Plumb and Level

Plumb and level. Two very important terms when it comes to installing any antenna, and that includes cell booster antennas and satellite dishes. It’s an important starting point for any project.

What is plumb?

Plumb means that it’s straight up and down. It’s super important for satellite dishes because you aim them by rotating them around. When you’re getting that pole ready to accept a dish or antenna, measure it over and over again. If it’s being mounted to an eave or roof, measure it carefully before you drill — you don’t want extra holes. Many mounts have the ability to adjust in one direction so you can make some sort of adjustment, but you need to start out being really close before you drill. If you’re using a tripod for a temporary install, you can usually use the collar bolts on the tripod to make some adjustments, but try to start on the flattest possible surface first.

Why is being plumb important?

It’s most important that your mast be plumb when you’re doing your initial aiming. If not, anything you mount is going to move left and right as you’re rotating it. This may not make a huge difference if you’re aiming a TV antenna but it’s going to be a really big problem if you’re trying to do something really precise like a satellite dish.

What is level?

Level means that it’s straight from side to side. If you’ve properly plumbed the mast it should be very close to level as well. It’s possible to make minor adjustments to the antenna itself by adjusting the way it mounts. In some ways, being 100% level is a little less important but if you’re not level it’s going to be much much harder to adjust your antenna perfectly and if a TV antenna doesn’t start level, chances are it’s going to tip more and more as the years go on. Satellite dishes are designed to balance themselves even when they’re tipped.

Why is being level important?

If everything is level, again it’s going to make it easier to aim. However, it’s also going to mean that the equipment lasts longer in harsh conditions. Antennas that are tilted from side to side will collect more water on one side than the other. If that water freezes, it will put more stress on one side than the other. This could lead to premature failure of the equipment.

What if something stops being plumb and level after it’s installed?

Obviously you would want to return everything to that plumb, level state as soon as it’s safe to do so. The most important thing is figuring out why everything got crooked in the first place. Sometimes you haven’t mounted it securely and it’s just settled. Other times it could be a sign that you need to replace moldings or eaves on your home due to rot. Don’t just tighten a bolt and move on. Try to figure out the real cause before you go any further.

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About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.