Laser keeps things on level playing field

Q: I am hanging a series of wall sconces in my house and I want them to all hang at exactly the same height. Underneath the sconces, I will be installing a chair rail around the perimeter of the room. How can I make sure that the spacing is exact and even.

A: You sound like a person who separates his M&M’s by color before eating them, but I doubt anyone would blame you for being too anal-retentive about décor that will really stand out if it is not just right. To me, it sounds like you could benefit from a laser level.

Laser levels generally are inexpensive and come in a few different styles. Some laser levels just stick to the wall and cast a line down it, while others sit on a stand and rotate a line around the entire room. The more expensive models are self-leveling and others require the operator to adjust them. The great thing though, is that they are extremely accurate, even for long distances. A good laser level will project a line or dot several hundred feet away and be accurate to within a fraction of an inch.

I’m sure you are salivating already.

For your project, I would use a self-leveling rotary laser level. You can set it in the middle of the room, turn it on, and the laser will start spinning 360 degrees around the room. That way, you won’t have to make a mark with a traditional level and move it all about the room. You can certainly use the old-fashioned level, but as you move it around the room, your level line will likely be off with all the moving you have to do. You could certainly measure the distances from the ceiling or the floor, but either of those could be uneven and would leave you with tiny differences. A laser level will establish a level line regardless of floor or ceiling imperfections.

I would start your project by installing the chair rail. Decide at what height you want to install the rail and line up your laser level with this height. You can adjust the rotary level by raising or lowering the stand. Turn the unit on and it will start spinning like a disco ball in a ’70’s dance contest. You can let it run while you nail in the chair rail or make various marks around the room at the height of the laser line.

For the wall-mounted unit, simply move it up or down to align with whatever height you have chosen. This unit will cast a solid line down the length of the wall and, on some units, it will display along the adjoining wall as well.

After the chair rail is in, cast another level line wherever you want the base of the sconces to sit. This way, you know that the distance from the bottom of the sconces to the top of the chair rail is exactly the same around the perimeter of the room.

Michael D. Klimek is a licensed contractor and president of Pro Handyman Corp. Questions may be sent by email to: Or, mail to: P.O. Box 96761, Las Vegas, NV 89193. His Web address is:

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