Can You Use A Hand Tamper For Pavers? [And How]

Disclosure: We may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

One of the most crucial parts of having a good hardscape is proper compaction of the base and sub-base. Most homeowners use a plate compactor to achieve this. But what if you don't have access to a plate compactor? Or if the area is not accessible? Can you use a hand tamper instead? How? We searched things about this tool and here is what we learned.

You can use a hand tamper to compact your paver base. Not only that, you can also use it to push the pavers down into place.

But what are hand tampers? How do they work? How do you compact soil using them? Read on to learn more about hand tampers and how to use them.

Worker using a tamper for the patio pavement, Save draft Preview Publish Can You Use A Hand Tamper For Pavers? [And How]

What Are The Types Of Tampers?

Generally, tampers are either manually or electrically driven compaction tools. By applying force to the material's surface, they improve the density and levelness of soil, gravel, sand, and other materials. This force can be applied manually or with the help of a gas-burning engine.

Although they have a common function, typically, tampers have three types:

  1. Manual Striking Tamper
  2. Gas-Powered Tamper
  3. Rolling Tamper

Manual Striking Tamper

This is the most common form of tamper tool. Also, this is the most basic tamper tool out there. Usually called a hand tamper, this tool compacts your surface while giving you a wonderful upper back and shoulder exercise. It has a heavy, flat steelhead on the bottom that is coupled to a long vertical handle.

Gas-Powered Tamper

This type of tamper is a considerably larger, more powerful, and more expensive version of a manual tamper, with a strong motor that provides huge amounts of force to the surface being compacted. If you have more than a few square feet of material to tamp down, then you can opt to use this.

A brand new tamper

Rolling Tamper

You can choose to use a rolling tamper if you don't want the hassle and expense of gas-burning equipment but don't mind continually pushing a long-handled tool against the ground. A huge, hollow metal cylinder is affixed to a long, angled handle on this tool.

A soil tamper used for asphalt roads

They're made to be packed with sand or other heavy materials, which provides enough weight to tamp down most surfaces. Because the cylinder rolls on its axles, rolling tampers are simple to use. These can typically be leased from a hardware store, just like gas-powered tampers.

What Is A Hand Tamper?

As mentioned, a hand tamper is a hand tool with a square flat head and a long handle that is used for tamping: compacting soil, gravel, and other granular materials by reducing their size and increasing density.

Click here for this product on Amazon

How Do Hand Tampers Work?

Hand tampers aid in flattening and compacting the surface. It's ideal for leveling gravel, smoothing and flattening dirt, repairing asphalt, and tamping loose soil. In addition, pavers themselves can be tamped with a hand tamper.

Hand tampers are usually used to compact the soil in the garden or other outside areas before installing pavers for walks or patios, garden fountains, fire pits, garden tool huts, or other small outdoor constructions.

How To Use Hand Tampers?

A bucket filled with sand for the base of the pavers

Using a hand tamper to compact soil and pavers might seem easy. But how do you properly use it? Here are a few guidelines on how to compact soil using hand tampers:

1. Prepare Base Material

Before you begin tamping, spread out the materials as flat and smooth as possible. Drizzle the soil with a bit of moisture to aid for better compaction.

2. Compact With Hand Tamper

Make sure you strike the tool with the flat bottom. If you strike down while the tamper is tilted, instead of compacting the soil, you only loosen it. In addition, see to it that all areas are evenly compacted before you stop tampering.

3. Add Another Layer Of Soil

If the desired base thickness is not yet achieved, add layers of soil then recompact. Repeat this step until your desired level of compaction is met.

4. Check Levelness (Optional)

If you want to make sure that the grading of your base is correct, you can use a laser level or any leveling device you have.

Click here for this laser level on Amazon.

How To Use Hand Tampers Over Pavers?

Hand tampers can also be used to push pavers down in place. Once the base and sub-base are compact enough, you can start laying your pavers. You can also add sand filler in between joints the repeat tamping until pavers are locked.

What Does A Hand Tamper Consist Of?

As previously mentioned, a hand tamper is composed of a large, flat square base and long handle. In addition, the handle can be made of these three materials: wood, fiberglass, and steel. Here are a few comparisons among these materials:

Handle Material Advantages Disadvantages
Wood Easily fit the head;
Repairable and can be easily replaced if damaged beyond repair.
Sensitive to moisture.
Fiberglass Lighter, more durable, and is sometimes slip-resistant. More expensive compared to wood;
Long exposure to sunlight can cause damage;
Can't be replaced easily.
Steel Adds weight to the tool itself for more compacting force. Can be very heavy;
Gets too cold in winter and too hot in summer.

What Are The Safety Considerations In Using A Hand Tamper?

Using hand tampers can be dangerous if not used correctly. The heavy steel base might inflict serious injury if it strikes a leg or foot. In addition, flying debris might hit the eyes if tampers come in contact with materials like gravel. Lastly, since hand tampers are manually handled, operator exhaustion can lead to losing grip of the tamper handle.

Man wearing safety gloves while installing pavers

With this, wearing proper personal protective equipment like safety gloves, shoes, goggles, and overalls, is important. As well as drinking water and taking breaks in between compacting the soil to prevent the operator from being worn out.

How To Properly Position When Using Hand Tampers?

In handling hand tamping tools, proper positioning is essential. Not only does it add power to your compaction force but it also helps in avoiding muscle strains or injuries that might occur.

To get to the proper positioning and handling of a hand tamper, you must follow these tips:

  • Center yourself over the surface you plan on tampering.
  • Extend your legs just past shoulder width.
  • Clutch the handle firmly with both hands.
  • Center the tamper base between your feet.

Pro Tip: Use the force of your back and shoulders, as well as the weight of the tamper, to pack and level the surface. You will quickly tire out if you rely exclusively on your arms.

How To Maintain A Hand Tamper In Good Condition?

Of course, maintenance is necessary if you want to keep your hand tamper in good condition. Here are some maintenance tips to learn from:

  1. Always clean your tampers thoroughly after every use. Dry with clean old cloth or rug.
  2. Rub oil to metal parts to winterize them.
  3. In the case of a wooden handle, apply finishing oil and occasionally do some light sanding.
  4. Store your hand tamper in a dry place to avoid the accumulation of rust on the metal surface.

When To Know If Hand Tampers Need To Be Replaced?

A tamper's base can last a lifetime if properly utilized and cleaned before storage. However, depending on the quality and type of material utilized, the handle would most likely wear out with time. Many tampers may be fitted with a replacement handle in this situation, but others cannot due to their manufacture.

A faulty handle is a warning that it's time to get a new tamper if yours isn't made to accept a replacement.

Final Thoughts

Worker using a tamper for the patio pavement

Hand tampers are good tools to use if you want to manually compact your pavers. Although it takes a lot of effort to achieve a high level of compaction, some homeowners prefer to use it. Moreover, they are DIY friendly too! Aside from that, hand tampers are one of the most affordable soil compactors on the market.

If you plan to use a plate compactor instead, you can check this article: "Is A Plate Compactor Necessary For Pavers?"

To learn more about necessary compaction steps in paver installation, you can check these articles:

Do You Compact Bedding Sand?

Does Stone Dust Compact? [And How To Do It]