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What Is Better, A Plate Compactor Or Jumping Jack?

Regardless of the material used in the foundations of your paving, compaction is necessary to prevent the surface from shifting or collapsing once it takes on weight. There are a surprising number of tools suited for this job, but what is better, a plate compactor or jumping jack?

Over the last 15 years, our team has been hired to lay just about every style of paving under the sun. During this time, we’ve acquired a pretty great understanding of which tools work best in specific situations. We’ve learned that different materials require different compactors, so let’s take a closer look at where plate compactors and jumping jacks excel. 

Whilst neither a jumping jack nor a plate compactor is necessarily better, a compactor wacker plate will do a much better job levelling granular materials (soil and sand).  Jumping jacks are far more effective at compressing clay soils and cohesive substances.

Plate Compactor vs Jumping Jack 

Project size

The first major difference between these two is the surface area they can cover. Jumping jacks generally have smaller plates and are better suited to tight areas like trenches and walkways, whilst plate compactors can cover a larger area in a single pass.

Compaction depth

Jumping jacks rely on a powerful and directional impact force to compress the material beneath them, allowing for far deeper penetration than a plate compactor. This helps jumping jacks to compress cohesive substances like clay better, whilst plate compactors are better suited to gradually shifting granular soils into a uniform and level foundation. You can also read this post on whether you wet sharp sand before compacting and find out what the best preparation is.


Plate compactors are easier to use than rammers, as they’re far less powerful and thus less likely to cause damage or injury. Plate compactors are also more versatile and can compact soils, sands, gravels and stone dust, whilst jumping jacks are very situational. 

Average Wacker Plate Size 

The average size of a wacker plate is around 500x400mm, which should be the ideal dimensions for use in Cat II and Cat IV pavements. Aside from this size, wackers can commonly be found in smaller 300x300mm and 400x400mm plate sizes.

Jumping Jack Compactor Plate Size

Jumping jack plates are generally much smaller, the most common size being 250x300mm, allowing for a more directed operation in tighter working areas.

Should I Use A Jumping Jack Or Plate Compactor?

If you’re looking to compact a cohesive substance like clay or silt and are working in a small or tight area, a jumping jack should be your tool of choice. Just be aware that these devices will not be able to successfully compact granular materials like soil, sand or stone dust.

Plate compactors can be used in larger working areas to level various granular materials. However, they will not be as effective when used on cohesive or waterlogged substances, so try to allow these materials to drain a little or dry before tackling them with a plate compactor. 


How deep will a Jumping Jack compact? 

A jumping jack can compact cohesive soils to an average depth of around 16-25 inches. 

The best way to gauge how deep a jumping jack will be able to penetrate is to look for its advertised compaction force. A good rule of thumb is that for every 1,000lbs of force exerted, the rammer will be able to penetrate at least 1 inch into the ground.

Is a plate compactor worth it? 

If you’re looking to compact granular soils, sand or stone dust over a large, flat area, a plate compactor will be worth looking into. A roller or rammer will be better suited for cohesive soils like clay and silt. People also ask us what can I use instead of wacker plate, so we have a list of alternatives on this page.

Last Word  

That just about covers the ins and outs of both plate compactors and jumping jacks. Whilst we can’t say that one tool is objectively better than the other, it should be clear that each device is better suited to specific applications. 

Plate compactors are more versatile, easier to use and far better at compacting granular substances across large working areas, whilst jumping jacks are more situational but the superior choice when it comes to cohesive soils like clay and silt. Assess the size and materials used in your next project; your choice between the two should be clear.