Accounting for Compaction and Moisture

Two of the most unique features of AggreGET are the segmented controls at the bottom of the app’s main screen.

When a do-it-yourselfer calls a quarry or a gravel pit for a material estimate, future compaction and a material’s current moisture content often go unaccounted for. Such oversights can significantly impact a project’s final quantities.

Compaction

The first control, labelled “Loose // +10% Compaction”, accounts for how the user plans to handle the material on their project site once they’ve unloaded and placed it.

While materials are usually dropped into the truck “loose” by a loader, once the hauler delivers that material to the project, plans often call for dumping, spreading, and compacting it to a certain degree.

Such compaction can be achieved by a number of methods:

  • drum roller
  • sheepsfoot
  • vibratory plate compactors
  • wheel-rolling (simply driving on it, and compacting it with your tires)
  • and natural settling via gravity and additional moisture

Because such methods can vary so greatly, I’ve set the default option to either 0% or 10%. I realize that compaction percentage can be a precision spec on some projects, and I hope to account for more precise degrees of compaction in future upgrades.

What’s the bottom line when accounting for compaction in AggreGET?

If you plan on driving on this material, you’re going to experience some degree of material loss due to compaction, settling, and erosion.

AggreGET lets you account for this quantity up front.

Material Moisture Content

Almost every material from a quarry or gravel pit will contain some degree of moisture within it–especially materials that are stored and stockpiled outdoors.

Drastic differences in moisture can vary from supplier-to-supplier. For instance, the material pumped and processed from a gravel pit will usually contain greater moisture than material stripped and processed from a mountain quarry.

Drastic differences in moisture can vary from material-to-material as well. Sand, gravel, clay, and dirt blends have sponge-like properties, and they absorb and preserve any moisture that is exposed to them.

Coarse rock and rip-rap, on the other hand, do not absorb moisture as well as finer materials. Why?

Let’s compare stockpiles of basic beach sand to stockpiles of river rock:

  • Large rock is more dense than sand, and water cannot permeate it as well.
  • A pile of large rock contains larger pockets of air than a pile of sand does, and this allows water to percolate downward and evaporate upward better in larger-grained materials.

In my app, sand’s additional moisture options are 0%, 10%, and 20%.

River rock’s additional moisture options are 0%, 2%, and 5%.

The segmented control at the bottom of the app has assigned each material a “Dry // Damp // Wet” rating.

In AggreGET, “Dry” refers to “normal” conditions. It does not imply that there is zero moisture in the material, only that moisture is 0% above normal.

A good way to tell whether your material is dry is to observe the face of the stockpile from where the material is being loaded. If the material isn’t caking together, and if you don’t see any wetness within the first 2-to-3 feet of the pile, then it’s considered “dry”.

“Damp” implies that the outdoor stockpile has been exposed to some moisture. That could mean moderate rain or snow, or it could mean that the supplier adds water to their products to keep the dust at bay.

“Damp” also means that the surface of the pile appears dry, but the surface underneath contains above-normal moisture. If the top 6-to-18-inches of the pile acts like a thick “scab”, but below it seems very wet, then AggreGET considers the pile “damp”.

“Wet” means that the pile is saturated. That could mean the supplier has just pumped said material from the waters of the gravel pit, or that torrential rains have soaked the pile recently. If the pile is wet on the surface, wet underneath, and water is spilling from the loader bucket or shovel, then AggreGET considers it “wet”.

Some things to consider when communicating with your supplier:

  • Did your supplier recently pump said material from a gravel pit (aka a pond)?
  • If so, is their loader operator loading said material from the dry end of the stockpile or the wet end?
  • Does your supplier store their materials indoors?
  • Does your supplier keep their stockpiles wet with a sprinkler or a water truck?
  • Has it rained recently? If so, in what quantities and how recent was the precipitation?

Final Thoughts

Just a reminder, you DO NOT need to account for moisture in bagged materials. Unless the bags have been tampered with AND stored outdoors, you will not need to use the moisture control for materials that you purchase in bags.

There are a few materials in AggreGET that will not offer you the option to use the moisture and/or compaction controls.

For instance, “Asphalt (Hot/Warm/Cold Mix)” and “Concrete (Bulk or Bagged)” do not give the user compaction or moisture options.

Why?

Because AggreGET assumes that “Asphalt (Hot/Warm/Cold Mix)” will be compacted by default, and that its processing prevents additional moisture.

“Concrete (Bulk or Bagged)” is not typically compacted and already boasts extremely high moisture by default.

There are other materials were the moisture and compaction controls are disabled by default for similar reasons. If you believe that there should be an exception for certain materials, please drop me a message or leave a comment, and I’ll consider including a change on the next upgrade.

Please leave any questions or comments below.

The Story Behind “AggreGET”

Welcome!

My name’s Matt Epley, and I’m the owner/operator of Hardball Software in North Platte, Nebraska.

After 27-years of service in the construction industry, I’m proud to announce the upcoming release of my first mobile app “AggreGET”: a sand, gravel, rock, asphalt, and concrete estimation utility.

I’ve learned so much in my diverse career with Western Engineering, a general contractor who specialized in asphalt paving, and its sister company, Western Materials, who supplied sand, gravel, rock, bulk concrete, and concrete products, and with AggreGET, I’m making all that knowledge available to anyone with a smartphone.

I accumulated a wide variety of experiences with real-world construction materials and their applications. I’ve gained unique perspectives working as:

  • Scale Operator for three gravel pits and one asphalt plant (simultaneously),
  • Quality Control Technician for two mobile asphalt plants and one stationary asphalt plant,
  • Truck Dispatcher for a fleet of flowboys, belly dumps, concrete mixers, and truck-and-pups,
  • Tech Support, Database Administrator, and Bookkeeper for six gravel pits, three asphalt plants, and one concrete plant (again, simultaneously),
  • …and, for the past 18-years, as Office Manager in the dead-center of everything listed above.

It all started in 1991 when my dad, the General Manager at the time, hired me to weigh trucks and answer phones. Back then I was just a 14-year-old who was happy to trade minimum wage for baseball cards.

As the 1990s progressed, my responsibilities increased. I worked summers and after school to help pay for college where I double-majored in computer science and mathematics and minored in art.

In May of 1999, I graduated from Doane College (now Doane University), but it was a bittersweet week for my family; my father nearly died after a series of heart attacks only days before I received my bachelor’s degree.

Dad’s prognosis was bleak. He was only 10-years away from retirement, but all the doctors told him to apply for disability ASAP…that he’d never work again…because that his heart was only functioning at a 40% capacity.

Dad ignored all those dire forecasts and was back to working 12-hour days within two months of his release from the hospital. He was a stubborn and relentless man to say the least.

In my first job out of college, I was a Programmer/Analyst who coded item processing software for Data Management Products, a subsidiary owned by First National Bank in Omaha, Nebraska. I lasted 11-months before I moved my family back home.

Why’d I move back home after landing a great job in the big city?

Bottom line…I wanted to work with my Dad for as long as I could.

Yes, he was a stubborn and determined man, but that didn’t mean he was invincible. I wanted an opportunity to see him every day because I honestly didn’t know how much time he had left on this Earth, and I wanted my kids to remember him before he left us for good.

My Dad, my work colleagues, and I communicated closely with city, county, and state agencies who awarded our company with multiple-millions-of-tons-worth (yes, literally) of paving and material contracts.

While our company earned most of its revenue from federal, state, county, and city contracts, the other 90% of our clients were small contractors, landscapers, and average-joe-homeowners…many of whom had scant experience with estimating construction material quantities.

Our staff fielded scores of customer inquiries daily. While most of them knew WHAT KIND of materials they wanted, few of them knew HOW MUCH they actually needed. Many didn’t know where to begin, how to order, and most didn’t even have a clue how much coverage 1-ton of gravel would offer. (The answer is “not much at all.”)

In the old days, each of our dispatchers could spend anywhere from 10-to-20 minutes with each client, on the phone or in-person, calculating by hand exactly how much sand a soccer mom needed for her kid’s sandbox, or how much gravel a plumber needed to fill a drain field.

But in 2003, my amazing coworkers (Shout out to Dana and Nina. Your influence and mentoring is written all over this app. I love ya and miss ya both.) and I put our heads together and designed a way to reduce the length of those long, clumsy phone calls by almost 70%.

Based on our needs and those of our customers’ as well, I designed a database and programmed a front-end desktop app where we could enter a combination of length, width, depth, and surface area dimensions for each project location, and it would estimate the equivalent tonnage for each material in our inventory based on each’s unique density.

I felt like I was finally able to put my computer science degree to practical use! I was finally able to help friends, family, and normal people with my skills, and not just banks and other faceless business monoliths.

Not only did we reduce the average time of each customer interaction, but we increased TOTAL daily customer interactions…you know…all because our phone lines were no longer as “busy”. Remember THOSE days?

That desktop app served us well for 15-years…until our company was sold and my adopted family of amazing coworkers parted ways.

So, what is AggreGET?

AggreGET estimates the Geometric-Equivalent-Tonnage for 57 different construction aggregates. G.E.T. “Get” it?

It’s the newest incarnation of that same 15-year-old, proprietary desktop app that I mentioned earlier, but now its even better than ever.

With literally 15+ years of live testing and customer/coworker feedback, it could be the most heavily tested aggregate, asphalt, and concrete estimation app on the market.

With AggreGET, you can:

  • Enter the length, width, and depth of your driveway, parking lot, flower bed, rock garden, or sandbox, and quickly discover the estimated volume (standard or metric), tonnage (again, standard or metric), bag or bucket count, and truckload count of 57 different construction materials.
  • …also, enter the surface area (e.g. square footage) and depth to find the same quantities.
  • Enter the diameter and depth of any circular hole or excavation, and calculate the estimated volume (standard or metric), tonnage (standard or metric), bag/bucket count, and load count of 57 different construction materials.
  • Find the calculated differences in volume and tonnage for multiple varieties of dirt, sand, gravel, rock, asphalt, concrete, and mulch.
  • Measure, combine, and compare areas of, both, standard units (e.g. inches, feet, yards, and miles) with metric units (e.g. millimeters, centimeters, meters, and kilometers).

AggreGET also accounts for additional moisture percentages and compaction for many of those materials. THAT is something few other apps can boast.

AggreGET will be available for all iOS devices very soon on Apple’s mobile App Store, and for Android devices shortly after on Google Play.

So stay tuned!

While many friends and family considered my 1999 move back home “career suicide”, I couldn’t disagree more.

In 2007, my father passed away from another heart attack, but I was fortunate enough to spend each day of his final 7-years working, both, for and beside him. So much of what this app accomplishes is a direct reflection of his relentless effort, his iron will, his “Quick” steel-trap-mind, and his desire to empower everyone around him.

Dad, if there’s WiFi in Heaven, and you’re reading this, I want you to know that Hardball Software and AggreGET are as much your legacy as they are mine. I miss you…and I can’t thank you enough for the lasting imprint you left on our world.

“Let’s GET to work.”

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.