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Lasers - Uses and Applications

Owners and specifiers are detailing construction tolerances on all aspects of a project. To meet these demands for quality, many contractors are replacing their old-school measuring tools, tapes, and even chalk lines, with lasers that are designed for a wide range of construction applications. 

Once considered only a necessary tool for large scale commercial projects, manufacturers now offer a wide range of lasers that can fit every budget, so contractors can quickly return their initial investment through greater productivity and higher quality work.


Lasers: Then and Now

The first construction laser was introduced around 1960, but contractors really didn’t get a sense of what was to come until about 1968. These first instruments were designed for interior applications. They were cumbersome and required two workers to use. One worker had to point the laser at a target and establish level, or grade (using a hand level), while the other worker marked the control points. 

Laser instruments now integrate technology with worker efficiency resulting in superior craftsmanship. By providing continuous, accurate controls, and three-dimensional control lines, one worker can efficiently and safely perform dozens of common construction tasks. With the proper combination of light beam, control settings, and accessories, contractors can use instruments on both interior and exterior applications. These instruments are allowing contractors to integrate machine control with operator function for greater efficiency.


Transforming Measurement to Action

Contractors using laser instruments no longer need to stop mid-action prior to setting elements or establishing grade. Construction lasers are more efficient in almost every common construction tasks.


Site Development

Construction lasers are often the first tools on a green site. Contractors use laser levels to first establish grading and excavate sites. Many of these devices are integrated with your construction equipment’s hydraulic control system allowing operators to fine-tune their blade or bucket movements. 

Lasers provide efficient control when performing initial structure layout. Footing, foundations, and piers are accurately plumbed and leveled ensuring that design details are met. And most importantly, contractors can easily alert the engineer of any adjustments should a problem be found.


With the structural elements in place, contractors use laser instruments to aid them in rapidly executing the next steps during buildout. You can use lasers to expedite framing by aligning stud placement. You can also verify the placement and elevation of windows and doors.

After framing walls, contractors use lasers to establish control points for sub-floors and ceilings. Increased accuracy aids drywall by eliminating any rolling or waves in the wall supports.

On commercial projects, MEP contractors use lasers to establish straight lines for anchoring conduit, plumbing, and HVAC components. A growing number of contractors who use design software and Building Information Modeling (BIM) are relying on data created by lasers to eliminate potential conflicts or bottlenecks between installations.
Installing tile using a laser level

Final Detailing

Once the walls, ceilings, and MEP elements are in place, finish carpenters rely on laser-generated controls to install trim, such as chair rails, wainscoting shelves, and cabinets. Laser levels are also commonly used to set countertops.

Construction lasers also have their role in the final phases of exterior work. Contractors can set final grade for proper drainage and irrigation. They are useful tools for building construction decks, additions, and aligning fences.

Digital Measuring

Along with providing control for grading and installation, manufacturers have transformed laser instruments into digital measuring tools. These devices often replace the measuring tape and notebook. They can be safer to use, as you can position yourself on solid footing rather walking out on a wall or ledge or climbing a ladder.

These practical tools often include other features that can make a contractor’s job easier. They eliminate the need for someone to hold the end of the tape, as a single person can perform the measurement. Some instruments allow you to record measurements with a programmable memory feature, while others can perform simple calculations of volume, area, and grade without pen and paper. Many instruments also allow you take measurements in both English and metric units.


Transforming your work practices

Laser instrumentation allows you to perform common construction tasks more efficiently, safer, and within tighter tolerances. Advancements in these tools are constantly moving forward. To be ahead of the curve, seek advice from your White Cap experts to help you select the right lasers and accessories for your job.
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