A crucial element in ensuring the quality and durability of landscape projects, sidewalks, driveways and roadways is proper compaction of the base.
Inadequate compaction of the soil and base material results in uneven surfaces which ultimately lead to safety issues and unattractive surfaces. That is why a vibratory plate compactor is an essential tool for anyone involved in a project which requires a stable surface.
The vibratory plate compactor is a walk-behind machine made up of a heavy, flat plate on the ground and mounted to a gasoline or diesel engine. As the engine runs, the plate is driven up and down rapidly.
The weight of the machine plus the vibrations of the plate pack the material tightly together and remove any air voids trapped in the material. The air voids are potential places for shifting and freezing and thawing to occur which eventually causes the surface to become unstable and uneven.
Now knowing how important it is to create an unyielding surface for your project, it is important to look at how different vibratory plate compactors compare. Lets look at the 5 best vibratory plate compactor options...
Top 5: Vibratory Plate Compactors Review
Product Image & Rating (Out Of 10)
The Tomahawk Power Economic Vibratory Plate Compacter boasts an upgraded 5.5 HP Honda Engine. Ideal for use on cohesive soil (i.e., clay) up to 15 inches or granular soil (i.e., sand) up to 22 inches, this workhorse delivers a compaction force of 3000 pounds per square foot at 6400 blows per minute.
The plate size of 17in. X 21in. makes the Tomahawk compact enough to handle small projects and its travel speed of 79 feet/minute makes quick work of any size project.
The large 1 gallon gas fuel tank means less stop time for refueling and the steel reinforced exciter box provides protection during the roughest jobs. At 220 pounds, it is light enough for home use but durable enough for professional construction sites.
The WACKER NEUSON WP1550AW Single Direction Vibratory Compactor Plate features a 4.8 HP Honda Engine with a high inertia clutch. Best used for compacting granular soil, gravel, paving stones, and asphalt, the 19.5 in.X23 in. specially designed ductile iron base plate boasts tapered, rounded edges to minimize rutting when turned as well as durability and shock resistance.
The center-mounted guide handle allows for easy rotating and excellent maneuverability as well as adjustability for working under obstacles. The straight guide handle also allows for easy maneuverability next to structures, walls, curbs, and foundations. When the top travel speed of 100 feet/minute is reached, the lightweight compactor allows for easy machine handling.
While working with asphalt, this sturdy tubular frame can be enhanced with a filter-installed, polyethylene tank and angled spray bar to allow for complete water coverage and minimum asphalt pick-up. When the job is complete, the many lifting points, front lifting cage and 194 pounds weight makes for easy loading and transfer.
#3. Tomahawk Power 5.5 HP Honda Engine Plate Compactor
The Tomahawk Power TPC90H is also driven by a 5.5 HP Honda GX160 engine. Delivering a force of 3400 pounds, this product is perfect for commercial job sites and heavy duty projects. The 20 inch curved, cast-iron base plate is equipped with seamed edges that minimize the build-up of rocks and dirt on the machine.
Ideal for compaction of cohesive and granular soils up to 12 inches, as well as compacting landscapes, hardscapes, roadways, and asphalt, this powerful unit includes a 3.5-gallon water tank to keep the surface below damp, making compaction more efficient.
The water tank is also useful in reducing the build-up of dirt on the plate and not allowing hot asphalt to stick to the base plate. The handlebar absorbs vibrations and folds for easy transporting and storage.
The Dirty Hand Tools 104001 Vibratory Plate Compactor is equipped with a 196cc, EPA carb-approved engine, for 50 state use. Delivering 2,922 pounds of force, this product is ideal for creating a solid base for retaining walls, paving stones, and foundations.
At a travel speed of 49 feet/minute, the 21.26in.X16.54in/ base plate is single-direction contoured and comes standard with a detachable paving mat.
It is also equipped with folding handles for easy storage and fold-up transport wheels for easy movement between jobs. At 191 pounds and lift handles on the front and rear, loading the Dirty Hand Tools Compactor is easy.
Yardmax is a relative new-comer to the vibratory compactor arena. Throwing their hat into the ring in May 2017, Yardmax offers 3 models to cover the range of compacting needs. The YC0850 is the smallest and lightest of the three models. Powered by a Yardmax 79cc engine, 1850 pounds of force and a mere 110 pounds, this vibratory compactor is best used for compacting granular soil, sand and gravel up to 6 inches maximum.
For a step-up in compacting needs, the Yardmax YC1160 is powered by a Yardmax 2.5 HP 196cc engine and delivers 2500 pounds of force. At 75 feet/minute, this vibratory compactor is best used for sidewalks, trenches and setting pavers. For the most aggressive compacting needs, the Yardmax YC1390 is powered by a Briggs and Stratton 208cc engine and 3000 pounds of force.
Weighing in at 185 pounds and a travel speed of 50 feet/minunte, this heavy duty option is best used for driveways, patios, walkways and subgrades where more than 6 inches of compaction is needed. All three models boast stamped steel base plates, fold-up transport wheels, folding handlebars with a conveniently placed 3-position throttle control.
best vibratory plate compactor - Buying Guide
Choosing a plate compactor is a big decision and can come with a big price tag. That is why you should consider a number of factors when you are searching for the correct machine.
Considering your base material is an important step. If you are in an area with cohesive soil, or soil with fine particles and a mix of clay and silt, the Yardmax YC0850 is not your best choice. Both Tomahawk compactors provide enough force to compact the soil to a solid base.
If you are in an area with granular soil, or soild with larger particles such as sand, gravel and rock, the Tomahawk plate compactors will not offer the high frequency vibration needed for compaction that the Wacker Neuson plate compactor offers.
You Should Also Consider the Extras Available With the Compactor.
Commonly Asked Questions
What is a vibratory plate compactor?
A vibratory plate compactor is a tool that will help you compact gravel, asphalt mixes, granular soils, and other loose materials. The plate on compactor is designed to vibrate very quickly, which causes the different materials to get packed down tight, or compacted together.
What can you use a vibratory plate compactor for?
Vibratory plate compactors can help with performing a variety of jobs where you'll need to create a compacted and smooth surface. Some of these including making a patio, paving a driveway, laying the foundation for a home, or laying down brick paving.
How do you use a vibratory plate compactor?
Vibratory plate compactors are relatively easy to use, but you'll want to make sure you do so safely. Before getting started, be sure to familiarize yourself with the specific model you have and learn how its various controls and features work.
Once you are ready to begin work, you will need to turn the fuel line on and switch on the power button. Then, adjust the choke and pull the cord to start the compactor up.
Once the machine is on, you can slowly push it over the surfaces that you need to compact. Some machines also feature a rotating handle that will allow you to switch your position and pull the machine up a steeper hill instead of trying to push it up.
If you're working on a muddy surface, you'll want to clean off the baseplate periodically. This will help ensure that the machine is able to continue to operate properly and efficiently.
If you'll be working with compacting asphalt, putting a little kerosene on the baseplate can help the compactor work better.
Why are there different sizes of vibratory compactors?
The scale and size of the task you are performing will impact the size of the compactor you need. If you're working on compacting gravel to make a path, you'll likely want a smaller compactor. Conversely, if you'll be working on a larger project, such as a driveway, a large compactor will be more appropriate for the job.
What type of gas do vibratory plate compactors use?
When filling your compactor with fuel, be sure to use unleaded gasoline.
Can you use a plate compactor on soil?
Yes, plate compactors can be used on granular soils. However, if you are looking to compact a clay-based, cohesive soil, you won't want to use a plate compactor. These soil types will need to be compacted using impact, not vibration, to ensure proper compaction.
Can you use a plate compactor on gravel?
Yes, a vibratory plate compactor is the perfect tool to use when you need to compact gravel for a building or paving project.
What do I need to do to stay safe when using a vibratory plate compactor?
A vibratory plate compactor is a heavy-duty piece of equipment. There are a number of safety precautions you'll want to take to stay safe when using one.
First, you'll always want to use two people to lift or move the compactor. They are very heavy, and you could easily hurt yourself if you try to move it on your own.
You should also be sure to turn off the fuel line before moving the compactor to prevent any accidents or potential hazards.
When operating the compactor, you'll want to wear proper safety equipment. Some of the items you'll want to use include a dust mask, earmuffs, protective glasses or goggles, and work gloves. Be sure to wear proper clothing to protect your body and work boots to prevent accidentally injuring your feet.
How can I avoid under-compacting soil or gravel?
Ensuring your soil or gravel is properly compacted (without being over-compacted) is important. If the soil is not compacted enough, it will not create a firm enough foundation for your job, which can lead to uneven settlement, cracked surfaces, or problems with the foundation.
To prevent under-compacting, you will first want to make sure you are using the right compactor for the job. Make sure the compactor you select is large enough to handle the area you need to compact.
You will want to make multiple passes over the area to ensure that it is properly compacted. However, if you over-compact the soil or gravel, it can present different problems, so be sure to do some research or speak with an expert before getting started.
Do I need a plate compactor or a rammer?
Rammers and plate compactors are both used to create a compacted foundation for construction projects. However, each tool is best suited for different situations and material types. Choosing the right tool for your task is essential when ensuring the finished product is constructed properly and secure.
If you're trying to compact a granular soil or gravel, a vibratory plate compactor is the right tool to use. The strong vibrations produced by these machines will help the soil compact properly and ensure that it settles.
On the other hand, rammers are a better option to use on cohesive soils. Cohesive soils will only compact when struck with enough force. The focused plate size and design of a rammer makes this possible.
Will You Need Lifting Handles to Transport the Machine Between Projects?
The Wacker Neuson, Yardmax and Dirty Hand Tools are your best choices for easy transport.
Do You Want a Compactor with Pre-Installed Wheels or Are You Comfortable Installing Your Own Wheel Kits?
Purchasing the Wacker Neuson will mean you must purchase and install the wheel kit yourself. Whereas the Yardmax and Dirty Hand Tools come with preinstalled, foldable wheel sets.
Will You Need a Water Tank for Asphalt or to Add Moisture to the Soil? Will Water Be Easily Accessible at Your Job Location?
The Tomahawk and Wacker Neuson are your options if a water tank is needed.
Finally, Where Will You Store Your Machine? Is It Necessary to Keep It Compact?
The Yardmax and Dirty Hand Tools allow for storage with a small footprint.
As with most tools, all of these factors must be considered when purchasing a Plate compactor. The larger your job, the larger your plate compactor should be.
Don’t just search by price, be sure you look into the benefits and options offered for your upcoming project and your future projects. That will allow you to purchase the best option for you.