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How to choose a level

Whether you're a professional, or a DIY enthusiast, you want to choose the right level for your needs, and then get the most out of it. Here are six essential things you need to check out before you buy a level:

1. Vials & Vial Accuracy
2. Plumb Site® Feature
3. Profile Construction & Coating
4. Milled Surfaces
5. End Caps and Handles
6. Magnets

Vials & Vial Accuracy

What types of vials are there and what is the manufacturer's stated accuracy?
There are two types of vials commonly used in levels: Injection molded cylindrical vials are the most basic. These are typically for DIY projects where absolute accuracy is less important. The industry standard is 0.001 inch per inch (1mm/m), which means that even when it seems to be perfectly level, the measurement could be out by ±0.001 inch for every inch of the level's length.

• Solid acrylic vials are usually twice as accurate - 0.0005 in/in (0.5mm/m). Kapro's solid acrylic vials are individually calibrated within the level frame, with the latest computer technology.

Solid acrylic shockproof vial

Has the stated accuracy been
independently verified?

There is only one trusted source for verifying if the manufacturer's stated accuracy is true - the German VPA standard. Kapro's professional box-section, I-Beam and Supercast™ levels are the only levels worldwide to carry this prestigious mark of quality.

VPA Certification

Are the reading lines inserted into the vial, or painted inside?

In cylindrical vials, the reading lines are painted on the outside. Most level manufacturers who use solid acrylic vials have the reading lines (thin strips of metal) inserted into the vial. Kapro's solid vials are painted inside, which makes them the most parallel in the industry. This is vital to minimize parallax error.

How visible is the bubble between the lines?

Level manufacturers are on a constant quest for the most easy-to-read vial. The goal is to define the edges of the bubble through color contrast – making it easier to see. Kapro has developed the patented OPTIVISION™ feature, which creates a strong color definition around the spirit level's horizontal bubble, in stark contrast to the white vial background and clear liquid. The color contrast makes the bubble edges significantly easier to see, for fast and accurate placement between the vial's reading lines.

Optivision™ Red
Optivision™ Red

Are the vials epoxy-locked in place?

The vials in most levels are usually set with ultrasonic welding. Epoxy locking of vial housings and vials guarantees that they can better withstand the rough treatment of the workplace, and retain their factory-calibrated accuracy for the life of the level. Kapro's 720, 905, 920, 930, 981, 985 and 990 all feature epoxy locking.

Are there magnified vials?

Magnified vials give improved readability. The Kapro Zeus™ 990 incorporates a magnified horizontal vial.

Zeus™ 990
Zeus™ 990

What options are available for setting slopes?

Kapro has invented a unique multiple vial system for setting slopes. The patented 105 Topgrade™ Gradient Level is a box section level that incorporates permanently calibrated solid acrylic vials, at 0%, 0.5%, 1.0%, 1.5% and 2.0% (48"/120cm model). To use, just place the level on the surface, and look for the vial that has the required pitch or slope.

VPA Certification
105 Topgrade™
Gradient Level

Kapro’s 930 Smartcast and 905 Condor with OPTIVISION™ Red levels incorporate a horizontal vial marked with various gradient lines. You can easily find a slope up to 2% grade by placing the bubble between the lines marking the gradient you want.

905 Condor with Optivision™ Red 930 Smartcast with OPTIVISION™ Red

Vial warranty

What is the warranty on vial quality?

Vial warranties typically range from one year, to the lifetime of the level. All Kapro's solid acrylic vials are guaranteed for life against fogging, leakage or breakage.

Accuracy Test

There's a simple way to test the horizontal accuracy of a level:

  1. Place it on a level surface and check that the bubble is exactly in between the reading lines.
  2. Turn it around 180°.
  3. Check the bubble again.

Is the bubble still centered? If it's not, then the vial hasn't been properly calibrated.

To test vertical accuracy:

  1. Place the level vertically against a wall, checking that the plumb vial's bubble is exactly between the reading lines.
  2. Turn 180º (not end to end) so that the opposite measuring surface faces the wall.
  3. Check whether the bubble is still centred.

Important: surfaces must be level

Plumb Site® Feature

Is there a Plumb Site® feature for an easy and accurate plumb reading?

The Plumb Site® Dual-View™ vial is a patented Kapro invention, designed so you can see the plumb vial from the front when doing vertical leveling jobs. This eliminates the need for user to stand squashed up against a wall to see the vial from the side.

That means a perfect line of sight (no parallax error) for more accurate leveling, and no back or neck strain.

Because every serious professional needs one, the Plumb Site® Dual-View™ vial is an integral part of every Kapro professional level. The Kapro Zeus™ 990 features two Plumb Site® vials, one at each end of the level. Many of Kapro's Toolbox levels incorporate this feature, as well.

Plumb Site Dual-View vial
Plumb Site® Dual-View™

Plumb Site Dual-View vial

Profile Construction & Coating

Is it a Box-Section profile, an I-Beam, a Cast body, or a polymer extrusion?

Levels have the following profile types:

  • Box-section profiles are made from a reinforced aluminum extrusion. These levels are the least likely to twist or bend. The reinforced profile of Kapro's new Zeus™ 990 has a concave design and a bridge over the horizontal vial for even tougher twist and bend resistance and a continuous marking line along the length of the level. Box-section construction also makes these levels ideal for housing solid vials, and allows for milled surfaces.
  • I-beam levels are generally less accurate, because they are more likely to twist, and can only house cylindrical vials.
  • Cast levels are made from solid aluminum and designed for masonry and tiling work. They are generally heavy, tough, and feature solid vials and a milled surface for superior accuracy. Kapro’s 920 Shark® and 930 Smartcast also feature patented striking pads, to absorb the shock of trowel blows.
  • Polymer levels are designed to be lightweight above all, providing basic leveling accuracy.

All Kapro aluminum levels are electrostatic powder coated with durable epoxy polyester paint for water resistance and easy cleaning. The Kapro Zeus™ 990 is coated with Keflon™, a unique, non-stick, wipe-clean coating that creates a residue-resistant finish for even easier maintenance.

Zeus 990 Box Section Level
Zeus™ 990

What is the wall thickness?

Wall thickness in box and I-beam profiles can vary considerably. The thicker the aluminum profile, the heavier and more heavy-duty the level. The wall thickness of Kapro box-levels ranges between 1.8 and 2.1mm. Kapro’s I-beam levels have a wall thickness of between 1.8 and 2.0mm.

What is its post-punch tensile strength?

Once an aluminum profile has been punched, its tensile strength is lowered. This is especially true of the hole punch for the level's horizontal vial.

If you're looking for a high-end level that will go the distance, then this will be an issue you won't want to compromise on. On the Kapro Zeus™ 990, the horizontal vial punch doesn't cut entirely through the profile, giving it the highest post-punch tensile strength of any level on the market - more than twice as strong as the strongest level on the market until now.

VPA Certification
Zeus™ 990

Milled Surfaces

Does the level have a finely milled base?

A finely milled base provides a guaranteed flat surface necessary to achieving professional levels of accuracy. All Kapro's professional levels have at least one milled surface. Only aluminum levels can be manufactured with a milled surface.

End Caps and Handles

Are the end caps designed to withstand the shock of a serious fall?

Shockproof end caps protect levels from the force of falls, thus maintaining the integrity of the level body and the accuracy of its vials.

End caps can be made from a number of materials. The most basic is plastic. Rubber end caps are tougher. Bi-material end caps absorb shocks even more effectively, and are featured on Kapro's new 985 Apollo™ Professional Box Level. Kapro's toughest level, the Zeus™ 990 , features even tougher tri-material, air-cushioned end caps, for the ultimate in shock absorption.

Protective End Caps
Protective End Caps

Are the handles designed to accommodate larger hands comfortably?

Many levels on the market have hand grips for easy handling. Most of these are not rubber-coated, however, or don't have big enough apertures to fit large hands comfortably. Kapro's ergonomic handles on its professional box and I-Beam levels are large and rubber-coated. The handles on the Zeus™ 990 are even larger, with soft-feel air-cushioned grips.

Large Hand Grips
Large Hand Grips

Is there a "non-slip" feature on the level?

When you need to hold a level against a wall with one hand and mark with the other hand, for instance, you will need a non-slip feature that grips the wall to keep it in place. Kapro's patented Ergo Grip™ handles do the job perfectly, and won't damage the work surface, either.

Ergo Grip™
Ergo Grip™


Does the level have strip magnets, ceramic magnets, or rare-earth magnets?

• Strip magnets are non-conductive, and are often used in polymer levels, in conjunction with a V-groove for work on pipes or conduits.

• Ceramic magnets were the industry standard in aluminum levels up until a few years ago, and are still used in some more basic levels. Kapro has phased them out of its level line completely.

• Rare-earth - Today, most magnetic aluminum levels use rare-earth magnets, which are up to 10 times stronger than ceramic magnets.

Rare-earth magnets: do they protrude from the base of the level?

Many levels are designed with their magnets protruding from the base of the level, which can scratch or mar the work surface. Kapro's magnetic levels use rare-earth magnets imbedded in a polymer housing, so they are flush with the level’s finely-milled surface and strong so the level move or fall when you are taking a reading.

Rare-earth magnets
Rare-earth Magnets
Zeus 990 Magnetic Level

An Introduction to levels
How to choose a level
Checking a level’s accuracy
Kapro’s level range
Kapro Level
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