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Make a water level

How to make and use a bucket and hose water level

using a bucket and hose type water level

This water level is one of the first projects to be posted in the BuildEazy website - back in 2002. It is a most practical tool and I have used it for countless projects since then.


You will need a plastic bucket 10 litre (2 galls) minimum, and 12 meters (40ft) of 6 mm (1/4") nylex clear plastic tube or similar. Both items can be purchased from any major building suppliers.


threading the hose to make a water-level using a bucket

1. Drill a hole in the bucket 50mm (2") up from the bottom. The hole size should be slightly smaller than the plastic tube.

2. Slice one end of the plastic tube about 50mm (2") down. Fig 1 This enables the tube to be threaded into the slightly smaller hole in the bucket. Fig 2

3. Pull the tube from the inside of the bucket until tight. Fig 3

How to use the bucket and hose water-level

using a bucket and tube water-level

Place the bucket on a saw stool or chair and fill to the top with water.
The height of the bucket does not matter.
Let the hose loose on the ground until water is running out freely and all the air bubbles have come through.

Method 1

This method is good for profiles, high decks, high retaining walls, etc.

Pick up the end of the hose and hold it against Post (A). Fig 4
Mark the post where the water line shows in the hose.
This becomes the datum line (not the known required height).

Mark the datum height on the house, post (B), and post (C) in the same way. You now have a level datum line on all four objects, but you want to trim the top of the posts to the same height as the known required height on the house. Shown in Fig 4

You do not need the water level any more.

Simply measure up from the datum height marked on the house to the known required height, also marked on the house. Transfer this measurement to posts (A), (B) and (C), measuring up from the datum height marked on each post.

You now have a level line from the known required height on the house, through to post (A), (B) and (C).

Method 2

This method is good for low profiles, low decks, low retaining walls, for finding level heights for ponds and pools, ground contours, etc.

using a tube and bucket water-level, method 2

Pick up the end of the hose and hold in against a piece of rod held upright on area (A). Fig 5

Mark a pencil line on the rod where the water line shows in the hose.

Walk down the hill and do the same over area (B).

You will now have two pencil marks on the rod. Whatever the distance measures between the two marks, is also the distance area (A) will need to be dug down to be level with area (B).

making footings level using a water level

Your Comments

Please submit your comments in the form below.

Photos of your handiwork can be sent via the Contact Us page.

Photos and constructive comments are a great help to others contemplating the start of a project.


A great idea. I have used such a tool in the past. Very inexpensive and accurate and only takes one person to use it.

John from Ireland 17 Jun 2014 02:48:55

You guys are awesome !

Dan 03 Oct 2014 01:28:16

Great…It’s very simple and useful

Mojtaba from Iran 05 Dec 2014 19:35:52

This is indeed very simple and effective. Great concept. Use caution, however, because as you move with the hose, it can expand or contract as the natural bends in the hose crimp or change their radius. This will cause more or less water to be in the bucket, changing your reference (level) point. The easiest way to visualize this effect is to consider the hose coiled in a small circle. Imagine slicing a pie, and the outer edge is larger than the inner edge (middle) thus the slices are “pie shaped”. If you straighten the hose out, the imaginary slices get more “rectangular” and thus hold more water, lowering the level in the bucket and changing your reference point.

You can adjust for this by re-setting the reference water level in the bucket each time (ie, mark it’s point on the chair and add/remove water to adjust) or adjusting for its variance at the hose end point.

Given that the volume of water in the bucket is likely to be substantially larger than that in the hose, this variance may be minimal, but the opportunity for such error is worth noting.

Fritzwf 19 Dec 2014 20:14:27

I disagree. As long as the outside wall doesn’t collapse the volume will remain the same. The smaller inside and larger outside are moot as you’re just changing the shape of the rectangle.

Pete 26 Jan 2015 06:40:08

fritzwf, good critical skills. But, the reservoir will minimize the effect you mention. A two-gallon bucket will contain about 200x more water than 3/8” tubing.

If you were just using only a tube, changes in the tube’s wall would be much more noticeable.

But, using only a tube, you would line up one end with a reference point, and transfer it using the other end. It’s a different use case than the bucket/reservoir as a datum (reference point). Changes to the tubing wall (flexing, compression) shouldn’t change the reservoir level more than 1/32”.

Mark 16 Apr 2016 00:56:58
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