DIY enthusiasts can take advantage of relatively lightweight models for paving projects or laying patios and driveways. What’s more, depending on the task, it might be just as cost-effective to buy one as to rent, and they tend to hold their value well if you want to sell it later.
We’ve been looking at the current models and the features they offer, so we can help you decide which one would be best for your tasks. We’ve selected a few favorites that showcase the prices and capabilities of a number of homeowner and professional models, and in the following plate compactor buying guide, we’ve looked at power and performance specifications in detail.
The need for an air hose makes them cumbersome, but they can be used inside buildings (where a gas or diesel machine could not), in trenches where fumes might accumulate, or where sparks would be dangerous. While these are what we focus on here because they have the widest range of applications, many of the principles apply to models of all sizes.
Cubic centimeters and horsepower have an impact on performance, of course, but there are other features of these tools that are equally important, if not more so. While they might be dependable, makers like Briggs & Stratton, Honda, and Kohler have a reputation for quality and durability that almost invariably makes them worth the investment.
The plates themselves are often pressed steel (usually with curved or beveled edges to keep them from digging in). The extra weight can improve performance where high compaction is desired, and it’s less likely to distort over time.
It’s a figure that’s more important if you’re laying large areas of asphalt than the base for a patio. Throttle control is often quite rudimentary, using the old-style thumb levers you used to find on lawn mowers.
A properly compacted base means your driveway and paved areas can stand the weight of vehicles or changing atmospheric conditions without distorting. Frequent breaks are recommended, but you’ll also find some models have anti-vibration handles to help damp out much of the effect.
EPA compliance is another indicator of reduced emissions, which also usually means the motor is more efficient and so uses less fuel. A plate compactor with a built-in water tank is more convenient and more precise than using a hose.
For instance, some models cover a couple of years if you’re a homeowner but only 90 days if you’re a professional. The beats per minute figure is also important, particularly with small aggregates that need high speed to help them settle.
Expensive: Heavy-duty construction equipment can easily be $2,000, with diesel power at $4,000 or more and top models at over $6,000. It takes much less effort to remove the tank for refilling rather than moving the entire machine.
In spite of their immense power, plate compactors are pretty safe devices as long as you’re reasonably careful and take a few precautions. Make sure you’re 100% alert and in good physical condition before operating your plate compactor.
When doing maintenance or repairs, always make sure the machine is switched off or disconnected from its power source. A. Light- and medium-duty homeowner models are very manageable for those of average fitness, and it shouldn’t jump around all over the place.
If it does, there may be a fault in the machine, an obstruction (like a rock just below the surface), or the area you’re working on may have reached maximum compaction. Electric and air models have minimal requirements (though the latter have a compressor with its own service routine).
Gas and diesel models have similar demands to lawn mowers. If it’s damp, and you’ve got to get the job done, experts recommend mixing in a little fine gravel to help it bind.
Electric wacker plate Great for all the heaviest duty trade jobs So, a wacker plate (or plate compactor) is usually petrol or diesel powered and allows layers of material to be compacted down until closely knitted and firm, to enable a good solid foundation for things such as patio’s, paths, driveways and even for turf laying.
The operator controls the plate by guiding it into the desired direction as it vibrates along the surface until all the ground is firm and level. Construction firms and landscapers use these machines to press down the material, so it becomes really strong and able to withstand the likes of building work on top of it -patio’s, pathways and so on.
Depending on the engine power output (measured in horsepower (or hp)), the machine can compact the material down to various depths (for example typically 30 cm deep). If you are creating patios or paths around a property then you don’t necessarily need the biggest and bestwackerplate there is out there (as generally it is just human traffic on them, and not too heavy), but for driveways and public highways where heavy vehicles will move, there is a need for better machinery than can compact quickly and down to decent depths.
So often, two people are needed to move them in position (although some models do come with wheels that help maneuver the plate from your vehicle to the site). Maintenance issues (things that need doing regularly) can be overlooked if the machine is not well cared for.
Large plate Travels at 15 meters per minute Foldable handles This PC 12/36 plate compactor will work hard all year round.
Precision engineered, and extremely high quality give Belle machines the trust they have come to be accustomed to from consumers around the world. Foldable mounted guide handle offers superior maneuverability and can be lowered to operate under obstacles and close to form work.
4 HP Honda petrol engine (known for their superb reliability) 9.5 liter capacity water tank spray system. Angled holes help spray the full width preventing Asphalt pick up.
It would be so easy to simply state “go out and buy a Belle and forget the rest”. We wouldn’t be wrong in that statement, however the downsides to owning a Belle compactor plate are the high price tags when purchasing.
This is the mid weight Belle CLX 320 – 3.0HP Honda Petrol Driven Backplate. It features a 320 mm plate that achieves brilliant compaction levels across all materials.
It performs to HAUL standards (Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee) so is guaranteed to get the job done to the right specifications. One of the safest machines in its class, the low vibration design means the operator can user it for longer periods without undue fatigue setting in.
Coupling it to the generous 2.8 horsepower engine gives you a machine that starts up well (although we did have to let our unit run a few minutes from cold before using it for compacting) Hyundai have been in existence since 1947 as an engineering and construction company before branching out into motoring and machinery.
For their wacker plates they use a sole UK based importer (Gen power Ltd), who trade as “Hyundai Power Equipment”. Will achieve 25 meters per minute coverage (so extremely useful) A sturdy 8 mm steel plate compacts down to 200 mm.
Ideal for compacting sand, soil, small aggregates it is the perfect, cost-effective plate compactor for DIY projects, patio & block paving preparation, small driveway work and tarmac repair. The Nielsen C 60 petrol plate compactors packs a good solid punch thanks to it’s 5.5 horsepower engine.
It can run at between 20 and 25 meters each minute and has an impact force of 1030 kg and can compact up to 150 mm depth. It’s not the hardest hitting compactor, and won’t be good for heavy duty items but for the vast majority of applications it is just fine.
We used it to compact both the sub base and sand down for our block paving and I have to say it performed exceedingly well. Nicely priced and less hassle organizing electric cables and hoping for dry days.
Powerful 2.4hp motor Low frequency & high amplitude for better soil compaction Easy fold handle for storage and transportation Thick, durable baseplate and vibration damper system increases user comfort 2-Year Warranty (only valid if purchased in the UK) For those smaller areas, this hand held mini wacker plate is just perfect.
The baseplate on this machine is made using stable lacquered sheet steel. We trialed this for 2 weeks for a pathway going from our front door, down the side of the house and to Mary up to our patio at the back.
Knowing how to fill up with fuel knowing how to safely remove the compactor plate from your vehicle to the area being compacted (without breaking your back) Giving a visual inspection to make sure all the nuts and bolts are as tight as they should be. Long term it will help keep you safer, more informed, and be able to identify any issues if there arise.
If your plate compactor is an electric model then simply plug it in and pull on the lever or press the on/off switch to start compacting. This is usually a small Black plastic handle attached to rope that goes inside the engine.
The machine uses a centrifugal clutch which will engage when the revs are high enough, forcing the compactor into motion. Simply use your hands to guide, along with a bit of force, to ensure it goes in the direction you are travelling.
Assuming no machinery issues, reduce the revs right down and let it run for a minute or two to cool down, just ticking over somewhere safe out of your way, then you can turn the power on/off switch to the off position (usually a “0”).