A plate compactor is used for compressing and smoothing soil, gravel or sand. Plate compactor machines come in a variety of sizes, from a hand-pushed machine through to industrial-sized machines that are large enough to fit an operator behind the wheel.

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Although there are a few different sized machines to choose from, the working principles of the machine are the same. No matter the type of plate compactor you choose, it will work by vibrating or driving a metal plate against the surface to smooth out rough and uneven parts in the soil. These machines are suited to prepping areas for outdoor projects like paving or foundation laying.

Of course, you'll need to evaluate your surface before choosing a plate compactor. While these machines work extremely well on soil, gravel and sand, they aren't as effective on surfaces with large rocks or obstructions. Large rocks can damage the metal plate of the compactor leading to ineffective smoothing and compression of the surface. Some newer models are equipped with extra features to help with this problem, but it's best you know the project requirements before you begin.

Another thing to consider when looking at a plate compactor is the design of the machine. There are a few different types of machines to choose from, including single-plate, reversible, and heavy-duty plate compactors.

A single-plate compactor is generally the most common compactor you will find on the market. These are best for small residential jobs like smoothing soil for paving driveways or garden paths.

Reversible plate compactors are named for their ability to move forward and in reverse during operation, unlike the single-plate models which generally only move forwards. Reversible plate compactors also often have a deeper compaction level, making them great for projects that require more than a single layer of compression.

Heavy-duty plate compactors, on the other hand, are the largest, most durable and provide the deepest compaction of all models. These machines are ideal for industrial-sized projects like foundation preparation or sub-base compaction. Heavy-duty plate compactors can even work in place of compaction rollers.

If you're in the market for a plate compactor, make sure you research and compare different model specifications like the centrifugal force of the plate, the operating weight and working width. Another thing to look at is the power source of the machine, some models are powered using diesel or petrol while others have electric start motors. Make sure you speak to your local seller or dealer to find the right machine for you.