Plate compactors are used to compact specific types of soil and gravel in building projects that need a stable subsurface. Reduced pore space between the crushed soil particles leads to soil compaction. Compressed soils exhibit a higher density, fewer pores, and a lower total pore volume.

Although a plate compactor comes in various sizes, shapes, and attachments, its essential characteristics never change. The machine’s core is a large, flat, heavy plate that sits on the ground when not in operation. The plate is driven or vibrated by a diesel or gasoline motor.

How plate compactors work

The working element of plate compactors is the heavy plate that slides quickly up and down. Impact pressures, plate weight, and quick impacts compact or park the soil underneath. Granular soils—those with a higher percentage of sand or gravel—are ideal for plate compactor use. Adding some moisture to the soil before operating the plate compactor would be helpful. The compactor manufacturer or design engineer can offer guidance based on specific circumstances, although good compaction usually requires two to four passes.

Types of plate compactors

Contractors have a few alternatives when selecting the ideal plate compactor. The varieties of plate compactors are listed below:

  • Compactors with a single plate only compress in one direction and are usually used for asphalt tasks.
  • Reversible compactors: These operate in a hover mode. Reversible plates are available in both forward and backward configurations for various sorts.
  • High-performance and heavy-duty compactors: Sub-base and deep compaction are two popular applications for reversible, high-performance, heavy-duty plate compactors.

Steps for using a plate compactor

  • Rake the ground with a rake with wide teeth to create as smooth a surface as possible. Walking and pushing the vibratory plate compactor is significantly simpler when you do this.
  • Although wet conditions can help with compaction, muddy or wet ground should not be compacted with a compactor. Additionally, if you’re dealing with an asphalt surface, you’ll need a bottle of kerosene to remove it from the plate and a hose to keep the base plate clean when it’s wet.
  • Like an air compressor, you must prime the engine and close the choke before starting the motor. Flooding the engine and opening the throttle is not permitted after starting your compactor.
  • Put on your safety gear, including steel-toed boots, work gloves, earplugs, and safety glasses, before you use the machine.
  • Start the machine and turn it on to start compacting. Make sure the handle is in your grasp. The plate will vibrate so quickly that it will appear like the machine is hovering above the surface. Compress the whole region in straight lines, back and forth.
  • As before, position the compactor in the corner; however, shift it perpendicular to the initial pass this time. This overlapping pattern ensures an even more compacted foundation. You should repeat this at least twice more.
  • Finally, you must use the compactor after paver installation to ensure even and seated pavers.


A plate compactor helps compact the sub-base and asphalt on parking lots and driveways. They come in handy in confined areas that a larger roller could find inaccessible.