Garden Outdoor Tools and Equipment

Tools for Creating a Sub-Base

When constructing a driveway, path or patio, the most important step is creating a firm sub-base for the paving or gravel to sit on. Without a good sub-base, any material laid will be subject to sinking and movement. Depending on the size of the area, the tools you will need can vary from a simple Earth Rammer to a hired Plate Vibrator. This guide explains the most common tools used for creating a solid and reliable sub-base.

Earth Rammer

This is a simple steel handle with a large, heavy and flat head. Earth Rammers require a fair amount of muscle as you will simply be using the weight of the head to ram to sub-base material down into a compacted layer.

Garden Roller

A traditional garden roller is great for compacting a sub-base. Garden rollers are generally filled with sand or water to give them weight (100kg is suggested) and then rolled backwards and forwards across the sub-base material to compact it. This method should result in a very smooth and even surface.

Plate Vibrator

Very useful if working with a large area of sub-base. Plate vibrators are large steel plates with a petrol motor attached. The motor, when running, causes the plate to vibrate and compact down anything it is moved across. Plate vibrators are not something found in the average garden shed, so you will probably need to hire one. Most hire shops will let you hire one on a daily basis. This large and powerful tool can also be used to bed down concrete paving blocks.

Demolition Hammer

If you need to break up a large area of concrete before laying a new surface, it is worth considering hiring a Demolition Hammer (sometime called a Breaker Hammer). This electric-powered tool, like jack-hammer, can be hired from most tool hire shops and usually comes with a pointed and a chisel head. Lightweight versions can be used for concrete up to about 100mm thick.


Smaller areas of concrete can be broken up with a traditional sledgehammer. Sledgehammers are large-headed hammers on a long wooden shaft. Typical weights range from 4.5kg up to around 9kg. The size you choose depends on how much you think you can safely swing and the thickness of the concrete that is to be broken up.

Pick Axe

Another useful tool when breaking up concrete to lay down a new sub-base. A typical pick axe with have a sharp spiked end and a flatter, chisel end.