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What Is a Sheepsfoot Roller?

What Is a Sheepsfoot Roller?

A sheepsfoot roller, referred to as a padfoot or tamping roller, is one of the most common types of compaction equipment. Sheepsfoot rollers compact materials, like soil, silt, and clay prior to constructing roads and foundations.

Sheepsfoot compactors come in many specs including weight, drum width, horsepower, length and number of feet, maneuverability, and gradeability. With so many types of rollers to consider, this post breaks down the benefits of sheepsfoot rollers and how they compare to other options.

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How do Sheepsfoot Rollers Work?

Sheepsfoot rollers come in ride-on and pull-behind models that can be towed by a tractor or dozer. There are static versions in which compaction relies on the weight of the drum and soil manipulation by the feet. Vibratory models use the weight and feet, as well as dynamic compaction. They are typically able to compact more quickly than static rollers.

The manipulative force generated from the tapered lugs, or “feet,” allows the drum to compact the ground at greater depths and knead the soil. Because of this, sheepsfoot rollers are commonly used to compact clays or silts.

When choosing a sheepsfoot roller for your project, the soil type, thickness, moisture content, and job size will help inform what size sheepsfoot roller you need. Some drums can be filled with water or sand to increase their weight.

what does a sheepsfoot roller do

Single-drum Roller

One of two main types of rollers, a single-drum roller has one large, circular wheel, or single drum. While the single drum makes it front-heavy, meaning it may struggle to roll over some terrain, it has good overall maneuverability, due to the pneumatic tires in the back of the vehicle.

Double-drum Roller

The other main type of roller is a double-drum roller. With one drum at its front and one at its back, the double-drum roller offers double the compaction. It has no tires, because the drums act like wheels.

Any area you drive over in a double-drum roller, you compact twice. While the lack of tires hurts its maneuverability and gradeability, the double-drum roller is more efficient in terms of force. It compacts best on wide, open, level job sites, like roads, paths, playgrounds, and parking lots.

Sheepsfoot Roller Uses

A sheepsfoot roller works best for projects that need deeper compaction. It is commonly used to compact silty clay, wet clay, and other cohesive soils.

Use a sheepsfoot roller for projects like:

  • Road construction work
  • Dams
  • Embankments
  • Foundation construction
  • Ponds

Pros and Cons of Sheepsfoot Rollers

sheepsfoot roller pros and cons

Although not perfect for every project, the unique design of the sheepsfoot compactor makes it better for some uses than other types of rollers. Consider some of the advantages and disadvantages to using a sheepsfoot roller when renting a roller for your next project:


  • Depth of compaction: Because of its “feet,” the sheepsfoot roller compacts at greater depths than a smooth drum roller.
  • Versatility of compaction: Sheepsfoot rollers work as both static and vibratory rollers, meaning that they can handle mixed terrain and materials.
  • Material: The sheepsfoot roller works with cohesive soils, meaning soils that are fine-grained and/or have a high clay content, which other rollers cannot handle.
  • Speed of compaction: Sheepsfoot rollers can compact materials more quickly, due to the combined force of its drum and “feet.”
  • Maneuverability and gradeability: The sheepsfoot roller has high maneuverability and gradeability and can operate in tight, narrow, or deep spaces.


  • Evenness of compaction: The sheepsfoot roller may not create as flat of a surface as a smooth drum roller, due to its “feet.”
  • Material: Sheepsfoot rollers are not effective on sandy or loose materials, because the “feet” of the padfoot drum tend to till, more than compact, them.
  • Surface area: Sheepsfoot rollers are small in size and not as efficient in covering a large surface area.

Sheepsfoot Rollers vs. Other Rollers

In addition to the padfoot roller, you can rent many other types of rollers, designed for different construction needs. The type of compaction equipment you need depends on factors like the size and scope of your job site, what the ground is made of, and the result you want.

types of rollers and their uses

Sheepsfoot Roller

The “feet” on the drum of the sheepsfoot roller help it compact ground at greater depths, and this roller provides excellent maneuverability if you need to fill trenches in a narrow space. You can also increase the weight of the sheepsfoot drum to make compacting even more efficient. It works best when the ground at your job site contains cohesive soils like clay, silt, or loam.

Smooth Roller

You can choose either a single-drum or double-drum option with the versatile smooth drum roller. Both work great in projects that require leveling the ground, and produce an even, flat terrain. If the area of your project is made up of granular materials, like sand, ballast, and gravel, a smooth drum roller probably makes the best option.

Use a single-drum roller for smaller projects, like driveways and sidewalks. Use a double-drum roller for larger, lengthier areas, like roads and parking lots, especially if the project contains limestone.

Vibratory Roller

A vibratory roller is similar to a smooth roller, but it vibrates, combining static and dynamic forces to increase the efficiency of compaction. The vibrations compact the soil and increase its density, helping with structural integrity. The weighted design of vibratory compactors makes them ideal for work on uneven terrain and with materials like gravel.

Pneumatic Tyred Roller

Different from other types of compaction equipment, the pneumatic tired roller has rows of rubber tires on its front and/or back end instead of a drum. The tires evenly apply pressure to ground surfaces, making it easier to achieve uniform compaction over a job site.

It does not reach the deep levels of compaction that a padfoot roller does, so it makes a better choice in the later stages of a project to smooth out or polish. Typically, you use this roller with materials like cold-laid asphalt.

Grid Roller

The grid roller uses a single-drum roller with a heavy, steel drum, made up of steel bars in the shape of a grid. The weight and strength of its drum mean this roller provides high compaction, without the need for additional power. Generally pulled behind a tractor or piece of big machinery, use a grid roller for challenging, hard materials, like coarse soil and weathered rock, and breaking up difficult terrain.

Cylindrical Roller

Unlike the other types of rollers listed, the cylindrical roller is not a piece of heavy compaction equipment. Lightweight and operated by hand, the cylindrical roller offers basic compaction. Often used with a person walking behind it, this soil compactor works best for small, personal projects, like yard work.


Depending on the size and scope of your job site and the materials involved, some compactors can better serve your needs than others. The sheepsfoot roller makes a great option when you need deeper compaction, especially with cohesive soils like heavy clay or silt, or are working in narrow or tight spaces. The smooth drum roller works great for when you need a uniform, polished finish.

To get a sense of what compaction equipment you can rent in your area, including the specs of different compactors and warranty information, take a look at our single-drum and double-drum roller rentals.

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