Difference Between Builder Level and Transit

Various types of heavy equipment are used in the construction site for measuring levels, setting, surveying, transferring, etc. Among all these various functionalities, builder level and transit are the two most common equipment for measuring levels. Both of them are optical surveying instrument and looks almost identical to each other.

Builder Level vs Transit

The main difference between builder level and transit is that builder level can only measure elevation due to its liberty to only change horizontal angles. On the other hand, transit performs the same functions of a builder level and in addition, can adjust vertically which allows the measurement of various vertical angles.

Builder Level vs Transit

A builder level is a very common optical instrument that is used in the field of construction. Before starting any project, it is necessary to use a builder level for measuring the high points and low points for various construction purposes. It is a simple tool and recommended for small construction companies and also for homeowners.

On the other hand, the transit level has the additional functionality of measuring vertical angles. It looks very similar to builder level and it may look identical to a person who does not know about these devices. This device is used for determining the positions of various lines and objects while surveying.

Comparison Table Between Builder Level and Transit

Parameters of ComparisonBuilder LevelTransit
Capability of measurementIt is capable of measuring elevation only.Both elevation and vertical angles can be measured by it.
User friendlinessDue to its simple assembly, it is rather easy to use.It has a comparatively complex design so it is not very easy to use.
Machine partsIt consists of two main parts Telescope and Level vialIt consists of four main parts Telescope, Level vial, Alidade, and Vernier scale.
PrecisionNot known as a precise device.Very good at precision.
CostIt is lower in price and thus pocket friendly for limited purposes.Due to increase in functionality, the price also goes up.
UsabilityIt is used in measuring high points and low points for the purpose of grading, leveling, etc.It is mostly used for surveying and building by framers and excavators.

What is Builder Level?

Builder Level is a simple optical instrument used in the field of construction for measuring elevation. The device mainly comprises a leveling vial that is fixed on a telescope.

In the leveling vial which is also known as a spirit level, there are marks on it which are known as graduations. They are used for centering the bubble. The device is used for finding high low points by attaching the telescope to a leveling head. This entire setup is mounted on a tripod.

The telescope in the builder level is used for magnifying distant objects and it also rotates from 1 to 360 degrees which are marked in a graduated circle. And, the leveling vial is used to properly level the telescope.

To operate the builder level, two people are required. One has to rotate the telescope and set it at a proper angle in the given range and the other person will stand at a distance and will measure the distance with a measuring rod.

Builder level is a very simple device which is used in the construction sector for a long time. But it is not very common nowadays because many advanced devices are gradually replacing it.

What is Transit?

Transit is also an optical instrument similar to builder level whose main part is the telescope. This device has an in-built level vial/ spirit level and the telescope is mounted on a tripod stand.

In the construction sites, it is used for surveying and building as the device determines the position of various lines and objects. Transit is very common among framers due to its high precision. It helps in drawing a reference line followed by help reading the angles precisely.

A transit level has four main parts. The telescope is the main part and its functionality is the same as that of the builder level. Along with the complete circular graduated scale that measures from 1 to 360 degrees, the transit also moves at an angle of 45 degrees vertically in either direction.

The spirit level is used to properly level the telescope which is placed on the base of the transit level. There is another part of the transit which is called alidade. The telescope along with leveling vial, a circular reading device, and a spindle together comprises the alidade.

Since transit is capable of taking angular measurements, a Vernier scale is attached to the main scale. Nowadays, a transit is provided with a double Vernier scale to measure angles in multiple directions.

Main Differences Between Builder Level and Transit

  1. Builder level is capable of only changing horizontal angles and thus measures elevation. Transit can measure both horizontal and vertical angles.
  2. Builder level is comparatively cheaper than transit. Since transit can perform the additional function of measuring vertical angles, it is more expensive.
  3. Builder level is comparatively lightweight and has an easier setup whereas transit is slightly more complicated to operate.
  4. Builder level is also lower in cost as compares to transit because of its easy assembly and simple usage.
  5. There are two parts in the builder level, namely, telescope and level vial. Transit has two more parts in addition to these which are alidade and Vernier scale.


Builder level and transit are quite similar if compared according to their basic physical outlook and purpose in the construction field. For big companies and projects, transit is a better option for its increased number of functions.

But there are small companies that cannot afford a device as expensive as a transit level. So, builder level is a better option for them in monetary terms as well as ease of usability. The purpose for which either of these devices is bought is most important to analyze.


  1. https://www.mdpi.com/327176
  2. https://ascelibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1061/9780784483176.001

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