How to Choose a Plate Compactor for the Job

A plate compactor can compact a ground surface or hardcore sub, ready to be used as a base for a foundation. They use vibrating plates to exert force.

They're also known as wacker plates or compaction plates, but they are the same tool. When choosing the right plate compactor for the job, you may see there are various sizes and models available.

You need to look at the centrifugal force of the wacker plate, as this is what gives them their power.

You also need to choose the correct power type, and whether you need a single or reverse plate compactor.

When using a plate compactor, always remember to wear PPE. A dust mask, hearing protection, eye protection, safety boots and gloves are essential, and available to purchase from Speedy alongside your wacker plate hire.




Centrifugal Force

In the UK, this is measured in kilonewtons (kN).

The required force will depend on the type of earth, what material you’re laying down and how thick the ground is.

Most standard wacker plates available for hire are around 12kN, which is perfect for driveways, paths, patio bases, and other home and DIY tasks, such as laying a base for a shed.

A heavy-duty plate compactor may be required for thicker ground and ground with higher clay content. These can reach around 25kN.

They are often incredibly robust, with high break and wear resistance, a high centrifugal force, and a large heavy flat plate.

For most DIY jobs, this is likely going to give you too much power, but they’re ideal for any professional jobs, road repairs, or work on car parks and similar.


Plate Size

You also need to look at the plate size. A larger plate will be able to cover a larger area, getting the job done quicker. However, a smaller plate is best for narrow areas, offering more manoeuvrability.

It will be easier to work with a smaller plate if you are a beginner, especially when it comes to control.


Single/Reverse Plate Compactor

A single plate compactor (also known as a vibratory plate compactor) will move in one direction, forwards. This often applies to the smallest and lightest plate compactors.

Manoeuvrability is limited, but it can be easier for beginners to manage. They’re also perfect for smaller areas.

A reversible wacker plate can move forwards and backwards. This makes them a more practical choice for large areas. Reversible compactors are also often more powerful, exerting a greater force. They’re more suited to professional, large-scale jobs.


Fuel Source

Plate compactors are available in petrol, diesel, and electric models. You will want to choose the fuel source which is more practical for your environment.

The former two are the most popular and widely available, especially concerning more powerful heavy-duty models. They can be ideal if used on a site where an electricity source is difficult to come by.

However, electric plate compactors have a heap of benefits. They emit fewer fumes, so are better for the environment and the health of the user/anyone nearby. This can be a good choice for anyone working in a residential area.

They’re also easier to set up, with no cords to pull or refuelling required, which may be easier for a beginner.

If you hire a petrol or diesel power tool, only use it in a well-ventilated area.


Why do I need to use a plate compactor?

Compacting is important to get rid of air pockets and cracks in the ground, which could cause your foundation to weaken in future. Compacting will create a solid base, which is especially important if compacting granular soils, dirt, or gravel.

Otherwise, water could get into air pockets, weakening the foundation.

This means that your new path or driveway won’t last, cracking and weakening over time.




Yes. Speedy Hire, the UK's leading tool hire company, have a range of plate compactors available for hire.

Speedy has more than 200 local service centres across the nation, hire counters in selected B&Qs and nationwide 4-hour delivery, so we are always at hand when you need us the most.

You’ll find all the tools you need right here. Why not open a Speedy account today online or visit us in your local depot to start hiring today?

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