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Hammer Drill vs. Rotary Hammer: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on January 13, 2024
A hammer drill is a power tool for drilling into hard materials using a rapid hammer action, while a rotary hammer, more powerful, uses a rotary motion and hammering to drill or chisel.

Key Differences

The hammer drill is a versatile tool designed for drilling into various materials including wood, metal, and masonry. It operates by combining a hammering action with the rotation of the drill bit. The rotary hammer, on the other hand, is specifically engineered for heavier masonry work. It not only rotates the drill bit but also uses a piston mechanism for a more powerful hammering action.
Hammer drills are generally lighter and more compact, making them suitable for smaller projects and tight spaces. They use a mechanical action to deliver their hammering effect. Rotary hammers, with their electro-pneumatic hammering mechanism, are bulkier and more suited for large-scale construction tasks, providing a more intense impact force.
In terms of usage, hammer drills are ideal for home DIY projects or light professional work, as they can handle drilling into concrete and bricks with relative ease. Rotary hammers, with their higher power, are preferred in professional construction settings for drilling through hard materials like thick concrete and for chiseling work.
When considering ease of use, hammer drills are user-friendly and perfect for beginners or occasional users. The rotary hammer requires a bit more expertise due to its power and size, making it more suitable for experienced users or professionals.
Regarding accessories and bits, hammer drills typically use standard drill bits for various materials, while rotary hammers require special SDS (Slotted Drive System) bits for their chuck system, which are designed for heavy-duty use and greater efficiency in hammering tasks.

Comparison Chart

Primary Use

Light to medium-duty drilling
Heavy-duty drilling and chiseling


Mechanical hammer action
Electro-pneumatic hammer action

Size and Weight

Smaller and lighter
Larger and heavier

User Skill Level

Suitable for beginners and DIYers
Ideal for professionals

Bit Type

Standard drill bits
Special SDS bits

Hammer Drill and Rotary Hammer Definitions

Hammer Drill

It's a versatile power tool that offers both drilling and hammering functions.
He switched his hammer drill to hammer mode to penetrate the brick wall.

Rotary Hammer

A rotary hammer provides a more intense impact force than standard drills.
For the heavy-duty drilling job, only a rotary hammer was sufficient.

Hammer Drill

A hammer drill is ideal for small-scale construction and repair work.
The contractor used a hammer drill for fitting frames into the masonry walls.

Rotary Hammer

Rotary hammers are designed for professional construction tasks.
On the construction site, the rotary hammer was essential for demolition work.

Hammer Drill

This tool is known for its rapid impact mechanism, enhancing drilling efficiency.
To install the shelves, I used my hammer drill to bore into the studs.

Rotary Hammer

A rotary hammer is a heavy-duty tool used for drilling and chiseling in concrete and masonry.
We used a rotary hammer for breaking up the old patio.

Hammer Drill

A hammer drill is suitable for DIY projects, efficiently handling masonry, wood, and metal.
She purchased a hammer drill for her home renovation tasks.

Rotary Hammer

This tool utilizes SDS bits for efficient, powerful hammering and drilling.
For installing the large anchors, I switched to a rotary hammer with an SDS bit.

Hammer Drill

A hammer drill is a tool for drilling into hard materials, combining rotation with a hammering action.
I used a hammer drill to mount the TV bracket on the concrete wall.

Rotary Hammer

It operates with an electro-pneumatic mechanism for high-impact drilling.
The rotary hammer easily drilled through the foundation for the new pipes.


Can hammer drills chisel concrete?

They can, but are less effective than rotary hammers in chiseling.

Can a hammer drill be used as a regular drill?

Yes, hammer drills can function as regular drills when the hammer function is turned off.

Is a rotary hammer suitable for light drilling?

While possible, it's overpowered for light tasks and better for heavy-duty work.

What is a rotary hammer?

A heavy-duty drill with rotary and powerful hammering action for drilling and chiseling.

Do rotary hammers require special bits?

Yes, they use SDS bits designed for heavy-duty hammering and drilling.

Can a rotary hammer drill through wood?

Yes, but it's usually overkill for wood unless it's a particularly tough job.

Is a hammer drill enough for home DIY tasks?

Yes, it's ideal for various home projects, including drilling into concrete.

What is a hammer drill?

A power tool combining drilling with a hammering action for hard materials.

Are rotary hammers heavier than hammer drills?

Yes, they are generally larger and heavier.

Do rotary hammers have different modes?

Yes, they often have drilling, hammer drilling, and chiseling modes.

Are hammer drills good for brick walls?

Yes, they are suitable for drilling into brick and other masonry.

What makes a rotary hammer more powerful than a hammer drill?

Its electro-pneumatic mechanism provides greater impact force.

Are hammer drills noisier than regular drills?

Yes, due to their hammering action, they tend to be noisier.

What is the main advantage of a hammer drill over a regular drill?

Its ability to drill into hard materials like concrete and brick.

Can I use a hammer drill for tile removal?

It's possible, but a rotary hammer is more efficient for this task.

Is a hammer drill suitable for professional construction work?

It can be used, but rotary hammers are better for heavy-duty construction tasks.

Can rotary hammers be used for drilling in metal?

Yes, but they are generally overpowered for such tasks.

Why are rotary hammers preferred in demolition work?

Due to their powerful chiseling and drilling capabilities.

Can I use a rotary hammer for delicate materials?

It's not recommended as it's too powerful and could damage delicate materials.

Can I use standard drill bits in a rotary hammer?

No, rotary hammers require SDS bits.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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