Sunday, February 8, 2015

Got a Fence in Your Future? You Need a Post Level

Irwin Tools Magnetic Post Level

The house and all the trees survived the big wind, no problem – but like several of our neighbors we came outside after the storm to find several sections of our six-foot privacy fence leaning drunkenly into the yard. That meant a trip to the local BigBox hardware store for new cedar pickets, stringers, a few bags of cement, and half a dozen 4-by-4 posts. I had everything else I needed, including my Irwin Tools Magnetic Post Level

I bought mine years ago (back when they were still bright green) because I got sick of trying to get my posts vertical with just a carpenter’s level. Now I use it whenever I set a post for a deck, a fence or mailbox, a bird feeder pole, or anything else that has to stand straight.

Using a regular carpenter's framing level to plumb up a post shows you the post is plumb in one plane, but you must move the level around the post to another side to check for plumb in the other vertical plane. If you're like me, squaring the post in one plane always knocks it out of true in the other. That means you return the level to the original side and straighten the post again; back and forth, back and forth... 

Using a Post Level

Unlike a carpenter’s level, a post level has two bubbles that are set at right angles to one another. This means you can check for plumb in two planes simultaneously, which is far faster. I estimate that using a post level speeds up plumbing each post by at least 60%. With that kind of time savings, this little tool's well worth the investment of six or seven bucks 

This isn’t just for wood 4-by-4s, either: although the body’s made of plastic, there are magnetic strips set in the sides so the level sticks to steel posts. You can use it for metal posts in privacy fences or for a chain link fence. It's also good for setting the post for basketball goals, mailboxes, even flagpoles; it goes without saying that a pipe and post level is almost essential for setting deck posts. 

Using my old model was still a two-person job, at least on wood posts, but Irwin’s improved on that design by adding an elastic strap that allows you to snug it into place on wood posts. There’s also a third spirit bubble for leveling horizontal elements like railings.

If you plan on building a fence or a deck any time soon, do yourself a favor and add a post and pipe level to your toolbox. You'll thank yourself for your foresight!


Plus: pretty much indispensable for plumbing any vertical post
Minus: having to set a post at all
What they’re saying: If you expect to set a post sometime soon, you need a post an pipe level.

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