Is A Plate Compactor Necessary For Pavers?

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The foundation on which the paver or patio is laid must be flat, and the soil beneath it must be compact. But, the question of how to compact the ground arises. Is a plate compactor necessary for pavers and patios? We researched and compiled some information that might help you.

Every paver installation process, especially DIY projects, requires the use of a plate compactor. Compacting the base before laying the pavers is the most crucial stage in preparing for your paving job. Also, some professional paver installers use compactors on top of pavers to aid the installation.

While soil preparation is required, you may wonder, what are the advantages of compacting the soil before installing pavers? How do plate compactors work? What are the different types of compactors? What factors should you consider when purchasing a compactor? Continue reading to learn more before you start your next paving project!

Construction workers installing and arranging precast concrete pavers stone for road, Is A Plate Compactor Necessary For Pavers?

What Are The Advantages Of Compacting The Base?

Proper compaction is necessary if you want your paving job to last a long time. Without proper compaction, both the base and the pavers lose stability, causing your pavers to shift over time. Here are some pros in using a plate compactor in your paver installation:

  • Prevents the formation of hollows and humps resulting in an uneven paver surface.
  • Prevents shifting of pavers over time.
  • Saves money on repair and replacement if the base is properly compacted.
  • Ensures safety by eliminating tripping hazards due to uneven surfaces.

Plate compactor in action

How Do Plate Compactors Work?

A plate compactor for pavers and patios works similarly to a lawnmower, but instead of mowing the grass, it presses the earth beneath the pavers and patios to create a level surface. After that, you may stand on the ground without it changing beneath your feet.

A hefty, flat steel plate is connected to an engine that raises and lowers the plate. The machine's weight, along with the vibrations of the plate, compacts the soil. This causes trapped air voids in the material to rise to the surface.

The repeating motion of a vibratory plate compactor penetrates the soil and compacts the particles together. In addition to the machine's weight, the vibrating base plate produces downward pressure. This, when combined, enhances soil density.

What Are The Types of Plate Compactors?

A plate compactor is an essential piece of equipment for practically all applications. There are some hand compactors available that would be useful for little operations, such as landscaping when only a few spots need to be compressed.

Worker uses vibratory plate compactor compacting asphalt

There are three types of plate compactors you can choose from:

  1. Single-plate,
  2. Reversible plate, and
  3. Heavy-duty plate compactor.

Single-plate compactors are the most typical choice for smaller paving jobs. However, they only compress in a forward direction. On the other hand, reversible plate compactors can function in both forward and backward directions.

While heavy-duty plate compactors are commonly used to achieve a deeper compaction depth. In addition, this type of compactor can also go in forward and backward directions.

How To Choose A Plate Compactor Suited For Your Needs?

On driveways, parking lots, and maintenance work, plate compactors may compact sub-base and asphalt. They can also be utilized in areas where a larger roller would be unable to reach.

Now, you might ask, are there factors needed to be considered in choosing the right compactor? Here are some factors to look for in choosing the perfect plate compactor for you.

Base Material

The base material is one important factor to consider in choosing the right compactor to use. For instance, plate compactors are not suited to be used in clay soil since this soil type needs harder and direct compaction.

On the other hand, a plate compactor is best used for base materials like sand and gravel. This is because of the broad plate size and vibration making the compaction weight and force to be spread over a larger area.

Compaction Strength

Ensure that you know the force that is required for the compaction. While it may appear that purchasing a small compactor saves you investment costs, the problem it will cause may cost you more in the long run. Remember, inadequate compacting can cause serious issues in the future.

In addition, the vibration frequency also affects the compaction strength of your plate compactor. Low-frequency compactors are ideal for thick and medium layers, while high-frequency compactors are suited for thin layers.

Surface Area

When deciding which compactor to use, the area covered is also a major consideration. A larger plate covers more ground per pass, but travel speed must also be considered. Varying compactors have various travel speeds measured in feet per minute.

If you have a somewhat larger footprint yet the plate compactor travels at a significantly slower speed than another unit, the larger footprint may not be beneficial to you.

Ergonomic Factor

Another factor is the comfort and efficiency that the machine will bring the operator. Look for a compactor with a vibration-reducing handle. Operator fatigue may be reduced as a result of this.

How To Compact Base And Pavers?

Construction worker with plate compactor

Here are some steps on how to compact the base for your next paver project:

1. Excavate The Area

Initially, all paving installation starts with excavation of the area. Depending on the paver type used and the intended usage of the paver project, excavation is usually between 8 and 12 inches deep.

While many individuals avoid compaction after the excavation stage, it is critical to guarantee that the sub-base is laid out evenly and solidly. Before introducing the sub-base material, use a plate compactor to go over the surface three to four times.

2. Add Sub-base

Sub-base material can be added once the excavated area's surface has been properly compacted. A sub-base, typically limestone or sand, should be laid in 4- to 8-inch lifts, with each lift being compacted. With a plate compactor, proper compaction should be achieved in three to four passes each lift.

Moisture content has an impact on compaction. Using a garden hose or the onboard water tank on a compactor causes the sub-base particles to form a paste and link together, resulting in a considerably stronger sub-base product. Although, you have to be careful not to saturate your material.

3. Add Sand Bedding

After the sub-base layer has been added and properly compacted, a 1-inch layer of sand bedding is applied to provide a softer surface for the pavers to settle into.

4. Lay Pavers and Compact

Man in orange uniform using vibrational paving stone machine for finish on a sidewalk road construction site

Once the pavers have been laid out in the proper pattern, the paver surface should be compacted. Following the initial compaction of the pavers, a second or third pass should be performed over the pavers, sweeping fine sand into the joints. The pavers will settle into the sand and generate density between them after the final compression.

Don't forget to place a protective pad on the compactor once more to prevent harm to the paver surface.

Final Thoughts

Finding a suitable plate compactor isn't easy; it all relies on the job at hand, the material to be compacted, and, of course, your budget. Choosing the right equipment to use is essential to achieve that long-lasting, strong, and attractive paver project.

Check out these articles to learn more about compacting sub-base materials for your next paver project:

Do You Compact Bedding Sand?

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