Padfoot Roller vs. Smooth Roller


There are a few reasons you might need to use a roller machine on a construction site. Rollers are best used for compacting surfaces to make the ground being built on or paved over stronger. All kinds of rollers can be used in the construction industry for various reasons. Each roller works best in certain situations and with specific types of ground material. Two, fairly similar, rollers may be tough to decide between. These two are the smooth roller and the Padfoot roller. 

Both Padfoot rollers and smooth rollers are machines that can be used to compact and flatten surfaces. While they do the same thing in a sense, they are used for very different areas and types of soil. To learn the difference, continue reading through our brief guide on Padfoot vs smooth. 

Padfoot Rollers 

A Padfoot roller is a machine equipped with a large cylinder on the front, in place of the front tires. The cylinder is characterized by its array of protrusions peppering its surface. The steel drum with these bumps is used to roll over and compact different materials. The Padfoot roller can also be referred to as the Sheepsfoot roller because of the general shape similarity of the protrusions to a sheep’s foot.  

When to Use a Padfoot Roller 

While it may seem odd to want to use a Padfoot roller’s textured drum since one of the main purposes of rolling is to smooth surfaces, Padfoot rollers are for something specific. These machines can create deeper compaction thanks to their notched projections on the steel drum. The bumps that cover the drum and give it its name allow the machine better compaction depth due to the protruding impact points. The protrusions create a sort of kneading effect on the soil. 

Here are some key reasons to use a Padfoot roller: 

  • The soil is wet/damp 
  • The soil is clay or a sticky material 
  • The soil is silty  

Padfoot rollers work best in terrain where a smooth roller would likely drag the soil and move it rather than compact it.  

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Smooth Rollers 

Like the Padfoot roller, the smooth roller uses a large steel drum attached to the front of the machine to compact and smooth the material. The major difference between the two rollers is that the smooth roller is just that - smooth. There are no protrusions on the cylinder’s surface which provides its own benefits.  

When to Use a Smooth Roller 

While the Padfoot can provide the ground with stronger compaction, the smooth roller allows for a smoother and more level surface. This type of roller can evenly compact the soil. If you are dealing with non-cohesive soil, a smooth roller is a great option. 

Smooth Roller - Double Drum 

The smooth roller has a double-drum variation. In this double drum version, the machine has the normal steel drum in front but it also has a drum in the back. This design excludes tires which makes the double-drum roller a little less versatile than its single-drum counterpart. These machines are more often used for smoothing and flattening asphalt projects. 

The double-drum smooth roller has its pros and cons, here are a few for each. 


  • Faster compaction time 
  • More power 
  • Can flatten better than single-drum smooth rollers 


  • Not as stable 
  • Not as easy to maneuver 
  • Less traction 

Things to Consider 

When considering a roller machine, there are other things to consider for both the Padfoot and the smooth roller. More than deciding on the type you want, both come in different sizes and weights. If you’re working on a large space and need a heavier compaction, you’ll want to pick a bigger machine and likely either a Padfoot or a double-drum roller, depending on the soil. 

If you are working on a normal ground material for typical construction or road work, you can go with a smooth roller. The choice of a smooth roller in this situation is optimal if you are looking for general levelness. But your decision doesn’t necessarily stop there. If you go with a smooth roller, the next question is if you need a single- or double-drum. There are also some other factors you may want to consider like if the drum will vibrate or oscillate.  

Additionally, you will want to consider the budget you have and whether you would like to rent or buy. You will also want to think about the brand of roller you want to use. These considerations come down to research. Do your research, know what kind of soil you are working with, and know what your budget is. The Padfoot roller and the smooth roller are similar in some ways and different in many others. Both options are useful and both have uses that they are better equipped for.  

When it comes down to it, soil is one of the biggest factors in choosing a roller. The main difference between the two machines is that one has foot-like protrusions on the drum and the other is entirely smooth. The key to making your decision is knowing what material you are trying to compact and smooth out, so whether you choose a smooth roller or a Padfoot roller, the surface work will be smooth sailing from there. 

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