Brewery Lane, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear

North East Paving And Gardens is community supported. We may earn a small commission through links on this page - Read More

What Can I Use Instead Of A Wacker Plate?

To lay a level foundation for a long-lasting paving project, you’ll need to compact your sub-base. Top plate compactors are often the tool of choice for professionals, though they can be costly and cumbersome! For those looking into an alternative tamping method, today we’ll be asking, what can I use instead of a wacker plate? 

We’ve been levelling sub-bases for paving installations for over 15 years, and in that time, we’ve learned to treat every project uniquely. 

Any driveway, patio or walkway designed to hold weight requires a level and compacted foundation. A wacker plate is ideal though there are a few situations where an alternative method can be more effective. 

What Can You Use Instead Of A Wacker Plate?

There are several alternatives to wacker plates, ranging from manually operated hand-tampers and rollers to mechanical trench rollers and rammers. 

Generally, it’s cheaper to opt for a manually operated device than a mechanical one, though these methods will almost always be more time and labour-intensive. 

Your cheapest option will generally be a hand-tamper, essentially a metal plate attached to a long pole, though using one of these tools can be hard work. For larger projects, it’s worth looking into rollers and mechanical rammers, both of which can be purchased or rented.

Plate Compactor Alternatives

1) Hand-tamper

The most basic compacting tool is the hand-tamper, consisting of a heavy metal plate attached to a long vertical handle. To compact a surface using this tool, simply walk the length and width of your project whilst striking the ground with the metal plate.

Hand-tampers are inexpensive and easy to use, though they can present quite a strain on your shoulders and upper back, so they’re not ideal for larger projects. 

2) Rolling tamper

If you want to avoid using an expensive mechanical tool, though you don’t fancy the workout of hand-tamping, a rolling tamper may be your best option. These tools use a large barrel filled with water or sand attached to an angled handle.

By rolling the heavy barrel across the surface of your project, you can achieve a dense and level base without too much physical effort. Rolling tampers are less expensive to purchase than wacker plates and can also be rented out from several hardware stores. 

3) Mechanical rammer

A mechanical rammer (AKA a jumping jack) can be a great alternative to a wacker plate if your project is too narrow to fit a bulky plate compactor. If you need to compact a deeper amount of soil, sand or aggregate than your plate compactor can reach. You can see our guide on what is better a plate compactor or jack for a more detailed comparison.

The size of the tamping plate on these tools is much smaller than that of a wacker, so it’s better equipped for tight trenches and walkways, and the downwards force of the plate is more direct, so it’s able to level a much deeper foundation. These tools are quite expensive, though! 

What Happens If You Don’t Compact The Sub Base?

Failing to compact the sub-base in your paving project will result in several serious issues, from subsidence and voids to poor drainage and shifting or damaged pavers.

Voids

Pockets of air will form beneath un-compacted areas of loose aggregate, even if the surface appears level to the naked eye. If weight is applied to this surface, the air pockets can cause the sub-base to collapse, damaging the paving above.

Drainage

Any rainfall or excess water in your sub-base will not drain evenly through an un-compacted foundation. This can lead to the sub-base shifting and becoming waterlogged, risking cracks and uneven paving on the surface.

Shrinkage

Un-compacted sub-base materials are susceptible to shrinkage and expansion as the ground temperature changes, which can easily lead to your pavers shifting out of place. 

FAQs

Do I have to use a Wacker plate?

You will need to use a wacker plate or an alternative compactor if you’re laying any kind of surface designed to hold weight.

Can I hand tamp paver base?

You can use a hand-tamper to compact your paver base, but you must ensure that the entire surface has been equally covered and wholly levelled.

Last Word 

Whilst wacker plates tend to be the go-to compaction tool, some alternatives can suit specific projects a little better. For smaller surfaces, a hand-tamper will be more cost-effective, and mechanical rammers are the way to go for narrow areas.

Regardless of which tool you use, compacting your sub-base is essential to prevent voids which can cause your paving to collapse, shrink or shift, so assess your project size and budget before choosing a suitable compacting method.