Pick Your Plate: How to Choose the Best Plate Compactor for the Job

Plate compactors are responsible for keeping our driveways and patios smooth so that we don’t get a flat tire as we’re leaving for work or provide an uncomfortable setting for backyard parties.

This machine uses a heavy plate that moves up and down quickly on top of soil so that surfaces made of sand or gravel are free of bumps or holes that can make traveling on top of them difficult.

However, anyone who hasn’t used a plate compactor should know about the options available to them before using one. The right compactor for you will depend on a variety of factors, such as how much compaction you need and how much space you need for your project.

Lucky for you, we have the knowledge need to pick the machine capable of fulfilling your needs.

Read on to find out how to choose the best plate compactor for the job.

Amount of Compaction

How much you need to compact the surface of the area you’re working on will affect not only how smooth the surface ends up being, but how much money you’ll be able to save on extra rounds on the ground.

The general rule for compaction is two to four passes, as this is the amount that soil can handle without remaining too soft for vehicle or foot traffic or too hard to the point where different parts of the surface break apart.

Not enough compaction can make it easier for your car tires to get messy and even stuck in the soil, and walking in soft soil can end up with a shoe getting stuck and having to buy a new pair.

Weather can also make it hard for soil to stay solid if not compacted enough, as water, ice, heat and other elements of storms can prevent the soil from hardening.

With information on the environment, you’ll be able to figure out how much to compact the soil so that it can handle any severe weather that your neighborhood is expected to deal with.

The type of surface that you’re working on will also determine what kind of compactor you need. One factor to consider in this area is vibrations per minute (vpm), which refers to the frequency at which the plate will compact the ground.

Asphalt and granular soils are among the most common that compactors are used for, so it helps to have a machine with a higher vpm.

Plate Compactor Shape

Your plate or dirt compactor also needs to have the right shape in order to produce the results you’re looking for.

A common problem that compactors run into is getting asphalt and other soils stuck to the plate during the compaction. This can make it harder for the surface to smooth out, as well as lead to a longer clean up after the job.

The best shape for plates to have to prevent this issue is curved, as it provides less room for soil and other material to stick around.

You can figure out the shape of your plate by looking underneath from the center of the plate to the edges. If you don’t see any curves, then you might need a new plate.

The amount of objects covering the surface, as well as the space you have to work with, affects what kind of plate you need.

Curved plates are the way to go for tighter spaces because they have more freedom to move around corners, stumps, branches, rocks and other material in one or two goes.

Size of the Area

The success of your plate compactor will also depend on how much of an area your job will cover.

Some of you may be working on a family’s patio, while others are smoothing out their driveway or putting in a new sidewalk outside of a restaurant. These areas also vary in size, depending on the residence.

A single-plate compactor comes more in handy if you’re covering a patio for a small home or a short driveway. This option only moves in the forward direction, making them more fit for a surface that only needs one run.

If you have a long driveway or another area that needs compacting, then we recommend a reversible plate compactor. This machine can move forward and backward, which allows it to cover more space and compact any spots that you may have missed or need more attention.

Another option you have is a heavy-duty plate compactor, a.k.a. a high-performance plate compactor. This option is also best for larger areas, but it also works well on deeper surfaces.

Knowing how big the area for your project is well help you save money so that you don’t have to go extra rounds on the surface or use extra equipment to make up for spots that need to be smoothed out more.

Plate Size and Strength

The bigger the area you are working on, the larger the unit you’ll need to produce the surface you’re looking for.

Some compactor plates are able to cover more space or compact at lower depths that smaller machines wouldn’t be able to smooth out. Bigger options also have the strength to break apart particles and merge material together to produce the surface needed to handle frequent traffic and heavier objects landing on them.

Larger areas are often filled with soil that extends deeper into the ground, which can affect how long the final product is able to stay strong for.

Our guides have the knowledge needed to figure out what kind of compactor will work.

When it comes to being able to handle softer material and save time on compaction, you’re better off using a single-plate compactor, as you’ll only need to move forward to cover the area. This option also uses less force, so you’ll be able to avoid cracks that can lead to someone tripping or a car getting a flat tire.

If the ground you’re working on is deeper and requires more force to produce a reliable surface, then we advise using a reversible or heavy-duty plate to ensure the entire area sticks together and can handle heavier material that may travel on it.

Our Take

Plate compactors come in all shapes, sizes and strength levels in order to handle different surfaces. The better understanding you have of the area you’re working on, the more time and money you’ll be able to save with your project.

Contact us about our services today so that you can make the driveway, patio or walkway you’re envisioning a reality.

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Melissa Thompson

Melissa is a mother of 2, lives in Utah, and writes for a multitude of sites. She is currently the EIC of HarcourtHealth.com and writes about health, wellness, and business topics.