I-Beam Levels

I-Beam Level Overview

The I-Beam level is a specific type of spirit level. If you need a primer on how to use a spirit level, see our online guide. I-Beam levels got their name from their shape; if you look at the level on its end, you can see it looks like the letter "i".  I-beam levels are made out of aluminum but their weight can very from a very thick and sturdy construction to a lighter gauge aluminum.  Typically, i-beam levels are lighter than box beams levels, which is an advantage on the jobsite when you consider the cumulative weight of all the tools the tradesman needs to carry onto the job.

Other benefits of i-beam levels include:  

  1. Durability - like the box beam level, the i-beam level frame is a very durable construction, however, some contractors like to buy by the pound.  One way to measure a levels strength if you don't have a scale is the "twist" test.  By placing your hands on each end of a level and torque the frame in opposite directions, the amount of twist is your gauge to the level frame's strength.  Due to "muscle memory" the level should snap back into place after release.
  2.  I-beam levels are field serviceable.  Unlike box beam levels where the vial is suspended or glued into the frame and once the vial is loose, you will never obtain the same degree of accuracy as when it was new, i-beam level vials snap into the frame, so the vial will read true just as if it was new again.
  3. I-beam levels meet all the accuracy requirements of the tradesman; in fact, when considering a level by a well known level manufacturer, the accuracy of the level on the high end should still be fairly consistent with the accuracy of a level on the lower end - the only significant difference being the weight of the product and some of the level's other features such as end caps, vial covers, soft-touch covers on hand holes (Johnson Level was the first company to introduce this feature on an i-beam level) and magnet strength, to name a few.
  4. I-beam levels (similar to box beam levels) have magnets built into the frame, however, due to most i-beam levels' lighter weight, the magnet strength can be more significant.  This is part of the reason why the magnet becomes stronger as the level increases in weight.

 

Who Uses I-Beam Levels?

I-beam levels are most popular with the general contractor, who may be working with wood studs and nails, which can be picked up by a magnetic level.  Second, drywallers love i-beam levels for the magnet strength on steel studs.  Finally, the homeowner is a large consumer of i-beam levels, primarily because you can get a lot of level for the money.

A four foot, professional i-beam level can be found in most places for around $25 and around $30 for a magnetic version.  For a lighter gauge four foot aluminum level, you might find one for just over $10, while on the high end, it may range near the professional box beam level, around $35-$40.  Levels with magnets will always be more than their non-magnetic counterparts.

©2010 Johnson Level & Tool Mfg. Co., Inc.