Is a Rotary Hammer the Same as a Jackhammer?

If you are looking for a power tool that can drill or break through concrete, stone, brick, or other hard materials, you might have come across the terms rotary hammer and jackhammer. But what are the differences between these two tools? Are they interchangeable or do they have specific purposes? In this article, we will answer these questions and help you choose the right tool for your project.

The short answer is no, a rotary hammer is not the same as a jackhammer. Although they both use a hammering action to break up masonry, they have different modes of operation, features, and applications. A rotary hammer is a versatile tool that can drill, hammer-drill, or chisel, while a jackhammer is a heavy-duty tool that can only chisel or demolish. Let’s take a closer look at each of these tools and see how they differ.

What is a Rotary Hammer?

A rotary hammer is a power tool that has a rotary motion and a hammering action that enables it to drill through masonry and break concrete. Rotary hammers are usually equipped with an SDS-plus or SDS-max tool holding system, which allows for quick and easy bit changes and better power transfer. Rotary hammers have three modes:

  • Hammer Drill: In this mode, the drill bit rotates with hammer blows, creating a percussive force that helps the bit penetrate the material. This mode is ideal for drilling holes in concrete, stone, brick, or other hard materials.
  • Chisel Mode: This is a chiseling only mode where there is no rotational movement. The tool acts like a mini jackhammer, delivering hammer blows to the chisel bit. This mode is useful for removing tiles, breaking down thin walls, or creating channels or grooves in masonry.
  • Drilling: With this mode, you can use your rotary hammer as a regular power drill to drill holes in soft materials like wood or metal. This mode does not use the hammering action, so it is quieter and smoother.
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Advantages of Rotary Hammer

The key benefit of a rotary hammer is its versatility. You can use it for drilling and breaking masonry, but also for other tasks that require a regular drill. Rotary hammers are also more powerful, efficient, and durable than standard hammer drills, which are similar but less capable tools. Rotary hammers can handle larger and deeper holes, thicker and harder materials, and longer and more frequent use.

Uses of Rotary Hammer

You can use a rotary hammer for various projects that involve working with masonry or concrete, such as:

  • Installing anchors, bolts, or rebar in concrete
  • Drilling holes for electrical or plumbing conduits
  • Creating openings for windows, doors, or vents
  • Removing old tiles, plaster, or mortar
  • Chiseling decorative patterns or shapes in stone or brick

If you are a DIYer, homeowner, or handyman, a rotary hammer is a tool that you need for your masonry projects. However, if you need to break up large or thick slabs of concrete, you might need a more powerful tool, such as a jackhammer.

What is a Jackhammer?

A jackhammer, also known as a demolition hammer or a demo hammer, is a heavy-duty tool that is used almost exclusively to break up and tear down masonry. Jackhammers apply only one type of force: an up and down hammer strike. Jackhammers can be powered by electricity, compressed air, or hydraulics, depending on the size and power of the tool.

There are two main types of jackhammers: industrial and electric. Industrial jackhammers are the ones you see at construction sites and along the highway. They are tall, heavy, and loud, and they require a cart or a vehicle to transport them. They are powered by pneumatic or hydraulic systems, and they can break up thick and dense concrete with ease. Electric jackhammers are smaller, lighter, and more portable, and they can be plugged into a standard outlet. They are suitable for small and at-home projects, such as breaking up sidewalks, patios, or foundations.

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Advantages of Jackhammer

The main advantage of a jackhammer is its brute force. A jackhammer can deliver a lot more impact energy than a rotary hammer, and it can break up even the toughest and thickest concrete. A jackhammer is also more durable and reliable than a rotary hammer, as it has fewer moving parts and less wear and tear. A jackhammer is the preferred tool of the pros when it comes to demolition work.

Uses of Jackhammer

You can use a jackhammer for any project that requires breaking up large or thick pieces of concrete, such as:

  • Demolishing walls, floors, or structures made of concrete
  • Removing concrete slabs or blocks
  • Breaking up asphalt or pavement
  • Digging trenches or holes in hard ground
  • Tamping soil or gravel

If you are a professional contractor, a road worker, or a demolition expert, a jackhammer is a tool that you need for your heavy-duty projects. However, if you need to drill holes or chisel masonry, you might need a more versatile tool, such as a rotary hammer.


A rotary hammer and a jackhammer are not the same tools, and they have different purposes and applications. A rotary hammer is a versatile tool that can drill, hammer-drill, or chisel masonry, while a jackhammer is a powerful tool that can only chisel or demolish concrete. Depending on your project, you might need one or the other, or both. We hope this article has helped you understand the differences between these two tools and choose the right one for your needs.