Rotary Hammer vs Hammer Drill

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Rotary hammers and hammer drills are both excellent tools for working on masonry DIY jobs that you might be completing around the home. But they both have their pros and cons depending on the jobs that you are wanting to complete. Our article will compare both of these powerful tools to help you decide which is going to be better suited to helping you get the job done!

What is a Rotary Hammer?

A rotary hammer (or rotary hammer drill) is a power tool that will be able to drill and “hammer” into hard materials. They use piston mechanisms (powered by a crankshaft) to fire the bit in and out of the material that it is working with (while rotating) to create holes in the material through the force of the drill bit hitting against it at such a high speed and force.

Pros and Cons

  • Rotary hammers will usually be more powerful comparatively which equals more impact. This means that they will be able to work with harder materials and will be able to complete bigger jobs with less effort.
  • Usually have an SDS (Slotted Drive System) chuck so better for hammering. This means that the rotary motion of the drill is stopped so that it can just hammer back and forth (better for certain jobs where you need more drive – for example when breaking up concrete or tiles).
  • Tend to be more durable with less wear as it is essentially the air pressure that powers the force of the tool. This means that your tool will last longer without needing repairs and replacement parts.
  • More versatile in the jobs that they complete (providing you are willing to purchase the attachments needed to do this!). If you have the MANY attachments that can be fitted to a rotary hammer then you will find it can be used for so many jobs, such as: breaking up soil, removing tiles, creating holes in concrete, removing rust, concrete or weld spatter.
  • More expensive. Rotary hammers will be considerably more expensive than hammer drills for the comparative model, so you have to have the money available to invest in the tool. But, they could be seen as better value for money due to the number of jobs that they are able to complete!
  • Usually larger so can be more tiresome to use and will reduce the amount of time that you can work with the tool before needing a break.
  • Can be quite loud and have high levels of vibration which can affect usability when working with the tool.

What is a Hammer Drill?

A hammer drill uses its quick rotations to chisel away at the material in question. It does this by using two internal jointed discs that rotate, as they slide past each other they rise and fall, which means the chuck will be forced forward and backwards while rotating. This process uses the friction of the rotation and the impact of the push and retract motion to chip away at a surface.

Pros and Cons

  • Cleverly designed internal mechanisms help to avoid wear – if the chuck is not put under force by you then the discs will be separated so will not work against each other to create the push and pull action. This means that they are only put under force when you push the tool against a surface.
  • Can often be used as a regular drill if you switch of the hammer action (make sure to check this with each individual product details first!).
  • Perfect for jobs involving bricks, concrete blocks or mortar.
  • They will usually be cheaper than rotary hammers – so are better for if you only have small jobs to complete around the home and don’t want to spend a fortune.
  • Can work faster so if you are only wanting small holes to be created then you will be able to get this done in no time!
  • Smaller and more compact so you will be able to work with the tool for longer and transport them to different jobs easier.
  • Less vibration and noise makes the tool easier to work with, with less fatigue!
  • Less powerful – but this can also mean less damage caused if you are working in relatively soft masonry.
  • More limited in the attachments that can be purchased which means you will be restricted in the number of jobs they can complete.

Our Overall Opinion

Rotary hammers are for larger jobs (with holes larger than 1 inch) that require more power as they really pack a punch, but they are more expensive, especially if you are wanting a decent model that is going to last and have sufficient power. They are a bit more difficult to work with, but equally will make big jobs so much easier, such as removing tiling or cracking concrete blocks. The hammer drill really cannot compete in the power department, but we don’t really know if we would want it to! These small, handy tools are perfect for smaller, neater jobs that need more care or for just if you have a large number of small holes to create, due to the speed at which they can work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is an impact drill the same as a hammer drill?
These two names are often seen used in the same context when it comes to completing DIY – along with rotary hammers – but they are actually completely different tools. An impact drill will use rotation and an “impacting” force to get the job done, whereas a hammer drill will use a repeated hammer motion to push against the material, creating the holes that you need.

Does the size of the bit affect a hammer drill and a rotary hammer?
Yes! If you choose the wrong bit size for the job then the tool will either struggle to complete its job (no matter how good the tool is) or the bit will become damaged (which could potentially damage the whole tool if you are not careful). You also need to consider the size of the bit compared to the size of the chuck.

About Mike Jones 179 Articles
I started doing DIY around the house and it soon developed into a hobby. I look for tools and products that are genuinely useful and get the job done. I enjoy writing product reviews, researching my buyers guides and putting tools through their paces. In my downtime, I like to run and I am a bit of a Netflix documentary geek.

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