Exciting new tools and equipment enter the market each year to make our lives as hardscapers increasingly more efficient and problem-free. Some of these products take some time before they are embraced and implemented into businesses. The tool we cover in this article has a very specific purpose on the job site for hardscapers. It is a piece of equipment that will have one use on each project, but it can save you on a lot of labor and create a professional end product for your client. This is the paver roller compactor. Its one use is to compact pavers to seat them into the bedding layer and to consolidate jointing compounds into the joints of the pavers.
Roller Paver Compactor
Though they have been around for years, paver roller compactors have begun to pick up momentum as a solution for compacting pavers and slabs into the bedding layer and consolidating jointing compound. They have proven to be useful tools in preventing the cracking and chipping of expensive products that are too thin to compact with a regular plate compactor such as porcelain slabs and square cut natural stone.
Weber MT is one manufacturer of these machines and has two different sizes to choose from. They have the VPR 450 which weighs in at 238 pounds and has a working width of 17 inches. The centrifugal force of the machine is 1,798 pounds featuring a Honda GX 160 engine. The VPR 700 has the same engine with the centrifugal force of 3,147 pounds. It has a working width of 26 inches, 9 more inches than the VPR 450 also weighting in 148 pounds heavier at 386 pounds. Another manufacturer of paver roller compactors worth noting is EZG with the same Honda engine, the centrifugal force between the two above at 2,315 pounds, and features a collapsible handle for easy storage with a throttle on the handle to easily control the vibratory force of the machine. It weighs in at 330 pounds with a 26″ working width making it the same working width of Weber MT’s VPR 700 with 56 pounds less weight.
These machines help to delicately compact the pavers or slabs into the bedding layer and to consolidate the jointing compound by gently rolling over the material and vibrating the product downwards. The rubber coated rollers prevent scratching and scuffing while spreading out the machine over an area to create a uniform finish that prevents cracking and breaking the product.
Roller Tamper for Pavers and Slabs
These roller compactors are perfect for the final compaction of concrete pavers and slabs, porcelain slabs, natural stone slabs, and other outdoor paving products. They serve a few functions that other plate compactors that would be used for base compaction cannot.
The compaction of pavers or slabs helps to ensure two things:
Consolidating Jointing Compound
The pavers have been seated into the bedding layer. This is caused by the pavers or slabs being vibrated down into the bedding layer to further compact that bedding layer and to push that layer up in between the joints of the pavers. This action helps to create an interlocking system and ensures a proper bond between paver and base.
The jointing compound has been consolidated to the bottom of the joint. This creates a firm bond between pavers and helps to ensure that the system remains in place. If the jointing compound is just swept into the joints without this consolidation, it will not sink all the way down to the full depth of the joint. This is especially the case with tight joint products which will require more than one pass in order to be able to achieve this. Click here if you want to learn more about how to apply polymeric sand.
However, compacting pavers or slabs with a regular plate compactor can be a costly mistake if you do not know what you are doing. With the wrong plate compactor on the wrong surface, you can cause scuffing, chipping, or breaking of materials that will need to be replaced which can result in a lot of money lost on a job. This is what makes a paver roller compactor an alternative to the best plate compactor for pavers.
What this machine does is act as a plate compactor that vibrates and rolls its way across the surface of the system to achieve consolidation and compaction. The rollers are rubber-based allowing it to glide over the top of the surfaces while preventing the chipping and cracking of materials. This is especially important when rolling over products such as porcelain or square cut natural stone which are both becoming increasingly popular.
If you are not interested in using a paver roller compactor, you can opt to use a plate compactor on pavers. The plate compactor would need to be on the smaller side and not a reversible plate compactor that is used for compacting the base material of your project. This would require a protective mat to be attached to the underside of the plate compactor to protect the surface of the pavers from being scuffed. There are some contractors that will lay down plywood or other materials and leapfrog these throughout the entire area which requires two people or inefficiently with one person. This will add some protection to prevent cracking and chipping, but will not be the solution for 1″ porcelain or natural stone slabs. In this case, you would likely require some added padding spread throughout the area like a roll of carpet or other cushioning to prevent any cracking and chipping.
This is why a paver roller compactor is so useful to serve a specific purpose. Instead of carrying around carpet or other materials as well as a small plate compactor, you can have just this one machine to reduce the amount of items you are hauling from job site to job site. It is a must if you are installing 1″ thick porcelain or natural stone on an ongoing basis and a luxury for paver projects that will increase efficiency on the job site. Another alternative would be to singly tap each piece with a rubber mallet which would not achieve the same uniform result without spending a significant amount of man hours to achieve this.
Renting is definitely an option if you do not have the cash flow to purchase right away or if you do not do a significant number of projects a year using these materials. If you are a hardscaper, you should definitely be running the numbers to decide whether or not this is a worthwhile investment into your business. This comes down to calculating the time it would save to use this machine versus the method you are utilizing right now and the number of stones that are broken that need to be replaced.
For example, if you have a small plate compactor right now that costs $900 with a protective mat on it at $100 and additionally use plywood or carpet to protect slabs during this compaction process. You calculate that every time you need to install and uninstall the mat it takes 15 minutes and you do this 20 times a season based on the number of projects you complete. That works to be 5 hours a season saved with not having to deal with a protective mat and the $100 price tag of a mat. Additionally, you save one extra worker leap frogging plywood when completing this step of the process or rolling out the carpet. This calculation will depend on how large the projects are that you are taking on to decide how long compaction takes. For this example, we save 1 hour for each project as that extra worker not needing to leapfrog or roll out carpet for 20 hours.
With this example, we have saved 25 hours in labor plus the $1,000 in compactor and mat savings. At $25 an hour for your worker (keep in mind your hourly pay plus your labor burden including worker’s compensation and other benefits), that is $625 in labor to a total of $1,625 saved in one year on a conservative measurement. Now you need to calculate how much a paver roller compactor will cost and how long it will last. For each additional year, you will save an added $625 in labor on top of the $1,625 saved in the first year.
In year two you have saved $2,250. In year three you have saved $2,875. In year four you have saved $3,500 which is enough for a paver roller compactor that will likely last you beyond four years. Of course these are made up numbers and you should complete your own evaluation on this machine, but in this example we had not even considered the saved material cost in breaking product under a plate compactor as opposed to a roller compactor. Especially when using porcelain which is $10+ per square foot and are sold in 2′ x 2′ pieces for 4 square feet being $40 per piece, this is an expensive product to break and have to replace out of your own pocket. By investing in a paver roller compactor, you are working towards ensuring you save as many of those as possible instead of rolling the dice with a plate compactor.