Rotary Hammer vs Hammer Drill: What is the Difference?

Susan Fernandez November 11 2021

It can never be an easy task to drive a screw into a concrete surface, and if you have to do it, then you will definitely require a rotary hammer or a hammer drill. Both of these tools are very powerful as they are capable of sinking the screws into concrete. It is worth noting that their hammering mechanisms differ, so both drills have their own advantages and disadvantages.

When comparing rotary hammer vs hammer drill, you must be trying to find out which one is right for your requirements. Although it depends on how complex the concrete is, how much aggregate is in the mix, and the holes that you have to drill, you will require a drill specifically designed to drill into concrete.

What are Rotary Hammers?

Among the two available tools, the rotary hammers are considered to be a much-preferred option by professionals or any other people who look into the hammer screws into the concrete. Rotary hammers are undoubtedly superior to hammer drills for the ones who look for advanced strength and high shock absorption.

These are known to be much more compact in size, and they are only designed to perform their tasks well.

These drills are available with a variety of handles including long-handle models for the convenience of users. However, you will also see short-handle models that are often chosen by electricians. Rotary hammer drills are capable of turning just like an ordinary drill, but they can perform 20 blows per second, which is unheard of for any other kind of drill.

The hammering mechanism for the rotary hammer consists of a cylinder of air and a piston. The piston compresses the cylinder of air, and it beats the bit. The sheer strength is the main advantage of a rotary hammer, and for those who have frequent and intense hammering requirements, the rotary hammer is the best option for them.

Features of rotary hammers

The rotary hammer comes with many standard features that can surprise you. There is no need for an elaborate introduction of these features, but it would suffice to say that you will find all the requirements that are required by a professional engineer.

There are several advantages of these tools over the other available counterparts, including: 

  • Compact size
  • Vibration control technology
  • These drills are designed to reduce the shock typically caused by drilling into concrete or any other material. It is considered unique based on its ability to minimize vibration through specific steps including hydraulic damping and counteraction among others.
  • These models also come with more handle options along with adjustable speeds, so if you require high-speed settings, the option is definitely available with them.

What is a Hammer Drill?

This one is a less powerful and much more affordable, and portable option. Having a small striking mechanism, a hammer drill is excellent for people who need the tool for their personal or occasional use. Hammer drills have a small striking mechanism, and the impact is caused when metal discs happen to go in and out of each other.

The main advantage of a hammer drill lies in the drawbacks of a rotary hammer. The hammer drill is portable and light in weight, and as it needs less power, this particular tool can be battery operated. This means that even the heaviest of the hammer drills weigh almost half of the lightest of the rotary hammers.

Hammer drills can be termed as a rotary hammer's counterpart. They will not offer you the power that rotary hammers supply, but they do have their own set of benefits. Although hammer drills cannot work as efficiently as a rotary hammer does, yet those who only need to screw into concrete every now and then, can opt for this tool as it is quite cost-effective as well.

While there is no doubt about the fact that both tools have different working mechanisms, however, if you have taken a look at each one of them carefully, drill bits to differ from one another. The common drill bits used in these two tools include twist bits and masonry bits. There are also a number of masonry bits that are made specifically for hammer drills and rotary hammers.

In order to drive a screw into concrete, various things have to be kept in mind such as the depth of the hole, necessary torque, the surface condition, the type of drill bits used, etc. As mentioned earlier, rotary hammers can deliver up to 3 times more power than a regular electric drill. They are capable of penetrating through some really tough surfaces without requiring a lot of effort from your side.

Features of a hammer drill

  • Light in weight and compact in size
  • As the name suggests, these tools offer a hammering mechanism for drilling. Although they are not as strong and sturdy as rotary hammers they do find many uses. If you happen to be looking for an overall use tool that doesn't require excessive power or force, then the hammer drill would be a good option to consider.
  • The main advantage of a hammer drill lies in its ability to get into tight spaces with ease where it is next to impossible for any other tool to fit through. Its small head makes it easier for this particular kind of tool to fit into areas where there isn't much space available and you cannot use bulky and heavy-duty tools such as rotary hammers.
  • One of the main features of a hammer drill is its ability to place screws in concrete. Yes, you can surely use it for drilling holes into wood or metal; however, if you want the best results, then your best option would be to drill into some concrete.
  • This tool also differs based on the power that they supply. There are many different options available when it comes to choosing the right model for yourself which comes packed with more or less power supply. This includes 18V ones that are great for household purposes and working with some lightweight materials; whereas there are 36V machines too suitable for larger-scale projects such as construction work etc.

Should You Buy a Rotary Hammer or a Hammer Drill?

Although there are a number of factors for you to decide whether you should be going for a rotary hammer or the hammer drill, the size of your project is among the most important of factors to consider. 

When comparing rotary hammer vs hammer drill, it is essential for you to look at the masonry work or the concrete when selecting the right tool. If you are looking for holes more than one inch in diameter, then the rotary hammer is the right choice for you. This tool can be cumbersome and more expensive, but it obviously is the right tool for the big job. 

When you have anything smaller, you should go for the hammer drill as it can save you arm power and money. The majority of people who want to drill into the concrete around their home consider a hammer drill to be a much better option for pocketbook and their jobs.

What we can conclude by now is that both drills have their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Although one cannot be termed as better than the other, however, if you want advanced strength and high speed then go with rotary hammers whereas if you simply need to screw into concrete then go with a hammer drill or even an electric drill depending on your requirements.

Bottom Line

A hammer drill can be an excellent choice for smaller and easier concrete holes. On the other hand, the rotary hammers can do the more challenging jobs quite quickly as they have more power. 

A common question about these two tools is what size drill bit do you use with a hammer drill or a rotary hammer? It is worth noting that while driving screws into concrete or any other hard surface such as bricks or mortar (if you are using a rotary hammer), you would need at least a masonry drill bit size of 1/2 inches. It is also necessary to note that the larger your drill bit, the more difficult it will be for the tool to penetrate through the concrete, and hence, you may have to use extra force as well.

When talking about rotary hammer vs hammer drill, the rotary hammer is a more versatile selection as it has much broader application. Therefore, it is vital to consider all the aspects of the upcoming job before you buy one or another drill.