Special Tool #2: Builder's Level
A good-looking retaining wall depends on level footings, and the best way to establish level over long distances is with a builder's level. If you're building a wall with only a couple of 4-ft. sections, you can get away with using a 4-ft. level, but for a longer wall, rent a builder's level.
How to set it up:
- Select a spot where you'll have a clear view of the entire project. It should be well away from the wall so it won't be disturbed during construction. Drive the tripod tips into the ground with your foot until the table is fairly level.
- Mount the scope on the table and snug up the nut that holds the scope down.
- Rotate the scope until it's directly over two of the four adjusting nuts and twist the nuts until the bubble is centered in the vial. Then rotate the scope 90 degrees so it's over the other two adjusting nuts and level it again. Repeat the process until the bubble stays absolutely level as you rotate the scope.
How to use it:
A builder's level has to be absolutely level to give accurate readings. Check the vial frequently during the day to make sure it stays level. Sometimes the legs get bumped or stepped on. You'll have a lot of work to redo if you're unknowingly using a scope that's not true.
Looking through the scope, you'll see crosshairs that will tell you the exact height of whatever is being measured (see Photo 7) relative to a “benchmark,” or starting point. In this case, the benchmark is the first footing. Take a reading from the first footing with a tape measure—let's say it's 58 in. If the next stake is 56-1/2 in., it's 1-1/2 in. too high.
It's easy to get confused. Just remember: If a stake reading is a larger number than the benchmark, the stake is too low; if it's a smaller number, it's too high.