If you're constructing a driveway, you'll need a plate compactor to create a smooth, tight and level surface. A plate compactor is often available in three choices, including a single direction, reversible or heavy-duty model. The type you choose should depend on the ground components of your driveway. You'll also need to decide upon a gas, diesel or electric model. Here are a few important questions to ponder:
1. Which is most suitable: forward, reverse or heavy-duty?
As you might expect, a single plate compactor will utilize a single plate to move in one direction only, which is forward. This should be suitable for installing or paving a small or mid-size driveway. It's also easier to handle than the heavy-duty or reverse models, as it is generally lighter and more compact. Most do-it-yourself handymen choose the single plate type, especially for less complicated projects.
On the other hand, a reverse plate compactor might suit you best if you need to maneuver in a tight space. Also, if your driveway is long and winding, you might want to rent a heavy-duty, high powered model with a forward and reverse option. If your sub-base is somewhat deeper than usual, a high-powered plate compactor will handle the job most efficiently.
2. What width size will be most appropriate?
Not all compactors are constructed with the same plate width. If your driveway is rather narrow, you might not need a plate that is very wide. Conversely, a compactor with a wide plate would be best for a driveway with a very wide path. The wider plate would offer more efficiency, as it would cover a greater area. Plates generally vary from approximately 15-25 inches.
3. How important is Vibrations-Per-Minute (VPM)?
Vibrations-per-minute is the speed at which the machine shaft will vibrate. For example, a machine rated as 4000 VPM will have a rotating shaft capable of 4000 vibrations per minute. The rating you choose should depend upon how quickly you want to get the job done and how tight you need to compact the material. If you're laying a concrete driveway, a high VPM would be useful, as concrete is a heavy substance that needs to be compacted tightly. When laying a lighter base such as asphalt or clay, your VPM doesn't need to be as high.
4. Are ergonomically designed features important?
When using any type of construction equipment for a prolonged period of time, you may be subject to repetitive motion injury if the machine is not ergonomically designed or if you are more prone to joint stress. If you suffer from hand or wrist issues or arthritis, you'll want to rent a compactor with a comfortable hand grip, even for doing a one-time project. Look for soft, foam cushioning that will not contribute to stress on your joints.
5. What are the options for fuel?
A plate compactor is typically powered by electric, gas or diesel fuel. An electric-powered compactor will utilize a rechargeable battery pack that will need to be charged. This may be more cost effective than gas or diesel equipment. Keep in mind, you'll need access to a charging source, so you'll want an electrical outlet nearby. Also, in the event of a power failure, you'll want to have a battery backup option.
Be sure your rental agency addresses your concerns to your satisfaction. You might want to ask your rental outlet if fuel is supplied when renting a gas or diesel powered plate compactor. If you're responsible for fuel cost, you should note that the cost of diesel fuel is often higher than the cost of liquefied petroleum gas.