end.

MARK THE LOW END
MARK THE LOW END

Step 12

MARK THE LOW END

Without moving the tape marker, repeat the process for the stakes at the low end. These marks are level with each other and those at the high end. Measure down at the low end by the about you want the patio to slope (1/8 to ¼ inch per foot). Make a second mark. Snap chalk lines between this mark and the mark on the corresponding stake at the upper end, and mark any stakes in between.

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Project Details

Skill Level: Beginner

Time: 1 hour

Before you start, read this »

Due to differing conditions, tools, and individual skills, The Home Depot® assumes no responsibility for any damages, injuries suffered, or losses incurred as a result of attempting to replicate any of the home improvement ideas portrayed in this website Before beginning any home improvement project, review it thoroughly to ensure you or your contractor can finish the project and if any doubts or questions remain, consult local experts or authorities. Because codes and regulations vary greatly, you always should check with authorities to ensure that your project complies with all applicable local codes and regulations. Always read and observe all of the safety precautions provided by any tool or equipment manufacturer, and follow all accepted safety procedures.

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