Monday, June 30, 2014

Installing Stall Mats

I bought Tru Lok interlocking rubber stall mats at the nearest warehouse. Since I already owned the mats and a big pile of stonedust, I thought it would be a satisfying do-it-ourselves job--especially since I was quoted $650 to install them in just three stalls. Surely we could do it for less time and money than that, right? Here is the tally:
  • Rental of the first compactor: $40 for one day. It lasted less than an hour before a belt started to disintegrate. We were refunded 2/3rds of the rental cost after being insulted by the rental company.
  • Rental of the second compactor: $55 for one day, though we never paid this because it stalled out every few min. Thankfully this rental company was more responsive and drove the third one out to replace it.
  • Rental of the third compactor: $40 for 4 hours.
  • Rental of the hand tamper: $7-10 per day, twice (because the disintegration of the first compactor set us back by a whole day).
  • Hired labor to help DH because stall mats are really freakin heavy and I have a bad back: $15 per hour for about 7 hours.
  • Wooden 1x3s to be used as thresholds: $7 apiece at Lowes.
  • Hours of my life I will never get back: about 12, over three days.
  • Thanks I owe DH: infinite.
Jokes aside, it wasn't the worst experience ever, especially since I was excused from the heavy lifting. I would totally conscript DH to do it again!

I found these to be the most comprehensive and helpful instructions for first-timers, with lots of pretty pictures. A few supplementary tips:
  • Interlocking mats are cool because as you hammer them together they straighten and flatten each other out. I would definitely pay the difference for them again, although I guess I should really wait and see how they wear.
  • Vibratory plate compactors are really really heavy, so two strong people are needed to avoid injury.
  • One thing they don't tell you is how long you might expect to tamp the base (other than, "until it's so hard you don't leave footprints"). We attacked the first stall for almost two hours with the plate compactor, but the second and third stalls only took about half an hour each. Part of that was a learning curve but part of it may have been too much water in the first stall. We were told the more water the better so we soaked the first stall, but we had much better results spraying the other two stalls just enough to dampen the entire surface.
  • If you get what look like bubbles while tamping with a plate compactor (the plate will look like it's sucking up the top layer of the stonedust), try using the point of a shovel to break the surface a couple times and mix in a small amount of dry stonedust before passing over the spot with the tamper again. This may be an indication that you used too much water, like we did.
  • If the compactor starts leaving drag marks on the ground, tilt it up and have a buddy check underneath and wipe off stonedust that has built up there.
  • The longer the handle on the hand tamper, the easier on your body. You will definitely need a hand tamper for the corners because the plate compactor really only likes to go forward so you can't pull into a corner and back out. 
  • If you have a prefab barn with hurricane brackets, there may be bolts sticking up from the floor in the corners of some of your stalls. DH figured out how to lay the mat over the bolts, beat them with a hammer until the exact location of the bolts was imprinted on the mats, then use a hole saw to make spaces for the bolts to stick through. Otherwise your mats will curve up in the corners, which is okay in the back but not if you have one right near the stall door like I do. The top of the bolts still sit below the plane of the mats so the horse can't step directly on them.
  • To anchor wooden thresholds on concrete while still preserving the possibility of removing them one day (i.e., not using construction adhesive), use an appropriate drill and screws made for concrete. I would have preferred to have the top of the mats level with the concrete of the aisle, but it wasn't possible with the concrete footers and hurricane brackets. The threshold prevents the horse from lifting up the edge of the mat when pawing.
Here is the finished product, somewhat out of focus (oops), before the threshold:


And after the threshold has been added:

Not a bad day's work!

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