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How To Compact Pavers Without A Plate Compactor? [5 Simple Steps]

Not everyone owns a plate compactor. However, you may still feel compelled to compact your pavers. In such cases, you could either use a substitute or do it without a plate compactor. 

Don’t know how you can compact pavers without a plate compactor? That’s alright, we’ve got you covered on that!  

How to compact pavers without a plate compactor?

You must first prepare the substrate. Compact the ground at the least amount of power. Next, create a frost protection layer by spreading gravel or crushed stones. Form the base layer and flatten the area. Lastly, fill the area evenly with sand and compact the area.

You might be able to get your work done with the brief description provided above.

But, we suggest you read the detailed process. 

Things To Consider Before Compacting Pavers

Before we get into the process of compacting pavers, let’s get some protective wear first. You’ll need protective clothes for this process as you’ll be using some heavy machinery. 

Don’t wear anything loose-fitting or baggy.  Also, take off any jewelry from your body. 

Tie your hair back if you possess long hair. Make sure to wear long and sturdy trousers. There’ll be hot exhaust coming out of the machine. If your legs are exposed, they might get burned. 

Putting on hearing protection, gloves, and goggles is a must. Begin only when you have made sure of all these factors. 

Finally, figure out what kind of soil you have. The harder the nature of the soil, the harder you’ll have to compact. 

How To Compact Pavers Without A Plate Compactor? 5 Steps Process

It doesn’t matter if you’re making a patio or pavers, you’ll need a compacted base for them. You’ll need one even when laying on a brand new driveway. It doesn’t matter if you use road rollers or paver rollers, the process is the same. 

Here’s a list of some of the best vibratory paver rollers available on the market:

Product 1
Product 2

If your grounds aren’t compacted right, they’ll crack. Follow the given steps to avoid that from happening-

Step 1: Prepare The Substrate 

First, check the inside of the pit. The places where you’ll be compacting the ground, can’t have water collecting in puddles. Make sure that doesn’t happen. 

Do check out how to install fences on wet grounds if you plan on installing them.

Now, take the vibrator over the pit. Make sure you get the footing secured before you start working. Keep the output of your machine at the bare minimum. 

It’ll prevent the machine from slowly sinking in. You’ll also be able to control the machine easily. 

Use your machine and cover the whole area you want to compact. This way, you’ll be capable of getting a smooth surface. If there are any portions of the region that are bigger than the rest, compress them first.

To give an edge, compact the surrounding 30 to 40 cm of the border. 

Step 2: Create The Frost Protection Layer

Cover the ground with a thick coating of crushed stone or gravel. Use a board to peel off the surface next. Create the slope while you’re at it. If you’re making a driveway, align the paver slope with the garage floor slope.

If your soil isn’t that polluted, you should be able to use gravel at ease. But, gravel should be used mainly in driveways and parking spaces. 

10 cm of thickness should be perfect as a frost layer. The subsurface, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be too dense. 

Step 3: Make The Base Layer

Once you’re done creating the frost protection layer, you can move on to making the base layer. This base layer will also include gravel or crushed stones. 

You’ll have to use a finer size of grain here though. The thickness of the base layer must be 13 cm at least. Make the grains moist and scatter them around. Then flatten out the surface using a board. Don’t forget the slope though.

Step 4: Sand Layer

Finally, you’ll have to apply a layer of 5 to 8 cm of sand. Spread them across the whole area and take out any extra sand. Remember to keep the slope in check. 

You’ll be able to notice patio stones along with the decking wood through the sand. Compact the terrace subsoil at least three times. You can do more if you want. 

If your plan is to load the soil heavily, you’ll have to compact your subsoil more. Or else there’s a risk of your soil sinking in. 

And lastly, if your pavers touch your house, get proper flashing between pavers and siding.

Step 5: Vibrating Plate Cleaning

Cleaning your equipment is an important part of the process. Take the air filter out and clean it well. Clean the case of your machine as well. 

Drain the fuel out of your machine into a fresh container. Remove the spark plug and fill the cylinder with engine oil. Pull on the starter a few times to let the oil flow throughout the machine. 

Your vibrating plate should be clean now. 

Common Mistakes You Should Avoid While Compacting Pavers 

Anyone can make mistakes. It’s only normal for us as humans. Now let’s look at some of the common mistakes one can do while compacting pavers-

Laying Shallow Base

Putting up a shallow bed is out of the question. You’ll have to dig a little deeper to find the proper quantity of space. Areas for foot traffic must have at least a 4 cm base bed. Driveways and parking lots must have a 6 to 10 cm deep base. 

Add a gravel base if you live someplace that is cold and damp for the most of the year. 2 to 4 cm of gravel base should be enough. 

Avoiding The Click & Drop Method 

You can use this method when you place the paving stones. Not using this method will mean ramming the sand underneath the paver. This might result in a void in the paver’s center. The result will be a complete massacre of your pavers. 

Backfilling The Dirt

If you’re using dirt as base or backfill then stop right there. You’re just ruining the base this way. Your pavers will sink in and break apart this way. 

Instead of a smooth surface, you’ll end up with a bumpy and uneven surface. Dirt can shrink up to 30%. If you compact that, the landscape will be ruined. 

Laying Long Linear Lines Of Pavers

The pattern of your paving stones can bring out beauty alongside stability. If you choose only beauty over durability, the hardscape could become a bit unstable structurally. Over time they’ll shift and wrap. 

It won’t look very pleasant visually anymore. The safety of the hardscape will also become questionable. 

Not Compacting The Base

Whether you use gravel or crushed stones, make them durable even before you lay pavers. If you wanna achieve this, don’t slack off while compacting your pavers and base. You’ll be able to avoid pavers that are elevated or uneven.

And that’s just about all the common mistakes you should be aware of. Follow the steps thoroughly and don’t forget to keep these mistakes in mind. You’ll also be able to compress your pavers without difficulty.


Question: How deep can a plate compactor compact?

Answer: A plate compactor can compact 1 inch of ground for every 1000 pounds of force it exerts. This is the case with most compactors. Might vary for some though. 

Question: Can I use leveling sand between pavers?

Answer: You can use Polymeric sand or All-purpose sand. They adhere to the paving stones permanently for good. 

Question: Can water drain freely through polymeric sand?

Answer: if you can install the polymeric properly, the pavers will lock when they get hard. It’ll keep out insects while at the same time letting water flow freely. 


You know how to compact pavers without a plate compactor now. Keep in mind to avoid those common mistakes as well. 

And definitely follow our guide accordingly for the best result.

Good Luck!