What’s the Difference Between I-Beam Levels and Box-Beam / Box Levels?

Before looking at the differences between these two popular types of levels, it’s important to know the similarities.

I-Beam and Box-Beam Level Similarities

What's the difference between I-Beam Levels and box-beam levels?

  • Serve a common function
  • Strikingly similar appearance
  • Spirit levels (bubble levels) — they use a bubble to determine if a surface is true or level
  • Make sure long surfaces are level — surfaces can be vertical or horizontal, and in some levels, you can make sure surfaces are at a correct angle (other than 90 °F; and 0 °F)
  • Magnetic option makes ferrous metals easy to level

I-beam and box-beam levels come in different lengths, so when choosing a length, consider the length of what you’re going to be leveling. 

Even with the similarities, there are major differences between these types of levels--I-Beam Levels and Box-Beam Levels--and it starts with the structure.

Differences between I-Beam and Box-Beam Levels

I-Beam Level Attributes

I-Beam Level

  • Structure of an I-beam, when cut in half, looks like a capital “I” or sideways capital “H”
  • Horizontal elements of the “I” shapes are called “flanges”
  • Vertical element is referred to as the “web”
  • Shape of the frame helps the level maintain its shape when dropped, bumped, or twisted
  • Durability of I-beam levels dependent on material used (most I-beams are made of aluminum)
  • Higher grade aluminum means more durable I- and Box-Beam levels
  • I-beam levels are typically lighter than box-beam or box levels

Box-Beam Level / Box Level Attributes

Aluminum Box Level

  • Frame of a box-beam level is in the shape of a box
  • Four points of strength make it an even more durable option (than I-beam levels)
  • Lower-quality box-beam levels may be hollow
  • Johnson Box-Beam Levels are cased around solid blocks of acrylic, enhancing the quality and strength—making the box-beam level very resistant to direct impact while keeping it as light as possible


Contact I-Beam and Box-Beam experts at Johnson Level to find out more about our quality products.