Sunday, June 26, 2011

Checking Elevation with a Garden Hose: MacGyver Edition

I've bragged on my dad a little here before, but I cannot stress enough how handy the man is.  There are only a rare few home improvement projects he cannot do, and he's always eager to help us with any project we decide to take on.  Not to mention, he always makes Tony do the work (with guided instruction!) so he learns how.  I supervise, of course.

Our current project - the deck I keep yapping about but that doesn't actually exist yet - requires some Tom-help, so he came to visit for the day a few weeks ago to help us get started.

Luckily, he designs machinery for a living, so designing a deck was a piece of cake.  He whipped out his AutoCAD software and had the specs drawn up in no time.  The tricky part, however, is determining elevation, since our yard slopes slightly away from the house.

Here's where he turns all MacGyver on us.  Using just a garden hose, tape measure, and a water pitcher, we were able to determine elevation/slope (ugh, sounds like algebra.)  

{disclaimer: Since I was busy taking photos during this time and actively choosing to not listen fully, I am not an expert on this.  I suggest Googlin' it if you decide to do this yourself!  Or get yourself a Tom.  I just thought the process was fascinating and wanted to share.}

First you take a hose and get it nice and full of water - plug the free end with your finger and turn on your faucet until the hose is filled.  Next, disconnect the hose from the faucet, plugging that end as well so none of the water escapes.  It won't be totally full - but close.

Find your deck end point (in this case, our door where the deck will start), and curve the hose up to the correct height level (in our case, only a few inches).

Have another person walk down to where the other end of your deck will be (in our case, the end where it will be the highest elevation), carrying the other end of the hose (it's ok if it is not taut).

Have a third person (me!) ready with a bucket of water.  My job was to pour water in Tony's end of the hose until it reached the top.  My dad was at the other end, raising and lowering his end of the hose.  I would fill our end, but then it would disappear as dad raised his end - it took a while of pouring and waiting, pouring and waiting.  When our end was filled to the top with water, and his end was too - then we knew we had the elevation right (somehow...).  My dad then measured how far his hose was off the ground (11 inches, in our case), and we knew how tall the deck would be on that end, in order to be level.

Clear as mud, right?  My non-scientific brain was more than slightly confused by the whole thing, but the results made sense and my dad was able to use those measurements to further draw out the deck.

Now it's just a waiting game to find a weekend where we all have time to put this sucker together.

And yes, our yard does look like this:

Work in progress, people.


  1. Wow. Just wow. And genius. But you're definitely onto something bringing your dad in. Mine lives 800 miles away but I really need to put him to work when he comes to visit. Gonna go start making my to-do list for him.

  2. Your Dad is one handy guy!! I love that he is teaching your hubbs ;) Too funny that you mentioned McGuyver!....that was my favorite show that I used to watch with MY Dad when I was little :)

    XO Lindsay


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