Walk into any good hardware store, and you’ll find more fancy leveling devices than you can count. But which ones do you really need? If you’re a homeowner or a small-scale remodeler, the answer probably is none of them. If your long-distance leveling needs are modest—say you have to lay out kitchen cabinets, line up a bank of windows, or level a ceiling—all you really need is a length of plastic tubing and a bucket of clean water.
Although this simple device lacks the sex appeal of a builder’s level or a high-tech laser, it’s just as accurate and even more versatile. Unlike its pricey competitors, a water level does not depend on line of sight, so you can level around corners without resetting the tool.
To some people, a water level seems like a mysterious device, but the only magic involved is gravity. Every body of water seeks its own level; it doesn’t matter if that water is in the Atlantic Ocean or in 50 ft. of plastic tubing.