What is a Plate Compactor?

A plate compactor uses a large steel plate to get rid of air pockets in various ground materials and provide tighter compaction.

They work on rough and uneven ground, to flatten it and create a level grade. Commonly, this will be soil, sand, hardcore, gravel, asphalt and similar.

The heavy steel plate vibrates and moves up and down, meaning the ground particles move closer together and become dense and compact.

The impact forces the particles downwards to create a solid base to build on.

You may also see them referred to as a wacker plate. While various models, makes and styles are available, they all achieve the same result.

Because they’re probably not everyday tools, and can be rather large and bulky to store, hiring a wacker plate from Speedy Hire will likely be the best way forward if you’re planning some DIY.




Why are plate compactors used?

A wacker plate is often used to compact soil, ready for laying another surface over the top. They can also be used on sand, gravel, asphalt, and other materials, too.

You may be laying paving, artificial grass, or concrete for a driveway over your existing garden soil. Compacting and evening out the ground will allow you to build upon it safely and easily.

A heavy-duty plate compactor, with a heavy flat plate, can be used to repair paths, roads, and parking lots. They can disturb the ground, allowing for new material to be incorporated into the existing material.


How do I use a plate compactor?

Please watch our video below on how to use a plate compactor, which will take you through all the steps.

You can also read our guide on using a plate compactor on our blog.


Please remember to always wear PPE when operating any power tools or equipment. When using a wacker plate, this includes eye protection due to the risk of debris, ear protection, gloves, and breathing protection due to the risk of dust.


How do plate compactors work?

When in operation, the steel plate on the base of a wacker plate vibrates up and down at a very high speed. This fast movement, along with the weight of the plate, creates a centrifugal force which compresses surface materials.

The level of centrifugal force required depends on the material being used.

The more material and particles are compacted into a small space, the more stable the ground surface becomes.

A wacker plate can be diesel, petrol, or electric. The former two are the most widely available, but the latter is best for use indoors, or in confined spaces where fumes may be an issue.

Petrol and diesel engine tools should only be used in well-ventilated areas.

Plate compactors are usually operated in a forward motion, but reversible plate compactors are also available. These are used to compact deeper trenches or backfill around new foundations. A switch will put the compactor into reverse.


Why would I need to hire a plate compactor?

You may be working on a building a new driveway or path and want to have a go at some DIY to save some money.

Maybe your paving stones are uneven, resulting in trip hazards. You may also want an even ground to lay a foundation for a shed, summer house, or even a hot tub!

You can hire plate compactors from Speedy Hire. Book online and Click & Collect from one of our 200 depots across the UK. Or why not make the most of our 4-hour delivery promise?


Which plate compactor should I choose?

There are a couple of different types of wacker plates to choose from. We have a full guide on which plate compactor to choose.

Forward plate compactors are great for compacting granular soils containing sand or gravel. A plate of 8 to 12 inches (around 200mm to 300mm) will often suffice.

These are often smaller and a bit easier to handle and manoeuvre, ideal if it is your first time using a plate compactor.

If you are compacting something like asphalt or working with really deep layers of granular soil, you will need a larger plate and potentially even a compactor with an in-built water system. These provide water to the plate, making the wet material easier to move and compact, and also ensuring no material sticks to the plate.

You also need to think about power type. Petrol and diesel compactors are more widely available with a large choice of models, but electric battery-powered compactors are better for working in confined spaces with poor airflow, or if you need to keep noise and fuel emissions low.

If in doubt, contact somebody at your local depot, and they will be able to provide you with the best advice for the job.


Is a plate compactor the same as a wacker plate?

Plate compactors are also called wacker plates, compactor plates, vibrating plates, tampers, wackers, vibratory plate compactors, or compaction plates.

The terms are interchangeable with each other; compactor manufacturers and providers just use certain names. So, if you see a product called one of the above, it is the same tool – don’t be put off!




Yes. Hiring a plate compactor is the best solution if you’re undertaking some ground levelling and maintenance.

Not only is it much easier than doing it manually but hiring a wacker plate means you have the most specialised, dedicated tool for the job, without having to buy it. This will make your life and job much easier.

Speedy Hire, the UK's leading tool hire company, have a range of plate compactors for hire nationwide, from names such as Altrad Belle and Wacker Neuson.

With more than 200 service centres across the nation, hire counters in selected B&Qs and nationwide 4-hour delivery, tool hire has never been easier.

Open a Speedy account online for access to our full hire range and pricing.

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