Sunday, June 10, 2012

Patio Math

I have been pondering what blog posts will look like in the summertime when I'm not in full-on teaching mode.  And then I started thinking about my summer projects.  I am pretty handy and love to do/create/construct things myself.

So last year I put in a patio.  Here's a picture of the first major gathering:

Those are pretty much all teachers at the school I work at - we were celebrating the last day with students.  Turns out English and Social Studies teachers can be cool too.  BTW I still have a ton of leftover beer if anyone wants to swing by.

The origins of this patio began years ago when my wife told me she wanted one.  And finally I gave in and decided to build her one.  I began with this rough plan.  There are actually two parts of the patio: one for the table (left) and one for lounging & reading (right).

It's not to scale.  The only thing I failed to estimate well was the amount of work it would take!  Before I could even start on the patio I needed to remove a whole bunch of bushes so that I could transplant the sod from the area I was digging out to the ground where the bushes currently were.

bush roots
The plan then was to excavate and move the turf to where the bushes used to be.  I had to dig down 6 1/2+ inches total since I needed 4 inches or so of base material, at least 1/2 inch of sand, and 2 inches for the patio block.  I'm skipping ahead a bit, but when I'm done it should look something like this:

So after a LOT of sweat, I finally got all of the sod out plus a few more wheelbarrows of soil and I felt like I had 6+ inches pretty much everywhere.  Then I framed it in.

At this point I thought I was in the homestretch of this project, but NO!  Maybe halfway.  My next job was to order the base material and start scooping it in there.  How much to order?  Well being the good math teacher I am, I estimated the volume needed by taking the the square footage by 1/3 (4 inches) for a total number of cubic feet.  I looked around town for the best deals and decided to have local company Hedberg Landscape & Masonry deliver some.  I looked on their website and found what I was looking for:

Buff Limestone Class II

Problem.  This stuff is sold by the TON!  How many cubic feet are in a ton?  This is summertime and I am supposed to be off duty!

Well with the help of the salesman at the company we figured out how much I would need.  After delivery and taxes I spent $293 and started scooping:

first scoops
right side full
left over base material

Next, we leveled and compacted the base material, and it was time to start laying sand and leveling the block.  Luckily my best friend's dad was free and he came down to help.  Notice our choice of orientation for the pavers.

As we went, we wanted to make sure that the patio pavers were almost level, but not quite.  They needed to slope just a little bit away from the house.  Laying the block was a real killer - it's a slow and tedious process, and there really isn't any room for error because every small mistake turns into a big one in our Minnesota winters.  My buddy Matt came over too and lended a hand.  After a ton of hard work, we were close to being done. 

Maybe got a little more slope than I wanted on the right side...

And here's the block we had left:

Finally, the finished product.

What really struck me as I look back at this project was how much math was really involved.  Measurement, area, volume, unit conversion, 45-45-90 triangles (yes I did multiply by the square root of two and divide to calculate how many blocks out I should go...), slope, estimation, cost comparison, rates (how about carbide vs. diamond-tip blade to cut the blocks?..they both dull at different rates and the diamond is way more expensive).  Yeah a crapload of math here.

Maybe next time I should do this project with my class and I could justify using them as manual labor?  Just a thought.

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