“Compaction Jackson”

Our friend Jackson came to visit for the 4th of July weekend! Lucky for us, Jackson’s idea of a fun vacation involves working long hours outside. We were excited to have some help, especially with BJ gone for the long weekend. We were so excited that we decided to go big and had 19 truck loads of gravel delivered. That’s over 250 tons!

When Jackson arrived, we had just filled in the trenches and were ready to start filling the entire building with gravel. We needed to build the ground up about 8 inches inside the building in preparation for pouring the concrete floor. The gravel had to be extremely well compacted to avoid any settling later. It was equally important that we create a perfectly flat surface for rigid foam boards to lay on. Gaps under the foam insulation could create weak points when we pour the concrete, and we don’t want any cracks in the floor.

There were piles of gravel everywhere- we weren’t sure where to begin.

Jackson distributed buckets of gravel with the loader, and Sam helped smooth it out with the excavator. We eventually found a rhythm.

I watered the ground the entire time to keep the gravel at the proper moisture content. Water helps eliminate air voids in the material, allowing for better compaction. However, too much water can cause mudding, making the ground nearly impossible to compact. The mud just gets pushed around. Does watering the ground for hours get boring? Not really. You need to stay on your toes so you don’t get run over. You also have to keep the 150 ft long hose out of everyone’s path. And lastly, you need to avoid bee stings. The water attracts a lot of bees and butterflies!

One of many butterflies

Once an area was relatively level, we drove the compactor over it. We rented a reversible plate compactor – a new type of compaction equipment for us. It vibrates as you drive it forward and backward.

Sam and Jackson took turns spreading gravel and running the compactor. I walked around the entire time watering and checking the ground height.

The corners were tricky.

The corners weren’t the worst part though. Some of the interior walls require a thickened concrete footing. We made foam “boats”, lined them with vapor barrier, and placed them a few inches below the surrounding ground. Compacting around the foam was tricky too.

Luckily, there weren’t too many of these. We got back to more gravel spreading.

We repeated the spreading-compaction process until the coarse gravel was close to final grade. We stopped a bit short so we could put a layer of 3/4″ gravel on the top surface. Smaller gravel compacts very well and leaves a smoother surface. 

From left to right: Fines or “stone dust”, 3/4 inch, coarse gravel
Thin layer of 3/4 in

I checked the height again, and the boys added more material to the low spots. This level of precision involved shoveling, raking, and occasionally scraping down a high spot.

This was tedious but we eventually achieved the final height in a few rooms and were happy with the results.

We stopped work early on the 4th of July to catch the Hood River fireworks. What a great show! 

Jackson headed back to LA, and Sam and I pressed on. We came up with a slightly better system, taking advantage of the excavator blade to smooth out the gravel. Sam put the laser receiver on the blade for more precise spreading.

Then Sam ran the compactor a lot. I continued watering. This went on for days.

BJ returned and removed the temporary ramp. No more driving into the building for now!

Alas! We finished compacting the layer of 3/4″ gravel, but we still weren’t done! We checked the height everywhere for the umpteenth time and fine tuned some areas by hand. Sam sprinkled a very thin layer of stone dust to patch up a handful of low spots.

After an exhausting two weeks, we finally finished! I can’t believe we used all of that gravel!

One thought on ““Compaction Jackson”

  1. Another perfect job! It is so wonderful to see such good preparation, which in the finally analysis will reward you many times over. It is nice, even at this early stage, to be able to clearly see the building in its setting. It is going to be spectacular.



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