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What is a Plate Compactor?

Find out what a plate compactor is, how one works & discover the different industry terms for these machines.

A plate compactor is a popular piece of construction equipment used to compress various materials to create a solid subsurface or foundation.

Plate compactors feature a heavy, flat plate at the base, attached to a motor or engine, and guide handles. The plate rests on the ground surface, and it is driven up and down rapidly, impacting the materials beneath it.

Plate compactors come in a range of sizes and weights for different applications. They can be driven by electric, petrol, or diesel motors.

What is a Plate Compactor Used For?

Plate compactors are for smoothing and flattening rough and uneven ground surfaces, to create a level grade. They compress surface materials, such as soil, sand, hardcore, gravel, asphalt and more. They are used to create sturdy, even subsurfaces in construction, allowing you to build upon them safely.

Plate compactors are versatile machines, suitable for path, road and parking lot construction and repair, as well as landscaping on domestic and commercial scales. Plate compactors are useful in confined spaces, and electric models are safe to use indoors and in enclosed, unventilated areas.

How Does a Plate Compactor Work?

When you operate a plate compactor, the vibrating plate at the base is driven up and down at high speed - this is the vibration frequency. The fast movement, combined with the weight of the plate and impact action creates a centrifugal force. The centrifugal force compresses surface materials. As you compact more materials into a space, you create a stable subsurface, suitable for construction. The level of centrifugal force that you will need from a plate compactor will depend on the materials you are working with.

Small plate compactors delivery enough centrifugal force to compact granular materials, like soil, sand, and small gravel. For larger layers of materials, like crushed stone, you will need a larger plate compactor that delivers more centrifugal force.

Plate compactors are driven by electric, petrol, or diesel engines - depending on what is most appropriate for the site. You control the power output using a throttle, located on the handles. The guide handles allow you to work accurately and methodically, passing the plate compactor over surfaces evenly.

What are Plate Compactors Also Known As?

Plate compactors are also known as wacker plates, compactor plates, compaction plates, vibrating plates, vibratory plates, tampers, wackers, and even vibrating wacker plates. These machines have many names, and what they are called might depend on the industry they are used or location.

The most common term used for a plate compactor is wacker plate. However, this is a colloquial name, and it actually refers to a popular manufacturer, Wacker Neuson, which is a well-known brand that produces construction equipment.

Although some plate compactor names are less familiar, they are usually interchangeable online and in stores. This makes it easy to hire or buy one nationwide.

Are There Other Types of Compactor?

There are 3 main types of compactor used in the construction industry. Aside from plate compactors, there are trench rammers and road rollers.

Trench rammers - also called rammers, are similar to plate compactors, but they are a much narrower, so they are used for excavations and confined areas. They are ideal for the narrow trenches for water or gas supply pipes.

Road rollers - also called vibrating rollers, roller compactors, rollers, and even steamrollers, are mostly used in road construction. These machines crush and vibrate the loose foundation materials, binding them together.

Where Can I Hire a Plate Compactor?

With over 400 tool hire shops nationwide, National Tool Hire Shops offers DIY and Trade customers a convenient tool hire service, with over 2,000 products available, including plate compactors.

How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Plate Compactor?

Depending on the size and weight of the plate, the engine - petrol, diesel, or electric, and the length of the hire period, you can hire a wacker plate from as little as £21 per day.

Prices may vary due to location and availability. Check our range below to see what you can book in your area.

 


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