When you dig out the area for your patio, the soil will be freshly disturbed and loose — which doesn’t make for a strong foundation to build on. To prep the area for pavers, you need to compact the soil so it’s flat and solidified. If you’re building a small patio or you’re confident in your strength and stamina, you can complete this job with a hand tamper. This is basically a long stick with a heavy square plate at the bottom that you lift and drop onto the soil over and over until it’s flat and compacted. If you’d rather avoid that ordeal, you can invest in what’s known as a plate compactor.
At Home Depot, one of the best-selling plate compactors is the Wen 7 JP 4500-Pound Plate Compactor, which will set you back around $600. Its gas engine produces 4,496 pounds of force, slamming the 24 by 17-inch plate into the ground 5,400 times per minute and compacting dirt without the need for any human effort. The tool is easy to maneuver and easy to transport, plus it dampens vibrations to extend the engine life and increase ease of use. If you’re not about to spend $600 on a tool you’re only going to use once, Home Depot also offers rental plate compactors that you can use for just a few days or even a few hours.