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Having the right equipment for your hardscape project will ensure a quality install and the longevity of your project. The first and foremost piece of equipment that will lead to the longevity of your project is having the right compactor. Poor compaction is the number one reason why a project will fail. This is why having the right compactor is so important.
When it comes to installing pavers, it is inevitable that you will need a compactor for various steps in the process. You will need to compact the subgrade after the excavation, compact the base material, and compact the pavers. Each of these steps are important for their own reasons to ensure the quality of installation and ensure the longevity of any paver project. Each of these steps also likely require a different compactor as each of these materials are different from one another. Compactors have different actions and capabilities which match the material that they are designed to compact. These materials range from non-cohesive like gravel and cohesive like clay soils.
Compactor for Subsoil
More cohesive subsoils, such as clay, require a ramming or kneading action with the compactor. A ramming compactor is the type of compactor that will compact a clay subsoil or a Sheepsfoot roller / vibrating Sheepsfoot roller will provide the action required to achieve compaction. Having the right moisture content is just as important in the compaction process. Too wet and the soil will just conform to the compaction equipment displacing itself. Too dry and the lubricating benefits of water will not optimally arrange the soil particles. For less cohesive subsoils such as a sandy subsoil, a large reversible plate compactor or vibrating roller along with the right moisture content in that subsoil will provide the proper compaction required.
Compactor for Gravel Base
Much like compacting subsoil, moisture content is important in gravels with fine material in it so that you can achieve proper compaction. In gravels that are open or clear (free of fines), this is less important as you are just trying to re-orient the granules to achieve proper compaction. In addition to this, having the proper gradation of stone is just as important. A reversible plate compactor is the optimal piece of equipment for either gravels with fines or without. The larger the better. However, you can use a forward plate compactor that is capable and you can compact your gravel base in lifts depending on the capability / size of your compactor.
As a rule of thumb, 1,000 pounds of capacity force for every one inch of lift. Read into the capability of your compactor to understand how capable it is and adjust your installation of your base according to that. This is incredibly important to the longevity of the project, so take your time with planning this portion of the project.
The final step for your hardscape project when it comes to compaction is to compact the pavers. Compacting pavers has two purposes. It seats the pavers into the bedding layer allowing that material to creep into the paver joints from the bottom up. It also consolidates the jointing compound from the top down to ensure it reaches the bottom of the paver joint. Both of these contribute to the vertical interlock of the paving system which is incredibly important to the strength of the system. You have two options to compact these pavers.
- Best Plate Compactor for Pavers
- Roller Compactor for Pavers
Choosing a plate compactor for pavers usually requires a compactor of at least 3,000 pounds of force to achieve proper compaction of the pavers and consolidation of the jointing compound. Additionally, a protective layer between the compactor and the pavers is important so that you do not scuff or ruin the surface of the pavers. A forward plate compactor will work fine for this, but you do not need a massive plate compactor like that would be used in the compaction of the subgrade or base material. However, the best compactor for pavers is actually the next piece of equipment.
A rolling compactor for pavers has the benefit of not requiring a protective layer to be added to the compactor or onto the surface of the pavers to protect them. The protective layer is built into the rollers themselves, as they do not scuff or ruin the surface of the pavers. The compactor can roll along the surface of the pavers and consolidate the jointing material while not breaking materials even as small as one inch in depth. The downside to this machine is that it is very specialized with this being the only use for the machine itself.
What Compactor Should You Own
Essentially, having a large reversible plate compactor, a ramming compactor, a mid-sized forward or reversible plate compactor, and a rolling compactor is an ideal situation for owning compaction equipment. However, this may not be possible when you are just starting your hardscaping business. When you are first starting, you will likely be able to get a mid-sized forward or reversible plate compactor that will be able to compact open graded bases, dense grade bases in lifts, and sandy subsoils. For more cohesive subsoils, it would be nice to have a ramming compactor next or to be able to rent a large reversible plate compactor or specialized rolling compactor to accomplish this. The final piece of compaction to add to your compaction equipment would be to purchase the roller compactor for pavers as the final specialized tool to add to your collection.
Having the right tool for the job will increase your efficiency while also creating the higher quality end product. Ultimately we want these pavement systems to last a lifetime. The first step to that is compaction which makes compaction equipment an incredibly important aspect to installing interlock paving systems. Investing in the right equipment or at least renting the right equipment will ensure the longevity of the projects that you install.