How To Protect Pavers From A Plate Compactor

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Some soils require a plate compactor when trying to press pavers into the foundation. However, it can be dangerous for the pavers themselves unless you have something to protect them with. Fortunately, there are ways we can work around this potential problem and we found some answers for you to use a plate compactor without damaging pavers.

Here are ways you can protect your pavers from a plate compactor:

  • Place a rubber mat on the plate of your plate compactor as a buffer for the paver
  • Put a layer of paver sand between the gaps and run the compactor directly on top of it
  • Place a mat on the base of your compactor and layer sand between the paver gaps for maximum protection

You will need to consider all the facets when building your pavers to prevent accidental damage. These occurrences can result in more expensive and time-consuming repair jobs, and it can take longer for you to enjoy your pavers. If you want to learn more about protecting pavers and possible alternatives for compacting your pavers, continue reading below!

How to Protect Pavers from Plate Compactors

Although there are protective measures to ensure that your pavers remain free of damage, there are still factors you need to know about time efficiency, effectiveness, and the finished result. Below are the factors to consider before deciding on how to protect your pavers.

Place a rubber mat on the plate of your plate compactor

Rubber mats create a buffer between your paver and the compacting machine. However, this may not be time-efficient especially if you have a particularly large space, possibly spanning 700 sqft. This is mainly because you will have to move the mat every two feet once you have finished compacting one section.

Put a layer of paver sand between the gaps and run the compactor directly on top of it

This method is possibly the most used by paving contractors and residents alike. You can simply sweep polymeric sand onto the cracks and gaps and run the compactor without the hassle of moving a mat. Concrete bricks in any pattern work particularly well with this method.

Read: "Polymeric Sand Vs. Regular Sand: Which Is Best For Pavers?"

Place a mat on the base of your compactor and layer sand between the paver gaps

If you are most concerned about not ruining your paving surface, opt for doing both these methods. This may offer the most protection, but it can take you a long time to finish compacting everything to the foundation.

How To Compact Pavers with a Plate Compactor

Plate compactors press the pavers into the foundation. Here is how to properly compact your pavers while avoiding surface damage.

  • Sweep the paving surface to remove any obstruction to the compacting machine.
  • Sweep polymeric sand over the pavers and ground it into the joints with a broom. This will both protect your pavers and prevent erosion.
  • Pass over the paving surface twice using your plate compactor
  • Seal the paving surface to preserve its color and luster

Read: "Is A Plate Compactor Necessary For Pavers?"

How To Compact Pavers without a Plate Compactor

You may not be comfortable with a plate compactor for safety reasons. It might take you a long time, but you can make it work without one. Here is what you can do if you choose not to use a plate compactor altogether.

Without a plate compactor, you can use either road rollers, vibratory paver rollers, or tamping rammers as an alternative.

  • Wear protective gear such as goggles, gloves, and ear mufflers. Wear thick trousers or long pants to protect your from burns.
  • Prepare the substrate or the underground pit. Check if the soil will not collect puddles.
  • Layer stones and gravel on the ground for frost protection.
  • Build the base course using gravel and stones as well. Straighten with a board.
  • Apply polymeric sand at least 2-3 inches thick over the base.
  • Compact the subsoil as heavily as possible using road rollers, vibratory paver rollers, or tamping rampers.

Can You Hand Tamp Pavers?

The effectiveness of hand tamping pavers depends on the type of soil you have. It can effectively compact your soil granted that it has enough moisture content, but even then it will take you several passes.

You can definitely hand-tamp your pavers, but there is a possibility that it will create waves over your paving surface in about five years.

Hand-tamping is not advisable if you live in a dry area since it may not lubricate the soil enough for it to fully settle and be compact. You will need a plate compactor to fully create a strong foundation and prevent shifting or waving.

What to Avoid When Compacting Pavers

You need to do an excellent compacting job if you want to avoid inconveniences and expensive paver repairs. Here are some of the most common rookie mistakes during paver building.

  • Using dirt as a base or mixing it with the soil. This will create an uneven surface that will cause your hardscape to wave because of the potential shrinking.
  • Not digging deeply enough for the base. The foundation needs to be atleast 2-4 inches deep to be strong.
  • Not compacting your base or not doing it enough. If your foundation is not compact, your surface will be uneven.
  • Forgetting the click and drop method when installing your paving stones.
  • Layering the sand unevenly. The bedding sand will help the stones become firmly settled. If there are discrepancies between the distribution, it can create dips on the surface.

How To Choose the Right Compactor

Choosing the right compactor depends on your soil, your location, and how big is the area to be compacted. It will determine how firm your foundation will be, and how laborious the job can be.

It is important to remember that for every 1,000 lbs of impact, the soil is compacted by 1-inch. You should also take note of the vibration frequency: higher frequency for multiple thin layers, and lower frequency for thicker layers of soil and gravel.

Here are the different types of compactors and the conditions where they are most compatible for use.

Vibratory Plate Compactors

These compactors are best used for compacting small areas with gravel or asphalt. They move in a singular forward motion, so movement can be limited. They have vibration-isolated handles so you can do your job conveniently, and they have an impact of 4,500 lbs making them the most portable compactors on the market.

These are most commonly used in residential landscape projects since it has a relatively smaller perimeter, and these plate compactors have the perfect size for them.

Reversible Vibratory Plate Compactor

These are more heavy-duty than vibratory plate compactors. It is ideal for small road construction projects with its 7,500 lbs impact. You can use them to compact granular soil and heavy paving blocks because of their stronger force.

These compactors also have a vibration-isolated handle for better job performance.

High-Performance Plate Compactor

High-performance plate compactors are typically used for heavy construction and road projects. They are also ideal for compacting soils with clay content because of their density, which makes particle vibration a challenge.

What Compactor is best for Clay Soil?

Cohesive soils such as clay, or soils that contain clay are harder to compact because it requires more energy and force to fully be vibrated and integrated into the foundation. The best compactor for these soils would either be road rollers or jumping jack rammers.

How Strong Pavers will be After Compacting

A properly-compacted foundation will prevent cracks, premature damage, and paver shifts. Make sure that the compactor you use is compatible with your soil so it will be firm and strong even in extreme weather conditions.

You will know that you did a thorough job of your paving surface remains flat and snug after five years. As with any outdoor landscaping project, proper planning is key to making every investment well-spent. Do not forget to maintain your pavers as well to prevent water damage and breakage.

Final Thoughts

There are many ways you can strengthen the foundation of your paving surface, and one of them is by using a plate compacting machine. Make sure that your base is smooth so that your surface does not shift, break, or wave, which can cost you more in the long run.

While hand-tamping is possible, nothing beats the peace of mind of using a compacting machine. This will ensure that your pavers truly last a long time and lives up to their durability potential.