I’m framing a house and need to level the mudsills. I don’t have a laser, and it isn’t in the budget, so I’m using some clear plastic tubing I’ve had for a while as a water level. My problem is that the ends of the water in the 30-ft.-long tube are about 1?2 in. off. Any thoughts on what I’m doing wrong and how to correct it?
Carlos, via Email, None
Editorial Adviser Mike Guertin replies: Water seeks level even in a long hose, and assuming that you haven’t just discovered you are 1/2 in. out of level, there are a few conditions that can skunk you. First, the hose needs to have an inside diameter of at least 3/8 in. I’ve tried using 1/4-in. tubing, and for some reason the meniscus at one end can climb higher up the tubing wall than the other. Also, solid debris inside the tubing—sand, cobwebs, dust—can cause the water levels to be different. The same goes for liquid residue; if the tube has had oil, soap, or another liquid in it, the residue can mix (or not) with the water and cause mismatched menisci.
There can’t be any bubbles of air in the water. I have found that the best way to get a bubble-free fill is to siphon water from a pail rather than holding the tube under a faucet, where the water stream can contain tiny air bubbles. To clear air bubbles, you need to hold the ends of the tubing high so that the tubing is completely suspended—and then wait. It can take a few minutes for tiny bubbles to rise out of a narrow-diameter tube. At a two-story house, I hang the tubing out a second-story window. Tapping the tubing lightly can help the air bubbles move upward rather than clinging to the side.
The temperature of the water matters, too. Make sure that part of the tubing isn’t exposed to sun for long periods while another part is in the shade. Lastly, check the ends periodically to make sure the water levels match.
From Fine Homebuilding #257, p. 84, January 6, 2016