How to use a Compactor (Wacker) Plate and why do I need one?

How to use a Compactor (Wacker) Plate and why do I need one?

How to use a Compactor (Wacker) Plate and why do I need one?

A compactor (wacker) plate is a tool that makes the job of compacting ground material much faster and easier. Compacting is gruelling work, but an essential step to ensure you get a great result for pathways, paving, driveways, drainage, landscaping projects and more. If you’re on a tight timeframe for a project or just wanting to do the best job possible, knowing which compactor plate to use and how to use it will save you A LOT of time, money and many headaches.

What can you use a compactor/wacker plate for?

Compactor plates are particularly useful in confined areas, like a back garden, where a large roller may not be able to reach.  Types of uses include:

Soil and sand

A compactor plate is the perfect machine for landscaping and garden jobs, for example preparing soil for laying a lawn or lawn maintenance and creating an even base of sand prior to laying outdoor paving slabs.

Bitumen & road base

These materials would be compacted to create an even and firm ground for laying road surfaces, or for compacting ground back down after digging trenches.

Gravel and stone fill

Gravel for driveways or entertaining spaces would be compacted to reduce movement and ensure areas stay tidy and safe.

Why would you use a compactor/wacker plate?

Whether it’s a small job or a large commercial one, there are many reasons why using a compactor plate is a wise choice:

Get the job done faster

Nobody wants to see you struggling to hand tamp a large area. It’s recommended to only use hand tamping in hard-to-reach spots. Although smaller compactor plates such as the 45kg to 50kg ones, are often suitable to get into those hard-to-reach spots!

Create a sturdier base

For landscaping jobs you will want a solid base for seeds, lawn and plants to grow, otherwise they will become loose especially when watering.  Pavers require a stable base to ensure they don’t become uneven causing trip hazards and giving a sloppy finish.

Ensure safety and stability

To ensure vehicles don’t slide or flick up loose stones, driveways will need to be compacted.

It’s also ideal for entertaining areas to be compacted so outdoor furniture has a level surface, and any structures you build stay stable.

How to use a Compactor (Wacker) Plate and why do I need one?

How does a compactor/wacker plate work?

The compactor plate works by removing air voids, adding force to the ground to make a solid foundation. It has a plate that vibrates at high frequency which helps the machine to move naturally, so you shouldn’t need to push it too hard, although you do need to guide it in the right direction! 😊

What are the different types of compactor/wacker plates?

There are a few different types of compactor plates, which are all suitable for different jobs and ground materials. Using the right one is key to ensure you get the fastest and best result.

Single compactor plate

These compactors need to be steered, as unlike reversible compactors, these will only move forwards as you can’t walk backwards!😊

These are probably the most popular choice for smaller jobs like landscaping and paths where reversing isn’t necessary.  As you can’t reverse, it’s wise to check that there is enough room at the end of your compacting path to pivot around! 😊

These are more lightweight than reversible models, so are easier to move onto site and although you don’t need to push them when working, you do still need to steer them which will be easier with a lightweight model.

Reversible compactor plate

Good for larger jobs and work sites.

Great for long driveways and road work.  It saves you time by allowing you to reverse the machine removing hard labour, by eliminating the constant need to adjust positions.

They have wide base plates and deeper ‘spot’ compaction, allowing for higher productivity and therefore lowering the overall cost of labour.

Good for heavy duty jobs for materials that require more weight for compacting as the reversible models are heavier.

Tamping rammer (Jumping Jenny)

Tamping rammers are smaller in size, so are perfect for smaller patching jobs where downwards force is needed in a small area, as opposed to back and forth motions.

Good for trenches consisting of more solid soil, will benefit from ramming as the soil type will require the downwards force in order to effectively compact.

These rammers need to be steered, unlike single and reversible plate compactors, rammers are more of a hand-held compaction machine which you will need to hold upright.

Tamping rammer (Jumping Jenny)

Which compactor/wacker plate should you select?

To ensure you hire the right type of compactor plate, you will need to think about a few different factors:

  • The type of ground material you are compacting: solid or granular ground?
  • The type of material you will be laying: turf, pavers or something else?
  • The force rating, width and weight of the plate:
    each model of plate will have a force rating, known as the centrifugal force. High ratings provide more force for compacting. If you are using material that requires a lot of force to compact, check the rating of the compactor plate you’re going to be hiring, to ensure it will work effectively. Too much centrifugal force and you’ll destroy what work you have already done. Too little centrifugal force and you won’t get the job done.
  • If compacting pavers you will need to use a rubber mat alongside the compactor plate (ask us for one when booking your hire)
  • Granular ground needs a higher vibrating frequency while solid ground needs a lower frequency.
  • The width of the plate plays a simple yet important part too. Wider plates cover more ground in one pass.
  • The weight of the machine also plays a big part in the process. Plate compactors come in different weights from 45kg – 500kg. Generally, the harder the ground material it is, the harder it is to compact, so you will need a heavier compaction machine.
Safety first

How to use a compactor/wacker plate safely

It goes without saying it’s really important when using any machinery to use good safety practices to ensure not only the safety of yourself, but anyone else on site with you.

  • Always wear the correct PPE gear – including steel cap boots, hearing protection, eye protection, dust mask and gloves with decent grip.
  • Two people should lift it when moving (if the machine is suitable for manual lifting).
  • Ensure there are no foreign objects on the ground.
  • Always hold the compactor with both hands.
  • Make sure you have a firm footing when operating.
  • Ensure hands, feet and loose clothing are kept clear from the moving parts of the compactor.
  • Ensure the work area is clear of any obstacles, steep gradients or uneven ground.
Click for compactor in action

Common compactor/wacker plate questions answered

Can you use a compactor plate on dirt?

Yes, you can use a compactor plate on dirt, however you should ensure you have checked the type of dirt you are wanting to compact before starting as there are different types of dirt.

A dirt that is more granular can’t be moulded in the same way as something like a solid clay dirt.

You should ensure the dirt has the right moisture content, as too little can stop the particles from coming together for compaction, and too much can create voids reducing ground strength.

TOP TIP: Wet the dirt, grab a handful and see how it holds together. Too crumbly means it’s too dry, if you can squeeze out the water it may be too wet. If it holds together, that should be right for compacting

Should I wet gravel before compacting?

No, you don’t necessarily need to wet gravel before compacting, however a light amount of water can help to keep dust levels down. Just be sure not to make the area too wet.

Is a compactor plate necessary on pavers?

Compacting outdoor pavers helps to settle them at the end of the project, however if you have done the right preparation work, you don’t necessarily need to.

You should only use a compactor plate not a rammer and be careful not to use something too powerful as it can damage the pavers.

So next time when you’re wondering which compactor plate you should hire, give us a call and have us recommend you the right bit of kit to hire from GW Tool & Plant Hire from a day to a week, to a few weeks, to months even a year if need be!

Remember we will deliver all types of machinery or tools across Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire.