Finding the Right Compaction Equipment for Whatever Job You Face

One of the most important components of any construction project – whether you’re burying cable and sewer lines or building a road or skyscraper – is properly compacted soil.

Compaction is defined as the process in which stress is applied to soil to cause densification as air is displaced from the pores between soil grains. This process is key to any construction project you face because the future success of it often hinges on a compact and dense building base. Compacting soil provides the firm base needed to support footings, foundations, slabs, pavement, and more.

The benefits of using specialized equipment to remove air pockets in the soil include:

  • Improved soil stability
  • Increased soil load-bearing capabilities
  • Decreased soil settling
  • Lowered soil shrinkage
  • A reduction in water seepage, contraction, and swelling

But before starting any compaction project, you need to find the right equipment to rent. While this blog serves as a primer for the available equipment to rent as well as some of the advantages and disadvantages of each machine, a rental company like Herc Rentals has compaction experts available 24/7 to ensure you make the right choice.


The first step in choosing the right compaction equipment begins with identifying the soil type on your job site. By identifying the soil type, you can then determine how it should be compacted.

Compactable soils are either granular or cohesive.

With granular soils such as sand or gravel, the particles may be of varying sizes. This means these particles have to fit together and, the best way to do that is through vibratory compaction. Cohesive soils are just like they sound – they’re soils like clay or silt that are bound together. Cohesive soils, however, require a machine that delivers a pounding, impactful force to the ground.


The next step in finding the right compaction machine is knowing your site. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to compaction equipment. For example, you’re not going to use a ride-on roller if you’re compacting ground following the install of a cable wire to a home or a rammer or jumping jack to compact ground for a new highway.

This means you must consider the size of your job, the dimensions of your job site, and the terrain itself. If the job is big and spacious, then rollers make more sense because they will do the job much more efficiently. But if you’re working in a tight area, the much smaller rammers or plate compactors may be the better, more efficient option.


Compaction machines are comprised of three main types, each offering a different way to compact soil, whether it’s through weight, vibration, or a repeated pounding of soil. Static machines, like rollers, use their weight to compact soil while vibratory machines, like plate compactors, use repeated vibrations to shake soil particles into place. Impact machines, like rammers, utilize pads to punch soil together for a deeper and more targeted compaction effort.


Like all equipment, finding the right machine for a specific job can help ensure the most economical and efficient result. Here’s a look at the most popular compaction equipment as well as each machine’s intended purpose, applications, and differences.

Rammers: Designed to compress soils by striking the soil with an impact force of more than 4,000 pounds and fast stroke rates up to 700 per minute, rammers are most commonly used for compacting small areas near structures. This tool is lightweight, can easily be transported from one job to another in the back of a pick-up truck, and are mostly operated by hand. Many contractors view rammers as a perfect solution for flattening surfaces for cable, pipe, and other utility trenches. Unlike plate compactors, rammers work best when compacting cohesive soils. They also compact a greater amount of soil because the downward force of the plate is more direct.

Plate Compactors: Using consistent weight and vibration to compress the soil, plate compactors are larger, heavier than rammers, and more effective on granular materials. Also known as plate tampers, they are often used to compact the ground in preparation for the construction of a driveway, parking lot, or minor road repairs. Plate compactors are still small enough to work in confined areas unreachable by rollers.

Walk-Behind Rollers: Ideal for patching asphalt, compacting ground for pathways and other small projects, walk-behind rollers typically feature smooth-drum or sheepsfoot designs. While smooth-drums use static pressure, vibration, and impact to compact materials such as gravel, rocks, sand, and asphalt, sheepsfoot rollers are used for compacting fine-grained soils such as heavy clays and silty clays for dams, embankments, subgrade layers in pavements and railroad construction projects.

Ride-On Rollers: Featuring single or double-drum designs, ride-on rollers are the behemoths of compaction equipment, providing operators with drum widths ranging from 35- to 84-inches and centrifugal weights ranging from 3,400 to 58,050 pounds. Ideal for road projects, commercial and residential site development, utility installations, driveways, and large landscaping jobs, these rollers bring maximum versatility and performance to any construction site.

If you’re interested in the most advanced, affordable, dependable, and clean compaction equipment, talk to your Herc Rentals’ representative today by calling (800) 654-6659. For more information on Herc Rentals’ compaction equipment, consult your Solutions Guide now!

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