Brewery Lane, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear

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Is A Roller Better Than A Wacker Plate?

Rollers and wacker plates are amongst the most popular tools used to compact and level sub-base aggregates. Although they aim to achieve similar results, there are many differences in their cost and operation. So, is a roller better than a wacker plate? Let’s investigate!

We’ve successfully completed countless paving projects during our 15 years in the trade, from tiny patios to massive 4-car driveways. In doing so, we’ve learned that almost every job requires a different approach. 

Rollers have helped us complete some projects; wacker plates have been essential in others. The key lies in your materials and your budget! Head over here if you’re looking to find and buy a wacker plate for your next job.

Roller vs Wacker: Main Usage Differences 

Neither a roller nor a wacker plate is objectively better than the other, though they’re both better suited to certain projects. Wacker plates are best used with smooth, granular materials and can break down slightly rougher soils, whilst rollers work well with solid soils like clay and silt. 

Let’s look at some of the main differences and best uses of rollers and wacker plates.


Covers a larger surface area 

Thanks to its sizeable rotating barrel, a roller can easily cover a massive project like a road or a driveway in a relatively short amount of time. Mechanical rollers, in particular, have a high travelling speed, though even manually operated devices make quick work of larger surfaces. 

Can be manually operated or mechanical

Mechanical rollers are generally far more expensive to hire or buy than wacker plates, though they’re less time and labour intensive, as a worker can simply ride on the device to operate it. On the other hand, manual rollers are pretty inexpensive, but they are physically demanding.

Best used with solid materials like clay.

Rollers smooth out surfaces using rotational force, so they’re far better at compressing cohesive substances like clay and silt than a vibrational tool like a wacker plate. Using downward pressure on cohesive soils will only cause holes and divots to form on the surface.


Smaller in size

Though the actual plate on a wacker has a reasonably large surface area, the device itself is much smaller than a roller, allowing wacker plates to be used in much tighter spaces. You can also manipulate a wacker by simply walking behind it, meaning just about anyone can use one!

Can be budget friendly

Renting or purchasing a plate compactor will generally cost less than a mechanical roller, so they’re better suited to smaller projects like home patios and walkways. Manual rollers will be an even cheaper option, though they’re far less powerful than either a wacker or ride-on roller.

Best used with granular materials.

The vibrational force of a wacker plate makes them ideal for smoothing out granular sands and soils with little to no clay content. A wacker’s vibrating plate will gradually align the grains in these materials into a uniform foundation, resulting in a stable, polished sub-base surface. It’s also important you know do you wet sharp sand before compacting as this can affect the results.

Cost Differences

Ride-on rollers are considerably more expensive to hire than wacker plates, though considering their fast travelling speed, they can become cost-effective for larger projects. Manual rollers are cheaper, though less efficient than ride-on rollers or plate compactors. 

Wacker plate hire 

Wacker plates can be hired from hardware stores and dedicated tool-hire services. It’s always worth checking out local companies for competitive quotes, though popular nationwide hiring services include:

  • Smithshire
  • Jewson
  • Travis Perkins
  • Brandon Hire Station

Roller hire 

Like wacker plates, ride-on rollers can be rented from dedicated tool-hire services, though it’s less common to find these tools for hire via hardware stores. Some popular services include:

  • Chippindale
  • Pal Hire
  • Sunbelt Rentals
  • Travis Perkins


Can I use a roller instead of a whacker plate?

You can use a roller instead of a whacker plate, especially if the area you’re compacting is extensive. However, a roller won’t produce as polished of a surface if you’re levelling a granular material like soil or sand.

Last Word 

There we have it. Whilst neither a roller nor a wacker plate is objectively better than the other, certain projects are better suited to each. Wacker plates are ideal for compacting granular materials, whilst rollers will make quick work of cohesive soils and solid materials like clay.

Wacker plates are also better suited to smaller, tighter projects, whilst rollers can be used to level large surfaces much faster, though a ride-on roller will cost you more than a wacker plate. 

We hope that clears up your decision-making process and has helped you decide which tool you’ll need for your next project!