How to Compact Pavers without Plate Compactor | Simple Steps


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This article’s primary objective is to educate us on how to compact pavers without a plate compactor, lay paving stones, put pavers on your patio, compact soil, and other relevant topics discussed in the articles.

What is a Plate Compactor?

Soil is compacted by plate compactors using a sizeable vibrating plate, typically made of steel. The force compresses the ground, and the vibration further compacts it, causing the grains to move closer together and squish any remaining air pockets. People use Plate compactors in construction to compress the ground and create a flat, even surface. 

It is a heavy steel plate attached to the bottom of a hybrid riding/push lawnmower-like machine. In preparation for paving, landscaping, or other work, a plate compactor will either vibrate or pound the soil beneath the plate to level it.

You can repair driveways and parking lots using a plate compactor with asphalt or a sub-base.

Importance of Compacting Pavers

You could utilize these machines for a variety of landscaping tasks. People can use them for both landscaping and ground compaction before paving. When paving a road or driveway, we recommend using a plate compactor to compact the loose stone, gravel, or sand.

After installation, this tool is helpful for homeowners who wish to firmly compact loose pavers. You can even compact small areas of fresh asphalt or soil in a utility trench with the aid of a compactor.

Utilizing a plate compactor increases the durability and productivity of a project. These machines compact and consolidate the soil, eliminating all voids. This eliminates future movement and settlement, leading to cracks, damage, or failure. The final product is a significantly more uniform and smooth surface, ideal for landscaping and other applications.

How to Compact Pavers without a Plate Compactor

Step 1: Wear protective clothing

Step 1: Wear protective clothing

Before starting work, you should put on the correct protective clothing. Appropriate protective equipment is important when handling a vibrator without a plate compactor. Please take note of the following guidelines:

  • Do not wear baggy, loose-fitting clothing, a tie, or loose jewellery when compacting the soil.
  • Tie long hair back.
  • Wear sturdy, long trousers because the hot exhaust gases can burn your legs.
  • Put on protective gloves, protective goggles, and hearing protection.
  • Remember that the machine gets hot during operation. Do not reach into the motor area if the device has not yet cooled down completely.

Step 2: Prepare the substrate.

Check the underground in the pit carefully. The soil must be so smooth that water cannot collect in puddles when it rains. Also, the land must be strong and stable. If this is not a problem, you must compact natural land. To do this, lift the vibrator into the pit. Always make sure you have a secure footing when starting and while working. If the ground is very soft or uneven, reduce the engine output as much as possible.

Step 2: Prepare the substrate.

This prevents the device from sinking into the ground or from being difficult to control while you are working. Run the device evenly over the entire surface. If you work on areas that are higher than the surrounding soil, compact the interior first. Finally, compact the last 30 to 40 cm in the edge area. 

Step 3: Create a layer of frost protection.

Step 3: Create a layer of frost protection.

Now distribute the coarse crushed stone or gravel on the ground. Peel off the surface with a board and create the necessary slope directly. A spirit level acts as a measuring tool for good service. Gravel is suitable for less polluted areas such as terraces or paths in the garden. 

In the driveway or the area of ​​parking spaces, you use gravel because it is much more stable. The frost protection layer should be at least 10 cm thick. Make sure that the subsurface does not become too dense. It should be firm and stable but allow the water to drain away as drainage.

Step 4: Build the base course.

Build the base course

After you have sufficiently compacted the soil with the frost protection layer, you now build the actual base layer. It also consists of crushed stone or gravel, but use a finer grain size here. The base layer should be at least 13 cm thick. Apply the material also, moist and distribute it. Again, straighten it with a board and pay attention to the slope. 

Step 5: Apply a layer of sand.

Apply a layer of sand

In the last step, apply a 5 to 8 cm thick layer of sand. You do not have to compact this layer with the machine. It is sufficient to distribute the sand evenly and remove it with the necessary slope. You can see patio stones or decking embarrassed wood on the sand. Note that you must compact the subsoil for a terrace at least three times. If the soil is more heavily loaded, the subsoil must be more compacted to prevent the soil from sinking.

Step 6: Clean the vibrating plate

Clean the vibrating plate

After work, the work equipment needs to be looked after. Clean the case and the air filter of the machine. If it is not needed for a long time, some care and maintenance work should be carried out. Drain the fuel and collect it clean in the appropriate container. Remove the spark plug and add a few drops of engine oil to the cylinder. Pull the starter cable several times to distribute oil on the machine.

How to Lay Paving Stones

Laying paving stones in your garden or on a path yourself is not that difficult. Carefully follow the steps below and turn your patio into a fantastic relaxing spot in less time than it takes to say it.

Step 1: Choose the right pavers.

You have chosen your favourite pavers in the store. That’s a good thing done! But know that two stones are never the same. So have all of your pavers delivered in one order, and then take your pavers from different palettes to obtain a harmonious blend of shades.

how much will pavers sink when compacted

Step 2: Place the counter-ridging of your pavers

By first installing the counter-ridging, you prevent your pavers from slipping. Opt for a wide or deep back-ridging and always plan -a thin concrete pad (150 to 200 kg of cement / m3 = 1 part of cement for 5 to 7 parts of sand). Temporarily lay a row of pavers between the stops to determine the exact distance.

plate compactor pad alternative

Step 3: Lay the foundations for your pavers.

Always make sure to lay your pavers on draining soil. Stabilize it using a stabilized bed of sand obtained by mixing pure washed river sand (0 / 2-0 / 5 mm) with a maximum of 150 kg of cement per cubic meter (1 part of cement for 7 parts sand). This mixture should be spread evenly with a thickness of 15 cm within 3 hours. Avoid imperfections by quickly brushing the stabilized laying bed to achieve a consistent surface. Did you have to dig deep? Then use crushed gravel to compensate for the difference in level.

Plan for an overcoat of 15% and compact well to prevent the laying layer from running off. Make sure that the top surface of the foundation has a slope of 1% toward the street so that rainwater does not run off towards the house.

hand tamping pavers

Step 4: Place the laying layer and the pavers

Prepare a laying layer with the same mixture as the foundations and spread it to obtain a uniform thickness of 4 cm (3 cm after compaction). This laying layer eliminates small differences in thickness between the pavers and therefore does not have to be compacted immediately. Compaction occurs only after the pavers have been laid at the time of settlement.

Place the pavers on the laying layer against each other, providing a small joint. Avoid puddles of water on the pavement by laying the pavers with an inclination of 1 to 2 cm per meter. Also, ensure that the pavers are a few inches above the level of the beds.

polymeric sand without compactor

Step 5: Grout and tamp the pavers.

Brush the pavers with fine white sand and clean the surface. Also, clean the vibrating plate thoroughly before starting to tamp. Start from the edges and progress gradually towards the middle.

tips for using a plate compactor

How to Put Patio on Pavers

Using a patio on pavers allows you to inexpensively build a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours. Installing a paver-covered patio takes a bit of work, but it is a task that you can simply do from start to finish.


Measure the area where you will build the patio; this will allow you to determine how much paving stone and other materials you need to buy. Measure the length and width of the area you want to cover.


Decide what type of patio you will use on the paver. These come in different shapes, sizes, colours, and prices, so it’s pretty hard to decide.


Buy the pavers and other supplies; in addition to the pavers, you will need other items to successfully install a patio. You should place a layer of gravel and another layer of sand under the pavers. Now, include a containment structure to keep the pavers in place.


Check that there are no underground utility lines. Previous excavation, locate and mark the underground lines or pipes of the public services.

laying pavers without base

Measure and mark the area of ​​the patio and its dimensions on the ground, placing stakes in each corner of the plot. Place string around the stakes to outline the perimeter of the yard. It will allow you to know its dimensions and ensure that you only prepare the necessary land for its construction.

how to lay patio pavers on dirt

Dig a trench 15 to 20 centimeters deep in the entire area delimited by the ropes. The depth will depend on the thickness of your pavers and the amount of gravel you will place. The trench should be deep enough to allow the pavers to level with the ground.

how to install pavers over grass

Place the gravel base 10 to 15 centimeters in the trench and compact it using a plate compactor machine. Add a little water to the gravel to make it much easier to compact it.


Add and compact a layer of fine sand on the gravel; it should be about 2.5 centimeters thick and follow the same slope as the gravel. This will be the last layer you will put on before laying the pavers, so make sure it doesn’t have any blemishes.


Place the pavers in the pattern you want. Start at a corner and place the blocks as close together as possible. After placing them, hit them with a rubber mallet to ensure they settle in the sand.

how to lay pavers for walkway

If you have to adjust the patio to the presence of trees or fences, cut the pavers using a diamond blade cutting machine.


Install borders around the patio’s perimeter; various patio border materials exist. After installing the pavers, secure the edge firmly against the pavers using stakes. No matter what edging you use, the stakes will hold the pavers in place, preventing them from slipping.

how to lay concrete pavers

Cover the paved patio with the same fine sand you used to make the base. With a broom, spread the sand to fill all the spaces between the paving stones. If you notice an empty spot, add more sand.

how to lay large pavers

Place a thick towel at the base of the compactor and go over the entire patio. As you go, make sure the patio stays level. It is advisable to compact the pavers well at this time and thus avoid having to do it constantly in the future.


Fill the areas along the patio’s edge with dirt, gravel, grass, or cover plants.


Pavers can last long without needing to be sealed, but doing it every few years will make them look better and prevent them from staining or discolouring.

Tips for Compacting Soil

Adequate compaction of the sub-foundation and foundation is the key to success for any development project. This newsletter from our Technical Support Manager, Mike Huber, explains five tips for complying with your sub-foundation or natural soil.

plate compactor pad alternative

Know how to recognize your natural soil

Before starting your project, identify the type of soil you will be working on. Make sure that the ground can support the weight overload, whether for a pedestrian or vehicular application. Highly organic soils should be removed, and clay soils removed or amended.

Amend (if necessary)

  • Amendment of clay soil can be done with:
  • Portland cement
  • Medium caliber stone compacted in clay
  • A combination of both

Check the hydraulic and hydrostatic content

The granular soil should have a certain degree of moisture to obtain good compaction. The degree of humidity will lubricate the particles and help them settle.

Use the correct compaction equipment.

First, ensure you have enough equipment for your project, and then make sure you use the correct compactor. A vibrating plate is suitable for granular soils, but a (Jumping Jack) or (Sheep roller) is required for clay soils. Natural soil should be compacted to 98% of the Proctor.

Do not reuse excavated soil.

It is important to never put soil excavated from the site into a hole to fill it. Because when the soil is excavated, its volume multiplies by 20 to 30% and is normally unusable, and its initial density is now altered.

How to Compact Sand without a Compactor

Creating a dense sand layer is one of the main tasks of the preparation stage for screeds or foundation structures. Using the correct methods and tools to expel air and compress particles is important. The price when attracting professional firms depends on the depth of processing and other factors and varies from 70 to 900 rubles per 1 m2. The choice of a specific method determines the purpose of the layer, the captured area, and the budget.

  • Purpose of work
  • Sealing methods
  • The cost

It is carried out when preparing sandy and finely dispersed soils before building houses, backfilling a pillow under slab or strip foundations, forming a hard underlying layer when arranging floors on the ground, or laying a foundation under paving stones and fences. Among the tasks are:

compacting sub base by hand


  • Protection of erected structures from frost heaving and removal of moisture from them.
  • Levelling the base and strengthening its rigidity.
  • Prevention of deformation of structures under the influence of compression and bending loads, eliminating the risk of their destruction during shrinkage processes.
  • Obtaining a dense and stable layer separates the foundation’s base or screed and straight ground.
  • Elimination of voids and distillation of air.

Depending on the equipment and the direction of the applied efforts, the following methods of preparation and compaction of the sand bass are distinguished:


  • Rolling with rollers or wheels of self-propelled or trailed construction equipment carried out in 1 or several passes.
  • Slabs are dumped by a crane weighing 1-2 tons.
  • Vibration device activation.
  • Manual ramming using an expanded bar or channel with an attached plate.

When compacting soils and sands by rolling, the desired effect is achieved due to the statistical pressure of rollers with different gripping widths and weights from 10 to 25 tons for uniaxial self-propelled varieties, up to 50 tons for biaxial ones, and up to 100 tons for trailed ones.

Lighter models are attracted to loose areas. They ensure the successful processing of a layer of 20-30 cm in one pass. The heaviest and most productive equipment is used for ramming 40-50 cm with a pass width of up to 30 at a time.

The choice of a specific type of ice rink, in addition to the layer thickness, depends on the site’s size and the entrance’s convenience. Small self-propelled rollers are distinguished by good manoeuvrability; heavy semi-trailers work only in conjunction with a tractor.

To achieve an optimal result, the ramming is carried out in several passes, most often according to the spiral-circular pattern of the roller’s movement and the successive filling of the missing bulk material. The advantage is the high quality of preparation of sandy foundation cushions with a thickness of 20 to 50 cm (impossible when carried out manually). The disadvantage is the use of expensive equipment.

How to Lay Polymeric Sand,

Apply the polymer sand by following these 4 steps: laying, compaction, watering, and drying. Before you start, make sure the paved or paved surface is completely dry, including the interstices which will receive the sand.

Step 1: lay the sand evenly over the surface.

Spread the polymeric sand over the entire surface until a uniform layer is obtained. With the soft bristle broom, fill the joints to their full depth. If the slabs’ walls are uneven, ensure the product penetrates the bottom of the joints by driving it in with the joint iron.

Sweep the sand in small strokes to maintain the homogeneity of its composition. Indeed, it is composed of fine particles that contain binders and polymers.

polymeric sand without compactor

Step 2: Compact and check the strength of the joints

Compaction is essential if you want to obtain dense, strong, and durable joints. The compaction stage removes the void and creates perfect contacts between aggregates and polymers.

Step 3: Remove excess sand and water the surface

Before watering, dry clean your surface with the fine-bristle broom and blower. This action aims to prevent the sand residues from polymerizing the surface. Now, water from the bottom to top in sections of no more than 20 m2 at a time. Make sure section wetting is complete before proceeding to the next section.

hand tamping pavers

Step 4: let the product dry before use.

Polymeric sand must dry completely before being exposed to rain or moisture to maintain its excellent cohesion and long-term strength. That is to say, for 24 to 48 hours minimum.

  • Allow longer drying time in cold and humid weather. What if the surface receives a downpour shortly after the sand is laid? Polymeric sand is designed to withstand an unexpected downpour 90 minutes after installation.

Why Proper Compaction is Necessary

Compaction can increase the bearing capacity and stiffness of in-situ or chemically modified soils. Compression improves soil shear strength by increasing particle-to-particle friction.

Compaction of the soil produces a level surface that you can utilize in various construction and building projects. These materials become firm and stable, which benefits whatever you construct on top of them. It also increases the soil’s shear strength.

Types of Plate Compactors 

Single-plate or double-plate, high-performance, or heavy-duty plate compactors are available. The nature and scope of a project will determine the optimal choice for a contractor.

Single Plate hydraulic compressors

A plate compactor replaces the traditional bucket when mounted on an excavator or backhoe. Excavator plate compactors have a variety of applications, including trenches, over and around pipes, and up to the top of piling and sheet piles. 

You can use them in inaccessible locations to other machines and rollers, close to foundations, around obstacles, and even up steep slopes or rough terrain. Excavator compactors can keep workers a full boom length away from the compaction or driving action, preventing cave-ins and unintended contact with machinery.


Commonly, you use a plate compactor to replace the conventional bucket at the end of an excavator or backhoe. Attached to an excavator or backhoe, you can utilize a plate compactor effectively in trenches, around pipes, and on top of pilings and sheet piles. You can use it in areas where traditional rollers or other machines would be too dangerous to use, such as near foundations, obstacles, and even steep slopes or rugged terrain.

Heavy-duty plate compactors 

Heavy-duty plate compactors are dependable workhorses capable of handling any size job. These compactors are durable, allowing you to work faster and harder for decades.

Things to Consider Before Choosing a Plate Compactor

Another critical factor is the vibration frequency of the machine, expressed in vibrations per minute. A higher vibration frequency (approximately 5,700 VPM) is the best one for compounding thin layers of material. When working with thicker layers of material, we recommend using a lower frequency (3,000 to 4,000 VPM).

Here are some additional considerations:

Though electric models are also available, people use diesel or gasoline to power vibratory plate compactors. Consider the convenient fueling options near your workplace.

Numerous vibrating plate compactors include the option to have a water tank. The tank is a barrier between the plate and any adhesive substance, such as asphalt. A vibrating plate compactor with a water tank is best if you intend to work with asphalt.

Vibrations from a plate compactor can be uncomfortable for the operator. Choose a model with vibration-isolated handles for easier steering.

Vibrating plate compactors are cumbersome and difficult to move. Consider purchasing a machine with lift handles or lift eyes for simple relocation.

How Plate Compactors Work

Soil is compacted by plate compactors using a sizeable vibrating plate, typically made of steel. The force compacts the soil, and the vibration further compacts it, causing the grains to move closer together and squish any remaining air pockets.

A plate compactor has a heavy plate at its base that rapidly moves up and down to compact the processed material. The soil compresses by combining immediate impacts, plate weight, and impact forces.

Plate compactors perform optimally on granular-rich soils, such as sand and gravel. Before using the plate compactor, it may be necessary to water the soil if it is dry. Depending on the circumstances, the compactor manufacturer or design engineer may recommend two to four passes to achieve proper compaction.

You can repair driveways and parking lots using a plate compactor with asphalt or subbase. These smaller rollers come in handy when a larger roller doesn’t fit.

Familiar Paver Installation Mistakes

Drainage Issues

If you prefer a patio to a wading pool, drainage is essential. The inevitable rain and snowfall will cause issues if your patio pavers don’t have the proper incline and drainage setup.

The Pavement Cracks Are Too Large.

When laying pavers with uniform gaps, you will need spacers. Pavers that are straight and evenly spaced serve a purpose other than aesthetics. A patio constructed from this material is more secure and stable.

Inadequate Compaction of Sand Foundation

You must compact the paver-laying sand to achieve the desired firmness. Your child should not be forced to perform jumping jacks on it. Utilization of a mechanical compactor is advised. Rinse the sand as a bonus. It will compact and level out faster.

Degrading Fill Sand Quality

There is no such thing as too much sand. Utilize a large quantity and pack it tightly between the pavers. When constructing a paver patio, a base of compacted sand is required. Assist in weed prevention and, when appropriately filled, keep pavers in place during freeze-thaw cycles. After you’ve swept in enough, you can always add more.

Refusing to Pay Attention to the Margin

As with a cookie, the edges of a paver patio are the first to show signs of wear and tear. The patio’s centre is secure, but its borders are not. It is essential to take your time when installing edging. Angled bricks, wood, prefabricated plastic, or metal profiles are all suitable for this application. You can install paver edging either before or after the pavers are laid.

How to Compact Polymeric Sand without a Compactor 

There are numerous options for filling the spaces between pavers, tiles, and natural stones, but polymeric sand is popular. It is also called jointing sand, hardscape sand, and paver sand.

The manufacturing procedure enhances the quality of the fine-grained jointing sand.  Water compaction is insufficient for treating polymeric sand. Consequently, it will leave the pores.

The vibration of the compactor is required for sand or polymeric sand to settle between paver joints. 

Underneath the bridge, the cracks are hollow, even though they appear full due to the vibrations.

Additionally, the vibrations compact the fine dust between the sand grains, reinforcing the bond.

Lastly, compactors must not be utilized on polymeric sand. It is recommended to employ a plate compactor.

Step 1 

Clean the surface with a broom and a blower to remove all dust and debris from the surface. 

Step 2 

Open the bag and spread the sand evenly over the surface. Keep the load close to the surface to minimize dust in the air. 

Step 3 

With a broom sweep, the sand into the joints until filled. Do not overfill the joints or leave sand on the surface. 

Step 4

With a plate compactor, compact the surface of the pavers to ensure that the sand has fully penetrated the joints. 

Step 5 

Apply and sweep more sand where necessary so that you fill all joints again, compact the surface to settle the sand repeat the sweeping and compacting procedures if essential until all joints have settled into the joints.

Step 6 

Clean the entire surface with a broom or backpack leaf blower. You should ensure that sand is not blown out of the joint for the best appearance and performance. Joints should be approximately 1/8″ below the surface of the paper. 

Step 7 

You can achieve Activation of the polymer binders by carefully applying the correct amount of water in sloped applications. To adequately handle the water application, you can start in 200 sq. ft. increments.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use instead of a compactor?

A standard sledgehammer is the best tool for manual tamping. Vertical motion repeated lifting and lowering. You can do it manually if you don’t want to rent a powered plate compactor, but it will take a long time. Compacting the soil around fixed objects such as fence posts is possible using iron digging bars.

Additionally, polymeric sand and general-purpose sand can be utilized. They are planted firmly on the cobblestones.

Can you pave without a compactor?

Start using a rubber mallet on the perimeter of your designated work area and move inward. When compacting newly-laid pavers, begin on edge and work inward. Avoid puddles if you do not wish to drown. Allow for a small gap between pavers.

In addition, a hand tamper is only one of many available tamping tools. The handle’s flat surface is handy when pressing down on the gravel. Gravel is more complicated to compact than soil; therefore, you can use a machine-operated tamper, such as rollers or a powered plate compactor, to compact it.

What can you use instead of a Wacker plate?

A small wacker plate would be ideal for compacting it, but a hand will suffice if you don’t mind developing Popeye arms. You may also employ the following:

Compactor for plates with a conveyor. Using friction and gravity, a plate compactor can reduce the volume of materials such as soil and gravel to more manageable proportions. Also:

  • Compressor for combating rams on Shackles (Vibrating Plate).
  • Roller/Compactor for Use in the Trench.
  • Rammer.

Can you hand tamp pavers?

Manual tampers are capable of compacting and levelling surfaces. It is beneficial for compacting loose soil, repairing asphalt, levelling gravel, and compacting gravel. Even pavers can compress themselves using a hand tamper.

Unless you intend to remove all the pavers in five to ten years and re-level the base because it has become uneven, using a hand tamper or flat plate, you should compact the soil as much as possible.

How much will pavers sink when compacted?

When compacted, soil contracts by 30%. Backfilling with soil will result in a 30% settlement. Even if you backfill with 10 inches of dirt, your pavers will settle by about 3 inches over time, causing complications. In contrast, a well-laid gravel base can completely prevent settling. This depends on the thickness of your bedding. This coating has an inch-thick maximum thickness.

Can you put too much sand under the pavers?

The amount of sand you use will determine the success or failure of your paver installation, so adhere to the recommended 1 inch. 

Here are several explanations: A patio installation may be hampered by waves caused by an excessively thick sand layer. When you press pavers into a wide sand bed, misalignment and a sloppy appearance may result.

After rough levelling and wetting, the subbase should be firmly compacted by hand or with a machine.

Do you tamp sand for pavers?

Ensure that the sub-base is 50 mm thick and devoid of roots and debris. Before firmly compacting the subbase by hand or with a machine, it must be roughly levelled and moistened. Typically, hand compaction is sufficient when laying pavers at home.

With a plate tamper, you can compact the bedding sand around the pavers and vibrate the jointing material into the crevices.

Will pavers sink in the sand?

To prevent shifting, you can sink pavers into a 1-inch bed of level sand. The plate compactor presses paving stones into sand. Sand alone will not keep pavers in place and will not keep them from shifting and sinking for as long as you require.

How thick should the sand be under pavers?

The sand between the pavers enables them to move and adjust without difficulty. The final recommended sand depth for pavers is 1 inch, including sand seeping through joints and into the paver base. In your calculations, employ a 2-inch sand depth (0.1667 m).

When installing pavers, using no more than the recommended 1 inch of sand is essential, as using more can lead to shifting and other problems. It will cause waves if you use too much sand to construct your patio. When pressing pavers into a thick bed of sand, they may become misaligned and disorganized.

Expert Opinion

We trust you have taken in a great deal concerning this article on the best way to compact pavers without a plate compactor, compacting soil, laying polymeric sand, putting pavers on the patio, and other relevant subtopics discussed in the content of the article.

Read More: How to Lay Bluestone Pavers

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