Spirit levels are a construction and DIY essential, and can be used in a variety of jobs, to determine if a surface is of the desired angle.
Spirit levels usually consist of metal tubes, filled with a liquid, such as ethanol. They have a clear vial in the centre, in which you can see a bubble of air. When the bubble is directly in the centre of this vial, it means the level is perfectly horizontal. If the bubble is off to the other side, it is slightly off-kilter.
Additionally, most spirit levels also have vials for the vertical plane, which function in the same way. Some even have a 45° vial, or a rotating vial that can be set to any required angle, as well. These handy tools are useful for a wide variety of tasks, from bricklaying, to hanging a shelf or curtain pole.
Last update on 2021-09-23 / All Pricing & Imagery from Amazon Product Advertising API
If you’re on the lookout for a new spirit level, you should find this review of 5 of the best spirit levels on the market helpful. We’ve based our selection on their accuracy, durability, and value for money – get ready to live your life at the perfect angle.
This high-quality spirit level is strong, user-friendly and accurate to +/-0.5mm/m – which is why it’s our top pick
Our favourite spirit level has to be this Stanley Faxmax Pro Box Beam Level. It has a robust, box beam construction, which is said to be up to 5 times stronger than other Stanley spirit levels, and makes it suitable for professional use.
This sleek, silver spirit level is 120cm in length, so it will accommodate a variety of surfaces, and is ideal for bricklaying, as it can easily bridge large gaps between two bricks. Two built-in handles make it easier for the user to hold the level against a surface, and the rubber end caps reduce the potential for damage.
The level has one horizontal and two vertical vials, and, thanks to the dual-machined levelling surfaces, is accurate to an impressive +/-5mm/m, in all orientations. The small magnifying area magnifies the acrylic centre vial by 20%, to make it easier to read.
It feels high-quality and durable and comes with a 10-year warranty, so you can be assured that it will last for years to come. It might not be the most affordable option out there, but when it comes to quality, durability and accuracy, it’s hard to beat. We recommend this spirit level for both novice DIY-ers, and professional tradesmen alike.
- Solid, box-beam construction.
- Dual-machined levelling surfaces, for improved accuracy.
- Small magnifying area increases the visibility of the centre vial by 20%.
- Accurate to +/-5mm/m, in all orientations.
- Long 120cm length is will accommodate a wide variety of surfaces.
- Built-in hand grips make it easier to hold against a surface.
- Rubber end caps for durability and protection.
- Comes with a 10-year warranty.
- Not the most affordable option.
- Long length means it can’t easily fit in a toolbox.
- Not magnetic.
Our best value spirit level offers a compact size, magnetic edge, and 3 vials at different angles – all for an incredibly low price
For a much smaller, and cheaper, option, take a look at Stanley’s Shock Proof Torpedo Level. This durable spirit level measures just 23cm, and is perfect for smaller tasks.
It has a metal V-shaped groove, to make it suitable for use on cylindrical surfaces and pipes, and a magnetic edge, so it will stick to magnetic surfaces, such as a fridge – although don’t rely on this too much, as the magnetic force isn’t all that strong.
A durable aluminium frame and shock-resistant rubber ends help to ensure that this spirit level will last, and protect it in the event of it being dropped – it’s designed to resist high impact. That being said, this isn’t a professional-grade spirit level, and it doesn’t offer the same durability as our top pick.
For domestic use though, you really can’t go far wrong. There are 3 vials, at horizontal, vertical and 45°, so it’s highly versatile and suitable for levelling a wide range of surfaces within the home.
We highly recommend this affordable spirit level, especially if you need one that’s small enough to fit in a toolbox, or for use on pipework. It might not be long or durable enough for professional use, or levelling larger surfaces, but it’s more than suitable for most DIY jobs – and can’t be beaten on price.
- High-impact spirit level.
- Durable aluminium frame.
- Shock-resistant rubber ends.
- High-visibility horizontal, vertical and 45° vials.
- V-shaped groove makes it ideal for use on cylindrical surfaces, such as pipes.
- Perfect for domestic use.
- Highly affordable – our cheapest level.
- Not long or durable enough for professional use.
- Magnetic force is quite weak.
This ultra-versatile Stanley spirit level is robust, magnetic, and includes a rotating vial, so you can level to any angle
Our third choice spirit level is also our third option by Stanley. Their Fatmax Pro Magnetic Level is made from durable die-cast aluminium, and measures 25cm in length. The small and compact size makes it easy to transport, and store in a toolbox when not in use.
There are 3 vials in this spirit level; a central horizontal one, a vertical one, and a 180° rotating one, which means you can level surfaces at any angle, and easily duplicate angles. The central vial is magnified by 20%, to make it easier to read, and all readings are accurate to +/-0.5mm/m, which is best-in-class.
The level has a V-shaped groove down the side, which makes it suitable for levelling pipes and scaffolding. It also has built-in rare Earth magnets, which are twice as strong as normal magnets, and mean you can fix the spirit level securely to any magnetic surface.
There are a few reports of issues with the calibration of the rotating vial, or the magnets falling out, but these do seem to be very much in the minority. All-in-all, this spirit level makes another great choice for anyone looking for an affordable and portable tool, that doesn’t compromise on quality.
- Durable die-cast aluminium body.
- Accurate to +/-0.5mm/m.
- Magnified centre vial offers better visibility.
- 3 vials, including a 180° rotating vial, so you can level surfaces to any angle, and duplicate angles.
- Includes built-in rare Earth magnets, for adhesion to any magnetic surface.
- V-shaped groove makes it suitable for use on pipes.
- Small and compact, easy to fit in a toolbox.
- Not long enough for some tasks.
- Some users report problems with the calibration of the rotating vial.
This Stabila spirit level has strong rare Earth magnets, for excellent adhesion to magnetic surfaces
We’re breaking away from Stanley for our next spirit level, which is this Stabila Magnetic Level. This 25cm spirit level is made from durable cast aluminium, which eliminates the problem of twisting, and provides high-torque resistance.
It features a horizontal and vertical vial and is accurate to 0.5mm/m in normal position, and 0.75mm/m in reverse position – which isn’t quite as good as the Stanley models, but still accurate enough. The level vial accuracy is guaranteed for 10 years.
The level itself comes with two built-in rare Earth magnets, which provide it with excellent holding power to steel and scaffolding. A hole at one end allows you to easily store the level on a hook in your workshop when not in use. At just 0.22kg, it’s lightweight, portable, and will easily fit in your toolbox too.
As with some of the other short spirit levels we’ve chosen, you might find the compact size of this insufficient for some tasks, where a larger surface needs to be levelled. It’s also a little pricier than some similar products, including the previous model by Stanley.
If you don’t mind paying a little more though, this is undoubtedly another high-quality option and is suitable for both domestic and trade use.
- Made from durable cast aluminium, for high-torque resistance.
- Accurate to 0.5mm/m in normal orientation, and 0.75mm/m in reverse orientation.
- Level vial accuracy guaranteed for 10 years.
- Extra-strong, rare Earth magnets allow you to fix it to any magnetic surface, such as steel or scaffolding.
- Lightweight (0.22kg) and portable.
- Suitable for domestic or trade use.
- Not long enough for some levelling jobs.
- A few reports of the magnets falling out, or getting damaged.
This Silverline spirit level is as long as our top pick, and slightly more affordable – but it’s not quite as accurate
The final spirit level on our list is this SL22 Spirit Level by Silverline. At 120cm, this one is as long as our best pick, and suitable for levelling a wide range of surfaces.
It’s made from durable, powder-coated aluminium, and feels strong and robust. A V-groove on the bottom makes it possible to level pipework, and the hanging hole at one end enables easy storage when not in use. However, bear in mind that the long length means it’s not as easy to store as some of the shorter designs, and it’s also not magnetic.
The level offers 3 built-in vials, at 45°, 90° and 180°, so it will meet most of your levelling needs. The accuracy rating on this one is 1mm/m, which makes it our least accurate spirit level – although still accurate enough for the vast majority of tasks.
Overall, we think this is another high-quality spirit level, and could be a great choice for those users who want a longer level, for a cheaper price. However, if you want the best accuracy possible, we’d still recommend our top pick, the Stanley Fatmax Pro, over this one.
- Durable powder-coated aluminium construction.
- Milled top and bottom edges, for accuracy (accurate to 1mm/m).
- 3 vials, at 45°, 90° and 180°, to meet a variety of levelling needs.
- V-shaped groove along the bottom, for levelling pipework.
- Hanging hole at one end, for easy storage.
- Long 120cm length is suitable for levelling most surfaces.
- Not as accurate as some competitors, or the other models we’ve featured here.
- Long length means it can’t be easily stored in a toolbox.
- Not magnetic.
How To Use A Spirit Level
Using a spirit level is extremely easy. Simply place the spirit level on the surface you would like to level, and wait for the bubble of air in the vial to settle. If the bubble is centred, you can conclude that the surface is perfectly horizontal.
If the bubble is positioned to either side of the centre, you know that the surface is not, in fact, flat. Whichever side the bubble settles, is the direction in which your surface tilts. Remove the spirit level and make adjustments to your surface – for example, by adding more mortar if you’re building a wall – until the bubble on the level is centred.
How To Check If A Spirit Level Is Accurate
In order for a spirit level to be of any use, it is essential that it is accurate. To check the horizontal level, place the level on a flat surface, and put a pencil mark on the surface at the end of the level, and in line with the centre of the vial. Record the position of the air bubble.
Next, rotate the spirit level by 180°, so that it’s in the same position, but the vial is at the bottom. Align it with your original marks – if the bubble is in the same position as before, then you can be assured that the level is accurate. To check the vertical plumb, follow the same procedure as above, but place the level against a vertical surface, such as a wall.
To make sure that the readings you’re getting for a surface are accurate, you should alter the position of the spirit level across the same surface, to ensure that the reading is the same at every point.
April is a freelance writer who specialises in writing about home and garden design and the environment. She is an avid wildlife-enthusiast and adventure-seeker, and feels happiest when in the Great Outdoors.