The best jackhammer
If you need to slice through asphalt or break up concrete, a jackhammer will do the job faster and easier than any other tool. While historically they've been heavy machines used by road crews and demolition teams, modern versions are much more manageable, making them a practical solution for many homeowners.
Learn which one is right for you with our buying guide. Our top pick from Bosch has the quality you expect from the brand, providing an excellent balance between all-around practicality and high performance.
Considerations when choosing jackhammers
Types of jackhammers
There are three types of jackhammers: hydraulic, pneumatic, and electric. The first two are mostly the commercial tools you see on the highway or at construction sites. They're super powerful but very heavy and expensive, and they need their own compressor. We're focusing on electric jackhammers, which range from models specifically aimed at DIY users to those for the professional.
Jackhammers are often rated by the tool's weight: 35 pounds, 45 pounds, and so on, with 70 pounds being the heaviest. Gravity dictates that a heavier tool is capable of making a greater impact, but the bigger they are, the more difficult they are to manage.
There are other performance measures. Joules are often quoted (a measure of energy), but because they're not well understood, impact force is frequently given in foot pounds (ft/lbs.). It can be anywhere from 20 ft/lbs. to 60 ft/lbs.
There's also BPM (blows per minute), the number of impacts the hammer action generates. These generally range from 1,100 to 1,800.
It's not simply a case of bigger numbers being more powerful. A 70-pound demolition hammer has a lot of weight behind each blow, so BPM is lower than a lighter model. A 35-pound tool producing 30 ft/lbs. has less force than a 45-pound tool delivering 50 ft/lbs., but the former is more manageable on something like asphalt, which is softer than concrete. The right balance of weight and power is what's important.
Features and accessories
Not surprisingly, jackhammers vibrate. With basic machines you just have to grin and bear it. Higher-quality models use dampers, making them easier and more comfortable to control, so you can use them longer. Motors are usually between 11 and 15 amps. 15 amps is the maximum that runs from a standard 110V outlet. Your jackhammer usually comes with a pointed bit (called a moil) and a chisel or spade bit. If you want others, you need to check size and fit - they aren't universal. High-end machines sometimes have warning lights or cut-outs if the tool is overheating. A case is usually supplied. With lower-end jackhammers, they may not be very robust.
The least expensive jackhammers cost between $120 and $150. If you've got a couple days' worth of work to do, it can be more economical to buy than to hire. If you expect to use one regularly, you may invest anything from $250 to $1,500. Hydraulic and pneumatic jackhammers run from $1,200 to $3,500, excluding compressor.
Q. Are there any safety precautions I should take with a jackhammer?
A. Always wear protective goggles or a face shield and ear defenders. A dust mask is a good idea, as are strong boots. Work gloves help you keep a firm grip and reduce vibrations. Jackhammers can be tiring, so take frequent breaks. Keep children and pets away from the work area.
Q. Do jackhammers need a lot of maintenance?
A. No. Clean your jackhammer with a brush after use, and lubricate it regularly following the manufacturer's instructions. Don't skip maintenance - an overheating jackhammer can seize up and be ruined.
Jackhammers we recommend
Best of the best: Bosch's Jackhammer
Our take: Top quality 35-pound tool focused on ease of use and operator comfort.
What we like: 22 ft/lbs. (30 joules) at 1,300 BPM, but don't underestimate the efficiency of this excellent machine. Good vibration control reduces fatigue. Compact size provides power in tight spaces.
What we dislike: Intermittent faults with hammer action. Expensive.
Best bang for your buck: XtremepowerUS' Jackhammer/Concrete Breaker
Our take: High performance 45-pound tool and full accessory kit for remarkably little money.
What we like: 55 ft/lbs. (74 joules) impact energy at 1,800 BPM. Comes with protective goggles, dust mask, and gloves. 360° front handle for comfort and control. Unbeatable value.
What we dislike: May leak oil. Inconsistent quality control.
Choice 3: TR Industrial's Electric Demolition Jackhammer
Our take: This 35-pound tool is a basic but powerful all-around choice.
What we like: 44 ft/lbs. (60 joules) impact energy at 1,800 BPM. All metal body. 20 feet of all-weather cord. Certified to UL and ETL safety standards.
What we dislike: Bits from other brands are not compatible. Some reports of hammer action failure.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
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