Busting through rock is no joke, no matter what the job is. It’s hard on your body, hard on your equipment, and a hard day of work, period. This is why it is of extreme importance to choose the best rock drill, jackhammer or demolition hammer when breaking through concrete or hard rock. Not only will the job get done in less time but it will also get done safely by choosing a quality jackhammer.
There are many things to consider when trying to find the best jackhammer on the market. These considerations should not be taken lightly. Each of these factors play a crucial role in making the best buying decision. Let’s take a look at some things to consider when buying a demolition hammer.
What to Look for When Buying a Jackhammer
Although there are many things to consider when looking for a jackhammer or demolition hammer, these are by far the most important qualities:
- Build Quality: It goes without saying that a jackhammer is only as good as the way it is built and the parts it is built with. In general, as price goes up build quality goes up too. Choose only trusted brand names that use high quality bolts, high quality forged steel and the least amount of parts. The more parts that are used to build the rock drill, the greater the chance of it breaking apart itself.
- Vibration Level: Although more common sense than anything else, it’s important to note that a jackhammer should be of the lowest possible vibration level. Some manufacturers use air cushions placed above and below the hammer piston to help lower the vibration level. There are also optional handles and even rock hammer trolleys that are specifically designed for shock absorption that can help reduce vibration.
- Type: Hydraulic or pneumatic jackhammers are the most popular types of hammers used out on the job site. Electric jackhammers are gaining popularity but don’t pack the same level of power, however, they can be more convenient since all you have to do is plug them in. Gas-powered jackhammers are also being used (although not as widely) and are more on par with pneumatic jackhammers in terms of level of performance. What type you need depends on what type of job you’re performing and where you’ll be using them.
- Weight: One thing construction pros will tell you when using a jackhammer is to “let the jackhammer do the work.” It’s great advice but it only makes sense if you’re using a heavy jackhammer. So, when choosing between two hammers, go with the heavier option if you have a choice and let the jackhammer work for you.
- Performance: This goes hand-in-hand with weight much of the time as a heavier jackhammer is usually considered more powerful than a lighter jackhammer. However, when looking at demo hammers there are a few other metrics that make sense to look at in conjunction with weight. Blows-per-minute, or BPM, is an important metric, is one important metric. The higher the number of BPMs for the same weight jackhammer is going to deliver better performance. Another important metric is impact force, generally measured in ft-lbs. Here too, the higher the number the better. Though, ultimately, it depends what material you are working with. Sometimes more force isn’t always required when working with softer material such as asphalt or similar.
While there can be a lot of nit-picking over the more minor details of demolition hammers, focusing on these key aspects when making a purchase decision will help you to select the best jackhammer for the jobsite.
Best Jackhammers for Construction Work
Since different jackhammers are required for different types of jobs, we will look at the best jackhammers for all categories. For instance, some cities might require the use of electric jackhammers. For some jobs it might make more sense to use a hydraulic jackhammer while other jobs might need a pneumatic jackhammer. You might even prefer a gas-powered jackhammer in certain circumstances too. We’ll also examine a few value options, for those who are looking for a jackhammer to last for a week’s worth of work and then trash it after the job is over.
Since hydraulic and pneumatic jackhammers are often the most popular jackhammers on the market, we will also take a closer look at the pros and cons of each type.
Best Pneumatic Jackhammer
If you’re looking for a high quality made in the USA jackhammer, look no further than the TX90PB Jackhammer by Texas Pneumatic Tools. Nothing quite does the job like an air-powered jackhammer, and this is by far one of the best pneumatic jackhammers on the market.
It weighs 92.5 pounds, for starters, so this jackhammer is going to do most of the work for you. Delivering 1,250 blows-per-minute, it’ll make quick work of any concrete demolition job. To deliver this power, the estimated air consumed is around 75 CFM with a working pressure of 90-100 PSI, so you’ll need an air compressor that can handle this requirement.
Being made in the USA, this jackhammer is built solid and will last for years to come. The main housing of the jackhammer is also composed of very few parts, which ensures the integrity of the unit even after heavy use. One nice thing about Texas Pneumatics, though, is that if anything ever breaks on your jackhammer you can order any individual part, even down to the backhead valve port O-ring.
For those who are unfamiliar with Texas Pneumatics, it was started in Carl Evans’ (CEO) garage in Seabrook, Texas and grew into a much larger company. They’ve now been in business for over 40 years and put out the highest quality tools at rock-bottom prices. In fact, all of their products are made and manufactured in the United States. Their air-powered tools, especially their jackhammers, are second to none.
Ingersoll Rand makes also makes a solid air-powered jackhammer. The MX90B Pavement Breaker is one of the best jackhammers by the company. It’s also low-cost to maintain and designed to lower wear and tear on itself.
This jackhammer weighs 87 pounds and can deliver up to 1,250 blows-per-minute. It needs to be run off an air compressor that can deliver 85 CFM to deliver this performance though. It’s also ergonomic and contours well to the body for ease of use. It has an adjustable exhaust which helps eliminate blowback too.
This jackhammer also has an integrated lubricator and all-composite valving, which eliminates rust and prevents oxidation. There are also no costly side rods or springs. This is nice because it results in less maintenance and reduced downtime.
The shank is easily accessible and doesn’t require a press to operate. In fact, you can easily operate it just using your hand.
Great for use in demolition, busting up asphalt, or general industrial work, the MX90B is a solid performer and a great jackhammer for construction use.
Best Hydraulic Jackhammer
The Stanely BR87 is one of the most powerful hydraulic jackhammers on the market today, it’s also one of the most durable. Though, not only does it deliver crushing power, it’s also extremely comfortable to use for its size.
This jackhammer weighs 84 pounds and delivers up to 1,000 blows-per-minute. It’s rated to deliver up to 20% more concrete removal than a pneumatic hammer in the same class. It also packs this power while being four times more powerful than a pneumatic hammer.
As a hydraulic breaker, one of the advantages is it can be used at low temperature. Pneumatics breakers will freeze up if it gets too cold. It’s exhaust-free too, whereas a pneumatic breaker is not. However, it is a lot more messy by comparison and its price point is much higher than an equivalent pneumatic breaker.
This jackhammer is even water-resistant, and also comes in an underwater version as well.
Best Electric Jackhammer
1. Makita Breaker Hammer (HM1810X3)
The Makita HM1810X3 is a 71.3 pound jackhammer built with the kind of quality that can only be delivered by Makita. Both powerful and reliable, this jackhammer is great for any heavy-duty job you throw at it.
The best feature of this jackhammer is the anti-vibration technology (AVT) used by Makita which reduces vibration up to three times the normal level. It uses a counterbalance system to lower vibration levels while still providing hard-hitting power. In fact, this same damping system design is used in seismic engineering to protect building from being damaged during earthquakes. The large side handles also give the jackhammer added comfort and more control during use.
It uses a 15 amp motor and delivers up to 46.5 ft-lbs of force with each blow. It can deliver up to 1,100 blows-per-minute (BPM) and 63 joules of impact energy. This electric jackhammer can be run off of any standard 15 amp generator, and has a long 16-foot cord so it can handle a wide range without having to move the generator all over the place.
The low profile design of this jackhammer allows it to be used effectively on uneven surfaces. It also features an automatic brush cut-off to protect the commuter and extend the life of the jackhammer. There’s even an LED indicator for if the cord gets damaged or in case of switch failure.
This jackhammer comes with a 20-1/2″ bull points chisel and a 20-1/2″ flat point chisel. It also comes with a cart for easy movement of the jackhammer to and from the work area.
This jackhammer is compatible with the Makita XCV04Z Cordless/Corded Dry Vacuum.
The Bosch Brute Breaker Hammer really is a brute of a jackhammer, especially when it comes to electric jackhammers. In fact, it has the “best concrete removal in its class,” according to the company.
This beast of a jackhammer weighs in at 63 lbs. and delivers 43 ft-lbs. of force with each blow. It can hammer at a rate of 1,000 blows-per-minute (under no load) and is strong enough to deal with the toughest projects, including indoor foundation demolition as well as asphalt removal. Throw your toughest project at this jackhammer and it can handle it.
This jackhammer also features an active vibration control which provides a longer air cushion to cut down on vibration of the hammer mechanism. The handles are also shock-absorbing, to further lower vibration levels. It even features an ergonomic design for comfortable use. Combined these features lower operator fatigue by a huge margin, increasing efficiency and productivity.
It uses 115/120V AC/DC and can be run off of any 2,500 watt generator or greater on a 15 amp outlet. The deluxe cart provides easy transportation of the hammer and features truck rails allowing for it to be easily raised or lowered from a vehicle. The tires are also no-flat tires, perfect for the harsh conditions usually present on most job sites.
This demolition hammer comes with two star point chisels and two narrow chisels. It’s also compatible with the HDC400 dust collection hose by Bosch and comes in an alternate version with the dust collection hose already included. It’s compatible with most Bosch dust extractors (we recommend the Bosch 9-Gallon Extractor), though some may require an additional attachment piece to fit the connection.
The only downside of this hammer is it doesn’t seem to hit as hard as some of the old Bosch hammers you used to see out on the market. However, it’s still the one of best electric jackhammers on the market compared to its peers. It would also be nice if Bosch threw in a few more bits with this jackhammer too.
All in all, a solid jackhammer by one of the most trusted names in the industry. The durability and efficient operation of this Bosch jackhammer more than justifies the expense of purchasing this jackhammer.
Best Gas-Powered Jackhammer
Although this gas-powered jackhammer is a generic brand jackhammer, it should not be overlooked. In fact, this is the same gas-powered jackhammer that Home Depot sells without the fancy brand name on the side (and they “jack up” the price, no pun intended).
Designed for heavy duty jobs, this jackhammer is commercial grade. It is built of durable materials and can tackle any type of residential construction site with easy. The primary applications for this unit include demolition of foundations, tearing up driveways, reinforcing, concrete floors or walls, breaking through solid rocks, and other types of demolition.
It is powered by a 1700-watt, 2.4HP, 52CC two stroke engine and capable of delivering 1400 blows-per-minute. It also operates with 40 ft-lbs of impact force. This jackhammer has a high utensil gear set specifically designed for busting through concrete. It is powered by a thumb grip throttle for easy speed control.
This gas-powered jackhammer uses a hand pull recoil starter system. The tank capacity is 1.3 liters and uses a gas-oil mix. It also comes with an oil tank, pointed chisel, flat chisel and a small tool kit for maintenance and changing out the bits.
There are several variations on this same jackhammer so be sure the check out all the different types/brands and find the one that is priced lowest.
Best Budget Jackhammer
Although not a household name, XtremepowerUS’ Electric Jack Hammer is a solid performer and hands-down the best budget jackhammer. This isn’t going to last you for years to come, but it will do a bang-up job on smaller projects, for short-term heavy use, or residential work.
The company describes it as the “perfect tool for demolition, trenching, chipping, breaking holes in concrete, block, brick, tile stucco, housing foundation removal, concrete slab, oil chimney and much more!”
This particular jackhammer kit comes with a wide variety of bits for any type of job you may encounter. It includes the following 1-1/8″ bits:
- Bull Point Chisel
- Flat Chisel
- Scraping Chisel: 3″ Wide
- Asphalt Cutter Chisel: 4.5″ Wide
- Scoop Shovel: 5.5″ Wide
It also comes with a hard case for easy loading and carrying to and from sites. It even includes a pair of gloves, protective goggles, and hex wrenches for changes out bits.
It operates off 110V/60Hz and with no load can deliver 1900 RPMs. During use, it is able to deliver 1400 blows-per-minute with 45 ft-lbs of force. At a weight of 46 pounds, it’s quite heavy but more importantly it can do the work for you. This is what you’re looking for in a nice budget jackhammer, decent weight with decent power. The handle even moves 360 degrees so you can work with it at any angle you need to, either vertically or horizontally.
Although this jackhammer will only last you as hard as you work it, some users have gotten three years or more of use out of it with continued use and maintenance. Some workers even replaced their expensive Bosch hammers with this guy. That’s not too shabby for a budget jackhammer.
This jackhammer is basically an “old school” jackhammer remake. It’s not going to soften the vibration or do anything fancy, it’s just going to break rock and concrete. However, a nice pair of anti-vibration gloves can help lessen the vibration when using this jackhammer.
All in all, solid performance from a jackhammer at such a low price point. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better performing jackhammer at this budget. If you do, leave it in the comments and we’ll take a look at it.
Hydraulic vs. Pneumatic Jackhammers
There are many things to consider when look at the pros and cons of using a hydraulic jackhammer vs. a pneumatic jackhammer. Some of the main considerations include risks of contamination, cylinder operation, working force, cost, efficiency, noise level and size vs. performance. Let’s examine each of these consideration in more detail.
1. Risk of Contamination
In general, hydraulic jackhammers are much more messy. In fact, hydraulics can leak oil from busted hoses, faulty valves and loose seals. Pneumatic jackhammers, on the other hand, are much cleaner as they don’t have any of these potential problems. They can be used in a lot of places hydraulics can’t if there is a strict adherence to standard of cleanliness. That said, pneumatics can atomize small droplets of oil, so there is a risk of breathing in these droplets.
2. Cylinder Operation
Movement of cylinders is slower in hydraulic jackhammers as compared to pneumatics. Hydraulic jackhammers use a very viscous oil whereas the compressed air used in pneumatic jackhammer systems provides little to no resistance.
3. Working Force
Hydraulic jackhammers provide much more busting force than pneumatics. This makes hydraulics ideal for busting through rock, concrete and other heavy duty materials.
Hydraulics win in efficiency hands down. They cost less to run and provide more power for the cost. Pneumatics has a lot of heat loss through the energy required to compress the air that is used to power them, thus making them less efficient. Initial cost is going to be a lot higher for hydraulics.
5. Noise Level
Although both types of jackhammers are noisy, pneumatic jackhammers are louder than hydraulic jackhammers. So, if push comes to shove and you need a quieter option, opt for hydraulics.
6. Size vs. Performance
Pneumatic jackhammers suffer in this category as their size is related to their performance. Hydraulic jackhammers can pack a lot of power in a small form-factor and edge out pneumatics in this category.
What Type of Jackhammer is the Best?
The first two categories is where pneumatic jackhammers excel. So, if cleanliness of operation and fast cylinder movement is important to you, go with a pneumatic jackhammer. However, if you’re looking for a lot more power, lower noise level and a much more cost-effective approach, opt for a hydraulic jackhammer.
Up-front cost for the jackhammer itself will be higher for hydraulics, but it will pay off in the long-term. Though, be sure to price out hydraulic power units vs. air compressors to get an idea of the overall cost of the jackhammer plus its power source. Pneumatic compressors are usually more expensive overall, so keep that in mind. It’s good to have an idea of total cost before making a purchase decision no matter which jackhammer you decide to go with.
Dangers of Using a Jackhammer
Prolonged use of any equipment that vibrates can be dangerous. It is recommended that no one person use a jackhammer for longer than an hour before switching out operators. It is also recommended that no one person works a jackhammer more than once a day.
One of the major risks of working with a demolition hammer is called hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). It is characterized by peripheral neuropathy (numbness and tingling in the hands and arms), secondary Raynaud’s syndrome (blanching of the fingers – also know as Vibration White Finger), and musculoskeletal problems, especially in the arms, wrists, elbows and forearms. There is also a risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome as well.
If these problems are caught early on they will not pose long-term threats to a person. However, if these problems persist they can become result in permanent nerve damage. It is important not to fool yourselves or the others around you when working with these tools. While many workers may want to appear more masculine around “the guys,” that one day of showing off your prowess could result in a lifetime of injury.
Another major risk, especially when working with concrete, is the risk of silica dust inhalation. This can cause permanent lung damage and breathing problems. In fact, OCHA requires the use dust control methods when working with jackhammers. One method is where water is continuously sprayed at the site of the hammering which forces the dust to the ground instead of into the air.
Another method is the use of a vacuum dust collection system (VDCS) and a shroud or cowling around the hammering site. You can read more about the specifics of these methods on the OSHA website.
OSHA also requires the use of an APF 10 respirator when using a jackhammer.