Types of Rollers Commonly Used on Construction Projects

Types of Rollers Commonly Used on Construction Projects

If you're in the construction business, you understand the importance of soil compaction when building roads or foundations. You also know that choosing the right equipment for the job is crucial to ensuring the best results. 

A roller is a piece of heavy equipment specifically designed for soil compaction applications. Several types of rollers are available, and each compacts the soil in different ways. 

The Various Types of Rollers for Compaction

Depending on your application, you may choose one of the following rollers:

  • Cylindrical: These walk-behind rollers are ideally suited for smaller compaction projects. Their lightweight design enables one person to push the roller over the surface with ease. The roller typically measures a little more than a yard across and consists of iron, stone or concrete. Consider these compactor rentals for asphalt paving jobs such as building driveways for homes or garages.
  • Pneumatic: These ride-on rollers have pneumatic tires that provide a smoother ride with less bumping when traveling over uneven terrain. The tires provide an expansive coverage area, enabling operators to complete large-scale compaction tasks faster and more efficiently. They also allow a more even machine weight distribution. Typical applications include compacting layers of loose soil, soft base course materials and closely graded sand. Pneumatic rollers also perform well on smoothing and polishing projects.
  • Grid: This roller type consists of steel bars arranged in a grid pattern on the drum that apply high-contact pressure to the soil. Operators can also apply concrete blocks or steel attachments to add weight and increase pressure. Because of this design, these machines are ideally suited for compacting coarse soil and working on subgrade and sub-base road construction projects. These ride-on rollers provide a cost-effective solution for low-traffic roadways.
  • Vibratory: Available in single and double-drum variations, these rollers have a vibrating component that can enhance a building's structural integrity. These machines work well when compacting granular bases, crushed rock, gravel and asphaltic concrete. Vibratory rollers are also available as walk-behind units that work well for applications that require covering smaller areas or maneuvering in confined locations.
  • Smooth-wheeled: Also known as static rollers, these machines may have one or two drums. Single-drum models feature a smaller size that enables them to work in confined spaces. Typical applications include sidewalk and highway paving. The double-drum versions have two rollers that work in tandem, which delivers more speed and efficiency. These compactors provide the best results on flat or gradual surfaces. These types of rollers can provide reliable results when working with sand, gravel or ballast or when applying surface dressings.
  • Sheepsfoot: These rollers consist of a drum and round or rectangular-shaped "feet" that provide a tamping action. The operator can increase the pressure on the feet as needed by filling the drum with wet sand or other materials. Use sheepsfoot rollers for projects that require working with silty or heavy clay or cohesive soil. These ride-on roller rentals can also produce a manipulative force that enables uniform compaction throughout the process.

The Versatility of Walk-Behind Rollers

At The Cat® Rental Store, we connect you with Cat dealers offering a variety of compacting equipment, including both ride-on and walk-behind rollers. Ride-on rollers feature a seat for the operator while walk-behind machines require the user to steer from behind. Some walk-behind rollers can also be controlled remotely for added safety.

Walk-behind rollers are highly versatile tools that can be used to complete small projects or compact materials in narrow spaces. They offer responsive steering and adjustable speeds, allowing you to precisely control the results of your work.

These machines are generally smaller and more portable than their ride-on counterparts, so you can more easily transport them to and from your work site. Our dealers' selection of walk-behind rollers features rollers with various types of drums to take on any task.

Where Can I Use Walk-Behind Rollers?

Walk-behind rollers are the ideal tool for any project that calls for soil compaction in a narrow space because they're small and easy to control. 

These rollers have two drums that work together to complete the compaction in one pass, streamlining your efforts and completing projects efficiently. The front drum makes contact first to prepare the site, and then the back drum immediately finishes the compaction. 

When you equip your walk-behind roller with the right type of drums, you can take on a wide range of projects, compacting all different kinds of soils and materials. Common uses for walk-behind rollers include compacting surfaces for:

  • Roadway shoulders
  • Utility trenches
  • Driveways
  • Sidewalks and bike paths
  • Backfills
  • Foundation work
  • Landscaping
  • Repair work and patching

Since they're designed to operate in narrow spaces, walk-behind rollers feature high curb clearance and close side clearance. You can work in tight areas near curbs and walls and get right up to the edge without getting stuck or causing any scrapes. 

Walk-Behind Roller Uses for Granular and Cohesive Soil Applications

Those who regularly work with compacting rollers classify soil and materials into two primary categories — granular and cohesive. Each type of soil has unique features and different requirements to achieve solid compaction that will hold up and provide support over time.

Granular materials are coarse, with large particles that are easy to see with your naked eye. This category includes substances like sand, gravel and asphalt. These types of materials can be molded when they're wet, but they crumble easily when they begin to dry out. To compact granular materials, you'll need a walk-behind roller equipped with smooth vibratory drums.

Cohesive materials like silts and clays have small grains that you can't see. These substances can be molded wet and form a hard, dense layer when they dry. If there's too much moisture in the materials when you compact them, they'll crack as they dry, reducing the stability of your final product.

Walk-behind rollers equipped with sheepsfoot drums compress cohesive soils most effectively, squeezing out any excess water and creating a stable, compacted surface for your project.

The Advantages of Ride-On Rollers

In some situations, ride-on roller rentals are more beneficial than their walk-behind counterparts. Consider these machines if you must compact a large area quickly and efficiently. These rollers also remove some of the stress from the operator, as they don't require standing for extended periods. 

Because of their larger size, these rollers can handle more demanding projects beyond the scope of smaller walk-behind units. They deliver superior compaction and paving power and can provide more reliable results when working with more challenging materials. 

Most highway projects or other major construction jobs will require ride-on rollers to keep the work on schedule and execute these more challenging tasks with minimal disruptions.

The numerous of types of rollers also gives ride-on users plenty of options. Renters can choose a single drum or a tandem version that is either static or vibratory. They can also select a combination unit consisting of a steel drum and a single row of tires or a three-point steam roller version. Users have more flexibility to customize the machine to their applications.

What to Consider When Renting a Roller

For many construction operations, renting a roller offers a practical, cost-effective solution. If you're thinking of renting a roller, the first factor to consider is the type of soil or material you're compacting. An asphalt surface may require a different roller than when compacting sand, gravel or dirt. 

You should also evaluate the nature of the application and the amount of space you'll likely have to operate. If you need a quick solution when working on an expansive surface, ride-on rollers can deliver the best results. If you must navigate in tight quarters, consider renting a walk-behind unit.

Paving a roadway has different requirements than preparing a surface for a structure, and compacting materials in a trench requires different equipment than compressing waste in a landfill.

If you need advice on the best roller solution for your project, contact the team of trained experts at your local Cat dealer. Dealer support is available 24/7 to discuss the details of your project and provide advice for selecting the most effective tool for your job.

The Cat® Rental Store Carries a Wide Selection of Rollers

The Cat Rental Store in your area carries many types of rollers commonly used in construction projects. When you rent from us, you'll receive expert product selection assistance, along with competitive rates and flexible rental terms. We also provide top-notch service throughout the process to ensure the best customer experience. We'll even take care of all maintenance and repairs for as long as you use the equipment.

Please view our current inventory of rollers and other compaction equipment for rent. Give us a call at 1-800-RENT-CAT to learn more today. If you'd like a fast online quote, fill out and submit our convenient contact form.