Plate Tamper: How Does it Work, How To Use And Some FAQs

plate tamper

As soil particles are pressed together, their pore spaces are reduced, causing compaction. Heavily compacted soils have few large pores, fewer pores overall, and, therefore, are denser. Consequently, compacted soil has a reduced ability to infiltrate and drain water.

In soils with large pores, water moves downward more efficiently than in soils with smaller pores. There are various types of equipment that are used to compact the soil. One such piece of equipment is a plate tamper, which is usually used for small projects having difficult accessibility.

In this article we will discuss what does a plate tamper does, how does a plate tamper work, how to use a plate tamper machine, and some FAQs related to its operation.

plate tamper working

It is a piece of equipment used to handle gravel and dirt surfaces that are rough or uneven. When you are laying a foundation or paving a driveway, you will need to compact the soil.

Different models, sizes, and designs are available for these machines. Some are simply hand-held devices, while others can be highly automated industrial machines.

Reversible and forward plate tampers are the most common types. They are useful for compacting granular particles such as gravel or sand that are between 8-12 inches in diameter. Consider using reversible models for medium-depth layers (between 16 and 32 inches thick) when dealing with such materials. During compaction, these reversible plate tampers are essential for reaching deeper layers.

How Does A Plate Tamper Work

How plate compactor works

Plate tampers vibrate or press flat plates against the ground repeatedly. Soil that has a rough and uneven surface can be compressed and smoothed out by this flat plate. Sand and gravel work best with plate tampers.

Manufacturers may differ in the size of the plates they produce. These plate tampers range in weight from 100 kg to 2 tons, with plate areas ranging from 0.16 sqm to 1.6 sqm.

The eccentric weight generates compression force by driving it at high speed when used in a diesel or gasoline engine. Compaction forces are higher if the plate is heavy.

How To Use A Plate Tamper Machine

Following are the main steps of performing compaction using a plate tamper:

  • Put on your safety gear before you start the machine, including safety glasses, work gloves, earplugs, and steel-toed boots.
  • Turn the plate tamper on at the corner of the area you want to compact. Hold on to the handle. A rapid vibration of the plate will make the machine appear to float over the surface. Tamper should be done in straight lines back and forth.
  • Place the tamper at the same corner as before, but this time travel perpendicularly to the first pass. An even more compacted foundation is ensured by overlapping the patterns. You should repeat this at least two more times.
  • When installing pavers, you should run them over with a tamper to make sure they are level and seated well.


Now you are aware of the operation of plate tamper, let’s discuss some frequently asked questions about plate tampers

Can I use a plate tamper on millings

Yes, you can.

You have to first make sure that you add plenty of water before compacting with a plate tamper. It can be packed quite tightly if the moisture content is between 15% and 20%. I would spread it and turn on a lawn sprinkler for a few hours. The surface may appear loose at first, but eventually, everything will settle in nicely for you.

You probably will need to hire a parking lot sealer to do this for you. The best way to stop the loosening of the surface is to coat it heavily with emulsified asphalt. For a homeowner, it is not practical to apply it thick enough.

How much does a plate tamper weigh

The average weight of a reversible plate tamper is between 425 pounds and 725 pounds, while the heaviest models can weigh up to 1,600 pounds. Weight also varies by manufacturer and model and it can easily be checked by visiting the website of the manufacturer.

Apart from tamper weight, another important parameter to look for is its tamping forces, which may be as low as 1000 lbs and can be as high as 12000 lbs.

Is hand tamping as good as a plate tamper

Before we answer this question, let’s see what hand tamping is.  As a general term, “hand tamper” can refer to a variety of machines that are used to compact items or materials. Tampers, as an example, are hand compactors used for compacting soil or other fine particles; they are constructed from a long handle and a heavy steel plate at the end, which is used to press or slam them against materials.

The relationship between force and frequency is inverse in soil liquefaction. To achieve an ideal state of compaction, a higher frequency can be applied. Compared to plate tampers operating at 15 Hz, plate tampers operating at 30 Hz require half the power.

Hand tamping produces a frequency of 1 to 2 Hz and very little force. Due to this, hand tamping can effectively compact the soil only in the first few centimeters. A compaction-approaching ideal can be achieved with just a few centimeters (or less) of additional tamping (but at a great cost of human effort and time). Compaction passes are fewer when power is higher, as is the frequency (say, 60 Hz).

Moisture levels in the soil can also have an effect. The soil moisture should be 11% water to 89% soil. It’s wrong to make mud slurries


A plate tamper is a piece of equipment used to handle gravel and dirt surfaces that are rough or uneven. Plate tampers vibrate or press flat plates against the ground repeatedly. The average weight of a reversible plate tamper is between 425 pounds and 725 pounds. It must be noted that hand tamper can never achieve the same amount of compaction as plate tamper.