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Leveling is the process of directly or indirectly measuring vertical distances to determine elevation of
points or their difference in elevation.

Definition of Terms
1. Level surface – It is a curved surface which is at any point perpendicular to the direction of gravity or the
plumb line. It is best represented by the surface of a large body of still water.
2. Level line – A level line is a curved line in a level surface all points of which are normal to the direction
of gravity and equidistant from the center of the earth.
3. Horizontal surface – it is a plane that is tangent to a level surface at a particular point. The horizontal
surface is also perpendicular to the line at the same point.
4. Horizontal line - a straight line in a horizontal plane which is tangent to a level line at one point. This line
is perpendicular to the direction of gravity at the point of tangency. Since the mean radius of the earth is
comparatively large, it is practical for most purposes to assume that a level line and a horizontal line are
the same for short distances.
5. Vertical line – A vertical line at any point is a line parallel to the direction of gravity. It is exemplified by
the direction taken by a string supporting a suspended plumb bob passing through a point. For ordinary
purposes it is convenient to assume that the earth is a true sphere with a smooth surface, and that a
plumb line held at any point on its surface is always directed toward the center of the sphere.
6. Mean sea level – mean sea level is an imaginary surface of the sea which is midway between high and
low tides. It is taken as the reference surface to which most ground elevations are referred. This surface
is determined by averaging the height of the sea’s surface.
7. Datum – Datum is any convenient level surface coincident or parallel with mean sea level to which
elevations of a particular area are referred. Any surface may be used as a datum when relative elevations
over a limited area need to be established.
8. Elevation – For a particular point, its elevation is the vertical distance above or below mean sea level or
any other selected datum.
9. Difference in elevation – the difference in elevation between two points is the vertical distance between
the two level surfaces in which the points lie.

Leveling Methods
1. Direct or Spirit Leveling – it is the commonly employed method of determining the elevation of points
some distance apart by a series of set ups of a leveling instrument along a selected route. This method of
leveling is also referred to as spirit leveling since the device used is a spirit level. Differential leveling,
double-rodded leveling, three-wire leveling are forms of direct leveling. In direct leveling vertical
distances are measured above or below a level line and these values are used to compute the elevation
of points or their differences in elevation. Being the most precise method of leveling, it is used when a
high degree of accuracy is required.
2. Reciprocal Leveling – reciprocal leveling is the process of accurately determining the difference in
elevation between two intervisible points located at a considerable distance apart and between which
points leveling could not be performed in the usual manner. This method is commonly employed when
leveling across a wide river, a deep ravine, or across canyons and gullies where it would be difficult or
impossible to maintain a foresight and a backsight distance of nearly equal lengths.
3. Profile Leveling – This method of leveling is used to determine differences in elevation between points
at designated short measured intervals along an established line to provide data from which a vertical
section of the ground surface can be plotted. In the design of roads, railroads, canals, drainage systems,
and transmission lines, it is necessary to first obtain a profile of the existing ground surface.
4. Trigonometric Leveling – this method of leveling is employed in determining by trigonometric
computations the difference in elevation between two points from measurements of its horizontal or
slope distance and the vertical angle between the points. The required distances are usually obtained by
stadia, triangulation, or by direct taping.
5. Stadia Leveling – Stadia leveling combines features of direct leveling with those of trigonometric leveling.
This method is in fact a form of trigonometric leveling. It can provide reasonable accuracy for
preliminary surveys, mapping, and rough leveling where quick measurements are needed. In stadia
leveling, differences in elevation between points are computed from observed vertical angles and the
three intercepts on a rod held at each point backsighted or foresighted. Any surveying instrument may
be employed in stadia leveling as long as it has a telescope to read vertical angles and is equipped with
stadia hairs in addition to the standard cross hairs.
6. Barometric Leveling – Barometric Leveling involves the determination of differences in elevation
between points by means of a barometer. This leveling method depends on the basic principle that
differences in elevation are proportional to the differences in atmospheric pressure. The readings of a
barometer at different points on the earth’s surface provides a measure of the relative elevations of these
points. It is an accepted fact that the pressure caused by the weight of a column of air above the observer
decreases as the observer goes higher in altitude. The method is particularly useful for low precision
leveling over rough terrain where extensive areas need to be covered and differences in elevation are
large. It is principally employed on reconnaissance surveys or other work requiring only approximate
values. However, it is not desirable to employ when the atmospheric pressure in the area changes
7. Cross-Section Leveling – In highway or railroad constructions it is often necessary to obtain a
representation of the ground surface on either side of the centerline Short profiles at right angles to the
line of work are usually plotted at regular intervals for this purpose. This type of data is obtained in the
field by a process referred to as cross-sectional leveling.
8. Borrow-pit Leveling – Borrow-pit leveling is a method of determining the relative elevations of points in
borrow-pit excavations for the purpose of calculating volumes of earthworks. This type of work is
usually encountered in the construction of roads and railroads.

Types of Level
1. Dumpy level – The dumpy level is the most widely used direct leveling instrument. It has a long telescope
which is rigidly attached to the level bar. The telescope, which can be rotated through 360 degrees, fixes
the direction of the line of sight. Attached to the level bar is a level vial which always remains in the same
vertical plane as the telescope. A leveling head supports the telescope and permits the bubble in the tube
to be centered by means of the leveling screws. The whole instrument is in turn supported by means of
a tripod.
2. Wye level – The wye level is very identical to the dumpy level. The only distinct difference between these
two instruments is in the manner by which their telescopes are attached to the supporting level bar. The
wye level has a detachable telescope which rests in supports called wye. It can be removed from the Y-
shaped supports and turned end for end during adjustment by releasing the two clamping collars which
fit across the tops of Y’s. Curved clips are used to fasten the telescope in place.
3. Builder’s level – This instrument is used primarily in the different phases of building construction where
a high degree of precision is not a primary requisite. Engineers, architects, and builders use it in the
setting of concrete forms, better boards, and in establishing grades for earthworks.
4. Automatic level – Self leveling features are incorporated in automatic levels. This type of level has
become popular for conventional leveling work because of the ease and speed of their operation. It does
not use a level vial and its ability to level itself depends upon the action of a complex pendulum-and-
prism device. This type of leveling instrument is particularly useful where ground is soft or when strong
winds blow against the instrument since it can automatically relevel itself.
5. Tilting Levels – This type of leveling instrument can be tilted or rotated about its horizontal axis. A bull’s
eye level is employed for its quick and approximate leveling. The tilting knob is used to rotate the
telescope into a correct horizontal position. Tilting levels are commonly employed for very precise
leveling operations and in other general leveling work. It is also equipped with a horizontal circle which
makes it suitable for lay out and construction surveys.
6. Geodetic level – The geodetic level is basically another type of tilting level. Most of its metal parts are
made of invar to reduce the effects of temperature. Geodetic levels are employed in first-order leveling
work where extreme precision is an important requirement. The equipment is equipped with stadia
hairs in addition to the standard vertical and horizontal cross hairs to make it suitable for three-wire
leveling. When using the instrument the observer has to stand erect since it is designed with a high tripod
to bring the line of sight way above any intervening ground surface. This was purposely done to lessen
the effects of differential refraction of extra-long lines of sight.
7. Transit as a level – The engineer’s transit has always been referred to as the “universal surveying
instrument” because of its variety of uses. It can provide results which are fairly precise although not as
good as those obtained with conventional levels. This is because the transit has relatively shorter
telescope and level vial.
8. Laser level – a new innovation introduced to surveying operations is the use of lasers. A laser system is
a separate unit equipped with a portable power supply and may be a helium-neon laser or gas laser.
They are usually mounted or attached to conventional surveying instrument such as levels, transits and
theodolites. Laser light is a low-powered beam of red light which is suitable for projecting a line of sight
since it is coherent and highly collimated. A sharply defined light spot is focused at the target when the
telescope image is focused.
9. Hand level - The hand level is a handheld instrument used on surveys involving short sights and where
a low order of accuracy is sufficient. It has been proven useful in reconnaissance surveys, in cross-
sectioning to obtain additional rod readings on sloping ground, and in taping to determine of the tape is
held horizontally during measurement. This instrument also provides a quick way of determining how
high or low the engineer’s level should be set up in order to be able to read a leveling rod held a certain
distance away.


h' = 0.0675𝐾 2
h’ = the departure of a telescope line of sight from a level line (in meters)
K = the length of the line of sight (in kilometers)
0.0675 = coefficient of refraction
1. Determine the combined effects of the earth’s curvature and atmospheric refraction on sight distances of
60, 90, 120, 150, and 500 meters.

2. Two points, A and B, are 525.850 meters apart. A level is set up on the line between A and B and at a
distance of 24.500 meters from A. If the rod reading on A is 3.455 m and that on B is 2.806m, determine the
difference in elevation between the points, taking into account the effects of curvature and atmospheric

3. A woman standing on a beach can just see the top of a lighthouse 24.4 km away. If her eye height above
sea level is 1.738m, determine the height of the lighthouse above sea level.

I. Differential Leveling
Definition of terms
1. Bench mark – a fixed point of reference whose elevation id either known or assumed.
2. Backsight – a reading taken on a rod held on a point known or assumed elevation.
3. Foresight – a reading taken on a rod held on a point whose elevation is to be determined.
4. Backsight distance – measured from the center of the instrument to the rod on which a backsight is taken.
5. Foresight distance – the horizontal distance from the center of the instrument to the rod on which a
foresight is taken. Its length is usually made nearly equal to its corresponding backsight distance.
6. Turning point – an intervening point between two bench marks upon which point foresight and backsight
rod readings are taken to enable a leveling operation to continue from a new instrument position.
7. Height of Instrument – the elevation of the line of sight of an instrument above or below a selected reference

HI = Elev BMa + BS
Elev TP1 = HI – FS

BM1 1.256 127.133
TP1 1.116 1.886
TP2 1.228 1.527
BM2 1.189 2.246
BM3 1.070 2.017
TP3 1.831 2.656
BM4 2.765

II. Profile Leveling

Profile Leveling
The process of determining differences in elevation along a fixed line at designated short measure intervals is referred
to as profile leveling.

Definition of terms
1. Profile – a curved line which graphically portrays the intersection of a vertical plane with the surface of the earth.
2. Stationing – A numerical designation given in terms of horizontal distance any point along a profile line is away
from the starting point.
3. Intermediate Foresights – These sights, which are also known as ground rod readings, are taken along the centerline
of the proposed project to provide an accurate representation of the ground surface.
4. Full Stations – Are points which are established along the profile level route at uniformly measured distances.
5. Plus Stations – Any other intermediate point established along a profile level route which is not designated as a full
station is called a plus station.
6. Profile paper – A special heavy grade graphing paper used for plotting profiles.


BM33 2.32 328.70 m
0 + 00 1.7
1 + 00 2.2
2 + 00 1.2
3 + 00 0.9
TP1 2.77 3.43
4 + 40 2.2
5 + 00 3.7
6 + 00 1.6
TP2 2.22 3.06
8 + 00 2.8
9 + 00 3.6
10 + 00 2.0
11 + 00 1.1
BM34 2.45

La Putt, Juny Pilapil. Elementary Surveying 3rd Edition